Do I have a treat of a conversation for you today? Yes, yes I do! In this episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with Maddie Peschong — a branding photographer and coach who is obsessed with teaching creative entrepreneurs how to build a profitable business by being themselves. If you’ve been listening to this podcast, or following me on social for more than about three seconds, you know that this is something I feel strongly about too!
Through coaching, digital products, and personal branding photos, Maddie helps women discover their magic so they can stand out in a saturated market, confidently scale their income without trading more time for money, and do only work they love. She is the leader of the Confident Creative Mastermind, host of the Take it Personally Podcast, and founder of the White Space Studio in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — a place where creatives can design, dream, and collaborate while developing their own irresistible brands.
Today, Maddie and I talk about building an authentic personal brand to stand out in a saturated market — and we get to learn about her framework, and the “four Rs”. I can’t wait, so let’s dive straight in!
Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then cleaned up – and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s probably not 100% accurate.
Petchy: Maddie. Welcome to Brandit. I am super excited about our chat today!
Maddie: Thank you so much for having me, Petchy.
Petchy: I know it’s going to be fun, but before we dive into things, I would love to invite you to take a moment just to say hi and tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe a little bit about your business journey so far.
Maddie: Absolutely. So my name is Maddie Peschong, and I am a brand photographer based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, so smack in the Midwest of the US. And I have been a photographer now for about ten years. But in the past four or five years, I’ve pivoted into brand photography, and it just opened up a world that I fell in love with really quickly. And I have since become a brand coach as well. So I will work with clients to take photos and to get more brand photography so they can market their business. But I will also work with them to improve their own personal brand in different ways that they can do that online especially. And I also have a photography studio. My market is probably very similar to others. There’s a lot of photographers here and in South Dakota. It’s only nice out about four months out of the year, so photographers need a place to shoot that’s safe and warm and out of the elements. So I have White Space Studio, which is just a big blank canvas that photographers can come in and make their own. So, yeah, I got started with photography, shooting anything and everything, which I think is the story of a lot of photographers, and just kind of slowly figured out what I liked and more often what I didn’t like or what needed to change. Wedding photography was what allowed me to make enough money to leave my job. Although I really liked my job. My job was in marketing and social media. And so once I realized that I could essentially combine those day job skills with photography and this cute little bundle of brand photography, that was when my business really took off.
Petchy: Sounds like a really exciting journey. And it brings me to what we’re going to have a conversation about today, which is how you can stand out simply by being yourself. I love that. And when I say simply from personal experience, it can definitely be a case of easier said than done, right?
Maddie: Absolutely. I think any time that you are building a brand with yourself at the center, which when it comes to personal branding, that’s the case. You and I have both have a soft spot for branding. And I think we would probably agree that whether you have a really corporate business or a personal brand, there’s kind of room for personal branding and all of it, because at the end of the day, people want to do business with other people, and that can be really vulnerable to bring yourself and your personality and your likes and your dislikes to bring that into your brand. It feels like there’s no place to hide. And so it sounds simple, right? Just be yourself, just be authentic. But it can actually be really challenging. And I work with a lot of people who experience impostor syndrome or limiting beliefs and self doubt, and it’s easy for those things to pop up because of course they would.
Petchy: Yeah. And yet one of the greatest ways to let your personality shine through is through brand photography and having your brand photos kind of speak on your behalf. And yet so many of us just feel that resistance, which is a bit silly, really, when you think of it.
Maddie: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a lot of reasons for it the way that I do brand photography, it’s definitely an investment. I want to work with clients for a few weeks before we shoot together to really plan a really thoughtful and strategic session. These aren’t throwaway photos. These are photos that I want them to use for at least a year, if not if not well past that. And there’s an investment related to that. And so I think that that is a part of it, not even necessarily just at face value, the money, but the investment in yourself and the investment in your brand. Like, when you make any investment in business, it’s essentially saying, like, I believe in myself enough to make this money back. I believe in myself enough to know that this is a good investment and that money will come back to me. And when I’m working with people, this is often one of the first larger investments that they’ve made, whether it’s brand photography or coaching. And that’s really scary. And then you put on top of it that they’re investing in something that’s going to make them get in front of a camera. That does not sound like a good time.
