Day 2: My Blogging Secrets

shh! don't share the secrets!Continuing the week-long series of my blogging secrets to celebrate my one year blog anniversary, today is about being “on-brand.” As I mentioned on Friday, one of the decisions I had to make was what my brand was going to be:

Was I going to be Jason the unemployed guy so I could relate with my audience (but then… what if I got a job???) or Jason the wildly successful internet entrepreneur (so you can feel safe about using JibberJobber because it isn’t going anywhere!)?

I chose to be Jason the wildly successful internet entrepreneur who feels the pain of being unemployed. And who hates the despair of the job search. And who wanted to help others through a sucky experience. And who was discovering career management, which including things that you do long-term (look at my categories on the left and you’ll see what those things are).

I also chose to not compete with any particular group out there. There are recruiters (I’m not one), career coaches (I’m not one), resume writers (I’m not one), career space watchers (I’m not really one, as they focus more on a career expert audience and are smarter than I am), career counselors (I don’t work for a gov’t institution anymore), etc. I positioned JibberJobber (the application) and the blog as central to any of these. Complementary.

It was a good place to be because it was really easy to get others to blog about me, link back to me, participate in the discussions and promote and endorse JibberJobber. No one could get offended at me, or what I wrote, because I was generally a nice guy.

And this, during a time when writing controversial stuff was a guarantee to get more readers! But my focus wasn’t on getting “more readers.” I didn’t want the fly-by-night readers. I wanted the intelligent readers – I wanted people that cared about this stuff, could appreciate it, and hopefully get value out of what I wrote, and what others left in the comments.

Last November I kind of went off-brand for a post where I felt very ranty. It was titled Does your parachute have HOLES and I kind of slammed a team member from Richard Nelson Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute team.

I also slammed Princeton University.

I also slammed the New York state labor department.

In a different post I slammed the state of California (without naming them, but I said “It rhymes with Malimornia”).

Was this really off-brand? Well, here’s the deal. I care about getting the best information out to my readers. And all the noise, trickery, and double-standards that I saw as a job seeker really got under my skin. As a blogger I thought I could call these people out, especially since I really trusted my state (Utah) to help me in my job search (they didn’t). As a side note, I’m still bitter about the whole crappy experience, which I know is giving me bad karma, but it fuels my passion for delivering better tools to professionals :).

Being true to one of my main goals, which was to always provide the best information to my reader, it kind of was my place to do this. But then I got a two page e-mail from a mentor who basically said “don’t ever do a blog post like that again – it was off-brand.” At first I totally disagreed, but then I started to think about what my brand was. One of his points was “do you want people to associate all of this spite and bitterness with JibberJobber? Or do you want them to associate JibberJobber with positive/constructive things?”

I learned that it wasn’t that the message was necessarily off-brand, rather my tone and attitude were off-brand.

I can’t remember a rant since then (although I have used strong language, like “sucks” frequently ;)) because I want to have a more pleasant, constructive, positive, you-can-do-it brand. Career management and job search can be hard enough, and there are enough negative feelings out there – I didn’t need to add to the negativity.

Aside from what I post on my own blog, another on-brand/off-brand consideration includes where I comment (and what I comment on). Here are some thoughts:

  • As mentioned yesterday, I tried to leave nice comments. Constructive, so that people saw me as a positive contact, not a jerk. My brand was not to be a jerk, right?
  • I did not leave comments on controversial websites in my space that seemed to be off my brand. These would be the bitter sites, or cheesy sites (no, I’m not talking about Cheezhead :p), or cliche sites that were obviously all about adsense revenue. I didn’t want to be associated with them.
  • Even when I was on a non-controversial site, but found a controversial post, I’d stay away from it.
  • When leaving a comment on a non-career site, like TechCrunch or Guy Kawasaki’s blog, I would only do so if I had something smart to say, and not slam anyone/anything. Again, it was off-brand for me to be a jerk.
  • All of this on-brand/off-brand stuff carried over to non-blog activities – participation in e-mail groups, face-to-face network meetings, one-on-one e-mails, chats, etc.

Perhaps this sounds like a whimpy strategy, or a slow-growth strategy. But remember, my main business is not this blog. This blog complements JibberJobber the application, and my main goal isn’t to get a certain number of readers, rather I want users (hint hint) ;).

So there you go – Day 2 is about knowing what my brand was and trying to stay on-brand. Have you ever gone off-brand? Do you regret it?

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21 thoughts on “Day 2: My Blogging Secrets”

  1. I agree with your points here Jason. I think it’s important to make sure that what we say is consistent with our brand, and also that our tone doesn’t overwhelm our message. Another thing I would like to touch on though, and that’s rather or not doing this is fake… I have had some people ask me rather trying to make sure what you do and say is brand consistent means you are being fake. I would say that is it feels fake you’re doing something wrong. To me, it is really just about self control. It’s taking a moment and asking yourself who you really are, and who you want to be, rather than just going off and doing something in the heat of the moment.

    If you choose to have enough restraint in life that you don’t give everyone around you a fat lip or a black eye just because they made you mad are you fake? I don’t think taking a moment to calm down, and then tell someone how you feel is fake at all. So we should be equally careful not to be giving a fat lip to folks out on the web.

    If who you are, and what you blog are two different people, then you have some soul searching to do.

  2. @Laura… I’m curious why you say that. It can’t be because I’m always right :p

    @Steve – you bring up an excellent point and perhaps one of the things that brand pessimists would jump on. I’d love to hear what some branding experts have say about this (anyone? anyone?)

  3. Another word for “on brand” is alignment. That’s what I began to think about as I read Steve’s comment. I believe that when we are “off brand” we are out of alignment with who we really are as a person.

