Welcome back to Just Douek, my comics newsletter, where we’ve been talking about personal branding for comics creators. I hope you enjoyed the last installment! Here, we’re going to talk about some tools you can use to figure all this stuff out. but first, lets talk about why you’d want to use them in the first place.
Last time, we established that in simplest terms, branding is the mental associations people make when thinking about you or your work. By that notion, if you’re putting work out into the world, you are building a brand whether you want to or not.
You could really do nothing at all except put work your out there, and you’d still be building a personal brand. So that’s it, end of post. Don’t do anything.
Why would you want to influence your own brand? For the simple fact that you have a say in how people define you - and if you don’t take the opportunity to let people know who you are, they will draw their own conclusions, some of which might be wildly different from what you are trying to put forth.
When you leave your branding in someone else’s hands, you get what you get. When you take an active hand in shaping it, well, there are no guarantees, but at the very least, you’ll have put yourself out there in the way that you choose.
But as I said, no guarantees. Why?
It’s not 100% up to you.
We’re talking about other people’s associations about you, and that’s not something you can force upon them, any more than you can force someone to be your best friend, or even talk to you at a cocktail party. Trying to force someone to hold an image of you in their head never, ever works, because it’s not up to you how someone receives what you’re putting out, be it a comic, a tweet, or a general vibe.
The only part you can really influence is what it is you are saying. Whether people listen, or how they react to it, is up to them.
So, if branding isn’t just picking an image and forcing it on your audience, what is it, then?
A conversation between you, and your audience.
It is you, and them, figuring out just what the hell to think of you. It can and will change over time, as you and your audience come to understand one another better.
And the more you understand one another, the better your relationship will be.
Ok, so that’s why you want to use these tools. So, what are they? The most important one, for me, is the Johari Window.
WTF is the Johari Window?
The Johari Window is a self-awareness technique created in 1955 by by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. And, while Johari may sound vaguely mystical, it’s actually a contraction of their first names - Joseph and Harrington.
It looks like this:
What the Johari Window does, is help you become aware of the image you are projecting to the world by categorizing information about yourself. It puts these into 4 quadrants: Open, Secret, Blind Spot, Mystery, and helps you learn what you’re projecting to the world.
The information in each quadrant can be serious, or even trivial, but it all hinges on who knows what about you.
Quadrant 1: Open, contains things that are known to yourself, and to others. These can be physical, informational, or anything.
My height and weight, my eye color, my job, my opinion on zoning laws.
Quadrant 2: Secret contains the things that only I know, that are invisible to others. These can be capital-S secrets, or trivial. The important thing is, only I know them.
My Social Security Number, my deepest fears, the fact that I have a hole in my sock that nobody can see.
Quadrant 3: Blind Spot contains all the information people know about me that I have no idea about. Things that are, like it says, in my blind spot when I think about myself.
I had onions with lunch and my breath reeks, I have a facial tell that gives away when I’m lying, I talk way too loud without realizing it.
Quadrant 4: Mystery contains all the fun stuff that is a complete mystery to both myself and others. It’s where the unanswerable questions go.
These are tricky, but let’s pretend that when you were a baby, a spider crawled into your crib and scared you. Nobody else saw it, you don’t even remember it, the spider certainly doesn’t. And yet to this day for some reason, spiders totally creep you out.
So, that’s the basics. In psychology, you might use the Johari window to help yourself in your personal relationships by thinking about why certain information is in a certain category, and considering where you would like it to be. Are you keeping your deepest fears secret from someone? Is it causing issues? Would moving that info into quadrant 1 with them help?
Branding is psychological, and focused on relationships, so it makes sense that this psychological relationship tool can help.
First, lets translate the window into branding terms:
So here, Quadrant 1, Open Information, is your Brand. Quadrant 2 is your Private Life. Quadrant 3 is your Reputation, and Quadrant 4 is the Unknown (there are always unknowns)
How are you going to use this thing to put your brand together? Worry not, dear reader, I have bravely pulled examples from my own life to illustrate.
Quadrant 1 is My Brand. It is the important information I want people to know about me, or at the very least, information that I don’t mind people knowing about me.
I want people to know I wrote a Superman story. And it’s not crucial to my brand, but I don’t mind if they know I like to BBQ.
Quadrant 2 is my private life. This is where a lot of people get the idea that branding is somehow about lying or trickery. It’s not. It’s just drawing a line between what you are comfortable sharing, and what you are not.
Like, I love my fans, but they do not need to know my home address. Or, I might have an opinion about a publisher, let’s say, that I am fine holding in private but would make things difficult if I aired in public. So, in secrets it stays.
Important to note about Quadrant 2 is that yes, in the age of doxxing, outing, and general online shittiness, sometimes despite your best efforts, information will move out of that sector and into public knowledge. Dealing with that is beyond the scope of this article, and my expertise, but be aware of it.
Quadrant 3 is what you all, and my broader audience think of me, whether I know it or not. I might get an inkling of it from things that people post, or react to, but there’s no REAL way to know it without asking. Which is why that’s exactly what you should do from time to time!
Ask your audience what they think of things. Not so much in general like “do you like me?” but, more along the lines of what they think of projects, ideas you have, etc. Check in with them and get feedback! And use that feedback to shape what information you’re putting out in Quadrant 1, your brand.
Quadrant 4 is the unknown. It’s a little cheeky to say something like I put in there - “why isn’t this publisher getting back to me?” , but I have no idea - and if they do, it’s not information I have access to - so it’s an unknown! You can’t really do much with stuff there besides think on it, but sometimes it’s helpful to identify things you’d like to work on changing if you can.
If you want to put the Johari window to work on your brand, I encourage you to do so! Make a list of things to fill the quadrants.
What you’d like people to know about you.
What you’d prefer remain private
What you’d like to know from other people about you.
What you wonder about when you think of your career
And from there, you’ll have the framework to define your personal brand.
You’ll know that whenever possible, in your bios, social posts, intro emails, etc, that you should emphasize the things in Quadrant 1.
You’ll know that you don’t need to talk about things in Quadrant 2, unless you absolutely want to, and not feel bad about it.
You’ll know what questions to ask your audience when you’re trying to figure out what’s important to them, what they will respond to by looking at Quadrant 3.
And, you’ll know what general direction to head in when trying to solve the sometimes unsolvable mysteries of Quadrant 4.
There’s a lot more nuance we can get into, but I hope you found this discussion informative and useful.
I don’t have anything to plug right now except to remind you HAPPY HILL preorders are up right here!
All my other projects are stuck in Quadrant 2 for now, unfortunately. ;)
One thing I would like to tell you all about is a new book from my friends Matt Rosenberg and Tyler Boss - WHAT’S THE FURTHEST PLACE FROM HERE, from Image comics.
It’s a post-apocalyptic coming of age story where the future is populated entirely by roving gangs of children living among the ruins of our society. The story is what happens when a group of them break away to try to find something better.
I haven’t actually read it, but I know that if it’s coming from Matt and Tyler, the team that made 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, it’s going to be very, very good. So much so, that I pre-ordered it the moment I was able to (That, my friends, is the power of branding.)
It’ll be out on November tenth, along with a special edition vinyl-freaking-record accompanying the issue that you can only get in comic shops. Which again, tip of the hat to Matt and Tyler, is very much on-brand for this team.
Here’s hoping Matt reads this and sends me a preview, cause I’m not sure if I can wait!
OK folks, as always, thanks for reading, especially such a long and in depth post.
Until next time!