How Developing a Brand Is Like Throwing A Party
I’ve been reading lots of cutting edge “radical” marketing books lately, the main gist of which is basically how we all need to get back to basics of being basic human beings…that the old model of marketing is finished where we try to please all the masses all at once with a watered down product. Instead, find your niche and own it—Take that risk! Go out there and assemble your tribe, find your people, they say! In essence, marketing is about connecting like-minded people and creating joy…and what’s more connecting and joyful than gathering your friends and throwing a party!
I'm not necessairily sure the world needs more feedback on how to market themselves better. Because the irony is, in this day and age that is the one thing we all know how to do—practically everyone has a personal brand. Or at the very least you’ve given thought on how to manage your social media, or maybe even how to craft your voice to make sure it’s “authentic” without “oversharing.” Which parts of our professional life to promote, and which parts of our private lives to shine light on, whether it helps “the brand” or not. Ironically the thing we don’t know how to do anymore is actually connect with people in real life or how to throw a freakin’ party!
I find this fascinating because the same tropes and sequences of self doubt, insecurity, excitement, questioning, and longing for connection are similar in building a business/branding/marketing your product as they are for throwing parties…but now most of us have had so much practice executing the former it’s interesting that we are still bashful about undertaking the latter. So, allow me to elaborate further:
I’m actually a pretty shy person, a classic introvert who replenishes her energy reserves with lots of quality alone time. When I was in my early 20s I moved to New York and started a fashion/art media project called Swoon Magazine (RIP) with my friends that ended up growing much larger than we had originally anticipated. To cover part of our growing expenses and provide a live platform for our contributors and collaborators to meet, we decided to start throwing elaborate parties that were intended to be real life versions of the magazine spreads, complete with interactive art, fashion shows, and music. Prior to the first party we threw I was basically sick with dread the entire day before, and on the actual night of the party I practically spent the entire time backstage unwilling to go out. Thanks to my much more laid back partners the event was a success. Since that first night we went on to throw many more parties, with many successes and failures in between, and somewhere during that time I lost my anxiety and became a well-oiled party-throwing machine. (Almost to the point where I had lost any tension at all, including the joy, but that’s another story...)
So, in honor of all my parties of yesterday and every edgy marketing book out there, I present, six steps on how to throw a party:
Step One: Set your intention. Seems like a simple throw-away solution, but it is not!! Most people fail here right away. Some people can’t even handle the word “party” it gives them anxiety. What is it about this word that causes so much fear? Say it out loud to yourself like a mantra until you get comfortable with it: “I am throwing a party. I am throwing a party….” Don’t tell people you are having a “thing,” a “get-together,” a “small event.” Call it a P-A-R-T-Y. Name it for what it is, and that it shall become. You decide your location, you secure a date, and then you're all set, it’s full steam ahead from here on out!!
Step Two: Be committed. You’ve set your time and date, chosen the reason for your party, etc. You know how they say in marketing how you have to be consistent in your branding…? Well with parties you need to be consistent with logistics. If you have been feeding people the same information leading up the event date, and nothing changes (time/date/location) then chances are it will be in the back of their minds for awhile allowing them to halfway plan on being there, and no one will get lost along the way because they’ve all mostly planned ahead to anticipate the event. When plans change, especially time and location, is when it gets stressful and you lose people.
Step Three: Be vulnerable. Invite people to your party. All the people you want to invite! In personal branding parlance, this is like if you created a new social media page for your business, and you unabashedly “invite” your whole friends list to “like” it. Or email them about that amazing new swimsuit you just started selling (ahem. Guilty!) Send out your invite in a platform or whatever media you choose, and then stick to that message! Some people will come, some will not.
Step Four: Do the work. What’s the special thing about your party that will bring people joy once they’ve made it there? Is it the music, amazing food, a karaoke machine, endless rounds of charades, arm wrestiling contests? What is the beverage situation? If it’s a BYOB you still need to assume everyone will BYO less than their fair share of B and it’s on you to make up the difference. Whatever it is you have in mind, put in some time to set it up. But remember, you can’t control people, the entertainment is just there for your guests to partake in, if they so choose. (Unless you are nine years old and throwing a birthday party for your cat, then it is absolutely mandatory that all attendees draw pictures of said cat in ballgowns).
Step Five: The follow-up. This, I would argue, is the most important aspect of all, and for some can be the most challenging. About a week or some days before the actual party, you have to personally reach out to as many guests that you care about and ask them to come. A personal reminder is so much more effective than a bot-generated reminder, because guess what…we are all inundated with bots! And the truth is, all your guests want to connect and feel special and important and missed. Also, it’s like a little warm-up icebreaker to have some personal words with some of your guests before you see them at your party, especially if you haven’t seen them in awhile, and makes it much easier for them to decide to commit to going to your party as well. I can't tell you how many parties I've been to that could have been spectacular if only the host hadn't been too cool to follow-up!
Step Six: Have fun! And here we go, the final most important part of this whole exercise! When the final day rolls around, it’s time to let go of all the work you did. Now is not the time to worry about getting more party props, following up with guests, or securing entertainment, because you’ve already done all that. This day is reserved for the host to be having fun, and this is not a choice. Whatever mood the host is in will determine the vibe of the party. To get yourself in the mood, remember why you wanted to have this party in the first place, and then allow yourself to enjoy that! Also, this is not a time to obsess over who doesn’t come, or how many people show up, or whatever, or even whether they’re actually having fun. (My friend Eyal recounted a story to me once that during a birthday party I had, some wayward passing teen lobbed an egg at the deck…he said he was mildy terrified for a moment until he saw me laughing hysterically, apparently unperturbed, and then his anxiety completely melted and he went on to enjoy the rest of the night.) None of that actually matters if you’ve done your share of the bargain in planning, set-up, and preparation. You can only build it and invite people to come, but the key is, you really have to build it first. If you take time to create something you are genuine and authentic about, you will be proud of it and thus organically have a good time.