Several months ago a friend-of-a-friend consultant offered to review bigthicketART.com and give feedback on my progress thus far. My skill level and limited internet access in Kountze, Texas made designing a website an arduous process, and I was proud of what I had created. Her much-awaited response was one sentence: “You have no brand.”

Crushed.

I responded as I usually do, a bit defensively. After I had time to gain perspective and consider her words, I realized the problem was a classic one: the consultant and I were not speaking the same language. Instead of feeling motivated by what I expected to be positive criticism, I was left with a bad feeling- like the icky, sinking feeling from wearing a girdle two sizes too small. I mentally argued that we were brand NEW. How can a person or company create a finalized presentation to the world before they have engaged with a single person in the community? I preferred to think of the term “brand” as an ever-evolving idea- a purposeful journey- not a static concept.

A “good brand” must go beyond painstaking nitpicking of font and the agony of perfecting arbitrary selection. While appeal is important, I believe an effective brand develops from positive intentions, a reliable and consistent message and a focus on clear goals. Of course, it helps to surround yourself with good energy and people who believe in you and your vision. Brand is a natural extension of who you are, perhaps with a bit of a wash and shine.

My takeaway from the consult was 1. I needed to better communicate my vision and perspective to a new consultant and 2. Perhaps the only way to provide consistency when first venturing into the dynamic world of social media is to view the concept of “brand” as synonymous with “voice.” Were our actions in line with those things that would make this adventure a success? Did we have a clear voice?

The goals of The Harrison Family Foundation and bigthicketART are to create authentic, productive relationships in the community, inspire art and artisans in the Big Thicket and beyond, to support scholarly research of the flora and fauna in the region, and to raise awareness of this big, beautiful forest. I want people to see it, feel it, hike it, paint it, photograph it, and be centered by it. I want people to let the forest and its inhabitants inspire them the way it and they have inspired me.

I have spent the last two years living in and exploring the Big Thicket while starting a family. I unplugged. This hiatus from the socialmediaphere has created a rare perspective on the advances in communication. I. Am. Stunned. And happy. And intimidated. And challenged. And excited because I do best when challenged. THFF and bigthicketART hope to utilize social media as one of the main avenues for achieving our goals. We want to share our intentions with others and attract like-minded people. Do you enjoy nature? Do you appreciate art? Do you want to experience the synergy of all good things? Hi, and welcome! Let’s enjoy this beautiful world together!

Speaking of good things- A big shout out to the fantastic Hard Bean Coffee in Lumberton (@Hardbean_LTX)! This place epitomizes what a community coffeehouse should be. For several months, I have traveled the 74-mile round trip into Beaumont in search of fast internet and a caffeine fix. Today, however, I stopped for gas and queried Google Maps for coffee shops near me. Eureka! Hard Bean Coffee!

“Untitled” by Nathan Keating
Titled “Blackbird” by me

There, I met several friendly people, enjoyed a seriously delicious cup of coffee or three, was inspired to write this article and, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the family-friendly atmosphere. I even bought the painting featured in this blog. Apparently, the artist is a Senior Pastor at a local church. This is an example of seeing life unfold with a purpose.

In retrospect, I am thankful to the consultant. Her blunt personality helped me to clarify my voice, trust myself, and not get overly caught up in the rush of social media to force something that will develop naturally. I do detest girdles.

Also, thank you artist Nathan Keating at Parkway Life Church. The dominant colors where I live (some consider it the old “Hunters Thicket”) are purple and yellow. I like this painting because it reminds me of the purple backdrop of the late summer, uncut prairie-grass in our back field and the everpresent blackbirds that have become still in the thick Texas heat. The nice lady that helped me with my purchase called it “Blackbird,” so I have titled it such.

All good things.

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