The Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Bloggers

First off, let’s define success. What is success to you? For me, success means being able to do things that I wouldn’t have believed possible at one time in my life. It means challenging myself to achieve professional and personal accomplishments and gaining the confidence to try things that I would have not thought possible even just one year ago.

We all have different needs, aspirations and talents so the meaning of success differs for each one of us. If you’re like most people, you’re reading this post because you want to discover the secrets of success. Well, a little bit of research will uncover what skills and strategies worked for others. The real trick is to make those work for you and your blog.

As with everything in life, we get out of it what we put in – it will be no surprise to you to find out that it takes determination and hard work. And there is definitely an ultimate secret sauce, the ingredient that you must have above all — you. We’ll come back to that in a moment. So what are the seven secrets of successful bloggers?

Secret 1. Highly successful bloggers seek out a mentor or advocate at each step of their development. Someone who can guide them through the growth spurts they will undergo. Nothing new here, successful people have done this for years. The great advantage that blogs afford is that the person you pick does not need to be someone who takes you by the hand through it. All you need to do in some cases is read their material and interact with their audience.

Secret 2. Highly successful bloggers know how to increase their visibility. Whether that is by putting themselves at the crossroads of a popular and highly trafficked blog written by a mentor, or choosing thoughtful and insightful comments on other blogs, the important teaching in this is to pick a strategy that fits your brand. My personal blog is Conversation Agent so engaging in conversations with readers of my blog and in other blogs is part of my modus operandi (MO) and brand. What is yours?

Secret 3. Highly successful bloggers know how to develop an effective network. Maybe this is intuitive, it is definitely important. The blogosphere is a very large community with pockets of interest – what I jokingly call my neck of the ‘sphere. Who’s in yours? Do you read people who help you stretch and think differently? Are you part of a group of self publishers who will support each other on topic development, lending expertise, or even being keen on helping you gain exposure on good stories and events?

Secret 4. Highly successful bloggers have learned to communicate effectively. Read it again, as it may not be as easy as it seems. The meaning of communication is the response it elicits, not the intention. The word communication has the Latin root in communicatio as well as in commercium – it means exchange between people. If you’re curious about my definition of conversation and its parts, you will find more information here.

Secret 5. Highly successful bloggers can balance blogging with life. Especially in the early days, when we crave recognition and readership, it is easy to sign up to guest blog somewhere else, or try and write every single day, maybe even multiple posts per day. Before you accept filling in for someone else, or writing that extra post, think about what’s involved. Consider how much time it will take you and if it will fulfill your interests and needs at that stage. It’s also important to build life experiences into your routine. You will take a much-deserved brake, and fill with new ideas while you play.

Secret 6. Highly successful bloggers know when to take smart risks. Once you feel comfortable with a regular flow of publishing and blog optimization, it’s time to take some small risks to stretch a little and grow. What have you been dying to try and never got around to? There is another very important reason why doing this is a smart idea – it’s something that has not been done, that’s why it’s a risk. Maybe it’s a way of looking at a story from a different angle – I’ve done a couple of those and let me tell you, the adrenaline until that first comment is rushing like crazy. Or it could be breaking a story, broaching a new topic — you name it.

Secret 7. Highly successful bloggers understand the dynamics of the online environment. When you combine visibility, effective networks, and mentors, you have a lot of help in learning the dynamics of the online environment in which you publish. It’s also important to understand your own abilities, interests and limitations within those dynamics. You may think about having a thick skin in some cases – if you stay out there long enough and have opinions you are bound to find someone who will differ from you and make their voice heard. So you need a strategy that you are comfortable with ahead of time. What steps are you going to take to prepare? Chances are your gut will tell you when you’re about to publish something that may raise questions – how you address negative comments should be part of your consideration as you flesh out the topic of the post.

Whenever possible, set the pace. You decide if you’re ready to tackle these activities and which ones speak most to you. The secret sauce it’s not the ingredients as much as the sauce itself – you.

Remember to practice so you can improve what you wish to work on, perform to your best, persevere through setbacks and low energy moments and, most importantly be patient with yourself and any situation where you have no control over the outcome.

What is your Blog’s Best Pick-up Line?

You are standing in the famed elevator or in the hallway of a conference and someone approaches you to make introductions – what do you say about yourself? The second and third and fourth statement are all easy compared to the first one, which in some cases may remain the only one you have the chance to make.