Petchy: So when someone comes to you to get their brand photos done, what would you say are their biggest concerns? Like, what do they worry about?
Maddie: It always comes back to confidence. Sometimes it manifests as simple things like, oh, I don’t like the way that this looks in Photos, or I have a really hard time dressing myself, but it really comes back to, I don’t know if I want to be seen, I don’t know if I’m brave enough to be seen in this way. And that’s so human. So many of us feel that way. It really comes back to confidence in really believing that they have something valuable to say, that their business offers something valuable. And like I said, oftentimes this is kind of their first step in that direction towards believing in themselves. So my favorite part about brain photography is that it’s so transformative because from when we start talking about their session to when I deliver their photos, there’s a really massive transformation that takes place because they’re able to see the way that other people see them, and that’s really happening.
Petchy: I bet a lot of that transformation happens inside their heads as well.
Maddie: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s where I would say 99% of it takes place because we so often don’t see ourselves in that really fantastic way. Like, we’re so close to our business and our problems and the journey that it’s taken to get here that we don’t see. We’re not always able to look back and be like, oh my gosh, look how impressive I am. Look how far I’ve come. And so brand photography shows that my favorite moment at a brand session is when I show them the back of my camera after the first couple of shots. And almost every time they say to me, oh my gosh, I look like a grownup and I’m working with 30 and 40 year old women. Like, of course you’re a grownup. But they don’t see themselves that way. They don’t see themselves as this badass professional. They see themselves as like this little girl who’s still figuring it out because we all feel that way. And so really being able to witness this transformation that happens just by being able to show them how I see them and how other people see them and that they’re actually probably much closer to where they want to be or where they want to go than they thought they were. That changes things. It makes them show up differently. It makes them be a little bit more brave, and that’s really exciting.
Petchy: I know that feeling of being in front of the camera. I know it so well. It makes me feel really uncomfortable. And for me, and probably for a lot of other people who are listening as well, it’s about having the focus being on me, you know, and that’s like, I don’t like that at all. And it’s like, okay, so I’m in front of this person’s camera, and they’re going to see me through their lens, and how am I going to look through their lens? Am I going to look how I feel? Do I want to look how I feel? No, actually, probably not. I probably want to look more confident. I mean, I’ve seen your work, and the people that you photograph, they certainly don’t look camera shy. I mean, quite in the country, they look relaxed and they look at ease. And I’m kind of guessing they didn’t all show up, you know, totally chill and confident.
Maddie: What are you yes, you’re correct.
Petchy: So it’s not just me. So what are the secret tricks that you have up your sleeve to make your clients feel good about showing their true and full personalities in front of the camera?
Maddie: Yeah, well, no, you bring up a great point. I think that is something people will always say. I don’t like getting my picture taken, and I just kind of have to roll my eyes because I’m like, no one likes getting their picture taken. Like, maybe my 17 year old niece, but that’s it. No one likes getting their photo taken, so you’re in good company. And I think that the key is really preparation. I pride myself on a lot of prep with my clients. Some of it from a business perspective, some of it is automated, and it’s just sending them, like, here’s a blog post that I wrote, or here’s a resource on how to pick out outfits for your session or how to practice for your session. One of the things I always tell my clients is, like, get in front of the mirror for the love get in front of the mirror and figure out what angles do you like of yourself? Like, what body parts do you really want to highlight? It’s okay if you have Insecurities, I would love to know what those are so I can watch for them for you, too, because I’m not going to see your Insecurities. I guarantee it. Whenever people come to me and they’re like, oh, well, from this angle, I have a double chin, or I don’t like the way my nose looks from this size. I don’t see that. That’s something that we’re focused on ourselves, but other people aren’t seeing that. They’re seeing how beautiful you are. But insecurities are real, right? And so I really want to know what those are so I can help navigate the shoot. So, yeah, a lot of it is in the prep and the planning. A lot of it is in the atmosphere of the shoot. I like to make sure that there’s music playing anytime that I show people, like, a pose that I want them to get in or an action that I want them to take, I demonstrate it first, especially if it’s going to make them feel goofy. I don’t want them to feel, like, uncomfortable if I’m not doing it right there with them. So one of my favorite tricks, and I know a lot of photographers do this is a big laugh, is going to photograph a lot better than just a staged smile. And so usually I’ll say, okay, we’re going to do a big laugh. I’m going to help you, and then I will, like, fake the most obnoxious laugh you’ve ever heard. And it’s so annoying that they immediately smile like an authentic, genuine smile. So there’s definitely some tricks like that, but a lot of it just comes down to planning and really getting to know the client before I’m shooting with them. Because everything you said about how we make sure that their authentic personality is shining through, I can only know that if I get to know them as a person and not just as a client or a transaction.
