- Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brand Yourself

Before I came out of the Blogger’s Closet and was open to my friends about my blogging, back when I blogged anonymously, my cousin, a PR guy, told me I should brand myself as a writer. Instead of my blog being a name, it should be my name. A few years later, I finally started using my real name.

Whether you use your real name or work anonymously, branding yourself as a character is important for followers, and branding yourself as a writer is important for your industry.

Branding Yourself as a Character vs. Branding Yourself as a Writer

When you brand yourself as a character, you are showing a fun presence to your readers. Favorite things, pets, and other fun facts about you become icons of who you are, at least to your reader. Remember, they read hundreds of blogs on a regular basis, and these are things about you that stands out from the other bloggers.

When you brand yourself as a writer, you are showing a professional presence to potential sponsors, publishers, and anyone you might want to work with down the road, like a potential pod cast partnership. It should be obvious to them you are a writer when they look at your resume and media kits.

Branding vs. Positioning

You know how like you are on Facebook, and there’s an ad for Diet Coke? Why did Diet Coke buy that ad? Like really who hasn’t heard of Diet Coke? Even aliens on the planet Quadar come to earth to buy their Diet Coke. You think it might be to tempt you into trying Diet Coke because the picture of an aluminum can containing ingredients half the world has deemed poison seduces the mind into wanting it, you know, much like how pictures of actual brains seduces your brain into becoming a zombie and eat itself.

What Diet Coke is doing is branding itself. The ads are not meant to make you buy it immediately as much as tell you more about who Diet Coke really is.

You rarely see Diet Coke without the black, silver/gray, and red colors involved. The consistency of logo makes it easier to identify it by consumers. Occasionally, Coca Cola changes its logo slightly, but it keeps the key elements involved.

Lately, they’ve been doing a lot with Taylor Swift. That’s part of their branding and positioning. They want you to identify them with skinny women because it’s DIET coke, but also, they want you to identify them with SUCCESSFUL women. They’ve been positioning themselves in an empowering, feminism way because Coca-Cola has a tendency to follow political trends of the people of America in a very soft, unnoticeable, yet obvious, light, usually a liberal position. They did the same thing during the Vietnam War with the anti-war protests. And the more they position themselves, the more they define their brand in your head, the consumer’s head. They will never flat out say, “Diet Coke empowers women.” No. They are branding themselves as empowering as they do this and that and you notice it on a subconscious level.

These two marketing concepts, Branding and Positioning, often are used interchangeably even though they shouldn’t. They technically can mean whatever you want them to mean. Google it. You’ll see everyone has a different definition for these terms. The way I understand these terms, my definition, one that has a useful application…

Branding is WHO you are. I am Salt. I want you to see me as a white bitter substance, not to be confused with sugar’s sweet. I want you to feel my bitterness on your tongue. I want you to taste sea water. I want to enhance your flavor.

Positioning is WHERE you are. If you see me in a salt shaker with an S on it, I want you to assume that S is going to be Salt and not Sugar. Why? I spent years positioning myself in that salt shaker, right next to pepper. You don’t see all those All Seasonings in a salt shaker. Nope. Not Garlic Salt. Just salt. Why? Because of all my competition, I’m the best one for the table. I beat sugar for the table top. Sugar can have a tray or the countertop. I’m at the table with the family, listening to them talk about their school day. Not bad for the most bitter substance in the kitchen to be in the most intimate of locations. This is why you find me in Norman Rockwell paintings, sitcom television shows, and any place someone is trying to portray a family dinner. And when you hear someone say, “Pass me the salt,” you know that person is somewhere at a dinner table with their family and not in the kitchen cooking.

The two concepts feed into each other. To think about one, you should think about the other.

Branding Yourself as a Character

When you brand yourself as a character, you are making yourself an internet celebrity people can follow. A personality people can fall in love with.

