Starting a Blog? Consider Your Brand First.
Some of the most popular posts of all time on MsCareerGirl.com are about starting a “side hustle.” For those who haven’t heard me use this term before, a side hustle is a hobby or passion project that brings you joy. Your side hustle is done outside of your day job and naturally leads to meeting new people who share your interests. In many cases (like mine) it could accidentally redefine the trajectory of your career. Side hustles may or may not become full time gigs. One thing is for sure though: a side hustle will improve other areas of your life because you’re doing something that you love.
However, turning your website into a respected and potentially profitable resource can prove to be much trickier. Aspiring bloggers routinely face challenges like retaining readership, consistently producing quality content, engaging readers and, ultimately, earning a financial return on all your hard work. While to conquer each of these trials can be quite an involved process, one crucial component to your various quandaries is branding. Not sure what I mean?
Your brand is the foundation of your blog. Here are six things to consider while defining your blog’s brand.
1) Understand that your blog is so much more than the words you publish
Your written tone, color scheme, font choice, visual layout, photo selection, and dozens of other details culminate to create a comprehensive experience for your visitors. In order to have a strong and memorable presence that is associated with your name and logo, you must make sure that the message is being communicated throughout all facets of your website.
Take a second to imagine a site that claims to be a reliable resource for the latest fashion, but features low-quality photographs, and posts infrequently. The conclusions of the viewer will be far from what the blogger intended. Therefore, it is wise to list of the different elements of your blog (including your subject matter, social media and editorial calendar) and to identify the ways through which each individual component can stress your brand. Understanding color psychology will help drive home the impression and emotions you are trying to evoke as well.
2) Define what you represent, then create a logo around those values
It is important that you craft or develop a symbol that will serve as an easily-identifiable representation of your brand and story. Many bloggers opt to have this be their own face, something that can play an increasingly greater role with Google’s new “authorship markup.” The identifier can also be a memorable catchphrase or a small symbol that you use to watermark all your photographs and pins, and one that you place on merchandise. If you place this representation enough times on pieces that exemplify your community, it will be associated with trust and authority, which will be especially helpful in the social media realm.
3) Find your voice
In order for your brand to be remembered, it must be associated with something worth remembering. While you may feel tempted to shy away from controversy that may anger some readers, talking candidly about hot topic issues or exposing personal experiences will add depth to your words, dimension to the written personality, and noteworthiness to your blog. After all, hundreds of bloggers may be covering topics like “my picks for summer bathing suits,” but much fewer are going to divulge how they feel nervous about wearing bikinis because of their abundant cellulite. Read other online publications to understanding the blogging landscape, and then try and carve your own unique path so you stand out from the crowd. To get started check out Penelope Trunk and Jen Lancaster.
4) Cultivate quality relationships
Be selective with who you allow to advertise and guest post on your blog. Reach out to your favorite bloggers and develop friendships, as well as mutually beneficial business relationships. By being a regular in conversations and focusing on your niche, you will demonstrate that you are genuinely interested and knowledgeable, raising your profile among certain circles. All you have to do to get started is create a list. Then interact with these people on Twitter, Facebook and in their blog comments. Eventually send them an email. Most bloggers will appreciate the kindness and be totally open to collaboration.
5) Study Bloggers who have strong brands
Here are five examples of very strong blog brands. Each of these blogs has things in common even though the topics they write about are totally different. They all rely heavily on high quality images (you can do this too, just use PicMonkey.com), peppering in their own personal story, and series/columns to keep people coming back.
- Health & Fitness: ToneItUp.com
- Twenty-Something Lifestyle: TheEveryGirl.com
- Career Advice: LevoLeague.com
- Entrepreneurship: ThinkTraffic.net
- Killer Content: BuzzFeed.com
6) Test your brand on someone else’s blog
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that we have several contributors. Each of our contributors has her own column that is focused on a specific area. For example: Beauty, Money, Home Decor, Dating, Career Advice. A few of our contributors have their own own sites, but most write because they are testing out their voice, brand and commitment to blogging first. If you have an area of expertise or a passion you’d like to write about but aren’t crazy about having your own blog, consider being a columnist/contributor for a blog like MCG. It’s a great way to build a portfolio, cultivate relationships and actively define your brand. (PS- I am currently looking for 2-3 new columnists to cover topics within Work, Home and Dating. If interested in writing for us twice per month, send me an email: [email protected]).
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your blog won’t be either. Before you start blogging, clearly define your brand. Don’t get discouraged if your efforts seem to have little impact at first – it’s totally normal. Remember that side hustles (especially those that revole around a blog!) are intended to be fun, so take whatever actions are necessary to continue to enjoy your work. After all, your passion will always set your apart and perhaps even define your brand.