Posts Tagged ‘branding’

rubber-band1There’s loads of talk about having a personal brand, specializing and niches. But, why just have a brand? What’s the point of a niche when the blogosphere is teeming with others talking about the exact same thing you are talking about?

Stretching yourself means reshaping your topic. I means connecting the unexpected and making something unheard of out it. It’s not as intriguing to talk about marketing to Gen Y when all you’re doing is talking about what that marketing means to other marketers. Reshape your topic to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Marketing doesn’t look like marketing anymore because you managed to link sex in movies to Gen Y women buying more clothes. It’s a stretch, but the real creativity is finding the points that link such a concept.

You don’t need to know what links you’ll create when you’re stretching because that’s the whole idea. The stretching creates the points. The point is the new ideas you come up with.

So, be a stretch. Why be an engineer who only talks about engineering when you can talk about the comedy of engineering mistakes? That’s a stretch because most engineers aren’t funny (with the exception of my boyfriend). Make something not normally humorous funny. Provide information to your readers that requires you to be engaging.

Why have a blog about career advice when you can advise people on how not to work instead? That’s a stretch because career advice doesn’t advocate that you don’t try to work. Being a stretch forces you to think about your topic in new ways that are not readily apparent to the average eye.

And if you are careful, you’ll learn something. You’ll bring your readers to more than just the edge of an topic. You’ll have stretched it into something new altogether.

What an enlightening idea, indeed.

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Marius!!! @Flickr

Photo Credit: Marius!!! @Flickr

“Jump out of the window!” may seem like irrelevant instruction when you hear it. After all, why jump out the window when you can walk out of the door? 

Nonetheless, when you are up several floors in a burning building and a crowd of fire fighters outside below you are holding a safety net, jumping out of the window can seem like the best advice yet.

After I graduated from college, I was still in the process of finding myself. I wanted to make a ton of money, but have a fulfilling career as well.

In reality, that didn’t leave me a lot of options. I did one smart thing though, I contacted a bunch of college alumni and grilled them about their current careers. I met a filmmaker, a real estate guru and some other random, interesting people.

However, I remember meeting with one particular alum that (should have) changed my life forever.

I told him I wanted to try my luck at consulting. Never mind what kind of consulting or what consulting actually means – I decided I should pursue it.

Also, I didn’t want to seem directionless. Consulting sounded sexy (or whatever word people use to make their professions sound cool) and they made scads of money for doling out information whether anybody listened to them or not.

It sounded like a suitable venture. In hindsight, considering my personality type, it was probably just as well I didn’t go into consulting after all.

Mr. Peacock (uncanny connection, don’t you think?) told me two things. “Consulting is hard on marriages – they get divorced a lot,” and “You need to start a blog.”

Both pieces of advice seemed totally irrelevant to me. As a very young twenty something, marriage was the furthest thing from my mind (not really, but it was not nearly as close to my mind as it is now).

Secondly, what was this blogging stuff? It didn’t sound like anything a freshly minted political science major did straight out of college. All the job choruses sang that liberal arts majors went into professions teaching, becoming lawyers or consulting.

Truthfully, I didn’t know a thing about blogging. I dismissed it as a labor of love for computer geeks or an adventuresome outlet for alternative journalists. Oh, what little did I know.

The trouble with good advice is that it always seems irrelevant when you initially hear it. That’s the good thing. If you only listen to what you want to hear you won’t learn anything . Or, if you follow the same tried-and-true counsel, it won’t work for you. Why? Because great advice leads you to undiscovered pathways. 

When you get weird, seemingly irrelevant guidance: pay attention. It will challenge you to do things you may not otherwise try. Whereas old, staid, been-there-and-do-it-again advice won’t get you much of anywhere.

Good advice is not meant to be comfortable or make you feel great about what you are currently doing.

It’s meant to confront you and change your mind.

That’s the other wonderful thing about good counsel. It’s more about action than pondering. It won’t encourage you to think more about your predicament. It will inspire you to do something about it.

It provides options not questions. If you are seeking the help, you’re already asking the questions, aren’t you?

Unfortunately, I ignored Mr. Peacock. I never contacted him again.  I figured that maybe he didn’t really understand me. How could he? We’d only met for cookies and coffee. Yet, that shouldn’t have mattered, good advice can come from someone even if they’ve only known you for five minutes. 

That’s the dark side of such a process.  People sometimes mistake that only those who know them can give valuable words of wisdom. Yet, the underlying current of all advice giving is to exchange ideas. 

Understand and trust that taking and giving advice is risky at both ends. It has little to do with how well someone gets you.

When people don’t understand that, they indubitably screw up the whole point of getting advice in the first place.

And, that’s terrible. After all, Mr. Peacock was only trying to help. Yet, I’m thankful. Sometimes, you can’t recognize good help when you ask for it (or, get it) because you don’t know what it is. And, you won’t know what good advice is because you don’t know what it will sound like in the first place.

But, great advice is still good advice. It doesn’t expire. It won’t disappear. Instead, it’s timeless, universal and requires little change. So, even though I met Mr. Peacock several years ago in a River North cafe, I can’t say my idea of starting a blog was my own great idea. It wasn’t. It was Mr. Peacock’s idea. 

Therefore, taking good advice  is just as much a matter of when you do as it is what you do. What if I had not met Mr. Peacock? What if I didn’t have the blogging seed planted in my head?  Maybe, several years later, I would have never thought to blog in the first place. 

Timing is just as important when you act upon anything (good advice included).

The nicks and scratches I suffered along my professional journey to get here probably have made my posts more relevant to readers now.  Relevancy is a good thing.

Except maybe when it comes to good advice.

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OK, I’ll bite. What’s the deal with the sea faring hijackers lately? While filling up on my daily dose of web surfing, I came across yet another article detailing those tricky shenanigans of oceanic criminals abroad. The most recent development involves the largest hijacking to date of a Saudi Arabian oil tanker off the coast of East Africa.

A member of the crew, Abdi Salan demanded:

What we want for this ship is only $25 million because we always charge according to the quality of the ship and the value the product.

I’m not discussing the political unrest of Somalia or arguing about the extenuating factors that have led to the stretch of crimes crossing our world’s coasts. I’m arguing about the usage of this word: pirate.

Excuse me, PIRATES?!? You know – the guys associated with scurvy, parrots, and peg legs? The folks who popularized guyliner, second only to Peter Wentz.


At best, this term is antiquated and at worst, cheesy beyond belief. Being professionally clueless is one thing, but being a professionally clueless pirate with no sense of his (or her) brand’s symbolism is another.

Dear “Pirates,”

You need a major name revamp. Sure, there is the actual definition of the word pirate – but how seriously do you take it when you hear it? Since you indulge in the more nefarious of professions, you should take your symbolic imaging into consideration.

Even prostitutes managed to “slightly” neutralize their name brand by grafting on to the term sex worker and escort (even though they probably don’t use it nearly as much when they are with clientele). 

If neutralization is your goal, than by all means, keep the moniker. Yet, do you want to really be called a “pirate”- you want to be thought of as this guy? 


Instead of demanding the market price for a Saudi oil tanker, you would do better to establish your brand loud and clear before having other people do it for you. You run the risk of having media and society establish unwanted symbolic meaning to the group you represent. 

What to do? I suggest brainstorming and picking key words that you want linked to your line of work. Allowing the association of the word “pirate” to persist only serves to further weaken your brand by undermining its true value.

Even pirates need to be taken seriously.


The Writerbabe

P.S. Aaaaarrrgggh!

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