Branding and Authenticity can work together.
This was the message of the afternoon session of our Spring Meeting 2016, given by marketing consultant, Kirby Amour.
As she opened her talk, with her honed use of marketing terminology, familiar to those in the industry but not, perhaps, to those of us at home in the more advertising-shy world of psychotherapy, I, for one, wondered whether I could keep up. Was this all going to go over my head, overwhelm me or paralyse me into avoidance?
We were asked to address some questions: What can I offer that no-one else can? Why did I get involved? Who is my ideal client? What needs do they have? What is their energy like? What three traits does your ideal client possess? Slowly it dawned on us. In our marketing we need to look at much more than conveying information. As Kirby said, look at your offering, not just at your service. By this she meant, look at what you are actually selling. A shining example was given to us in the form of Colgate, which, in terms of its advertising sells white teeth, not toothpaste.
So in our branding we were asked to incorporate key words, catch phrases and calls for action. Identify a collection of words used across the industry (from other sites) and refine them for our own marketing. Really? The elephant in the room was finally revealed when new ABMT member, Hannah, bravely expressed qualms that had perhaps been implicit in all of us listening. Can this really be an appropriate approach for a profession which prides itself on authentic connection, privacy and confidentiality? This broke the ice for a fascinating discussion. Sue Fraser, a veteran of successfully 'waiting for the universe to bring clients' acknowledged that this was a radically different way of doing things.
For me at least, Kirby succeeded in challenging the notion that there was anything inherently contradictory or unethical for our industry in branding. For her, and ABMT member, Luke, who brought his own marketing material created under Kirby's guidance, branding is a way to ask yourself heart-felt questions about what exactly it is that we are offering to clients. It is a way (to use Luke's own catchphrase) of feeling more at home in yourself and clearly conveying this to clients - who after all need reassurance and clarity if they are going to overcome their fears and make contact.
So I think we all went away with a new respect for branding and what it actually means. A complete overhaul is ahead, I feel, both for my own marketing and the Association's. Watch this space - and thank you, Kirby. You spoke with intelligence and integrity. We are grateful for the time you gave us.