Don’t Overthink Your Tagline

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Taglines Don’t Mean As Much As You Think They Do

(Note: A tagline is simply that short phrase you use to define yourself and your brand.  It is usually one sentence or even a few words that sum up you or your message. For example, “The Communications Doctor” or “Self Help Expert” or “The Queen of Humor.”)

I was conducting a camp for keynote speakers and one speaker spent the majority of the weekend agonizing over what his tagline should be. Hours and hours he spent laboring over a handful of words, convinced that his entire career hinged on what words he chose. He had been hung up on this tagline for years, and chances are good he is still hung up on it today. I tried to convince him that no matter what he chose, it wasn’t going to get him more or less business. It was almost irrelevant. His time was far better spent creating a program that people wanted to buy, than a series of words that would make a good bumper sticker. His tagline had very little to do with his success, except to distract him from what was more important and cost him business in the process.

It is important for professional speakers to have a unique style and personality to get attention and set themselves apart from the competition. There are many things that factor into your style – from the photos you chose, to the head shots, to the program titles, and even the colors you use in your marketing materials.  Taglines help create a brand and a style for you as a speaker.  They are a nice accessory to your marketing materials. They do help you position yourself as an expert in a certain area, even though most experts in this business are self-proclaimed, when in truth their market doesn’t even know who they are, much less proclaim them the leading expert. It’s amazing how many “world’s best” speakers there are out there, who the world doesn’t know.

But I have never heard anyone say they booked me (or anybody else) because they liked my tagline.  I’m not sure anybody ever noticed or cared when I didn’t even have a tagline. Compare a tagline to the accessory in your outfit – the red scarf you wear to make a bland outfit pop.

When I’m thinking about style and brand for speakers, I often compare it to the music industry – specifically, bands. Every band has a distinct style, a particular type of music they play, a “look”, a distinct album cover, and a name that defines that band.  While it is important to have a good band name, the success of the Rolling Stones would still be the same had they chosen another name.  And not one ounce of their fame came from having chosen the right band name, or song titles. Their success was a result of the hours spent writing music and rehearsing, than the hours spent coming up with a tagline.

So as you work to carve your path in the speaking business,  don’t spend too much time on a series of words that in the end don’t really matter. Remember the words of Shakespeare, ” A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”