This is a guest contribution from Steven Gomez.
Crime in America has many names. There is the Mafia, the Mob, the National Crime Syndicate, or “La Costa Nostra” – Italian for “This Thing of Ours.” In addition to the colorful names and faces are the larger-than-life personalities that turned crime in America literally into a “booming” industry.
Figures like Lucky Luciano, John Gotti, Meyer Lansky, “Bugsy” Siegel, and Scarface Al Capone grew the mob from a bunch of small-time criminals to an empire.
What can a blogger learn from the worst criminals in America? Well, loads of bad stuff, but also some truly epic lessons in how to create a great blog.
1) Provide Your Tribe with an Identity and a Brand They Can Care About
Crime is neither glamorous nor attractive, and criminals tend not to be society’s best and brightest. No one brags about being a drug pusher, a purse snatcher, or a mugger. Yet the idea of being a “Made Man” has an allure and mystique that even Hollywood finds irresistible.
An associate is brought into a dark basement filled with shadowy figures and his finger is pricked. Blood is drawn and a lit prayer card is placed in his cupped hand, the ashes mingling with his blood. He is told that he now has a family that supersedes the one he was born into. A family that values honour and loyalty above all, demands total obedience, and offers prosperity, wealth, and respect.
The reality of the Mafia is decidedly different, but the appeal of being “Made” by the Mob has a romance that is hard to ignore.
It is an identity that promises distinction.
Author Scott Sigler calls his long-time readers “Junkies” and the Noir Factory, my blog, refers to its subscribers as “Confidential Informants.”
While no one is suggesting that you set prayer cards on fire, and – depending on your blog – it may be very inappropriate to demand blood-letting, you should instill that same kind of identity in your tribe.
If you can capture that sense of romance, that same loyalty in your readers, then you not only have a tribe, you have a “family.” Let the identity serve as a badge of honour.
2) Work with Your “Competition” to Create New Opportunities
For years after the Mafia came to America, they were ruled by the Capo di tutti capi, also known as the “Godfather” or “Boss of Bosses.” This worked well for the Mob if the Capo was an intelligent and sensible man who was interested in the organisation’s well-being and growth.
More often than not this was not the case.
In 1929, Meyer Lansky gathered the heads of the strongest Prohibition-era gangs in America. Combining his wedding with a business conference (he was a romantic at heart) Lansky brought together diverse faces in the crime world, including many who had never worked together before. For the first time, the Irish mob, the Italian mob, and the Jewish mob all sat down together.
Lansky made them see that the Prohibition Wars caused them to lose business as well as manpower and was something that they could avoid. By working together the bosses from Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York formed a governing body, called The Commission, which would meet every five years and would also decide on internal issues as needed.
In one of the Commission’s first exercises of power, Dutch Shultz questioned their authority to have prosecutor Thomas Dewey killed. Shultz was killed by Murder Inc. shortly afterward for challenging the Commission.
Again, while we do not recommend that you enter into illicit partnerships with criminals, it’s important to remember that YOURS in not the only voice in your chosen niche. You might not form a Commission with those other voices, but imagine the kind of effect you can have on your readers by partnering with the leaders in your field.
Even if you aren’t a leader in your niche yet, by reaching out to the “bosses” of your niche you can increase your sphere of influence exponentially, and increase your readers’ engagement.
3) Network with Your Peers Outside Your Comfort Zone
Like the Atlantic City Conference that built the Commission, the men who would become known as the “Crime Syndicate” chose to meet in interesting places not only to talk business but to build their relationships.
In places like Havana, Atlantic City, and Apalachin, New York, mobsters met with others of their kind to drink, tell jokes, and talk business. In other industries, branding strategies and logistics might be the main topics. With the mob conventions, it was all about hostile takeovers.
At the Apalachin Convention, the mob discussed the distribution of gaming interests throughout the US. In Havana the bosses made decisions regarding working with the Sicilian crime lords and how best to deal with the high profile, money skimming liability that was Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.
You (hopefully) won’t engage in the same kind of networking, but you can connect with the movers-and-shakers in your niche and work towards solving common problems and cementing relationships.
For many entrepreneurs and bloggers, making acquaintances and building friendships lead to interview opportunities, traffic building exercises, and even the odd friendship or two.
4) Always Look to Expand Your Empire
Before Bugsy Siegel became a liability to the mob, he was seen as a young man of vision. A rising star in the east, Siegel was a close friend of mob boss Meyer Lansky and a boyhood pal of Al Capone. His lasting contribution to the mob, however, led him into the west.
Moving to California and embracing the Hollywood lifestyle, Siegel made the acquaintance of William R. Wilkerson, who was building the Flamingo Hotel. Shoe-horning himself in as the liaison between Wilkerson and the mob, Siegel became a guiding force for the mob’s gambling presence in Las Vegas.
While Siegel’s vision led him to a less-than-happy ending, as a blogger, when you are looking to expand your presence, you can learn from Siegel’s example.
Look for new territories that are complementary to your niche. If you write for single mom entrepreneurs, look for other markets that would interest a single mom, and connect with the voices in that field. If you are writing about weight loss with a focus on Italian food, then Italian travel, particularly active-travel, is something that should be on your radar.
Finding these growth opportunities for your blog will allow your voice and your empire to flourish.
5) Always Reward Loyalty
One of the reasons the community tolerated the presence of the mob was that they protected the neighbourhood from small-time criminals and contributed lavishly to local charities. Sometimes those charities were orphanages and churches, and sometimes those charities were policemen and district attorneys.
When someone gives you the gift of their attention, be it by subscribing to your email list, your blog feed, or friending you on Facebook, they honour you with that attention. Never take it for granted.
When you implement a campaign for new readers, make sure that you reward those have been with you for the long haul. If you offer a give-away to new subscribers, email your current subscribers to let them know how they can get in on it as well. If someone is constantly sharing your content, give them a shout-out.
Reward the loyalty of your readers and they will become evangelists for your blog, and from there it’s a small step from evangelist to enforcer.
I’m just saying.
Steven Gomez is a pulp writer in the best (or worst) tradition. He lives and dies with his favourite football team, enjoys old movies and older pulp novels, and writes constantly about pulps, blogging, and crime. To sign up as a Confidential Informant, as well as get a FREE copy of his Knockout Noir Novel – THE STANDING EIGHT – visit the Noir Factory! You can also swear at him on Facebook!