Creating a Consistent Online Brand 

Cleo Cat & the First Feline Ascent of Everest

Most careers, particularly self-employed ones, build over time and accumulate lots of false starts, half-finished ideas and contradictory branding. We never quite get around to deleting or fixing it but the contradictions can sometimes be startling obvious to people we meet for the first time. 

If you are at the start of your adventure journey this post is a chance to think about setting up your branding. If you are mid-career, take a moment to pause and check that you have your branding in order. (If the idea of ‘personal branding’ makes you nauseous, think ‘consistency of name + image online’.)

Guiding principle - people need to find you easily, recognise you when they find you, and then be intrigued enough to follow you. Every element you create feeds into that idea. 

Meet Cleo Cat, ready to do the 1st Feline Ascent of Everest

Cleo needs an online presence which means

  • Domain name for her website
  • Email address
  • Social media name & handles 
  • Blurb / bumf / bio / about-you text
  • Profile photo

Online name - her options are

1. Her name - Cleo Cat

Pro: it’s your In Real Life handle, it’s what you’ll get called when people meet in you person or talk about you in media. It’s how people have you down in their database. It’s with you for life, and lets you change the focus of your online activities without losing your following. It’s the most true to you and the most flexible. 
Con: it may not be available (possibly everyone was calling their pet Cleo ten years ago) and it doesn’t give any clue as to why you are interesting. Also, it can feel vulnerable, whether you are worried about online privacy or you just feel your project might fail and that’ll be embarrassing. (Realistically, to build an adventure presence, you’ll need to get over those worries.)

2. The project name - First Feline Ascent of Everest

Pro: it’s a clean hard sell of the project, like a really catchy headline
Con: there is no link to Cleo. If she’s part of a team, their followers may not realise this is about her, she loses the chance to capture them as her audience. Also the name dies with the end of the project.

Tip: if you are, or ever have been, part of this kind of one-time adventure, try and get your personal name / links into the bio bumf - even if the webpage / twitter account, etc, is no longer actively used. People will still stumble across it. Give the followers a way to move on with you after it’s all over. 

3. Project + her - Everest Cleo

Pro: combines the drama of the current project and the personal connection of the name
Con: if Cleo’s project falls apart (possibly due to her lack of commitment to training), the name falls flat. Even if it succeeds and launches her Everest Cat career, in the years that follow she’s going to need/want to do other projects and in time will be heartily sick of talking about Everest. It lacks flexibility. 

4. General theme + her - Adventure Cat Cleo

Pro: locates her as an adventurer (and not human, dog or ferret) but doesn’t pin her down to one project & provides the personal connection
Con: loses the short-term drama and immediacy of her big adventure project 

Having considered what you’d like, the next step is to investigate what available to you. If you have any chance of getting your own name online (domain name & social media handles) take them! Even if you just park them for the moment. 


Domain names

There are many domain endings now available, at very different prices. 

[Tip: whoever you buy the domain name through, when they hit you with a huge price increase for renewal, transfer your domain to NamesCheap.com. Just threatening to move can produce a discount. That is not an affiliate link, but it is the current home of both my active domain names.] 

Things to consider:

  1. .com remains the best known, the easiest to remember, and carries the implication that you’ve been at this for a while. Sadly CleoCat.com is taken but is not being used - very annoying!
  2. If your first choice is taken, it’s not always a good idea to pick the same name with a different ending - CleoCat.net. People may well default to dot com, and then get confused. 
  3. Country specific endings are best avoided - right now national attention may feel like an ambitious goal, but in the long term you want to sell yourself internationally. No to CleoCat.ad
  4. Super quirky endings may be fun, but will they age well? CleoCat.forsale may reflect how you feel about trying to raise funding, but it lacks the professional image that persuades people to hand over money. 

AdventureCatCleo.com moves into first place. 

[12 reasons why you need your own website, with your own domain name]


Email

This is your 21st century calling card, and your recipients do notice. It can either enhance or undermine your professional image.

  • Best - cleo@adventurecatcleo.com
    (you can use the domain name email even if you don’t have a live website)
  • Just fine - cleocat@gmail.com  cleo.cat@gmail.com  cleocat@icloud.com 
  • Looking a little out of date - cleocat@yahoo.com
    (Too many Yahoo data breach stories.)
  • Bad idea - cleo2005@gmail.com  _cle0_cat@gmail.com  cleocat@hotmail.com
    (No numbers. And preferably no underscores or anything else tricky to type.)
  • Terrible idea - cleocat@aol.com 
  • Absolutely not!! - prettypussy@gmail.com 

Yes, it’s a pain to migrate your email if you are stuck with something random from your college days. But your adventure career demands a professional approach and it’s not difficult to run several email addresses. Take the time to set it up properly and then it’s sorted for the rest of your adventure career (as long as you pay your domain name renewal and/or gmail doesn’t ruin its reputation in the future). 


Social media handles

Try to get the same handle across all the social media networks that you use (or may use in the future - grab the name now even if you aren’t ready to start posting.) You want to make it easy for people to find you.