Most of your followers are not following blogs because they love the writing style. In fact, they probably are barely following the authors of their favorite books. Most people love the reality show nature of bloggers. Most of your well-followed blogs have branded themselves in some way.
  • It makes it easier to keep track of who is who in the blogosphere.
  • It provides cues to remind people you exist.
  • It gives people a sensation of what to expect.
  • It fits in a cozy box, the place the human mind is most comfortable.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the Holy Trinity of Humor Blogging:

Moms Who Drink and Swear is the brand. Nicole Knepper is the Blogger.
From the top of my head, I can say I love Nicole because she’s a psychological genius, which is good because offline she’s into shrinkology. She is not afraid to tell you what she really thinks, and her snark laced with profanity makes for a wonderful reading pleasure. People often see her as a mom who drinks and swears, and for a long time, she branded herself as such with the content she shares on her blog and social media, but lately, she’s been more into the mental health. It’s as if as she grows as a person, her blog’s personality grows with it.

Icons that come to mind with Nicole include boxed wine, anything with the Eff Word on it, a bag of cunts, wiener dogs (the actual dog), and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Insane in the Mom Brain is the brand. Patti Ford is the Blogger.
I love Patti because she’s hilarious, but she’s not like most comedians. Her funnies come from a huge imagination mixed with random. She has to have a daily constitutional, fears spiders, enjoys finding out what pools and exotic backyards her neighborhood has from google earth, and she’s not in this for the fame or money. She’s in it for the fun. She has a pet cat called The Cat and a pet unicorn named Lord Burgess Atwood. She invented Koalaing about 2 years before Ellen did, but a year after someone else did.

Icons that come to mind with Patti include a unicorn, a mustache, funky knit hats, Sebastien Millon art, Modelo Beer, the Prancercise Lady, and Norman Reedus.

The Bloggess is the brand. Jenny Lawson is the blogger.
I love Jenny because she’s a hottie nerd. She makes geek cool. She might be too intelligent for her own good. She has narcolepsy, a social anxiety issue, and a strange fondness for cats. Her father was a taxidermist which sparked her love for taxidermied animals. She once sold an ugly, broken antique baby doll for thousands of dollars on ebay by saying it’s haunted, and she is an expert in the Zombie Apocalypse.

Icons that come to mind with Jenny include a petrified bat, taxidermy, anything Zombie Apocalypse related, and of course, the iconic cat on a head of big curlers.

These women’s thoughts, stories, and pictures all help brand them into something we can all describe about them. They tie it all together, from their social media shares of things they love to their original blog posts of things they experience.

The thing is, they stand out from all the other bloggers (position) in their own way (brand).

How Can You Brand Your Character?

If you find something about yourself as a personality that your readers like at all, talk about it until it’s played out like a song on the radio station. It doesn’t matter if it’s appropriate as long as it’s positive.

Foxy Wine Pocket’s Pooping Tree is a prime example. It came from a story in her life, and the pooping tree is an icon that popped out at all of us, and something she should run with like People I Want to Punch in the Throat did with her viral post about the Elf on the Shelf.

List things you love about yourself and things you just simply love, and pick 3 from that list that you think other people would relate to the most, and pick 2 you think they’d relate to the least (the two most unique).

You can also ask friends who know you how they would describe you to people.

Once you’ve narrowed down your concepts, splash those concepts on your work on a regular basis. Places to Splash include:
Blog Posts in the story line.
Social Media statuses.
Social Media memes.
Blog Sidebars.
Products you buy and post pictures using.
Products you provide in a give-away.
Things you sell.

More things will come as you blog and live. But the important thing is people can remember you based on what you are about. For some strange reason, being able to define a character is very important to people for falling in love with one.

Branding Yourself as a Writer

Creating an online professional presence, despite the stories you tell on your blog, separates you from bloggers as a writer. This is not a decision decided by the people. This is a decision you make. You decide if you want to be considered as a professional writer, and then you take the steps to make that so. Never be afraid to tell people you are a writer.

Writing Website

Many writers have a website for their writing resume so to speak. Kim Bongiorno has one of the best sites I’ve seen for it.

First take note that her web address isn’t just her name. She added the wonderful keyword, “Writes” to it.

Things that are common on writer sites include the following:
  • Places you were published (books, websites, and your blog)
  • Public Speaking Experience
  • Writing Portfolio (you can also link to one on Contently)
  • Bio (short one is more mandatory than a long one, but you can have both)
  • Resume
  • Contact Information (with links to social media and the blog)
  • Media Kit (or how to access one for numbers of social media followers and email subscribers…)

One idea too is on Kim’s Blog’s Hire Me Page, she has some links to the right for top posts, “Lists you’ll love” as categories she created on her blog where she chose key blog posts to place under that category. This is an easy, professional way to showcase the best of your blog.