Petchy: Yes, I totally get that. And I mean, I think we’ve all seen our fair share of the stiff, kind of very assembled, very directed headshots on corporate websites, and there’s no connection there. This person’s been told to stand this way, smile, and we’ll snap your photo and there we go. And maybe it’s a perfectly fine photo, but I always find that those photos are kind of missing that connection, the one that you get when someone’s eyes light up when they’re engaged with the person who’s taking their photo. And so I think showing your personality through brand photography isn’t necessarily just for the really outgoing, lively, and fun solopreneur brands. Corporate companies can absolutely make their employees look more human, I guess.
Maddie: Totally. I’ve actually had a lot of corporate clients lately, and we’re typically shooting standard headshots, but usually when corporate clients specifically are coming to me, they are saying, we don’t want, like a boring headshot with a gray backdrop. So even if we do very simple headshots that can easily be repeated, there’s a little bit more of a human element to them than your traditional headshot. And a lot of that is just it can be so simple. It’s sitting on a couch instead of standing in front of a backdrop. It’s having a conversation with the person a few seconds before I click the shutter. And asking them about their kids or what part of town they live in or something, just getting them to kind of open up a little bit and feel more confident. It’s asking them if it’s okay if I adjust their hair. For women, especially, I have talked to so many women who are like, oh, so and so did my headshot, and they just clearly weren’t paying attention to the details. And I hate how I look and taking the time to make sure that every hair is in place and that it’s laying the way that they want to and that their clothes are laying smoothly. That attention to detail, which is not necessarily my strong suit, I’ve had to work at that. But it makes them feel so taken care of and so supported, and that feeling translates to how they look in the photo. It just does.
Petchy: So in that respect, I guess it’s not even about the hair being perfect. It’s more about that feeling of ease that you’re helping them get out so that they can show their personality, which is what we’re looking for. We want photos that show humans, not robots.
Maddie: Right, exactly.
Petchy: And not just photos, but like any kind of way you’re going to show up for your brand. We want to know that there’s a human behind there because we’re all humans and we like to connect with other humans, not just with soulless portraits on a website.
Maddie: Yeah, you said something really great earlier about being in the spotlight, like that is not your comfort zone. And so photos have always been a little intimidating, and I think a lot of people feel that way, especially because so many of us got into business because we saw a problem that we wanted to solve and we wanted to be of service to solve this problem. And so we spend our time in business being of service. It’s about our client. It’s not about us. And so to feature yourself in your marketing, in your branding and your photography, I think that that’s really intimidating for a lot of people and can be another thing that’s kind of holding them back from investing in a brand photo shoot because they’re like, oh, no, it’s not about me, it’s about my clients. But it’s about both of those things have to be true because your clients want to connect with a human, and also you have to give your clients a reason to care about something greater than just you yourself. It’s the larger mission of the business and a lot of the time that can be communicated really well through photography.
Petchy: Yes, that’s a really valid point. I was just recording an episode, actually, about trust, and I think the more real someone looks in their brand photos, the easier it is to actually trust them. And I think you can tell when people are acting unless they’re really good actors or like supermodels who get paid to kind of become this different persona. But if you’re going to show up and have photos that portray you, you don’t have to do any acting. You shouldn’t have to do any acting anyway.
Maddie: Yeah, that’s the best part about building really authentic personal brand, which again, it takes time to figure out. What does that even mean for me? But that’s the best part, is that it should feel like an extension of yourself. It should feel easy. It should feel fun and exciting and playful. It doesn’t need to feel like pulling teeth. Like whenever I talk to someone and they’re like, oh, I hate Instagram, or I hate any particular tactic, to me, that’s a bit of a red flag that they’re not super aligned with their mission. Because if you believe in what you do and your business gets you excited, getting on Instagram stories and talking about it is no big deal. It’s fun. But if you’re not quite connected or sure of what your brand looks like, that’s where it starts to get tricky and we start to hate these platforms that could actually really be propelling our businesses. And that’s a tough place to be in.
