Branding with Stephen A. Hart

I notice a lot of folks need a little hand with branding. As new business owners, sometimes we get really excited to get our work out there and the first thing we do is think “I've got to get a website.” You get pulled into color palettes and fonts and you want to share it with everyone. And then I, as your coach, say things like, “well, who is it for?”, and the new photographer says “I don't know.”

I love this conversation with Stephen A Hart, because he'll help us answer some of those important branding questions. Steve was a speaker at the 2017 Anaheim Podcast movement where we met four whole years ago. You probably already know that brand and foundation and clarity are things that I talk about a lot in education for photographers. These are things that Stephen speaks on and teaches as well.

Here is a condensed version of my conversation with Stephen.

Natalie: How did you get into this stuff? And is this something that you've been working on for a long time, or did it just sort of evolve once you got into podcasting?

Stephen: I'm the son of a creative genius. My dad's a chef by training, but also has his titles of a florist, interior decorator, artist, playwright, very creative. So I grew up with the arts being embedded in my DNA.

Present day, I do marketing, digital marketing, and content marketing. The mashup of these two worlds came together for me, probably 15 years ago. Since podcasting, there are a lot of people who would hit me up and say, “Hey, I'd love to be a guest on your podcast for people.” And I'd say, it'd be really awesome to share their story. And more often than not, I would Google them. And the results that I found would leave me indifferent.

So it kind of evolved from there. I was thinking, I could actually help some of these folks to develop their personal brand in the same way I'm doing this for corporations on a day-to-day basis.

With my own podcast, I built this brand for this amazing platform, and then I wanted to start developing my own courseware and speaking more. And I realized, I put all this energy behind the brand of the podcast and never allowed myself to step into that light. I started looking at other people that were doing it and thought,

“we really need to build our own personal brand and then direct the traffic to other things that we have happening.”

So I think whether you're a creative and entrepreneur or we're a leader, we really need to look at where things have shifted, especially post pandemic. We really need to own our digital footprint and our personal brand.

episode 224 the importance of clarity stephen a hart part 1

Natalie: You sent me this graphic, which outlines your course–this idea of the whole thing in the beginning is foundation. Do you want to talk a little bit about sort of what that means?

Stephen: So a lot of people, when they come to me, they say, Hey, Stephen, “I need you to build me a website” or Stephen, “I need you to help me with my social media campaign.” And I will immediately say “What is it that you are doing? What's your offer, who are you serving? Where are you trying to move the puck?” And I'm looking at a deer in headlights. Everybody, they think about brand and they think of the logo, they think of the visual.

There's some things that we have to take care of before we get to framing the brand. We have to lay that foundation have to get really clear.

We have to get clear first off on our purpose. It sounds like fluff. You have to really understand what it is that you're trying to get out of this life that we live…Get clear on what you love to do, what you're really good at, your skills and talents and your superpowers…what your audience needs and what you can get paid for. We get clear on those things and get really dialed into “this is what I want my life. This is what would provide impact, legacy.” That's really what we're looking for at the end of it.

When I do my day job and I have to work overtime into the nights, I feel stressed. But when I'm doing work that I love, that people need, I could work 24 hours and show back up at 6:00 AM and be fresh. You're doing more work for yourself, but you're doing work that you really love to do and that you find meaning in and it's not stressful.

The second step of this process is clarifying the vision.

I will always say to my clients, “Where are you going? What's the final destination?” You have to get clear on what it is that you're trying to get to.

[I got] clear on, “Hey, I want to talk to a thousand black leaders and entrepreneurs over the next 10 years.” So I set my north star, I set my GPS on “this is where we're going.” Now, the path to get there might have a million detours along the way, but you have clarity. In the past year I had to learn that in a different way.

I learned not to quit, but to shift.

January of 2020, I entered a year with my dad having a stroke and I had to shift gears. I couldn't do the podcasts for eight, nine months. And so I stepped into 2021 and started doing live streaming and now I'm live streaming three times a week on LinkedIn. I don't have to post work that I have with the podcast, but I'm still creating, still enjoying the process of what it is that I want to do. But to your point, do I still interview a thousand black entrepreneurs and leaders? Absolutely. [I'm] doing it through a different means.

Natalie: Let's jump into like another part of this. I'm pulling up this thing that you sent me.

Stephen: What Natalie's referring to is our graphic we have called the Trailblazers Method, the method through which our program is taught. It's a three-stage, 12 step process that you use to help guide our students through building their personal brand. So I actually have a six part video series that we are doing in July. You can hop on over to and check out this the six part video series that will also include access to our trailblazers method and the map Natalie's looking at.

episode 224 the importance of clarity stephen a hart part 2

Natalie: Is there any other part of this that you really felt like addressing on this interview?

Stephen: We were touching on the first couple of steps of laying your foundation. I think the next couple steps are equally as important with honesty finding exactly who you're trying to serve. Building and growing your tribe is really important. Understanding who it is that you're trying to serve.

Clarifying your message. It's so very important. So here is here's the nugget.

If you're trying to serve everyone in the same messaging, you're just falling flat with the thread. And if you confuse, you lose.

[You've] gotta clarify your message so that they listen. So you get clear on who it is you're serving. How you speak to your mom different than how you speak to your wife different than how you speak to your kids. Messaging is just that important. So whoever it is you're speaking to, you can get very clear about what it is that they're dealing with, the pain and problems that they're experiencing. And you can get very clear about what it is that you would provide as a solution, and why your solution is different than the other photographers that somebody might be considering. I know exactly who I'm serving. I understand the pain and the problems that, that audience of people that I'm targeting are dealing with.

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Natalie: To move into the final part of this, you started out by saying people come to me and want a website, and then they're like “I don't know anything” When do people need to start thinking about how they show up and getting that stuff together?

Stephen: I think it's important, but I think before we build the brand identity and talk about colors and talk about fonts and logo and website and footprint and social media and all that jazz…again, get clear about your messaging.

Get clear about who you're serving.

Understanding where you're trying to go informs the messaging, informs the storyteller. Your story is your story. Your story is about you, but it's not for you.

Story helps me to digest that, that copy, that message, much easier.

So, you have the messaging and then you start to create the right kind of color schematic and fonts. And now the website just pops, because the copy is screaming right out to your audience. That color palette, the fonts, everything is just pulled into the audience that you're trying to speak to. And then your social media is off-chain. Everything is falling in line.

Now the content's much more clear on who you're speaking to, the problems that you're solving. Everything is serving a particular group of folks and what they need. And then now out of nowhere, you have an offering where you're generating multiple streams of income.

If you would like to dig deeper on some of this stuff and work one-on-one with Stephen, or learn more about his programs, Steven is offering a discount code to Photo Business Help Listeners. Use the code PBH200 at checkout.

About Stephen: 

Stephen A. Hart is on a mission to help guide heart-centered leaders and entrepreneurs through a proven process to identify their life’s purpose, vision and design a brand and a future worth living and leaving. He’s the founder of Isles Media, LLC, the host of the top rated Trailblazers.FM podcast, and the creator of Brand In Demand™. He's featured over 250 successful Black entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals, on his podcast and live shows, reaching his Blazer Nation community in 150 countries.

Stephen is a seasoned entrepreneur, marketer, leader, speaker, and brand strategist, and has been featured in Apple Podcasts, Black Enterprise, Podcast Movement, Speakers Magazine, SpeakerCon, Thrive Global and many more media outlets.

Find him at



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