Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bloggy Boot Camp: Authentic Branding

Last Saturday, I attended Bloggy Boot Camp in Chicago where there was a whole lot of information passed along in a very short time. I took as many notes as I could to share with everyone - and hope that some of it sunk in with me, too! No matter where you are in blogging, there was something good and some worthwhile reminders of what we should be doing.

Yesterday, I posted on Using Twitter, Facebook, and SEO to Build Your Audience.

The opening session was by Amy Bradley Hole (@amybhole) who spoke on authentic branding. I loved her take on it.

Some people equate branding with selling out, when it's not. Some people worry about branding because it isn't authentic. That's not what branding is. You put conscious effort and thought into how you want people to see you. That's branding. It doesn't mean you gt a big corporate logo and are fake. You just put thought and energy into what you're putting out into the world.

Five steps to thinking about your personal brand

What are my distinguishing characteristics and personality traits?
These are things that define you. I'm intellectual or I'm funny or I love to cook. They may change from time to time. You may be wrapped up in being a mother now but less so later in life.

What are my guiding principles and values?
The distinguishing characteristics are the clothes you're wearing today. You can change them as needed and over time. The things that never, ever change about you, the things that are your core beliefs that you hold dear and will never let go. Those are your guiding principles and values. It may be that you will always have a sense of humor. Or that you will always be there for a friend. Or that you will always find the bright side in life. Think about those things for yourself; what matters to you no matter what happens?

Be brutally honest with what's important to you. It won't be the same as everyone else, and that's ok. When you go outside what's critical to you, that's where you start to lose yourself or get yourself in trouble.

What is my role on the web?
this is like when you see a corporate mission statement for a corporation. What are you doing and why are you here? Maybe you are here to find the best green children's products out there. maybe you are here to make people laugh because you are such an incompetent parent. Maybe you will teach the world to cook.

Now look at that sentence or two and think about whether someone is already out there doing this. If so, you have to scratch it out and start over. There's only room for one Dooce in this world. There's only room for one mom writing about green children's products. You are an individual and are different from everyone else in the world, so quit copying other people in the world and on the web. Your blog probably isn't going to last that long or people are going to lose interest in you. You don't have to be everything to every one. Find your unique niche and your unique role and build from there.

Products these days are interchangeable. Everyone has the same product, and you can buy them anywhere now. It's the story that we buy these days. We buy the story of Burt's Bees because we like what he came up with when he needed a natural lip balm. If your content isn't fresh and original, then all you're doing is spitting out another interchangeable product on the web. If you want it to be lasting, you have to be unique, and really it's not that hard. If you really think about what your role is and get down to the core of it, there's something about you, maybe the way you write or your outlook or where you come from that makes you special.

What is my promise?
This is something you're always going to give to everyone who you ever meet in person or ever visits you on your blog or follows you on Twitter. Tiffany will always have the little blue box and little blue bag no matter what you buy, $50,000 or some little trinket. What are you going to offer every person who encounters you or your blog. Amy is going to give everyone a hard time, no matter who you are.

What is my story?
Think about everything that has happened in your life that has made you you. Think about what has happened in your life that made you want to start your blog. Where do you get your identity from? Why do you do it?

Amy has a very strong Southern identity, and it influences everything she does - from what she eats to how she talks to how she dresses. This is kind of the good, the bad and the ugly. Think about who you are and why you are.

What it comes to branding, you're going to take all these five things and the answers you come up with. Let someone else you trust take a look at it. They can tell you what you're forgetting. They can tell you if you're blowing smoke. Work on it for awhile, and you'll start to see some patterns and some things about yourself that will come up over and over again. Stop being scared of those things. Start being honest with yourself and being ok with it. We don't need to change ourselves to please everyone. Think about pleasing yourself first. That's part of creating your brand.

It's so easy to not do that because we're worried about what other people think. Listen to what people say and take it in, but don't take it to heart. You don't need to please them all.

Why is this important?
It's very important because once you have your brand and identity and know what you're about, then all the stuff like XYZ wants to sponsor me, but I don't know if it fits for me. It becomes a simple yes or no question based on who you are and your brand. You'll know if a guest post fits. You'll know if a conference is the right place for you. If it doesn't match your brand, don't feel afraid to say no. You don't have to be everything to everybody. It's ok to let someone else work with that brand. It's ok to let someone else have that advertiser. You need it to fit with you and your blog, or your readers won't get it. It needs to be there with your brand.


Focus on 2-3 things. You will walk around overwhelmed. If you try to do fifty things, you'll do them all halfway. If you pick your 2-3 things, you can do them well.

What is your take on branding? Do you have any other suggestions?

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Chaunna from August 28, 2011 at 11:04 PM  

Thank you for sharing what you have sowed in your attended conference... Those tips you have posted will be a great help for us blogging fanatic...

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Amy B. August 30, 2011 at 2:39 PM  

Thanks for this awesome recap!

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