The words and statements you choose to define you and what you offer in that first encounter may determine if there will be further opportunities to talk. This is what a marketing conversation is all about – saying enough that captures your focus and the end result you deliver without getting too bogged down into details that may not be important to the other person.

In our last conversation, we talked about the components of your brand essence. Today we’re putting theory to practice. The content of this exercise is based upon work with Gerry Lantz, founder, Stories That Work (watch the video here). Let’s take out a pen and a pad of paper and write down three things about you:

1. What do you stand for? Your focus.
2. What end results do you deliver? Your offer.
3. What words are more natural to describe you? Your experience.

This is a good start. Now go back and take a look at it and consider if your list is unique to you or could be describing someone else just as easily. Modify as appropriate. I know, it’s not easy thinking about yourself as a product and service. Yet that is exactly how you need to approach this exercise.

For each of those characteristics, you will then write a brief story that illustrates it. When you reread notice if there are words you can isolate as original, that say this could only be you. When I talk about my Italian heritage, for example, you know that not too many other marketers and communicators would fit precisely that description. Actually, I often just say I was “made in Italy,” which is an even more memorable statement.

Now that you’ve defined who you are, let’s decide what you mean to others. To do that, you will write down three statements that define:

1. What you value.
2. Your character.
3. What you care about.

These will help you in describing what others see and experience with you. As you go through the exercise, consider that the experience is a key component of your brand. It will be remembered far beyond what you said and what you did — investing extra time in getting feedback and validating if your three statements are communicated clearly will pay off big returns.

Hold on to your notes and practice composing a natural sounding statement in your own words. Next time you meet someone new, especially at a networking event, you will have the opportunity to engage in a marketing conversation. Remember to apply your story to the other person by targeting the circumstance that brings you together in the introduction.

Then talk about their problem, not your process. I am amazed at how many experienced sales people keep forgetting this crucial point. Once the conversation is well under way, you may follow with the results needed, which go to your biggest benefit, one that can be verified.

At this stage you will introduce the value you provide to deliver your results, your differentiating point or what advertising agencies call the unique selling proposition (USP). Then it’s story time; no need to launch in elaborate monologues, the operating work here is brief. Think mini as in conserving time and attention for all.

The most important part of the marketing conversation is saved for last – action. Once you exchange cards, you have the opportunity to offer a follow up by promising to share an article, link, make an introduction, or a subsequent call to meet and keep the new contact and conversation going.

Marketing conversations are succinct articulations of your brand essence. Through them you express your values and voice as well as how you relate to readers, potential clients who may seek to use your services and advice, and the larger community in the blogosphere.

If your goal for marketing conversations is deeper connections, you may be interested in practicing the art by reading a new series at Conversation Agent I called connection kata.

What’s Your Brand Essence?

You probably think that I’m talking about a perfume; it wouldn’t be an entirely inaccurate association. Why? Because as perfumes are the high profitability lines of fashion designers and houses, the essence is really what remains imprinted in people’s minds as they come into contact with you.

And the best articulation of your brand expresses your essence – the values and voice, as well as how you express that in relationship to readers, potential clients/prospects and the community/blogosphere at large. To break through the pack, you need to discover your brand story, express it at every touch point, and manage it over time.

There are volumes and terrific blogs written about developing a personal brand. The ideas and material at the roots of this post come from work I have done with consultant and brand expert Gerry Lantz, founder of Stories That Work. For an in depth interview (and bonus podcasts) with Gerry, you may link here.

The difference between a generic and a branded statement will mean the jump in quality from one of many to one and only. The good news is that blogs are places where we are already seeing very specific and memorable qualities – in layouts, language, and behavior or way of interacting. In this sense, your blog is more of a 3D medium – use it as such.

Your brand has a story:

It offers an experience along with the product or service you may be offering as an extension of the online presence. That means the sum total of impressions you make and leave on others.

There are values associated with that user experience. Those grow as internalized by your audience and serve the purpose of expressing what the experience means to them.

The story takes on human qualities as users develop their relationship with it, or what it represents to them.

In other words, talk normally.

That would seem like an obvious statement until you dig a bit deeper and consider that all of the opportunities others have to deal with you, to touch and be touched by your story are what I define talk.