When you are submitting writing, you can always link to this site and copy and paste key elements from it (like your bio). Same deal for when you are seeking sponsorship.

From your blog, you probably want to link to this page in case someone reading your blog wants to know more about you.

Schedule Your Own Events

Many writers do the following events that you can try to schedule for yourself:
  • News Interview (on you as a writer, or your opinion about a topic you frequently write about)
  • Guest on shows (from podcasts to that 5 minute morning show before the news, and don’t forget, local radio)
  • Press Releases (anything you do as a writer, write the press release and send it to your local papers, news, and online media outlets. You can also post them as a blog post on your writing site)
  • Book Signings and Book Readings
  • Open Mic
  • Internet Events (like Blog Tours, pod casts, Q&A’s)
  • Guest Speaking (corporate events, schools, or anywhere your target market might be)
  • Ellen. You’ll probably never get on her show, but you can send email after email requesting it.

Research before you approach people for the first time with this. If you know people, go through those channels first. If you don’t, and are not sure where to start, start by networking to get to know people. HuffPost is a prime example. Knowing editors will get you published on HuffPost faster than submitting work through their Submit page. Follow key people on twitter and occasionally tweet their way. Read their posts. Get to know them.

The pitch is also important. They just simply tell you to write the perfect pitch, but I think the important thing is to highlight the best you offer, focus on what you will do for them, and keep it short with links to “for more information.” You probably also want a media kit handy for this, but never send a full kit until asked (though I think it’s safe to link to it).

Get Published Outside of Your Blog

The top places most writers seem to aim for publishing include:
  • In an anthology (perfect to get into a book without having to write an entire book)
  • Websites that are more like e-zines (i.e. Scary Mommy and Mamalode)
  • News Sites
  • Print (magazine or newspaper, though not many writers pursue this as much as the internet)

For most writers, we get more rejections than we get published. Some of us can send out one thing, and within the first 3 places we submit, it’s a go. Most of us can send out a piece a day somewhere and maybe get one published in a month. Don’t ever get discouraged trying to get published.

Beyond Your Blog is a great blog (and Facebook group) to subscribe to for information about key people on some of these sites and insider scoop on getting published. Susan (from Beyond Your Blog) also keeps an updated list of places accepting submissions from freelance writers.

There are many ways to establish yourself as a writer, but I hit the key points I hope.


Most businesses use a logo to help brand and position them. The idea is to make you define who that business is based on where you see that logo.

Some blogs have a logo for their blog they place on their blog and content they sell. One of my favorites isInsane in the Mom Brain. Many also use the logo on their books.

Be careful considering a logo because you want something that will be with you for the long term. A lot of bloggers change the name of their brand frequently, and your best bet is to take one thing and stick to it for a long time. It’s not the idea, but how it’s done. If marketed properly, you can get people excited about dog poop. So careful consideration is more about what feels right for you as opposed to what you think is a good idea. You want something that can grow with you and change for any transition you may face.

Take a look at Coca Cola. Their logo has changed a lot in the last century, but the modern logo isn’t too different from the original.

Other options besides logo is to create any kind of image you use frequently, like an avatar where you show her in different poses with different face expressions, sometimes doing something, sometimes saying something. In my case, I’m planning to write a book about ghosts, and for branding, I think I’m going to stick an orb on everything ghost related. Most people might not notice, but something about that orb will tie everything together.

As a writer, you may not need an actual logo, but you can use a font that you use repeatedly, or you can take a picture of yourself and spruce it up for logo usage (like I did for Crumpets and Bollocks).

Once you decide your pictorial branding plan, you want to provide components of your brand in your media kit with rules on how to use them in case a journalist decides to feature you on the cover of Forbes Magazine (hey, it could happen, and you’ll freak out if they forget to stick your logo on there).

Just remember, everything you do online leaves some small impression in the brains of the people reading your stuff. We are all branding ourselves whether we want to or not, and whether we mean to or not. But with some planning and conscious thinking on the subject, you too can be like Nike and Coke where you manipulate people with subliminal messages to like and remember you. I mean, where you leave a lasting, memorable good impression. Same thing.