Typically each platform allows you a name and a handle, Adventure Cat Cleo, @adventurecleo, try and keep them similar, short and memorable. No numbers, no awkward characters. 

Match Instagram and Twitter handles if at all possible.  Twitter is the most restrictive (15 characters for your handle) so start from there. 
[Yes you should be on Twitter, it’s not about to die and you won’t run into Trump there unless you want to. It offers some key advantages - Why Twitter? blog post coming soon.] 

Both Twitter and Instagram let you change your name / handle without losing your following. So even if your name of choice wasn’t available when you set up, go back now and see if it’s free. 

On Instagram @cleoadventure @cleo.adventure @adventure_with_cleo @cleo_adventure @cleoadventures_ @myadventurewithcleo are all taken. (Cats, dogs, a ferret!) 

@Adventurecatcleo & @adventurecleo are free! But the first is too long for Twitter. 

On Twitter @adventurecat is taken :( but @adventurecleo is free! 

Result: Adventure Cat Cleo @adventurecleo

Facebook requires a little more care. Assuming you are running a Page, a Page has a name and a username. Try to match the user name to your Twitter/Insta handle - @adventurecleo. Match the page name to your website / online brand. Adventure Cat Cleo. Facebook lets you request Page name changes (if you are an admin) but it’s not automatic. Pick carefully when you set it up. 

All other public-facing social media sites - Pinterest, YouTube, Medium, etc - should go up under your online brand. Adventure Cat Cleo.

More personal sites like a Facebook Profile and a LinkedIn profile [you need to be using LinkedIn, even as an adventurer] go under your IRL name Cleo Cat. Always take the time to change the generic URL of your account - probably a long string of numbers - into a custom URL based on your name or adventure brand. 


Online bio

The blurb / bumf / bio / about-you text that accompanies each social media profile. Make sure they are consistent across your various online homes, that they highlight your key adventure claim to fame - Cleo Cat, the first feline to attempt Everest - and that each one directs people back to your online 'base camp'. Preferably your own website, but if you don't have one, direct them to the social media platform where you are most active. 


Photograph

It’s very tempting to 

  • Put up an arty image that protects your identity.
  • Put up a maximum adventure action image! Sell yourself!
  • Put up a much younger image. Slimmer, fewer wrinkles, matches your youngest-X record. 
  • Put up a crappy image because good photography is expensive and obsessing about your look is shallow.
  • Put up different images on each account, depending on when you opened it and what came to hand at the time.
  • Put up no image because you never got around to it, or (on your website) the adventure is all that matters!! 

All of these are bad strategies.

All businesses are moving towards showing the faces behind the executive board or the customer service desk. It matters even more for an adventurer - you are selling a strange, risky product, founded entirely on your belief that it can work. People want to know who you are - that means being able to look you in the eye.
 
You need to use:

  1. The same profile photograph across all your social media platforms. The image is tiny - give possible followers the maximum chance of recognising you if they stumble across you on a different platform
  2. A recognisable face! No sunglasses, googles, oxygen masks, huge Arctic jackets - it may look rugged and adventurous but it doesn’t look like you! No distance shots of you on skis, on a bike, on a mountain summit - save that for the banner image.
    Your profile photo is too small for anything other that your face. Show your eyes. If you are wearing a hat (which can be a good symbol to indicate ‘outdoors’) show some of your hair (if you have any). Give your followers a chance of recognising you in real life. 
  3. Your best face! (Which means a good photograph with good lighting.) It’s not a beauty parade but if someone is going to pay you to stand on their stage, they want to know that you’ll look presentable up there. 
  4. Your current face! Your best-known adventure may be a decade old, your youngest-age record may be sliding into history, but you don’t want to meet people IRL and have them think your  mother just walked into the room. The photo needs to be two years old at the most. 
1. Adventurous but too anonymous    2. Too arty anonymous   3. Too distant   4. Too long ago   5. Eyes ✔ + face ✔ + hair ✔

1. Adventurous but too anonymous    2. Too arty anonymous   3. Too distant   4. Too long ago   5. Eyes ✔ + face ✔ + hair ✔

Other places that same photograph should go

  1. Any messaging service you use in an adventure business context - WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger …
  2. Your gravatar  (Globally Recognized Avatar) (most commonly seen the image used when you comment on wordpress blogs)
  3. The favicon for your website (the tiny image that shows up in the tab in the browser)

Your mission if you choose to accept it:

  • Check your website name and social media handles and see if they are consistent
  • If they are not consistent, do some research into the names currently available to you
  • Check that all generic profile URLs have been changed to custom ones in your name of choice
  • Look at the photo(s) you are using - change them all out for one, excellent up-to-date headshot 
  • If you don’t have that headshot, research your options for getting one (save up for the pro photoshoot, barter favours with a pro photographer, take the time to up your selfie game). 
    [Useful podcast interview between PR pro Janet Murray and pro photographer Laura Pearman, about what you can expect to pay for a headshot shoot and how to get the best value for your money. ]