Petchy: I don’t think it helps either that so many of us have been conditioned to behave in a certain way or to portray ourselves in a certain way. Many of us have. Well, we grew up and we started our careers in corporate. Maybe in a time where there were very kind of rigid rules, I say rules with quotation marks here, but about how to present to yourself if you want to look professional. And I think that’s changing, thankfully. But for me and other people in there, kind of late 30s, early to mid 40s, we grew up and we were told we needed to present ourselves in a certain way. That’s hard to shift.
Maddie: That is one of my biggest lies in business because I can still relate to that. Like I mentioned, I had a corporate or an agency job for a lot of years before I ended up quitting and taking my own business, taking my own business full time. And I was so burnt out. Not because of the job. I loved the job and I loved photography. And like, you know, I liked having both, or I told myself that I like having both, but I felt like I couldn’t. I felt like I would never be professional enough and perfect enough to excel in either one. Like, when I was at work, I felt like I couldn’t talk about photography. And when I was in my photography business, I felt like I couldn’t talk about work. It was like being in one spot and still having that other thing made me feel inferior in some way. And it resulted in me having all of these different personalities and personas, none of which were actually myself, all because I was trying so hard to be professional. And I just learned that what does that even mean? But you’re right. We have. We’ve been conditioned to be so perfect and so pulled together. That’s just not the reality that we’re living in. And I think more and more people are saying, like, no, screw this. This is too exhausting. I can’t do this anymore. And I’m really glad for people like that because that’s what I needed ten years ago.
Petchy: Yeah, you’re right. You know, it is exhausting. That mask is really, really heavy. And then imagine if you’re having to wear several masks, like what you described, like, you have like, a secret role, and then you have your private you, and then maybe you’re having a side hustle, and there’s all these different personas and you have to handle them and like, you have to remember, which persona am I supposed to be now? Screw it. Why can’t we just be ourselves? Why is that not enough? Like, why can’t we just be ourselves in every kind of arena of our lives? It should be enough, right?
Maddie: Yeah, it absolutely should be. And I think it’s becoming enough. It’s always been enough. But I think people are beginning to realize exactly what we’re talking about, that it’s too hard to do it the other way and the risks are too high. You know, you look at the rates of people dealing with depression and anxiety and just dealing with poor mental health, and I think a lot of that is because as a society, we have expected this level of perfection that is just completely unrealistic.
Petchy: Let’s ditch that.
Maddie: I agree.
Petchy: Oh, I want to segue into your framework because, like so many coaches and strategists, you too have your own framework, is that right?
Maddie: I do, and I’m very proud of it, because a framework is not I tend to be a little bit more of a visionary head in the cloud type person. So it has taken me years to put this together, and I am very proud of myself.
Petchy: Same. It took me well, I’ve been in this line of business now for 20 years, and it’s only recently, like a year or two ago, that I nailed my framework. And it was a labor of love. It was like I just could not get it to click into place. And when it clicked into place, it was that kind of that epiphany that I’m open.
Maddie: I can completely relate.
Petchy: I think maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated to learn about other people’s unique approaches and their frameworks as well, and like, how they arrived at their framework because, yes, you work with people on branding and the strategy behind it, and then you translate that into gorgeous brand photos. And I do a lot of the same with a brand strategy and then translating it into sort of graphic visuals. But I bet even though we work on a lot of the same things, our frameworks are probably completely different. And that’s so, so fascinating. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your framework and how you landed at that, and how does it all work? Like, how do you use it when you work with your clients?
