Words to Live By with Heather Brogden

Photographed by Stacy Able

This story’s really about Heather Brogden from Porch Marketing and her take on social media. But first I want to tell you that I remember the early-early days of Facebook. My friends, soon-to-be-freshmen at IU and Purdue, set up accounts before leaving for campus. (Originally, you had to have an approved .edu email address.) It would be another year before Facebook made it to my campus, and another year after that before I’d sign up.

Did it make my life better? Hard no. It created a strained sense of reality for me, but did it expand my life? Did it help me stay in touch with friends I made around the world? Did it help me explore places closer to home? Yes, yes, and yes. Do I still have this account? No. (I’m not clear on whether anyone under 50 still uses Facebook, but I wouldn’t be the one to ask.)

Social media’s a mixed bag, but you already knew that. And as an individual human in the world, you get to make all kinds of choices about how to engage with it. But it’s different if you’re a creative entrepreneur—or so I’ve heard from Heather Brogden.

I met Heather several weeks ago at Amelia’s Bakery in Windsor Park (right by the Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie) and, man, we talked about everything, but in terms of her creative entrepreneurial credit, here’s what you need to know:

A couple years out of college, in 2013, Heather left traditional employment to start her own thing with B. Media House—an entrepreneurial venture in video production. Fast forward through a ton of hard work and heartbreak to 2021 and B. Media House has successfully acquired another company, hired staff, and rebranded to Porch Marketing.

Which gets us to the present moment where I’m sitting across a table from this woman in her early 30s with an undeniable sense of self who has recently decided to re-enter the world of social media on her own terms.

Heather gets it. A person’s digital presence—especially as an entrepreneur—is a construct. Your feeds are curated for your brand, which means your life looks like your brand. That’s okay. In fact, she’ll tell you, that’s what you’re aiming for even though it comes with some complications.

First, it means you start posting for engagement and that means a lot of content you love doesn’t make the cut. Heather warns that it’s easy to lose yourself here, so it’s critical to “have your house in order.” You have got to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

As a natural photographer, Heather’s constantly taking photos. And a way she preserves her creative integrity is with the practice of taking pictures that sometimes are just for her. “Not every photo needs to—or even should—go online,” she says.

Heather doesn’t filter herself with the photos she takes. She filters the photos she chooses to post. Again, the intention here is to cultivate an image through her personal social media that supports her business.

This sort of controlled, social presence also means that you’re giving a lot of people who really do care about you the impression that everything’s good—like all the time. We all know that’s a load of shit.  Heather says, “It’s so important to talk to the people you count on for support to tell them your social media is not a reflection of your actual day to day wellbeing.”

In so many ways, I think this advice applies to all of us. A smiling selfie doesn’t mean we’re okay, nor does a slew of pictures from a party, a date(s), or a vacation. To an extent we’re all cultivating a certain image, and as friends, it’s a good reminder to check in on the people we love regardless of what they’re posting about. Even more so on those we know are using their personal accounts to build a brand like Heather is.

For the purpose of an authentic brand, though, not everything’s going to be sunshine, right? That’s a fine line that you’ll learn through trial and error, but Heather and I agree that Brené Brown says it best, “Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability.” You do not owe the world your entire self on a digital plate.

Balance your virtual reality with something more tangible, something that never goes online. Learn a new language. Take up painting or baking or chess. Write poems. Do these things just for you and hold tight to them.

If you want to see what Heather means by all of this, you can check out her Instagram page (which is obviously public). She has good days and hard days, but you won’t know which are which. Her tangible world is none of our business. The feed is part of her brand.

When Heather says to never forget what you’re doing or why you’re doing it, she’s talking about being a creative entrepreneur, but I think those are pretty good words to live by.

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