*A special treat for you today! Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter 3 of my brand new book, Voiceover Achiever.*
Branding is my life. I even dream brands. After a particular election, I dreamed that I rebranded the losing party — the one I had voted for — to empower it to succeed. I woke up laughing — of course, I was subconsciously using branding to cope with the defeat!
When people find out what I do, they all want to know what my personal brand is. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first I’d like to take you back to the beginning — all the way back to my baby book.
My mom kept a meticulous baby journal that included the usual milestones: first smile, first tooth, first steps. But it was the other entries that gave clues to the person I would become and the personal brand I eventually would share with the world.
In one entry, she wrote that I had a peculiar habit of drifting away from the TV when shows came on but always stayed glued to the set for the commercials. In another, she talked about how I would focus on what was wonderful about pretty much everything under the sun and then talk it up to anyone who would listen.
As I grew older, my favorite sport became guessing people’s stories.
I’ve played this game with camp counselors, bus drivers, servers, college professors, accountants and real estate agents — you name it — and I have an uncanny knack for getting the stories right. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that each story — each person — is just as fascinating as the next. Each of us has a story to tell. My passion is to help bring these stories to the forefront in a truly authentic and compelling way.
Of course, I didn’t start out knowing what my path would be. My talents and interests drew me to the world of voiceover. As I’ve mentioned, early in my career as a talent agent, I became fascinated by the factors that led to success. Everyone I worked with had talent but some were far more successful than others. While the reasons for this gap eluded them, I recognized what was happening and saw the solution. Both the big solution: branding. And the specific brand solution for each client.
This is when I realized I had a knack for seeing brands — for tapping into the essence of individuals so they could shine their brightest.
This was my superpower. Superman had x-ray vision; I had brand vision.
When I started my business I decided it was time to own this unique gift. Armed with years of voiceover industry insider experience, I set out to change the world one person, one talent, one brand at a time.
I formed Celia Siegel Management to provide a clear path to entrepreneurial success for talent I knew had the potential to reach higher heights. I’ve been doing that ever since. I’ve spent much of my career developing proven, fruitful branding strategies that empower and propel the voiceover careers of my clients. This comes as naturally to me as taking those first baby steps.
And it makes me happy.
And now I’m extending my passion for helping those in the voiceover industry find their branding power source by writing this book. You, too, have a personal brand that was already in you when you were taking your first steps. And when you take the time to examine those characteristics that are uniquely you, you, too, can build a brand, a business and a life that makes you happy. It is my firm belief that once you get your brand story right, everything in your life falls into place.
My definition of brand is the story you want to tell the world about who you really are and what the real you can give. Not a super perfect story about who you would be if only you were flawless. To successfully brand yourself, you need to be willing to show not the perfect version of yourself — not who you wish you could be — but who you really are.
So who am I really? What is my brand?
The answer is: brand intuitive. I view the world through a brand prism and see what’s wonderful inside people. I use this talent to help them see it, too, so they can broadcast it to the world.
Once I strike upon a person’s essence, I see the complete brand finished — it comes together like a picture in my head — and I know how to communicate that to a designer so it comes to life as I envision it. When I show the client, nine times out of 10 they literally jump up and down. This is the joy that comes from being seen for who you truly are.
When I work with clients, I create a main brand — an umbrella brand — then tweak how it’s presented for each particular audience. When approaching creative types, you can be more playful and flippant. With corporations, more straightforward and businesslike. It’s the same brand, packaged in a slightly different way.
“Successful brands are not static. Nor are they rooted in static things, like logos, stationery, and slogans,” says Joan Baker, co-founder of Society of Voice Arts and Sciences with her husband Rudy Gaskins. “Brands are dynamic entities that are fueled by creating value for others. As a voice actor, your primary value lies in your voice acting ability, an effective means for delivering your service, and your relationship skills.”
“Branding begins with cultivating genuine value for the audience you seek to serve, i.e., agents, casting directors and buyers. Branding continues by nurturing and expanding your value to accommodate your audience’s evolving needs. Your audience is constantly evolving and brands have to evolve with them or be a step ahead, ready to serve when the audience arrives. Elasticity and innovation allow brands to do this.”
But that doesn’t mean you try to please everyone. Here’s the truly tricky thing about branding: If you do it right some people aren’t going to like it.
In order for branding to work, you have to tell the truth.
My job is to give clients a brand that makes them say, “Aha! That’s my message!” But sometimes they are reluctant to show their true selves even to me.
I had a client I adored (and still do!), but creating her brand was a struggle. Christian Taylor insisted that her brand present an idealized version of herself and I couldn’t talk her out of it. She wouldn’t reveal her whole true self because she was focused on looking perfect. We created her brand. It was safe and pretty. But I didn’t feel it. There were no sharp edges, no dark side, nothing to separate her from the pack. She’s a good actress, so she jumped up and down convincingly when I showed it to her.
I saw her a few months later at a conference. She came up to me after my presentation and said, “Celia, I just listened to your presentation and I saw all your beautiful brands. I don’t like my brand.” I was like, “What?!” because I’m used to the jumping up and down — not this. I said, “Dang it. Let’s fix it.”
We started over. We went through the Voiceover Brand Finder process I developed. It’s a series of questions I use with my clients to help zero in on their brand and create their brand story (You can learn more about this in chapter 5 of my book). We did it and came up with a few ideas. All were authentic, but one stood out — it was completely her: the ultimate neighbor lady, the reliable, resourceful person next door you could always go to, whether to soothe a worry or borrow a cup of sugar.