Maddie: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s something, like I said, it’s taken me years to put together. I’ve been working with a business coach since 2019, and it’s something that she’s really been pushing in the last couple of years because when you have a framework, it’s so much easier to scale, it’s easier to sell. Just things are just so much easier when you kind of have this place you can come back to. And I really struggled with that because I was like, oh my gosh. When I finally landed on personal branding, which that even took me a long time because I kept getting distracted by the tactics, as I think a lot of us do. So I would do a program specifically about Instagram, but then I would get halfway through it and be like, this isn’t it. At the end of the day, Instagram doesn’t matter. It’s just a tactic. But then what’s the bigger thing that I’m talking about? So it took me a long time to finally get to personal branding, which is even saying that out loud. I’m like, how did it take me this long? I am a personal brand photographer, but that’s just kind of how it goes. I had a lot of people saying to me, like, I love your Instagram. I love your stories. I love how authentic you are. And so I was getting distracted by the Instagram part of that instead of thinking through, oh, well, that’s part of how I’m branding myself and the stories that I’m telling and that sort of thing. So finally landed on a personal brand framework, but then I was still struggling because I’m like, oh my gosh, there’s so much that goes into personal branding. It’s not just showing up as yourself on social media. It’s also things like boundaries and expectations setting and client experience and the content that you’re creating on social and the connection you’re making with followers. I’m like, how am I going to loop put these things into three or four buckets? So it was a journey.
Petchy: You just have to make big buckets.
Maddie: You have to make big buckets. And that is exactly what I did. So the personal brand framework, I call it the Rebrand Framework, consists of four bars, so it’s easy to remember. The first one is reputation. And this is a lot of thought work. It’s figuring out, why are you here? What are you doing? What’s the purpose of your business? Why do you do what you do? What in your industry makes you mad? Like, what really fires you up? And I think for me, this is always the hardest part of anything related to business because I don’t want to talk about the feelings. I don’t want to talk about this stuff because I’m like, no, let’s get to the numbers.
Petchy: It makes us vulnerable, right?
Maddie: It makes us vulnerable and it makes us really have to look at stuff. But what I’ve found is there will be very hard days in business. And if you’re not in hard seasons and whatever, and if you’re not connected to that bigger mission, like why you do what you do, then your butt’s not going to stay in the chair. And that’s always what I tell my clients. Like, what keeps your butt in the chair on the days that are hard? Because there will be really hard days where you just don’t feel like it. So that’s what reputation is figuring out. Like, what do you want to be known for? What’s the mark that you want to leave on the world? And then once you’ve got that figured out and I think it’s really important as part of this process to understand that personal brands shift. So the reputation that you kind of decide during this process, it might be different by the time we work our way through the framework, that’s perfectly fine, but that’s at least a good starting point. Once you kind of have an idea of what you want that reputation to look like. The next R is rapport. And this really focuses on the connection that you have with your people. So a lot of this comes down to your digital footprint. Like, where are you showing up online? What’s your website look like? What does your website say about what you do, who you are, what you offer? Same for your social media. What is that communicating? And then when it comes to the content you’re producing, what’s that thing? And what’s essentially the Venn diagram of you as a person and you as a brand? And your clients like, where do you overlap? Where do your interests kind of merge? There is a lot of room on social media to be sharing educational content and inspirational content, and that’s all fine and good, but the cool part about personal branding is you can work in some personal stuff that’s just fun because you like it. And it goes a really long way in creating rapport and connection with clients. So oftentimes clients will ask me, like, well, I want to post about my 30th birthday party over the weekend, but should I not do that? Because it’s not professional. Right? We always want to be professional.
Petchy: Rolling my eyes because yes, I’ve heard this.
Maddie: Yeah, exactly. And ultimately it does depend on your brand and how much of your personal life you want to share online. You also don’t need to share everything online. That’s not the point of personal branding either. But essentially it’s what do you want to share? Because you can there are no rules here. So that’s rapport. My favorite story when it comes to rapport, I have one of my absolute favorite clients is a woman named. Amanda, and she’s a brand photographer in Texas, and she’s a single mom. She home schools, and she recently adopted chickens. And so she’s been sharing all of this stuff in her content. And she reached out to me and she was like, mattie, should I not be sharing this stuff? It’s really fun and it’s actually performing very well, but it has nothing to do with brand photography. Like, do I need to stop talking about the chickens? And I was like, no. I mean, as long as you’re still telling people how they can work with you and what you do, this type of content goes a really long way in building rapport. Yes. It makes you look human, and I can’t make this up. A couple of hours later, she had gotten an inquiry from a chicken feed company because they saw a reel that she posted about her chickens, and they saw that she was a brand photographer. And they, after some back and forth, hired her for $1,700 a month to take brand photos of their chicken feed. It’s a huge thing for her now because she shared something that was just personal to her and fun. So that’s how we find those clients where you’re like, oh, my gosh, this feels like this feels like play. This doesn’t even feel like work. But you have to share a little bit of yourself first.
