In this post we continue to look at tips for established blogs wanting to step up to the next level (this is the 6th tip in this series) by taking a look at how to shape the brand your blog.
One of the things that I’ve noticed happen once a blog begins to grow in readership is that a ‘brand’ emerges. This builds from the day you first start a blog and people see it – however it is in this phase after launch that it really becomes established.
Two Observations about Branding a Blog
By no means do I see myself as a branding expert (I’d love to hear from some of our marketing gurus in comments below) but I do observe two things about a blogs brand:
1. A Brand will Emerge Whether you Want it to or Not.
One of the best definitions of a ‘brand’ that I’ve read is that it is ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’ (I’m not sure where I heard this one – if you know who came up with it please let me know). Your blogs brand is the way that it is perceived and described by others.
As a result a brand emerges over time without or without you as people begin to develop perceptions about you and what your blog stands for. As they read your content, as they look at your design, as they interpret what you say, as they gauge your passion, as they observe how you interact with them and other readers – all of this contributes to how they perceive and describe you – your brand.
2. You can Shape Your Brand.
While point #1 above might sound a little fatalistic – don’t lose hope. People will form their own ideas about who you are and what your blog stands for – but you do have some ability to help them come to these conclusions and to shape that brand. It might not be as much control as some would like – but as a blogger if you give some thought to what you want people to perceive your blog as being you can have some influence in this.
How do you Shape Your Blogs Brand?
Again – I’d love to hear some of your experiences on this as I’m still learning – but here are a few thoughts on shaping brands:
1. Identify what You want to be Known For
When I was in my early 20′s I spent a few days at a personal development course and we were given the task of writing our own obituary as we’d like it to read. We were told to to write it for ourselves as 90 year olds who had lived the kind of lives that we wanted to live. The obituary was to say what we wanted others to see us at the end of our lives.
The task was quite illuminating as it forced us to think about the type of things that we wanted to become known for. I realized (as did many of those with me on that course) that I had no idea what I wanted to be known for. I had little idea as to the type of person I wanted to become and as a result was treading water and not really moving towards anything with my life.
The same thing can probably be said about many bloggers who have little idea of where their blog is headed or what they want it to be known for.
So – what do you want people to say about your blog? Write a list of 5 things that you want it to be known for. Once you’d done that – you’re a step closer to having shaped your blogs brand.
2. Be what you want to be known for…… Consistently
The next step is ‘logical’ but at the same time incredibly difficult to achieve. Knowing what you want your brand to be is one thing but getting your blog to get there is another matter.
I asked one blogger ‘what do you want to be known for’ recently and she answered that she wanted to be known as the #1 authority for her topic in her niche. I then asked her to look at her last 10 posts and tell me if she deserved to be known as that. Her last 10 posts were largely her linking to news in her niche or to what other bloggers were writing with very little of her own opinion or ideas.
The reality was that she was displaying very little authority and in fact was probably helping other bloggers to be authoritative by always linking to the great things that they were saying rather than saying anything of value herself.
It was a hard thing for the blogger to realize (and a hard one for me to communicate for that matter) but once she realized what she was doing she completely changed her strategy and instead of posting 10 ‘newsy’/’link’ posts per week – she switched to writing 2 original, opinion and teaching pieces that were much more aligned with the type of brand she wanted to project.
Once you’ve identified the brand you want to project the rubber has to hit the road and you need to begin to work on how to do that at every chance you can including with your:
- Logo (update: read about creating logos at this post on the inquisitr)
- Blog Title and Tagline
- Interaction with other Bloggers
- Interaction with readers
- Business cards
- Social Media interactions…. etc
Really every time you do anything on your blog (or on anywhere publicly online or offline) attempt to keep the brand that you’re attempting to grow in mind. Every post you write, every email you respond to, every comment you leave, every tweet you make – all of these things either have the potential to to build and shape your brand or conversely to hurt it.
3. Monitor and Participate in Conversations about You
Remember our definition of branding above – it’s what other people are saying about you when you’re not in the room.
So what are other people saying about your blog when you’re not in the room?
We live in an age where we have some amazing tools at our fingertips to tap into some of the conversations and observations that people have about us. While sometimes it’s not easy to hear some of what people think about us – each time we stumble upon one of these conversations it is an opportunity to:
- learn how we’re perceived
- build a relationship with someone and influence their perceptions
- do damage control by correcting errors and giving two sides of the story
- grow and improve how we do things
A few tools that are useful in monitoring what others are saying about you include:
- Google News and Blog Alerts – just type in a keyword (your name or your blogs name) and you’ll be alerted any time a news source or blog uses those terms
- Technorati Watch Lists – the same principle as Google News Alerts
- Monitter – same principle on Twitter (there are numerous tools that will do this)
There are many other monitoring tools – feel free to recommend those that you use and recommend in comments below.
The key with this process of monitoring what others are saying about you is to enter into it with a genuine desire to listen and connect. It is very easy to rush into conversations about you with guns blazing to ‘defend’ your brand and ‘fix’ peoples erroneous views about you – however this kind of attitude can actually do your brand more harm than good.
Listen, reflect and take on board what people are saying before you respond and you’ll not only gain the respect of others but hopefully learn a thing or two about yourself and your blog that will help you improve it.
Lastly – don’t get sucked into letting what others say about you determine how you view you. I love the quote of Elizabeth Taylor who when asked whether she reads what the press says about her replied with
‘If you listen to the good things people say about you you might just start believing them. If you listen to the bad things people say about you you might just start believing them.’
The reality is that people will say unbalanced things about you as a blogger to both extremes. Some will build you up so high that if you believed it your head would be so big that you’d have a hard time fitting it in your Twitter avatar while some will say such unfair and negative things about you that if you believed it you’d give up and never blog again. Don’t let what others say about you determine your self worth – but learn to know when to take it on board and learn to know when to let it go and move on.
What are Your Blog Branding Tips?
I’d love to hear your own experiences and tips on branding blogs in comments below. How do you do it? What have you learned? What advice would you offer?
Further Reading: How to Build Your Personal Brand Through Your Blog and 10 Ways to Brand Your Blog or Website Efficiently
Check out the rest of this series on taking your blog to the next level.