I don’t mean the big sports utility vehicle, although this is as big if not bigger than that — and it guzzles effort. Your brand is what you have in you. Strong brands are not the product of construct and fabrication — they are discerned, drawn out, then communicated to the world.
The first step in identifying your brand foundations is a journey of discovery at the heart of what you’re about. Who you are, what you do, your philosophy of life and how you behave in relationships. There is another important component to branding — and that is differentiation. So while your brand needs to express what lies inside you, it is also important that it holds into account what is around you.
Take for example the circle of your colleagues, other people who write about similar topics to yours, and the greater context of online publishing. What makes yours different? Are your posts branded with your unique style? Let’s see if you recognize these bloggers from their writing (you will need to comment to get the key, which I will insert at the end of the day).
Let’s take a look:
I love blogging. Its a fantastic online publishing medium that has an almost-zero barrier to entry. That is to say you can be up and blogging, literally, within 5 minutes. There are pre-fab blogging platforms today that are robust and give you many tools that even a few years ago, required some paying for, and even then, weren’t free. Not so today.
Today, the beauty is that anyone can be a publisher.
The downside? Its that anyone can become a publisher.
I’m making it really easy for you. What about this one?
I realized that I blogged best when I served my muse, my instincts for good blog content. Not the wishes of someone else telling me what I should blog about. Not my wishes to please my readers, blogging about something that I’m forcing myself to blog about. I blog best when I blog to support my spirit, not undermine it.
One last shot at identifying a blogger:
What does your audience need to know, enjoy reading about, collect and bookmark? Can your categories be benefit-led? Do you have the space for longer, more descriptive category names or does your template restrict you to single words? Is there a potential to get some search engine keyword fairy dust sprinkled over your category list? After all your sidebar links appear on every page of your blog ….
I chose these paragraphs because they illustrate how important branding is. Yes, the beauty is that everyone can blog so you can get started quickly and easily. The opportunity cost is if you overlook differentiation. As the second blogger states, you need to serve your muse, not be a copy of someone else, or write about things that feel unnatural to you.
Brand you should come through from everything on the screen — how you arrange the layout, if you allow comments, what content buckets you build on the side. These are all clues to your readers and contribute to forming a picture in their mind. Remember that they hold one piece of the picture in theirs so be the host you’d want them to experience.
This is the third side to the brand triangle — your readers and people who do business with you contribute to the perception of you in the marketplace. You will need to make sure that all of the experiences they have with you are the most meaningful and relevant to them. Whatever that means with respect to how you develop brand you.
Every respectable brand manager spends some time doing research. Once you have devised an overall message (your elevator speech) and business design, it is advisable to test it in the field. The good news is that you can do that on a small budget through your blog. Ask your readers, and observe what your readers do through tracking traffic patterns as well as their comments and links.
You should be able to distill a fine tuned strategy and direction from all the information gathered in these processes. Being yourself has never been easier — there is always room for tuning up, opportunity to stir in the right direction, and a need for plenty of energy. Be your own brand navigator and you are in the driver seat.
Author: Valeria Maltoni
With New World attitude and Italian style, Fast Company expert blogger 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. Valeria also blogs at the Marketing Profs Daily Fix and Marketing 2.0.