Petchy: Yes, you do. And in sharing a little bit of yourself, I find that you often attract those clients that you really get on with, you know, that you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable just saying, I do you want to go down the pub and grab a drink or two after you finish work? I’m not saying that you have to go down the pub for drinks with every client, but it kind of helps to work with people who get you and you can have a good time with while you’re also completely doing your work in a very professional manner. Work and professionalism and play and fun can go hand in hand. Yeah. And I’ve found this as well, is when you start showing up more as you, that is what’s going to make you really stand out, and that’s what’s going to make people notice you. And you are probably going to piss a few people off, but that’s just going to have to be okay, right?
Maddie: Yeah. And it’s a long game. Like I said, I can’t make that up. That story with Amanda is just, like, so perfect. But a lot of the time, that’s not how it’s happening. Right? It’s somebody who sees something that you post and they connect with it, and so they continue following you and interacting with you. And maybe two years down the line, they’re like, I need brand photography. You know who does brand photography is that girl that I talk to on Instagram all the time. So a lot of the time, it’s much more of a slow burn but once those things kind of start coming one after another, you’ve built this really fantastic foundation for your business that just kind of becomes something that feeds itself essentially like constantly getting new inquiries. So I think it’s a really good foundational way to build a successful sustainable business.
Petchy: And that’s because you’re building relationships… which is a nice segue into your next R!
Maddie: I love it! So yes, our third R is relationship and this goes a step deeper. So Rapport is talking about connection relationships, takes that a step deeper. We’re not just talking about chickens anymore. We have to actually do what we say we’re going to do. And I think that this is another area where I especially see with photographers, they’re not focusing enough on client experience and really building trust with their people. You know, people talk about the no like trust funnel and there has to be some element of trust for them to buy from you. But I always like to look at it as soon as they purchase from you and they’re working with you, you’re working toward a goal, toward a project. I like to think of it as that trust meter is back down at zero. Like we’ve got to start building that trust back up again. And a really great way to do that is through your client experience. So this can be things like boundaries and expectations, which people always are like, why are we talking about boundaries when it comes to client experience? But clients want to know what to expect. They want a clear next step. And so if you’re able to tell them like, hey, I respond to emails Monday, Wednesday, Friday between the hours of three and 05:00 p.m. Or whatever, whatever it looks like for you, they like that, especially the good clients. They like to see those boundaries and they like to know what to expect. Oftentimes people think about gifting when it comes to client experience. And I think gifting is fantastic, but it’s also not necessary. A handwritten thank you card can go a really long way. Thank you so much for booking. I can’t wait to work with you. I had a great time at your session, whatever having workflows set up between when you take payment and when you actually are doing, in my case, shooting a session, sending them emails, telling them this is what I recommend for how to prepare for your session or what to wear. Or here’s a stylist information if you want to go shopping with somebody as you put together your clothing, providing resources and really holding their hand throughout the process. And a lot of the time that can be happen, that can be happening in an automated way. So you’re not getting completely burnt out serving all of these clients.
Petchy: I know a lot of people think, but if it’s automated, isn’t it like awfully impersonal? But I don’t think it has to be because I love canned emails. I love everything I can automate and set up. I have processes, I have workflows for each and every single project goes through the exact same workflow. That doesn’t mean I can’t personalise it. It just means that I have a proven process that I can kind of lean on and fall back to as well. If something goes wrong, then I know that, okay, next step is this.
Maddie: Exactly. It’s also so much easier to provide a consistent experience and that results in better reviews and referrals. And that’s really the point of this, really the entire rebranded process. But specifically relationships like, how can we make these people love you so much that they can’t help but refer their friends? They can’t help but leave a great review. And having that consistent experience is a really big part of that. And I always feel like if people are thinking that you can’t have automated emails or semiautomated emails that feel personal, they haven’t tried it yet because there are so many ways that you can personalise them and infuse your personality and still have them automated or mostly automated.
