Boost your writing success by defining your brand (Part 1 of 2)
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: April 15, 2008
|Most of us who love words enough to earn carpal tunnel in our wrists don't think of ourselves as a brand. We're surrounded by brands not only for products but for services-from rent-a-car companies to Internet providers. A company may have one brand or many. Writers may do the same. Beginning your presence in the marketplace with a strong branding message will boost your writing success, and courtesy of technology, it's easier than ever to establish yourself. |
Whether you're a newcomer or a veteran, you'll want to begin your public message with your best assets. Are you a news-oriented writer, or do you prefer lifestyle features? Are you a dedicated blogger? Do you have expertise that would allow you to sell your own reports? Your experience is important because clips of work published in print or on the Web give an editor a window onto the plain of your accomplishments. In addition, if you have expertise in a special subject area, emphasizing this ability sets you apart from the pack. All is not lost however if you choose not to specialize in a subject area. I'm a generalist and it works for me, although I have focused more intensely on some topic areas than others, such as natural resources, freelance writing, news and poetry. You may also classify your expertise by format-women's glossy writer, ad copywriter, political blogger, podcaster. What you know really does count and writers often know more than they give themselves credit for.
But where do you begin? Start with a single sheet of paper. List subject areas and/or fields of expertise. Make another list of published works. Compare the two. Your experience will hopefully stem from more publications in your interest areas. That's a start. You can always expand your skills as your grow your portfolio. That's what I did. I began my career strictly in print media. Over the years, in part due to my enthusiasm for all things Web, I've worked in all sorts of media, from blogging clients to images. Writing is, like every other profession, a continually evolving process and continuing education is beneficial as in other fields. Your final list should consist of what you hope to write about. Writing your goals enhances your ability to achieve them.
One hot area right now is social media. Even large publishers use sites like Facebook and MySpace to get book buzz going. Professional writers often set up a page at Linked In and other such sites because it's a convenient tool for letting others know about you and for finding experts if you need remarks and input for an article. These Web sites make it easy for you to participate. Unlike blogging, where you have to learn to use specific software depending on who hosts your blog, Facebook, MySpace and Linked In permit you to fill in the blanks and establish your presence with very little trouble. If you participate in message boards at these or other sites, you automatically establish something of a brand by the words and approach you use to answer questions or to post thoughts about a particular subject area. If you're trolling for quotes, an online community can be a godsend and a timesaver. In writers' networks, it's not uncommon to see topics like, "Cancer victims needed" or "Experts in green living."
Marketing expert Jamey Shiels says, "Blogs, social networks, and online communities are all opportunities to create and manage your brand online, and to interact with your audience in a whole new way. Creating a blog or social profile allows you to connect and share ideas with fellow writers and more importantly, your audience."
Whereas a print ad offers a message that is one-way, social media sets up a dialog. You are able to talk to others who are interested in what you're doing. "Another critical reason to use social media tools to manage your brand online is to make it easy for people to find more information about you," says Shiels. "Studies show that over 60% of online users begin their online experience using a search engine. If you have a blog or social profile, it will improve your chances of appearing on the first page of search results, in turn making it easier for people to find out more about you."
A presence on the Web is almost obligatory now. Even major brands have a presence because big publishing houses set up pages about their authors. Shiels adds, "In this modern age of technology, you are what people find online. To protect your brand and ultimately your reputation, it's important to take advantage of the tools that are available to you and reap the rewards of engaging in the online conversation."
Setting up your own page at a site like Facebook, or beginning your own blog through a host like Blogger are a free means of making your presence and your skills known globally. By starting with a carefully written plan and goals, you will ensure that your message stays on track and focuses on what you are able to do that sets you apart from others. Editors who receive pitches from you will be able to easily access information that may tilt the scales in your favor. You are your own brand. What you make of it is entirely up to you. The important thing is, as a major brand likes to advise, to "just do it."
Marketing expert Jamey Shiels (photo above) works in traditional and interactive marketing, and in the digital marketing space he has developed complex Internet applications, Web sites and online media initiatives for clients including Kohler, Sterling, Master Lock, Firestone, Harley-Davidson and Kimberly-Clark.
His personal blog, Walk on: exploring the digital experience
At Linked In
--April 15, 2008
Join us next time as we look at the nuts and bolts of establishing your brand, and how to get the word out to others.