Since I started my blog TheSuccessfulStyle.com in early 2013 I’ve done an annual exercise I call a brand audit. Because TSS grew rapidly and I’ve managed to monetize it well (read: tons of eyeballs equals tons of sponsors) I decided to increase the blog’s rebranding budget this year to include a design consultation with an amazing brand consultant who usually works with more illustrious companies than my “little blog.”
Long-story short, he explained to me in 2014 why it is important for anyone who is marketing and selling anything on the Internet to have a focus and uniform message across all channels of communications.
And that is what branding really is 1) having a focus—what is the ONE thing you are trying to tell your audience and 2) having a uniform message—this focus needs to be cohesive with your personality, lifestyle, visual branding (that’s where all this talk about fonts and colors would come in) as well as your writing voice.
I can hear you say, “Okay that’s all good and fine Heidi, but how do we figure out our branding for our blog?”
I’ve been through this exercise many times (for my own blog as well as for my company BloggerBabes) and here are some common best-practices I recommend:
1. Start to figure out who you are, what your strengths are, what your blog content is going to be about. You need to answer these questions honestly: Why would anyone want to read my posts? Are my posts witty/informative/self-deprecating/entertaining? Would I be able to invest in having great images or photos of me taken? Would I write this content day-in and day-out for 3-6 months straight if it seems like no-one is really commenting? Who is my ideal reader? You need to be so specific that if you describe your target reader to your BFF she’s going to think this person is for reals.
Let’s take myself for example—I’m a former high-flying corporate executive who lived in some of the most sophisticated cities in the world: London, New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. I’ve honed my fashion sense in these style capitals, and I am passionate about helping other working women conquer the world without sacrificing style. This is a topic I would blog about over and over again even if I had few readers. I would never bother to talk about the crazy trends that go on during NYFW (unless it’s really amusing) nor offer tips on how to incorporate hot pants into 7 different outfits.
Another successful blogger I know is a chemist who loves cosmetic products. She loves educating her readers about the cryptic ingredient list on product labels and suggesting alternatives that are organic or more safe. She doesn’t try to do over-the-top makeovers (e.g., how to look like Lady Gaga or Beyonce) because that isn’t her target reader’s main concern. Her blog is sponsored by a lot of healthy and organic skincare and makeup companies.
Basically you need to figure out how to leverage your background and passion(s) and see if you can hone that into a key message or topic for your blog.
2. Once you know what your blog’s key message is, you can then use visual design to amplify the message. Different messages and audiences would have different visual design elements.
For better or worse, in today’s over-stimulated and over-caffeinated world, engaging a reader visually is crucial to a new blog’s success, as research has shown the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text. My own personal experience managing many different blogs over the years is also in-sync with the research: blogs that spend some time on their message and visual identity will not only attract their target readers more easily and fast, they also become more clear about what their blog is all about. This is because the branding process forces you to analyze your blog’s whole point of being thoroughly.
Of course, your brand is very much influenced by your blog’s content and vice-versa. It’s actually a circular process that is constantly evolving (which is why a lot of companies tweak or embark on a complete brand revamp once in a while).
So I guess the 2 questions once you’ve read this blog post are: is your blog topic focused and if so, does your branding reflect this? Would love to know your answers in the comment section below.