Petchy: Yeah, one of my favorites is to just plunk a little animated GIF into an. People love them. They’re like, oh, I love the GIF. People told me GIFs aren’t professional. Guess who’s laughing now?
Maddie: Exactly. Isn’t that so funny? Yes. Seriously, throw all rules of professionalism out the window. We don’t care about professionalism. We care about connection. Like, connection is the thing we should be striving for.
Petchy: And also, I just wanted to kind of go back to this notion of being consistent. I love how you spoke about consistency and what that is, because I totally agree. I don’t think consistency means showing up a certain number of times on Instagram to post something. Oh, you have to post on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays and then your newsletter has to come out on this certain day. And if you don’t do it, then people are going to notice. And they go they’re not going to notice. There are very few people whose posting schedules I know, right?
Maddie: Oh, gosh, how true is that? Yeah, absolutely.
Petchy: But I think what’s even more important is to show up in a consistent way so that you don’t confuse people. So every time people come across you or your brand, they see the same thing. They build that familiarity and that’s what’s going to build the trust. Not if you post every Monday or if you skip a Monday, you know.
Maddie: Exactly. People don’t care about that the way that I’ve been looking, because I get that question a lot. And so I’ve been trying to define because I do say be consistent, but I always follow that up with that does not mean what you think of me. So I’ve been trying to figure out, like, what does that mean? And for me, it looks like if I’m looking at a full calendar year, it means that I showed my face most of the time, maybe that’s once a week. Again, it’s kind of going to depend on your brand. For me, I would say I’m showing my a big part of my brand is like showing my face on social media, showing my face on stories. And so I’m probably doing that the majority of the week, most weeks, but you can already hear in that statement that means there’s a lot of time where I’m not. I had a really terrible family tragedy happened about a year ago, and it just kind of made me not want to be online. It made me not want to be on social media. So I didn’t I was offline for probably about a month, maybe kind of like looking, but not on as Maddie. And I don’t really think anybody noticed. And if they did, I don’t think they cared. And I got back when I felt like coming back to it. So it doesn’t have to be this, like, additional job. It can just be something that you do for fun, to grow your business, to grow your relationship. It doesn’t need to be more yeah.
Petchy: I think frequency is less important. And it’s more important how you show up so that if you come across someone, if someone comes across your account on a Monday in January and then they later revisit your account on a Wednesday in August, they are going to meet that same person and they’re going to see that this is the same person. Yeah, that’s what we’re going to build brand recognition. That’s what we like. And what you do with the brand photos that can help people do that, show up as them all the time, which is why I always try and stress to my clients to get decent photos. And even if you can’t afford a brand photographer, get some photos of you that aren’t edited to death. People want to see you.
Maddie: Yep, exactly. Your brand and your business is going to evolve. I kind of mentioned this earlier, but the cool thing about personal brands is that they’re based on people. But what trips people up, I think, is that people change. And so personal brands also change, and we don’t like that. We get very nervous about, well, what if I change my business name? Or what if I start doing something different? What if at one time I’m only posting selfies, but now I can invest a little bit more? Can I do this? Brand photography, I’ve never done it before. And that’s why the fourth R is refine. Give yourself room to refine, to figure out what works and what doesn’t and to let your brand evolve alongside you. These brands are not meant to just be stationary and stagnant and never change. We don’t want to give people the impression that we are like, perfect and invaluable and like, no, we’re evolving. We’re figuring it out, and your brand can do that too.
Petchy: And I think that goes whether you’re building a personal brand or you’re building a more corporate brand that’s bigger than yourself. Yeah, it has to evolve because the world changes around us. I mean, look at what’s happened in just the past two or three years. We’re at a completely different place now than we were three years ago as a whole global community, and then not to mention like, the little local differences as well and changes. And I think the brands that don’t adapt are the ones that are going to lose out. You know, they’re going to be left behind. And the people who are agile and can really respond to changes around them, they are the people who are going to be able to build the stronger brands because you can’t just wake a logo on it anymore like you could before.
