In the second of a short series of posts summarising my Blog On MSI session on personal branding, I review five elements that the best blogger brands have in common and look at a few examples from the parent blogging community.
In the first post in this series, we looked at what a personal brand is – and what it isn’t. Now let’s look at what makes the best brands stand out from the crowd.
I’ve distilled it down to five key factors. Strong blogging brands generally excel at most if not all of the following.
A good blogging brand is a natural extension of its author’s personality and immediately conveys something of who they are.
That may come across in a blog’s name, its layout and design, in the form of a tagline or perhaps a brief text profile (or About page) or some combination of the above and other factors. Whatever form it takes, you immediately know something about what makes the blogger different before you’ve even starting reading their posts.
In a world containing literally thousands of parenting blogs, a strong brand promises something different, maybe even unique, that compels readers to (a) start reading and (b) come back for more.
Uniqueness can manifest itself in a number of ways: a memorable name that stands out from a sea of mummy-this and something-dad, a striking visual design or distinctive subject matter. More often, it comes across in the form of a distinctive approach to writing.
A hundred bloggers may tell the same story but only a handful will stand out with a unique combination of voice, style and cadence.
Your writing voice is about how your personality expresses itself in your words. Are you witty, brash, quirky, thoughtful or something else?
Style is more about the techniques you use. Is your writing concise or verbose? Do you use plain English or more ornate vocabulary? Do you tell stories in a straightforward way or use analogy and metaphor?
And finally, cadence is about rhythm. In the same way that different styles of poetry have a distinct feel to them, so too does writing. Do you favour short or long sentences and paragraphs? Is your prose long and flowing or rendered staccato by frequent punctuation? Do you have a regular rhythm or do you mix things up?
3. Visual cues
Sometimes these are obvious, at other times more subliminal.
Strong visual cues may be something as obvious as a striking header image, colour scheme or font. Or they may be more subliminal – the headings in a menu, an item in a photo that hints at a blogger’s background or just the general look and feel of a blog, with an accumulation of small cues telling a bigger story.
It’s implicit in the nature of a strong brand that it promises consistency. Be the same everywhere all the time.
This means having the same (or at least obviously similar) names, headers and avatars across a blog and its associated social media channels. A consistent voice across all platforms – for instance, being calm on your blog and being angry on Twitter will only confuse your readers. Running a regular feature or series also helps, as does regularity – it can be twice a day or once a week, but it pays to have a regular approach to posting.
If you say something, you have to follow through and do it. Otherwise readers will quickly recognise a lack of authenticity and lose trust in you.
A slightly facetious example: if you’re going to go by the name Funny Mummy but your writing is deadly serious and you have a plain blog layout with a businesslike font, you’re breaking the promise you have made to your readers.
The best way to be congruent is to be yourself. Or, to put it another way, while it’s great to take inspiration from the style and brand of others, if you try to copy them and be someone who you’re not, you will be found out quickly enough. And why try to be a pale imitation of someone else when you can do the one thing no one can ever do better than you: be you?
As Oscar Wilde said:
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
Examples of strong blogger brands
Let’s take a look at three different but strong blogger brands.
Hurrah for Gin
Look at any page on Katie’s blog and you will immediately know that she subscribes to the theory that a picture speaks a thousand words. Every post is headed up by one of her trademark stick family cartoons, presented with unflinching warts-and-all honesty.
Hurrah for Gin as a brand resonates strongly with many mums (and dads) out there, with the name and entire look and feel of the blog promising a never-ending succession of you’d-cry-if-you-didn’t-laugh moments.
He’s a dad. He writes a blog. He’s in the UK.
John’s About page on Dadbloguk includes a short pen profile about him in the right sidebar but you don’t need to read a word to know that he’s a devoted father of two with a developing passion for vlogging – note the widget featuring his YouTube channel displayed prominently top-right.
Look a little deeper and you will see less obvious clues to his journalistic background, such as the typewriter in the main image. Note also the prominent menu items announcing where you can check out his media kit and discover more about his appearances in the media – he can be frequently found on radio and TV talking about parenting in general and his role as a stay-at-home parent.
Without being specific about subject matter, Leigh’s blog name Headspace Perspective promises (and delivers) a thoughtful approach to emotional topics. But her tagline and the short profile in her right sidebar provide the background story to the loss of her son Hugo aged 35 days.
The consistent use of purple and star motifs runs through everything that Leigh does in supporting her awareness and fundraising efforts around Hugo’s Legacy – a clear visual style that unifies her content everywhere.
There are many other examples of good (and not-so-good) blogger brands out there. If you have any particular favourites, do feel free to highlight them in the comments below.
In the next post in this series, I’ll show you how to do a self-evaluation of your brand in preparation for deciding what (if any) changes you want to make.
Creating a personal brand