For this reason, you will need to dig deeper to:

Shine a light on the specific characteristics that make you a different experience. Are you using language and expressions that are common among your peers or are you finding ways to articulate what you’re about differently? When pressed, what would you say about yourself?

Think of the traits, skills, results, and values that make you stand out. Make a list, keep pushing until you get to what you feel is your core.

Show your human traits. What are your distinguishing traits? Think in terms of reliability, integrity, ability to solve problems, resilience, etc. Brands can make cars sound human so they can appeal to people. For example, I drive a Toyota Camry, that’s because I see myself as reliable. Are you practical? That would be reflected in the brands you purchase and use. The same is true with people as brands.

Recently a colleague told me, “Look, I was in the Air Force, I see the world of operations as leadership, fast decision making, and superb execution. To me that is what work is all about. We figure out what our customers need, how we can get there, and we go do it the best way we can.”

Your essence is the sum total of what you stand for. It goes beyond the perceived benefits of dealing with you and your skills and talent (features). It’s the beginning of a marketing conversation – not to be confused with conversational marketing.

So let’s spend some time in the comments here to talk about you and your brand essence and next post we will take it home by discussing what a marketing conversation is all about.

Want to Get Respect? 5 Things You Can Do Today.

When we talked about the other “R” in reputation, we surmised that strong brands connect also on the basis of respect. Today, let’s take a look at five things you can do right away to begin building a reservoir for your connections.

1. Make innovation part of your creative habit; put aside some time every day for “what if” thinking.

At work I keep a couple of poster-size pictures that show two angles of the main square or piazza grande (literally, big square) of my hometown in Italy, Modena. They provide a nice visual that transports me to a new, open space where I can think more freely about the matters at hand. When I look at things differently from that view point, the mind gets a welcome boost of energy and perspective. Ideas then start flooding in. Sometimes those images simply provide a brief pause in my day; the happy place I go to, if you will. Then, I am ready to rejoin the challenge at hand from a fresh start.

Think about what would make you step outside your usual ways and stretch. There are many other methods and sources of inspiration that work. Two of my favorites are the book The Creative Habit by choreographer and dancer Twyla Tharp and the full deck of products to stimulate creativity and innovation by my friend Roger von Oech. Roger blogs at Creative Think, check him out.

2. Reward the hard questions. When a reader challenges your thinking, take that as an opportunity to address their questions, make sure they know they’re heard. You get respect when you give it.

If you have been reading my blog, Conversation Agent, you probably noticed that the real action happens in the comments section. When people take the time to come in and visit, I make sure they feel welcome and they have a good experience. No matter what the conversation I started with the post, the idea is to be of service to the needs of my readers.

Often we launch on such great discussions that I elevate comments to posts to further our learning together and give others the chance to jump in on a hot topic.

When someone challenges my thinking I consider that a rare compliment and gift. If everyone thought the same, we would never stretch and grow. I’ve had a few instances of early critical approach that benefited me tremendously – and resulted in friendships as well.

3. Work on the quality of your writing constantly. Practice, practice, and then practice some more. It’s also a good idea to read a lot. Read the classics; read good writing.

I cannot stress this point enough. Whatever your style, a well written post is a post that leaves a good impression. Check your grammar, spelling, and logic. And find ways to hone your skill over time. Ideally, you are writing about a topic that you enjoy learning about so you read a lot of related material.

My technique, given that I write in a second language, is to keep notebooks everywhere and take copious notes. Whenever I read a book that contains an expression I love, I write it down. Do you find quotes that inspire you? Write them down. There is something to be said for the act of putting pen to paper – it involves much more than one of your senses and its impression will last longer.

As for the reading diet – the more diverse, the better; classics, fiction, poetry are all useful sources of good and solid lessons in language and imagination. Try it.

4. Think design as container of experience. How can you have a visual impact? How can you communicate your value through design?

This may not be literal. Consider the whole impression of your blog as design of experience. Is the information easy to find? Is the layout well organized and intuitive? Are you highlighting the content and sections that matter the most to you?

Take for example the redesign of The Blog Herald. Doesn’t it look like there is so much more to it now? It’s cleaner, with a good balance of white space and not too many colors. That’s what I’m talking about; it works for this stage in the publication’s brand. My compliments go to Brian Gardner for the work.