Again, she resisted. “I can’t do that,” she told me, “That’s too middle- aged.” I wasn’t going to let her make the same mistake again. I told her, “This neighbor lady is beautiful. I want her on my block. I yearn for that woman on my block who I can trust, who I can trust with my story, who I can borrow sugar from, who knows how to make a pie, who would watch my kid if I had an emergency. That person is gorgeous. That’s how you sound and that’s who you are.”
The next time I saw her was at another conference. This time she wasn’t in the audience — she had a booth that people were flocking to. She was all apple pies and stain remover and handing out wooden spoons. She was the ultimate neighbor lady and everyone loved her.
When she saw me, she said, “Celia, my business is so great. People are coming to me and hiring me. I am middle-aged. I’m amazing and I’m wise and I’m still cute as a button. I had to let go and be authentic to get where I am now.
That’s the biggest challenge of branding — dropping the need to be perfect. Being perfect is exhausting and not as interesting or appealing as being real. It’s like trying to squeeze into a pair of beautiful shoes that are two sizes too small. Now Christian says, “My new branding fits like my favorite flip-flops and makes me feel fabulous. It gives me pride, strength, and presence in the noisy VO marketplace and that makes me exceedingly happy.”
A few years ago, Katie DeGabriel came to me saying she was feeling like a voiceover imposter because she was new to the business. To combat this fraud syndrome, she hired me to develop her brand. We went through the usual process and she was forthcoming … to a point.
Her life was a little messy, she told me, but deep down at her core she was a Zen yoga master and she wanted a brand that reflected that. That quality was definitely in her — an important part of her personality — and we launched a serene, tranquil, ohm-like brand. “That is so me!” she said. “Thank you!”
But in reality, it was only part of her story. A year later, she came clean and admitted she wasn’t actually a Zen yoga master but an overscheduled single mom who longed for a more Zen-like existence. “I’m late for everything. I have stains on my clothes,” she confessed. “I want to be serene but my life is anything but.” Aha, this was her real authentic self. We rebranded her with the tagline “Maternally cool. Eternally real.” The visuals depict a many-armed mom a la the goddess Kali trying to do it all. Guess who’s bookings went through the roof?
Katie recently sent me a thank-you email for helping her peel back the layers of the onion to reveal “the true me, my authentic brand: the single mom doing voiceover work.”
“I love my brand because it’s me, my truth, and I’m finally OK showing that to the VO industry,” she wrote.
We think that being perfect makes us attractive, desirable, hirable. But the truth is that only by showing our true imperfect selves do we attract our tribe.
There is magic on the dark side.
What are you really terrible at? Like super painfully awful at? There is a pot of gold 180 degrees away from that. Your brilliance can always be found on the flipside of your weaknesses.
I’ll go first.
If you spin me around, I will be lost. I can’t navigate my way anywhere I haven’t been at least a hundred times already. I can’t even find my table at a restaurant when I come out of the bathroom. Don’t even get me started on airports. I tried for years to become a directionally savvy person. It was a constant struggle.
One day while I was busy driving around trying to find the new coffee shop without directions, it hit me: I was watering a dead plant. This was sucking energy away from what comes naturally to me — being creative. You might spend years running from your shadow side. But you can’t escape it. So you might as well stop running and embrace it.
GPS changed my life. And I’m probably the only person ever who asks, “May I have a table near the bathroom?” and “Would you mind if I follow you out of the airport?” These adaptations let me spend more time and brainpower doing what I am meant to be doing: tuning in and finding the authentic brand in each person I meet.
There’s a reason you picked up this book.
It is no accident. Like me, you have a message, a beautiful message to share with the world. You also have a mission — the world needs your gifts. And you yearn to attract your tribe. We all do. It’s human nature.
But a lot of us work alone now. We’re on our screens, doing the hard work of being a voiceover entrepreneur. It’s not nine to five; it’s 24/7. Technology can be a trap, a cage that isolates us and distracts us from who we really are. So what’s the answer? How do we share our message when we’re flying solo all the time?
By remembering that this miracle called the Internet is actually a superhighway. That very same thing that puts us in isolation, clips our wings and leaves us less than fulfilled can actually help us attract our tribe. On this superhighway, you can go anywhere, meet anyone. You may find your tribe on the other side of the country. Doesn’t that sound fun?
I’d like you to take a minute, shut your eyes and think about what your mission is. What were you put on this earth to do? Who do you want to serve? Spend a few minutes meditating on how your whole life story has brought you to this mission. Feel the joy and the humanity of fulfilling that mission. Sit with that feeling. Savor it.
Now that you have that feeling, I want to ask a tough question: Do you want to walk away from that and settle for Plan B? Or do you want to put everything you’ve got into making Plan A — your mission on this great big planet full of all sorts of people — happen?
Your inner skeptic may be insisting on a practical Plan B. I urge you to shove that naysayer aside for a few moments and visualize your heart’s desire. It feels great, doesn’t it?
Are you prepared to show — not the perfect, aspirational, Photoshopped version of yourself but your true vulnerable self? Are you ready to be honest — not about what you wish you could do for a living but what you really want to do? Are you prepared to connect — not with some idealized customer but with your tribe?
I challenge you to really step outside into the light and show the real you. That’s what your tribe wants. As for me, I want the whole world to be branded. I will sleep better at night knowing more people are finding success and happiness by getting their brand right. When you get your brand right, you’ll sleep better, too.
Ready to find your superpower?
One of the services I provide to clients is being a sounding board, someone to talk to as they go through the challenging process of self- exploration required to uncover their brand.
Interested in reading more? Grab my new book, Voiceover Achiever here!