Actor by training
Biz owner by choice
Wildly enthusiastic by nature

I work with the enthusiastic overthinkers among us to clarify exactly what it is they do and why it matters through equity-centered coaching,  and values-based  copywriting.

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I'm Megan - the wordsmith behind MD&Co.

The 3 Pillars of Brand Authenticity
(aka: How to Create a Brand Fam)

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Megan Dowd

Human First, Biz Second®

Nothing makes me feel older than new slang.

Both the hit song from Garden State and the literal creation of new expressions by the youth culture.

If I’m honest, I’ve never been a particularly Hip To It Human. I had a complete panic over the term “hipster” in college because it was suddenly everywhere and I had no idea what it meant or how to use it — but it smacks different when you’re out of the age range AND you have no idea what’s being said.

At that point, I’ve turned into my high school English teacher whose ill-fated utterance of “cool beans” still churns up secondhand embarrassment. Yoinks.

While I love the malleability and evolution of language, the advent of new words I don’t understand that somehow entire subgroups of humans intimately understand will continually perplex me.

And that’s exactly why the culture of a brand — and what makes it “authentic” in certain spaces — is such a nebulous thing. 

It’s like new slang (the concept, not the song this time). It’s a little bit squishy, kinda hard to define, hits everyone just a little bit differently. And we struggle to talk about the things we can’t effectively name (shout-out to Dana Ray, a member of The Connection Collective).

But you want what some of “those brands” have. You know the ones. The ones that post something and it gets shared. The ones who are the “standard” in your industry. The ones led by people who feel like your long-lost BFF — and you just want to be in their orbit. The ones that feel like a little weird internet family.

You want your brand to feel like that, at least in some way-shape-form. 

So let’s name the things, as best we can, so we can define what “those brands” have and how to bring them into your business, so you can create your own brand fam.

I’ll start us off: Most of those brands that excel in persuasion, are rated as “authentic,” and that build a true ‘brand fam’ are held up by three distinct pillars: content, curriculum, and community.

Here’s how to understand these pillars, and why they work best as a triad.

The Content Pillar

When I talk about content, I’m talking about how you are informing us (your audience) about the transformation you sell. At its most basic level, content is the information that is made available to others by you via the internet. 

This covers a LOT of ground, from copy to blogs to social media posts. And because it all falls under “content,” it needs to work cohesively within itself along with the 2 other pillars because content without curriculum (structure) or community (people to share it with), it’s kinda like landing a really old joke in a room full of teenagers. *cringes*

From the about page on your website to the latest article you submitted to Forbes to your thriving social media accounts, odds are you create a lot of content on the regular.

Some of it, like your website, needs a regular refresh but doesn’t need a lot of attention.

Some of it, like blog articles or features in other publications, requires a decent amount of time and attention as its purpose is to stir up interest every time someone stumbles upon it.

Some of it, like your social media posts, is quick and easy to digest.

All of it needs to work cohesively as a whole in order to add to the strength of the triad.

The Curriculum Pillar

You’re creating content, but what are the topics and methods used to inform us (your audience again, hi, hello) about what you can provide them? Usually, we talk about curriculum in the form of modules in a course or program, but it also has a broader meaning: the subjects you use to break down a complex idea.

Think of your offer as a course (and if it is a course, sit tight, it’ll all make sense in a minute). Inside this literal or figurative course, what are the subjects you have to cover for folks to buy into the transformation you’re offering — and thus buy your product or service?

You can think of your curriculum as your content pillars — the “buckets” of content you discuss, from community-building posts to value-rich freebies.

Curriculum is the series of subjects you discuss on your various platforms, much like I write about core messaging, values-led business, and The One Great Dilemma of Online Business Ownership. (Just kidding about that last one, there’s many a Great Dilemma).

Your curriculum is also how you take people from Point A to Point Z and help them find the solutions they need. You don’t just send them random steps in no particular order. You give them the MapQuest directions with clearly outlined steps. (I think I’ve officially lost Gen Z.)

Like I said before, you need curriculum to guide your content. And without this pillar, you won’t be able to support the last one. As Human First, Biz Second® lovers around these parts, this last pillar is non-negosh. (Did I get that right, fellow kids?) 

The Community Pillar

Ahhhhhh yes, one of my favorite topics in online business: community [pssst: I’ve already written about building an authentic community and how to define values that attract your dream peeps.]

The term ‘community’ is wildly overused in online spaces to imply levels of intimacy, success, support, etc. that aren’t actually provided in those containers, but that’s a spicy soapbox for another day.

For the purposes of a common definition for community, it is comprised of people — the people who are gathering around you and your brand as a result of your content and curriculum. They also need to have a shared characteristic, i.e. their love of your particular niche or a need for your particular skill set. 

But also… you want these people to be sold on your values and the transformation you provide. Let’s say you’re a brand designer. You don’t want just anyone with a design challenge to work with you — you want to work with someone who has similar values and wants to make the same kind of impact.

Community is who you attract.

It’s who you want to serve.

It’s the people you feel most at home with.

It’s the spaces you cultivate on the internet.

And of course, by now you see how the three pillars all come together:

Your community is cultivated by the content and curriculum you curate.

Great… now what?

Congrats, my friends. We’ve made it through the journey of naming the unknowns and clearly working through what “those brands” have that you wish yours had. And see… it’s not as overwhelming as you may have thought. They don’t have anything magical that you can’t also incorporate. These three pillars are used across any brand — successful or not.

But if you want your brand to be successful and to feel authentic to the people you want to serve — to be a brand fam… how do we get there? How do we start building these pillars up? Do you just start creating content, building curriculum, and starting a community? Ermmm… no. Not exactly.

Because there’s one little thing that’s required to build these pillars. The “pillar concrete mix,” if you will. It’s your core values.

Do you know what they are? Do you know how your values bleed into the content you create, the curriculum you structure your offers around, the community or culture you want to build? Do you know which values are going to become the pillars of your content, your curriculum, your community? (This is getting v meta.)

Rather than banging your head on your desk during another meditation sesh with your journal, use my Conversion Catalyst Quiz to illuminate where you’re getting lost and how to realign your business for maximum impact. This is how we build Human First, Biz Second® businesses that feel authentic to both us and the people we want to work with.