5. Be transparent and trustworthy. Conduct a personal audit regularly to keep yourself honest.

Your gut will be a good ally for this exercise. If you think about it, we know instinctively when we do something right… and conversely when something we do is not so good. It’s alright to ask for direct feedback from others. Just make sure you and they understand that you are ready to take it and they should feel free to give it, constructively.

The other piece is being able to match back to your focus and mission. Are you doing what you set out to do? Is your blog still in step with your intent as declared to your readers? Maybe you’ve changed direction as you found yourself gravitating towards a subset of your original topic. Or maybe you have broadened your scope. In either case, it’s good to recognize that and follow through with your new direction.

Now let’s bring it home:

Innovate to stay fresh
Learn actively from the interaction
Work on quality
Present a compelling space
Be transparent and trustworthy

In other words, execute, execute, execute.

What’s the other “R” in Reputation?

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the famous song by Otis Redding popularized by Aretha Franklin: Respect. Your reputation is built in large part on it. No respect, no love. Respect is the shortest path from occasional browsing and visits to your blog to loyal readership. It comes before admiration. Without respect there can be no long term connection.

Strong brands form the basis for a genuine connection with the communities and networks they operate in. For people to let you get up close enough to touch them in some ways, for them to remember you, for them to give you permission to fill their inbox and RSS reader, they need to respect what you write about and who you are.

So how do we get that respect? I recently took another look at a list I made for myself based upon Kevin Roberts’ Lovemarks – the Future Beyond Brands. What applies to the best brands, can work for you, too.

Getting respect demands that you:

Perform, perform, perform – respect grows out of performance at each and every interaction. You may think of performance in athletic terms as in being at the top of your game. Performance is honed with practice. Write a lot, experiment with the styles that feel comfortable to you. Request feedback from people you admire and take it to heart. Temper that by taking some of the advice with a grain of salt because you want to…

Pursue innovation – we expect it of others and we should hold ourselves to the same standard of continuous improvement. My definition of innovation is looking at things with new eyes. You know what it feels like when you think about a topic for a post and see a new angle that no one else has covered. What is innovation to you? To me innovation also requires that we…

Commit to total commitment – this is not a play on words. It really means going whole hot, being completely for it. The blogosphere is very active and very opinionated, I’m sure you’ve noticed. People will judge you at every interaction, every post – a bad experience means people are not coming back. At the same time, you want to…

Make it easy – for people to stick with you, what you’re about needs to be apparent. Also, don’t make it difficult for readers to find you. I am amazed at the number of blogs I read where I cannot find an email address to contact the author. This brings me to the next suggestion…

Don’t hide – some of you may smirk at all the memes that make the rounds. “I am way too busy being important to participate” some have declared. That’s fine, it may work for them. Consider this: people can respect you only if they know who you are. Would you prefer it was others to tell your story? I say you should…

Jealously guard your reputation – All the interactions and experiences of you contribute to building your reputation. Do you get back to people when you say you would? Do you deliver on your promises? When you do that you…

Get in the lead and stay there – there’s lots of talk about leadership here, leadership there. What does it mean to be out front? Think about it. It can be uncomfortable and risky. There is a lot of responsibility and visibility associated with being a leader. The more notoriety and fame, the harder the fall – so you always want to…

Tell the truth – be open. If you don’t know something, say so. We can’t be all experts at everything. Admit mistakes. The worst thing you can do is cover up, people find out. Cite your sources, share the credit. This all goes to build your reputation, which can then give you back in premium defense if things ever get tricky. You assure that they won’t if you…

Nurture integrity – if we look up a definition of integrity this means basing your actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. It is based on your acting on a core set of principles that are the foundation of your character. Remember you have character, you build reputation. What is your definition of integrity? To me it also means you…

Accept responsibility – Yes, we understand that we need to act responsibly and stand behind what we write. I’m thinking more broadly. Is our voice and contribution going to more clutter, dissonance, and noise or is it going to make the world a better place for everyone? How would we do that? Create self-esteem, wealth, prosperity, jobs, choices, etc. And once you’ve built all that…

Never pull back on service – that is the place where a mere transaction becomes a relationship, the first moment of truth. Think of your readers as customers. Even if no money ever changes hands, they are giving you a valuable resource – time. Make sure their time is well spent. If they didn’t find what they were looking for, that’s a reason to find out what that was. This is how you blog and ideas are evolved. This is how you grow. To help readers find what the need…