    Does what you say align with how you live your life – what you do? If so, you are on brand. If not, you are off brand and therefore fake. I am not a brand expert, but I am a coach. I believe we must know who we are as people whether we are having a good day or bad day, on or off brand. If we know who we are, we will work to ensure that we are in alignment and that will come through in what we write about as bloggers and what and how we comment when visiting others.

    We will have bad days – or what I call bad patches, but even through those times, we will work to get ourselves aligned again.

    Last thing that came to me while reading this post and Steve’s comment – was the principle of liking. Robert Cialdini says, people do business with people they like. So for me, many years ago, I got rid of most if not all of the “chips” I was carrying on my shoulders. It helps me to be pleasant, friendly and open to connect with people.

    That helps me in the business of blogging, selling, serving, coaching and everything else I get to do with my life. Thanks for making me think tonight. I trust what I am saying has relevance to the discussion.

    Darlene McDaniel
    Career Coach

  4. I’ve found it’s never a good idea to publish something when you’re upset.

    Writing something when you’re upset is another story – go ahead and write it, just don’t hit “publish.”

    More than going off-brand, I think the biggest challenge for bloggers is finding their brand. Finding a voice that’s uniquely theirs; not a copy BUT using effective blogging techniques to get the word out.

    And the biggest problem with being testy in a blog post is that it usually comes off petty. People should certainly be critical, but do so with a professional tone and you’ll get much more positive dialogue going and feedback.

  5. A very good article, Jason — thanks for sharing this.

    One of the things that I would add here is that it is important that a brand has a point of view; something beyond nice. A brand stands for something; usually a value added piece that the person or product provides. Even Liz Strauss, who promotes “be nice” in her blog, has a brand that says she will connect the writing to the reader. But the brand is a point of view, communicated to others.

    I have a pet peeve against “always on” connectivity where people are perfectly willing to interrupt their conversation with you to check a “thanks” e-mail from someone out there in the ether. That person has just told you that their beeping Blackberry is more important than you are right now.

    Now, having that pet peeve is about branding — I value personal, uninterrupted interactions with people. How one expresses that pet peeve — in writing, on a blog, or in person — is all about your emotional maturity. What a mentor of mine said was “rounding off the edges.”

    So you can have a point of view. The issue is how you present the point of view from an emotional maturity place.

    Branding is merely how we present ourselves to others. We learn how to present a brand. (And it doesn’t always go right!)

  6. Great post Jason!

    I won’t say I’m in the process of discovering my brand, rather than testing its limits. My brand is about “good software development” and I also post about “bad software development” as part of it. I don’t feel this being a rant, as I’m using my vent-o-meter to see if stepped over the line. However, within the limits, there’s still a wide gap of tones.

    As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about the average tone of the blog, made of “good” and “bad” posts.
    See, even posting this comment made me do some thinking…

    Keep the conversation going.


  7. Gil, excellent! Now, here’s a thought. I am not saying don’t ever rant (but realize the impact, I like how Ben says that this usually makes you look petty.

    I have similar ranty stuff on my personal blog, (ah, I’m out of the closet on that one!), where I have er, slammed Yahoo, Typepad and others. But here’s the deal. For THIS blog it is off-brand to make many of those posts. For that blog it isn’t.

    If it’s at an intellectual level, or with good purpose, then it might very well be on-brand. After all, what is the difference between a rant and a passionate “that isn’t right!” post?

  8. Jason and Ben,

    You’re both correct. And it’s a long process of finding your voice while not missing the on-brand goal.
    Boy, self-improvement is hard…


  9. @Darlene – yes, this is quite relevant. I appreciate your story about removing the chips from your shoulder. Imagine the world if we all did this.

    @Ben – you are so right. When I read a scathing post I just think that the poster woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and usually disregard it. I’ve seen two posts in the last year where there was mean, mean discrimination and the poster didn’t even realize it – in both cases – 20 comments later they realized how strong and wrong they were and apologized. Damage was done, though, to the brand. I love your use of the word “petty.”

    @Scot – great thoughts! I too hate that, and had a board member that wouldn’t turn his cell phone off. What a rude, thoughtless thing – he was just strengthening his brand though.

  10. “Off-brand” does not exist. People make mistakes; or, they are consistent. Consistent experiences is the brand. If someone is judged based on one comment or experience, that person passing judgment could be making the mistake. Due diligence and time test brands (product, service and personal).

    Examples of mistakes might look like the person who claims great customer service while they are doing the opposite or, say they value a healthy lifestyle while bragging about not sleeping much because they are so busy. Self reflection opportunities.

    Personal branding is not a tag line created by marketing people. It is also not a project during a job search or when positioning for a specific short term goal. Exactly like networking as a project when something is needed, these are common mistakes made by many.

  11. David – I agree with your thoughts, but very few people embrace / live their personal brands through and through all the time. And, a job search is the perfect time to START, whether you see it as a “project” for that specific purpose or not. Certainly developing / promoting your personal brand for one specific thing (like a job search) isn’t enough, but you’ve gotta start somewhere…

  12. True. However, the brand already exists. The image and promise of value, good bad or confused already exists. Starting, in my judgement, relates to training and putting a brand strategy together. In my experience this takes place when the individual is learning how to position themselves for promotions, build teams, clients, partners, funding, etc. and be tooled/aware of environment before any threat of job search.

  13. Jason,

    Thanks for posting this! I don’t think that anyone will be surprised that I haven’t been particularly strategic with FRACAT. But seeing that you have a specific positioning for your blog makes me think about my own.

    I’m pretty sure my positioning is “That recruiter guy who’s sorta helpful with job stuff. N’Stuff.”

    And a having brand? And a mentor? Gee – that’d be helpful, huh?

    Thanks for thinking aloud about this, though!


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