Maddie: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, 100%. And I think that there is some comfort knowing that big brands, for the most part, give themselves this freedom and flexibility. I always joke about Google My Business and how it’s had like ten different iterations over the past couple of years where once a year I get an email and it’s like, Google My Business is now Google Store or whatever. They’re constantly changing what they are and how to log in and what the page does. They’re figuring it out. And if Google is still figuring it out, you can still be figuring it out. It’s fine.
Petchy: Yeah. And what stays the same throughout all of these changes is you, right. Well, you don’t stay the same, but the common denominator in everything is you. And that’s fine, which is another great reason to just let your freak flag fly.
Maddie: Absolutely. I love it.
Petchy: I love that framework and I love how it is very different to my framework, but at the same time, very, very similar. It sounds like you’re working through a lot of the same things that I do with my clients, a lot of the things that are really invisible until you start actually doing them. But that’s going to make a huge, huge difference when you actually get to implementing your brand. And so if you work with someone on their strategy, I bet taking their brand photos is much easier than taking someone’s brand photos that just kind of walked in off the street and said, hi, I want photos for my business.
Maddie: Oh, my gosh, yes. Someone just asked me the other day, I am currently offering a coaching program for photographers who want to offer brand photography. And one of my students in the program said, I want to charge more for brand photography, but I’ll be shooting a session in 20 minutes. And I’m like, that’s it. I don’t have anything else to shoot. And I said, I’m like, this is the framework and the questions that you’re asking them and the planning process beforehand, that’s everything. Because that’s how you’re able to really hear their voice and read between the lines and figure out, okay, how do we tell this story visually? You can do a really great quick brand session in 20 minutes, but I think the photographers who really take it a little deeper and really get to know the person and the mission behind the brand, they’re able to offer such a better end product to their clients because they really get to know them.
Petchy: And how can you tell someone’s story if they don’t even know their story themselves? So this is what I always say to my clients. I know this is challenging work, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Maddie: Yes, exactly. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s also why you work with the professional. Right, but that is our job. You would need to be able to kind of pull that out of people. But you still, as the client, you still got to sit down and do it. You still have to sit down and look at that questionnaire or sit with me on a zoom call and kind of be uncomfortable not knowing the answer to every question right away. You still have to do that work. But that’s what we’re there for, to kind of hold your hand through the process.
Petchy: And in a way, having that last point of your framework being refinement, it kind of allows people to not get it the first time around, like, not nail it 100% the first time around. You don’t have to have everything perfect because it’s an iterative process anyways. Absolutely. That makes it scary, actually, for people that I work with, at least, they’re like, oh, but I can’t commit to this. And I’m like, well, you don’t have to commit to it. You can change your mind, but it’s important that you start thinking about these things.
Maddie: Yeah. Just having a place to start can’t make it better if it doesn’t exist.
Petchy: True, true, true, true. Right. I’m going to round it off with a question that I ask all of my guests. I like to just get one top tip, just that one key takeaway. If people remember one single thing only from our conversation, what is that tip?
Maddie: One of my favourite prompts to give people when they’re doing that thought work of, like, what do I even want with my brand? What does a personal brand look like for me is, if you could waive a magic wand, how would your business be different six months from now? And I think that when you ask it that way, it makes it a little easier to say, oh, this is what I want, or this is what I don’t want. So if you listen to this conversation and you’re like, this is a lot of really heavy work. I don’t know, think about that. If you could wave a magic wand, what would be different and go from there?
Petchy: That’s solid gold. So if people have listened in and they’re like, oh, I want to connect with Maddie. She sounds like a fantastic person. I want to work with her, I want to learn from her. Where is the best place to find you?
Maddie: Yes, so you can find me on Instagram. I spend a lot of time on Instagram. My handle is @maddiepeschong and it is that pretty much everywhere. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, all of those places. You can find me at Maddie Peschong and my website is maddiepeschong.com and I do travel for sessions. I know that a lot of your listeners are not local to me, but I’m just going to put that out there.
Petchy: I love that you put that out there. Thank you so much for this conversation. I’ve really enjoyed it and I think it’s going to provide a lot of value to our listeners.
Maddie: Thank you so much for having me, Petchy.
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Until next time,
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