Deliver great design – this is the attention economy 101 principle: design rules. How do we design a great experience? Pininfarina designer Jason Castriota, best known for his Ferrari exteriors, said “The difference between beautiful and ugly often comes down to one millimeter.” For design to deliver a great experience it has to be aesthetically stimulating and functionally effective. Don’t just act different, be different. Take a look at your blog. How can you customize your template to fit your brand? To me design is to experience like impact is to value. It matters a great deal. And…

Don’t underestimate value – people will give you respect only when they perceive that the value they are getting from you is higher than their cost in attention, time, energy, etc. Value is not something that fits a boilerplate measurement. I read some blogs because they help me challenge my thinking. That’s the value those authors represent to me. What’s your readers’ return on involvement? Ultimately, to get respect, you need to…

Deserve trust – the blogosphere, online forums, chat groups are all environment in which it may seem easy for people to trust each other. The talk is generally up front and open. Your readers want to trust you and that means that they will want you to remain consistent and true to the ideas and aspirations you share with them. Walk the talk. You don’t’ want to…

Never, ever fail the reliability test – this builds on everything else we’ve said here. Because so many of us are now publishing, sharing ideas and best practices, teaching what we know, expectations have risen. Posts need to make sense at the first paragraph, the design needs to complement the content, we are always online looking at what everyone else is doing. You get the idea – if content is queen, reliability is king.

No respect. No Love. No connection. Next post we’ll talk about five ways to get respect.

Meanwhile there were some questions built in the flow to consider:

Do you deliver on your promises?
What does it mean to you to be out front?
What is your definition of integrity?
How do we design a great experience?

3 Reasons Why Blogging *is* Open Source Marketing

Today I’m trying something new. As you’re reading this post, I will be immersed in a conversation with a group of bloggers at blog|Philadelphia, an unconference. So it is quite fitting that my chosen topic be open source marketing.

I’ll get right to it. The three main reasons why blogging is open source marketing.

Blogging as News Broadcasting — Your Feed, Live all the Time

Many of you are used to the concept of live blogging –- you go to a conference, and blog about it as the event takes place; your readers enjoy the news as you hit the “publish” button. Notes taken this way serve your audience only in part.

It takes a while for you to process the fresh content you’re learning and mesh it with what you already know, and your post may not end up capturing the essential piece of the live experience –- the conversation and its dynamics. One of the most powerful aspects of joining the conversation is that you’re learning about what you think as you go.

If you’re busy typing, in your haste not to loose the thread of your writing, you are not present to the thread of the talking. One ear is busy listening to your internal talk about the subject matter; the other is busy keeping up. Your attention is divided. And you may lose the nuances and lessons contained in the voices of other attendees.

Consider what would happen if you posted about the subject matter of the conference before attending and then came back with a follow up post afterwards. Yes, this would require more work on your part. Researching the speakers and topics, figuring out who else is going to be there, etc. Think how much better your posts would be.

In fact, I would like to propose that you are blogging live all the time, you just never thought of it that way. The insights, lessons, and tips you include in your posts are streaming from your thinking as it occurs, while it is processing information. When someone links to you, you’re not only making the news, you are the news.

Blogging as Self Publishing -– Your Expertise for Finding (and Sale)

The term open source was born to identify a set of principles and practices created to provide access to the design and production of goods and knowledge. It popularized the concept of making source code available to allow users to create software content through incremental individual effort or through collaboration.

From term to culture, this concept would not have been alive today without the Internet. Online you have access to an even greater array of inexpensive digital media and tools and are granted an unprecedented access to other users. Both the platform and the tools make it extremely easy for anyone to become a publisher today.

Do you want to become a self published author? Start a blog. This will give you the discipline to write on a regular basis. Your readers will provide the essential stimulation and measurement through feedback and a challenge to think harder. Have you noticed how much easier it is to produce better content when we’re part of an active dialogue?

If you look for a couple of recent examples of books published as a result of conversations launched on blogs, look no further than The Long Tail by Chris Anderson and The No Asshole Rule by Bob Sutton*. To date, the only author that I know of who published a book collecting blog posts successfully is Seth Godin with Small is the New Big. He demonstrated that it can be done.

