Here is the final post from my Blog On MSI session on personal branding, outlining my techniques for determining where you want to take your brand and how to achieve it.
Self-Appraisal and Audience formed the first two elements of my SAVAGE process for honing your personal blogging brand. Now let’s look at V through to E.
V is for … Vision
What do you want your personal brand to be when it grows up? Defining your brand is the first step – now let’s think about refining it.
Can you picture what ultimate success looks like for your blog?
Firstly, write down where you aspire to be with your blog. Maybe that means earning a full-time income from your blog. Or having X thousand page views per month. Or winning an award, or publishing your own book or any of a number of long-term goals.
Be ambitious but authentic. If you’ve never run in your life, then setting a vision of running a world record time for the marathon is a tad unrealistic. But maybe you could target one day running a half-marathon in two hours within the next two years.
It doesn’t have to be a target you can quantify but it should be something where you will know when you achieve it. And make sure you have one vision. It’s hard enough trying to reach one long-term goal – if you have several, how will you focus? It’s fine to have a number of objectives or intermediate targets that contribute to your vision – in fact you should do exactly that – but people who try to achieve everything generally end up doing nothing.
Now write down a list of steps you can take to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Do you need to improve your technical knowledge? To network more? To market yourself better?
Keep the list down to a manageable number – ideally five or six – so you can focus and make significant improvements. You can always add more actions once you have ticked the first few off.
Now for the hard part. Take a long, hard look and identify what barriers stand in your way and what you can do to remove them. So often what stops a person from achieving their vision is not identifying what they need to do as what they need to stop doing.
A personal example. My goal is to write a book. I know what I need to do. But, 15 months later, I’ve written barely 5,000 words. Why?
I’ve thought about this a lot and realised that the obvious excuse of not having enough time doesn’t really wash. The bigger issue is that, deep down, I still lack confidence. Too often I feel like a fraud. Do I write well enough? Do I hide behind the fact I don’t worry about my stats as an excuse not to put myself out there in the blogging world and market myself better? I still perceive myself as a small, niche blogger rather than an author deserving of an audience.
The solution? Stop making excuses. Go and find my own opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to me. Over the past few months I’ve conquered my fear of performing in public (as anyone who saw me sing at either BML or Blog On MSI will know). I’ve kept going with the Meet the Parents podcast. I’m writing guest posts for other people to get myself out there. And I’m volunteering to present at conferences rather than sitting quietly at the back of the room.
The above may not obviously support my goal of writing my book but they are stripping away the barriers that have stopped me from doing so. I’m more confident now and I’m more prepared to kick-start my book work again.
A is for … Audit
Now you’ve mapped your present and future, let’s turn attention to auditing the other ways your brand manifests itself.
Let’s look at two specific areas: your blog’s look and feel and your wider social media presence.
Blog ‘look and feel’
Having defined the key words that represent your brand and personality, does the look and feel of your blog really express these clearly and consistently?
- Blog theme, layout, fonts and colours – What do they say about you and are they congruent with your brand? For instance, if you’re writing about serious topics, then elaborate fonts and bright colours don’t work. (As an aside, it’s best not to over-stylise with frilly fonts and bright colours that look pretty but are difficult to read.)
- Header – Does this give readers an immediate impression of what your blog is about? Including a tagline can be helpful here.
- About page – Make it work hard for you – tell readers who you are, what your blog is about and maybe offer a few of your best posts to sample.
- Taglines & profile – Make it easy for readers to get an impression of who you are without having to read a full post or visit your About page. A tagline in your header, a small text profile in your sidebar, a picture of you. Help people get to know the writer behind the words.
- What you write about – Think about how you organise your content via categories and menus. If you write about four key topics, make those your categories and highlight them as menu headings. It helps both readers and search engines to categorise you. Apply the Goldilocks theory: too few categories and menu headings don’t tell anyone anything but equally too many is confusing.
- How you write – What are your voice, style and cadence? How does your personality shine through in what you write and does it do so in a consistent way?
- Photography – Is your photography consistent with your brand? A distinctive visual style can be part of your branding. There are some blogs or Instagram accounts where you instantly know whose photos you are looking at. I’ve developed a personal house-style for my blog and Instagram which uses a specific set of filters and favours bold, full-frame images. It gives my photos a look and feel that is (hopefully) distinctive and consistent.
Social media presence
Many of us are present across multiple social media channels. But how consistent are you? Is it easy for your followers to recognise you across different channels?
A few key things to consider:
- Do you have the same name across different platforms and are they clearly linked to your blog name? (Top tip: whenever a new network launches, acquire your account as soon as possible. You may never use it but it ensures you have ‘your’ name.)
- Are your avatar images, headers and tagline consistent across various social media? Make it easy for your followers to find you everywhere, especially if other people have similar names to you.
- Are your writing style and tone of voice consistent across different social networks? Different channels have different flavours but don’t be one thing on one network and something completely at odds with that elsewhere.
- Many bloggers use social networks as a key traffic driver but it’s worth considering LinkedIn as a valuable personal branding tool rather than a traffic generator. Think of it as a search engine for professional networking and as a resource for researching companies and brands. It’s also a great place to present your online CV and for positioning yourself as an expert in your chosen fields by sharing relevant content (your own, but also other people’s). I’m a social media manager professionally, so I never share my own parenting content but I do write and share articles that relate to my areas of expertise because that’s what I want to be known for as part of my personal brand.
G is for … Grow
Ultimately we all want to grow as bloggers. Growth means different things to different people and it’s up to you to define what success really looks like in your terms.
Here are my general tips for defining and achieving personal growth as a blogger.
Firstly, never be afraid to change. Without change, you cannot progress.
Know where you want to go: your vision. Can you write down in one sentence what you want to achieve from blogging in the long-term?
Once you know your long-term goal, build a plan. Break it down into shorter-term chunks that feel achievable. You may know where you want to be in 2-3 years, but what do you have to do this year? This month? This week? Set small targets. And don’t worry too much if you miss the odd one. It happens to the best of us occasionally.
Finally, remember the journey never really ends. When you achieve a goal, set yourself a new one. Blogging changes so quickly that if you stand still you will only end up going backwards – so keep on marching forwards.
E is for … Enjoy
Most of all, though, whether you’re serious about refining your personal brand or not bothered in the slightest, ensure you enjoy your blogging. It really does show if you don’t!
Know who you are and who you aren’t. Know what you want and what you don’t want. And remember to focus on what really motivates you, rather than worrying about what works for other people.
There’s nothing wrong with being different to other bloggers – in fact, it’s great if you are genuinely different and stand out from the crowd. If you are, don’t worry about it: nurture it and don’t be distracted from your chosen path.
Do all that and, almost without trying, you will find you have a clear personal brand of yours. Good luck.
Creating a personal brand