Owning Your Brand

Hello, blog friends! Ok, cards on the table, I am a little nervous about this post. Not just because I am veering away from the pretty to share something more personal, and to discuss social media (don’t worry, I actually get back to weddings by the end of it!) but because I’m also posting images from my recent shoot with the fantastic Monica Dart. Monica was in London this summer, and Louise from Bijoux Bride and I asked her to let us play model. (You can see some of Louise’s shoot here.)

There have been a lot of steps leading up to this post. When I started Cap Classique, I didn’t exactly plan on having my face on its pages, ever. In fact, for about five minutes, I thought I would do this anonymously, before I realised that nobody would trust a blogger who didn’t even have a name. So I went with my first name, and I felt okay with that. Then, a couple of months in, someone who was writing about me asked for my surname. Boy, did that feel weird. Because I knew that the minute it was online, Uncle Google would be able to find me FOR EVER. And as much as that’s totally normal these days, I still come from the tail end of a generation that finds being searchable (and findable!) odd, and scary, and uncomfortable. We engage with the online world, but we still guard our privacy like lions.

And so we should – privacy is no joke. And there are consequences to being searchable. This blog was my hobby – something I didn’t discuss with my work colleagues – until someone found it. That could have gone horribly wrong, but the funny thing was, that it made me own what I do here so much more. I work hard at it, I’m proud of it, why should I keep it secret? (Erm, apart from on first dates. “I write about weddings all day” is probably not the first thing you want to tell a new man about yourself.) And so slowly I came to the realisation that is one of the first pillars of social media. You have to own your brand. Because the fact is, for those of you out there engaging with social media – you HAVE a brand. And you can manage that or not, but it will still be there.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Own your own brand. Be who you are. Be a unicorn. (Yes, I totally watched Glee last night.) But it’s way, way harder than it appears. Because we’re conditioned to believe that there’s a certain kind of woman who deserves to be proud of who she is. She’s size zero, obviously. She’s gorgeous, and she knows how to do everything – bake perfect cakes, wear the latest fashion, marry the perfect guy. She’s us, but much better, and in Louboutins. And you have to remember that this comes from generations of print, where the only people who were in newspapers or books or magazines were famous, or notorious. I grew up in Port Elizabeth, and believe me, the only time you got to think you were something special was if you were a finalist in Miss PE. So if we’re not Martha Stewart or Gwyneth Paltrow (or Miss PE), do we still get to be someone online? Or do we have to fake it?

Well, one thing I can tell you, is that faking it never works. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with showing off the glossiest side of yourself, but it still has to be you. People respond to genuine. (Or at least I hope you do, or this post is going to tank.) And we also have to stop seeing ‘online’ as somewhere that is different to the real world, because what Facebook and Google+ and everyone else are getting to is making online real. So owning your own brand isn’t just about making your name public or posting pretty pictures of yourself, it’s about having the courage to know yourself, and to be yourself, in a public forum. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Oprah. Because the ultimate example of personal branding was perfected by a woman who is none of the cookie cutter stereotypes I’ve mentioned above. And we love her for it.

So hi. I’m Gaby Frescura. I’m a publisher and an editor (and a darn good one at that), and a wedding blogger, and this is my blog. I don’t really head down to the Thames  to blog in a pretty dress with my laptop, a bouquet of fresh flowers and a bottle of champagne (well, at least not EVERY day ;) ), but apart from that, what I love about these pics is that they’re so ME. They were taken in one of my favourite places in the whole entire world – by the river in Putney, where I used to run when I lived there. Putney is one of the great loves of my life, and being by the water makes me feel alive, and Monica captured that. Plus, I got to carry my favourite flowers (yay, proteas!) and wear my lucky red shoes, and get my toes full of mud. Having a talented photographer means the pictures are gorgeous, but they’re also very true to who I am. Pleased to meet you!

And here’s where I finally bring this back to weddings. Owning your own brand isn’t just for those of us whose business is social media. It’s a lesson for life, and a lesson for weddings. Be the bride that you are. Don’t starve yourself to fit into a dress that looks like it belongs on someone else. Don’t plan a wedding based on someone else’s expectations, or what you think a wedding should be like. Do it your way. Make it personal. Make it a reflection of your personalities and your relationship. Make it genuine. Make it you. Own your own brand.

Liberating, no?

P.S. BIG thanks to Monica for doing such a brilliant job and having so much fun hanging out with Lou and I for the afternoon!

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