Are your posts well thought out and of high quality? The beauty of blogs is that they are rich in content that nobody sees more than once. Dig into your archives and you will find plenty of material that showcases your expertise. That can be repurposed, it’s yours. And it can help you reinforce your brand and sell your expertise.

Blogging as Relationship Builders – Talk is not Cheap, the Tools are

When you talk about the fact that you blog with family and friends who don’t, they might look at you strange and question your sanity. There are some days when you question it yourself, I’m sure. “Why do you need to spend so much time online when we’re right here?” It’s a good argument.

Because they are tools that allow conversations in real time, blogs are a great way to build relationships with many professionals all over the world. Where else can you find subject matter experts just a few keystrokes away? Relationships are important for the health and wealth of your business.

So why are relationships so important? People recommend people they know. People work with people they respect. People do business with people they like.

When your friends ask you if blogs are places where you can form relationships, what do you say? I suggest that you reply that talk is indeed not cheap, the tools are.

So here we are. You reading this post while I’m having a conversation with a group of smart professionals who want to learn more about why blogging is open source marketing *and* are helping me define what that means in real time. For now, remember:

1. Your feed, live all the time
2. Your expertise for finding (and sale)
2. Talk is not cheap, the tools are

UPDATE: The main impetus for publishing The No Asshole Rule was the e-mail reaction (personal emails sent to Mr. Sutton, not blogs) to a short Harvard Business Review article that he published in 2004. Blog attention ignited by an early interview on Guy Kawasaki’s blog drove early Amazon sales, which then got the traditional press interested and encouraged traditional book stores to carry the book.

Brand You Revisited

It’s been almost ten years since Tom Peters first talked about it –- imagine you’re the CEO of your own company: Me, Inc. What makes you different? What are you better at than anyone else? What do your style and voice look like?

“To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

It was true then of Web sites as it is now of blogs: anyone can have one. And because the cost of entry with tools such as Joomla, Blogger, Typepad, Movable Type, and WordPress is so much lower, many people do. What guides your choices of blogs to visit, to comment on, to subscribe to? The answer is quite simple: branding.

The blogs you include in your daily reading diet are the ones you have come to trust. They are the ones where the brand experience tells you that a visit will be well worth your time, over and over. The brand promise those blogs keep is the value you continue to receive.

If you think about it, today’s blogs are very much like mini services organizations. When you self publish, you own very little in physical assets. In many cases, you don’t even own a server –- your blog is hosted elsewhere. So the assets are chiefly what you bring to the table. You’ve enlisted yourself, you do the work, in some cases join a team, and you start to figure out how to deliver value to your readers -– whether they are buyers or not.

As the chief marketing officer of Me, Inc., you will need to answer a couple of questions for yourself and for the reader.

What Makes You Different?

Even if you have a regular — do we still say day(?) — job, you will need to begin thinking about yourself in a new way. I’ve worked in nonprofits organizations and in corporate America my whole career — five industries, marketing products and services. I still do. Yet, when you come into contact with me, what I write in my blog, and the conversations we have at live events, I am quite clearly Brand Me.

What are your favorite brands? I’m partial to Benetton, Prada, The Body Shop, Adidas and Armani. What I’m saying is that you’re every bit as much a brand as those. The brand managers at those companies have asked themselves the same question you should ask yourself: what is it that makes what I do and write about different?

Write down your answer and take a look at it. Does it light you up? Would someone coming into contact with your work see it? Keep writing down all of the qualities you think you have that nobody else does. What have you done lately to stand out? What would your readers say to qualify you?

Think in terms of features and benefits. A feature is something you possess; a benefit is what’s in it for the reader. One of my features is that I pay very close attention to everyone I come into contact with –- I listen actively, I am interested in their story, I want to learn about them and from them. The benefit for you: you feel interesting and welcome. An ultimate benefit to all: I get to know a lot of people well and I am a better connector because of it.

Do your example. I’ll be waiting here.

Done? Good. Now think about those characteristics in terms of value. What can someone see as measurable, distinctive, belonging just to you? If you look at all that you know and all that you can do, what are the things that make you most proud of? You got it! One more step. Ask yourself, what do you want to be remembered for?

What’s Your Pitch?

Now that you know what you’re about and want to be famous for, you will need to develop and practice a pitch. This is a brief, natural-sounding (please), statement you use when introducing yourself in conversations. Since you don’t have the budget of an Armani brand, you will need to do all the work of getting a consistent message about you at every opportunity you have.

