Why Dance Teachers Should Forget About Personal Branding

Personal brand refers to the identity you present when interacting with people you might do business with, including those who might hire you or choose you as their dance instructor.

You spend many years establishing your identity as a dancer and dance teacher – who you are in the eyes of others is pretty important stuff. Therefore, personal branding is pretty important to a dance teacher.

Let’s stop… I’m not a fan of the phrase, personal brand.

I don’t typically fault anyone for choosing to use the terminology – online, it’s the lingo of choice. But…

For one, personal branding reeks of buzzwordism – it sounds like a fad, and most dance teachers don’t have time for fads.

You Are a Person, Not a Brand

Photo by Phil Roeder

Personal Branding Sounds Anything but Personal

Secondly, you are a person, not a brand. At least that’s how I prefer to think of you!

Finally, many (not all) of those that preach Personal Branding emphasize selling yourself with a story rather than shaping your story with interactions. It is a distinction that even companies and organizations miss, so if you’re going to listen to advice on personal branding it helps to be aware of the difference.

A story for sale focuses on cutting-and-pasting (or worse, manufacturing) an image to engage and snare a target audience.

This lacks integrity, which, by definition, means whole or undivided.

Whether you want to call yourself a brand or not, as a human being, you have real, ongoing, person-to-person relationships everywhere you “put yourself out there” – online, in the studio, or walking through the grocery store.

The whole of who you are is shaped by those relationships, but often in Personal Branding…

Forgotten is the concept that being a valuable employee, or teacher, or professional, or service isn’t just about beginning an association or landing the job. It’s about ongoing relationship and actually BEING valuable – being integral, or essential to completing the whole.

In case I just sound grumpy, you should know I’m not the only person who gets the heebie-jeebies over the words personal branding.

The point in thinking about yourself as a “brand” isn’t to create an alter-ego called our “personal brand” that presents a super-human, polished, and robotic persona of the real you. The point is to become authentic in who you are and intentional about how you tell your story. ~ Jeremiah Gardner, author The Lean Brand

Your history of and commitment to professionalism and being a good leader, regardless of your station, status, or role is the basis of who you are in the context of your professional relationships.

Hopefully your identity is “all you.” Sure, there is an element of, what Gardner calls, intention involved. It’s not wise or necessary to put everything about you on display all the time. Some of your Facebook friends provide a daily lesson in this.

Still, your brand should not be a made-up self, but who you really are and aspire to be as often as possible.

There are a lot of things you can fake until you make it, but integrity isn’t one of them.

If you care about the long-term, you must make sure that you integrate with those (audience, employer, or students) who share your values, beliefs, or vision. Those people have to a) find you, and b) find value in maintaining a relationship with you.

But the work of “b” comes before the “a”. That’s what roots the relationship and your branding in authenticity AND integrity.

Want to develop your personal brand?

If you are marketing something that’s not authentically and completely you, the relationship will eventually end, and badly.

Therefore…

Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving. This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories.  Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and/or a voice that others can depend upon. ~ Glenn Llopis, author and business consultant [Emphasis added by editor]

Hmm… rhetorical question alert: what do you consistently deliver as a dance teacher?

How to Manage Your Personal Brand (Identity)

Focus more on personal development than personal branding.

Here are ways to do that:

Next, do what you do, and do it consistently, with integrity.

Then, market yourself (tell people about you and what you deliver).

Your story is more compelling than you think, but telling it with finesse or craft does take practice and a bit of know-how.

More on the nuts and bolts of how to market yourself as a dance teacher, coming soon in another post!

I want to know what you think about personal branding (hint: you don’t have to agree with me)!

What are some ways that you develop yourself and communicate your value to others?

Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world.
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)

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Comments

  1. I’m in New Zealand, and I don’t know if it’s the same in other countries but the traditional ballet studio here is named for one teacher (eg Jane Smith Dance). I have been pondering this lately, as I know of one local school where the ‘name’ lady is near retirement and it seems as if the school will also be ‘retired’. In contrast, another local studio named for the teacher has re-invented itself as ‘LOD (Love of Dance) Studio’ and she has retired but handed the school on to younger teachers she has mentored.

    In our case, I enrolled my daughter 5 years ago in a type of performing arts ‘franchise’ called Dance Stars – chosen because it happened in local church halls and was easy to get to (and you could enrol online). Since then we have been merged with one of the leading local studios, named for a well-respected teacher who has run it for 40 years. We now find ourselves in a large amalgam of three studios, and have become a ‘dance and performing arts academy’, as you can learn singing and acting as well as ballet, jazz etc. I wonder if this is the shape of the future as ballet studios move from being just about one teacher? Or are we just behind the times and starting to catch up with you?

    • Hm, Cara. This is an interesting question about the naming and future of studios. I suppose we’ve had a bit of both in the U.S. Many older studios in the U.S. began as a one-teacher operation (sometimes the only or one of very few dance teachers in town). These maybe grew to being family-owned, or were later owned by former students – the next generation, or simply closed-down when the teacher retired. This is probably less common today but that could be a reflection of the growth and access to dance in communities. I think back to even my own mother’s generation – dance training for your daughter was a luxury that not everyone could/would afford. Activities like dance and sports are seen as a necessity in this generation, therefore there are more teachers, more choices, etc. The naming and more diverse focus could also reflect the recognition of dance training as a business (not just a post-career project for retired dancers) that can be bought, sold, transferred, etc. I would guess that dance studio infrastructure and branding there, as it does here, reflects the needs and culture of its surrounding community.

  2. Great article Nichelle. Daily life and business are not separate entities. As you suggest, the whole concept of creating an artificial persona can only end badly. I value the close proximity between who I project in business and who I actually am. The alternative requires too much effort, tension and potential for dishonesty. In the end, I think most students and parents value integrity. For families who are attracted to razzamatazz, there’s plenty of it around.

    • Thank you, Edna! I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said about the alternative to authenticity being to much effort… AND about the abundance of razzamatazz! 😉

    • Yes, Edna! I actually think who I am in business is more me than me. 🙂 Seriously, tho, it’s like lying. You have to remember who you lied to and what you’re lying about – and that takes so much work! It’s much easier to be yourself and hopefully yourself is someone people trust and like.

      Nichelle, not sure how I missed this article but it’s perfect timing for me to read it as I fully embrace self-employment as a dance instructor. There is much talk about personal branding but you are so right: it’s personal integrity.

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