You are already doing it with your blog. You decided on a topic or topics, created or had help in creating a design, structured a menu of categories, maybe you have a blogroll. Everything on the site talks about your brand, from the colors you selected, to the decisions you made about adding feed counters, email subscriptions, widgets, etc.

How do you get people who are not online and should know about your work to visit your blog? Join professional associations or initiatives that cater to your audience. Help the local community in any way that makes sense to raising your personal standing. If your reach is quite regional or global, find those places and people you want to meet, online and off line, and introduce yourself.

The point is that visibility multiplies itself –- the concept wasn’t born with blogs. The more people you know and who know you, the better exposure your brand gets the more upside to your brand. Remember that everything matters when you’re promoting Brand You. Every single thing you do, write, and say –- even all those things you choose not to join and do.

Now take a look at your business card. Do you have one? What does it look like? Maybe you don’t need a logo; still does your brand come through visually? Is the information on the card consistent with your blog?

And keep in mind that your personal circle of friends and contacts can be your best ally when it comes to your personal branding campaign –- they are your word of mouth marketers.

Why is it Important?

Having a strong personal brand is the equivalent of having influence power. I was in a discussion with a colleague not long ago about this very topic. No matter what your title or social standing, influence is a very powerful currency. For me, the more I expand the network of people I know, the more the people in it can benefit from the resources and ideas contained in it.

Your about page is not a resume or a sterile list anymore. It is a portfolio of Brand You stories: project deliverables, achievements, and things you got done. It’s a living and breathing marketing brochure.

Another benefit of Me, Inc. is the partnerships you have formed over time. These are your colleagues, friends, and like-minded professional connections. They can be not only your loyal allies; they can also be the user groups for a periodical review and check of your brand. Are you still writing interesting and fresh content? Do people feel the passion from your work come through?

Many of you blog because this is a way to reinvent yourself, share information, uncover and learn new practices, better yet to invent them. What does Brand You stand for?

It’s hard to believe that this content is as fresh today as it was ten years ago, isn’t it? Ah, and one more thing –- a strong, resonant brand can be a lifesaver when it comes to reputation. That will be the topic of another post. For now, just remember that your brand is the sum total of all the impressions you create and give as well as the perception that others have of you. What will you do differently today?

What is Open Source Marketing?

BrandingWire logo

Collaboration was one of the promises of Web 2.0. Many of you may have talked about open source technology and engineering initiatives. But open source marketing? That is a new angle, isn’t it?

We’re talking about a more intangible asset, your brand. And the ability to see that transformed from concept to implementation. That is where you build equity or capital that is worth something — recognition of your product or service and a premium as a result of that.

Think Different

Imagine having a group of experienced professionals all at your service — a team that can get together on a project basis to deliver brand execution ideas. Think how powerful it would be to assemble an ad hoc group of brand programmers and encoders to work on your project and offer insights you would not have had the time and bandwidth to explore.

Thanks to the nature of today’s self publishing world, blogs have become a true destination for marketers. And here’s the revolutionary thought: collaboration is replacing competition in more instances every day. If you did not know already how exchanging ideas and helping each other can help you leapfrog the competition, you have a chance to see it with your own eyes.

Look Who’s Joining your Team

BrandingWire logoThis week, a group of 12 marketing professionals from diverse backgrounds and geographies got together under the banner of a project called BrandingWire. I announced the unveiling of this open source marketing vehicle a few days ago in 12 Views to a Brand: BrandingWire Wants to Take Yours to the Next Level. As I said in my post:

The offering is quite simple: every month, we will focus on one business that needs assistance to take its brand(s) to a new destination. Whether that be growing the company in size, recognition, or business model, this team has committed branding creativity to get you there.

And we mean it. So if you have a business and need help with a branding problem, you may submit a request to the group. Send an email to any member or write a comment to one of our inaugural posts and you will be considered for one of our monthly rollouts.

As in all open source concepts, this too is based on high skill, a tremendous degree of self-directed accountability, and trust. We trust that each of us wants to make you, your project, and the rest of the team shine. And here’s another thought for your consideration: this team was self selected.

Made Possible By

This initiative is possible because although we all live and work in different areas of the country and the world, we can all plan to be online in the same place. Think of the technology as an enabling tool more than an end in itself.

Many of you, I’m sure, have experienced this already –- you have met like minded people that you really relate to and would like to work with, one day. It is possible to do, today.

The currency in this environment, as in many open source projects, is passion and the desire to make a contribution. No advertisers or big companies have had a hand in organizing this. The value is completely directed by the relationships we are forming with each other and the synergies these projects are creating in the marketplace.

On a parting note I encourage you to read through the posts that proposed solutions to the brand challenge. These marketers are no shrinking violets, many of the ideas are bold while simple to implement. Notice anything else here? They are all widely different. Marketing is alive and well, no echo chambers anywhere here.

Two Kinds of People

Maybe you have noticed, too. There tends to be two kinds of people on this planet — those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. This is valid of course also for all sorts of opinions and things beyond people. Let’s stick with the people for a moment, as this will help us understand how people interact with you and your blog.

They can be one and the same and two different paths. Since the blog is an expression of who you are and what you do and think about, let’s start with you. Whether you consider yourself creative and right-brained, or you stand more firmly on analytical and left-brain ground, your world is filled with stories. Some you tell, some you hear. All of them can help you connect with people.

It’s a matter of understanding how to welcome all people so they relate to you and your work — no matter how they see the world and how they came to you and your site. All those relationships have the potential to convert into loyal readers, business partners, work associates, and friends.

The People Who Are Just Checking

People mostly come to your site on purpose. They might have followed a link from another blog. Maybe the link was through a comment you made on a person’s post. In some cases, someone they trust linked to something you have written because they found it interesting. Or maybe one of your loyal readers was talking with a friend and suggested they check out your site.

These visitors are already interested in browsing at least one of your posts and taking a look at your site. There is always the rare occasion in which people find you by chance. What they see depends more on who they are than in what you (and your site) look like than you suspect.

A person may come in, jump on the specific link from the referral site, zoom onto the first post that catches their focus and attention, and take a look at your inventory of links and comments on their way out. Another may come in and take a little bit more time to dig into things. They will follow many links, look at your selection of ‘best posts’ (so make sure you have one) and test the waters by making at least one comment.

The People Who May be Buying

They checked you out, but will they be buying? Before you object by telling me that you are not really selling through your site, consider this. You are selling with your site –- what you’re selling may be ultimately a product (the final site you design/program is a product, for example) or a service. It may be an online or offline offering. Right at first blush and visit, what you’re really selling is a story.

How do you do that? A well crafted about page helps. It doesn’t need to be a long description to be an effective story. Take the author profile I just uploaded at The Blog Herald as an example:

With New World attitude and Italian style, Fast Company expert publisher and Conversation Agent Valeria Maltoni demonstrates her unique talent for synthesizing marketing, public relations, and communications. See how customer relationships are always conversations, and why this knowledge is essential to doing business in the Information Age.

Everything else on the site helps you convey your story, too. And remember that people will judge what they see depending on what they like and how they think. The decisions you make on the look and feel, the content, and the style, will all determine the type of story you’ll be telling about yourself and your work. This is how you start the conversation.

They way you continue it depends on how well you’re listening. That is the piece you can tailor to the two different kinds of visitors: those who seek more proof and information and data, and those who are more comfortable with finding inspirational and quotable thoughts.

The point is that referrals can come via online and offline conversations. People can be of two kinds and minds. In both cases the beginning of a relationship with them depends on the story you craft –- yours alone and yours together.

Do you Follow the *Heroes* Model in Your Blog?

The strongest connection you can make with people is of the emotional kind. I watched only one episode of the NBC hit show, but I was impressed very favorably. No, that’s not right, I’m talking about emotional connection –- I was smitten. By the time I realized that I had hit the TV remote button “on” (I never watch TV) I was totally into the show, advertisements and interruptions included. That is the effect you want to have on visitors of your blog.

Some may visit you by chance, just like I did by flipping the TV on, and may have never otherwise found you. Some readers may find you while surfing another site through a link to your blog in the blogroll. Or the visit may be the result of a Google search. How people find you matters, of course, and I will talk about it in another post.

Right now I want to focus on what they find when they come into contact with your blog. How can you build a blog that reflects who you are in a genuine voice, and resonates with people at a level deep enough to keep them coming back?

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