I started my blog just over 2 years ago. It was like I woke up one morning and decided to write a blog (that’s pretty much what happened, actually). I had no knowledge or understanding of what goes into having a website or blog, or what it meant in terms of being a brand.
But I did it anyway.
In hindsight I wish I’d done things differently and taken the time to work a few things out before I took the plunge. I kept hearing about branding and marketing, alongside many other things, like SEO, plug-ins and “knowing your audience.” I really was clueless and picked most things up as I went along. What I really wanted to do though, was write. I had plenty of ideas of what I wanted to write about but it was all rather undefined.
As you can imagine, it was all a bit of a mess. I was writing for myself rather than others. My blogposts were about the “what?” rather than the “why?” I wrote about anything from mental health issues to wardrobe choices. None of it slotted together very well, but I wanted it to.
In the end I signed up for Kayte’s Campfire course which was a massive turning point. All of sudden someone was asking me the right questions which helped me reflect on why I wanted to write about Cornwall, Running and Lifestyle, and why I wanted to grow my blog. It was a much needed process that I still rely on when I feel a bit stuck or uninspired.
Now I’m no branding expert but I once struggled to define Penny’s Lane as a brand. Therefore I’m guessing there’s probably others who are in the same boat. With that in mind, I thought I’d share the questions that helped me brand my blog.
What Are The Values That Underpin Your Blog or Brand?
Consider your brand values as the foundations for your brand identity. Knowing these will help steer your writing direction and inform the angle you take on your subject areas. Try and think about the words or statements you’d use to describe your blog or brand. These are your values. When it came to writing down the values I attribute to Penny’s Lane, I came up with words like, “adventurous”, “honest” and “energetic”. These words, and many others, still direct my content across all platforms. Think about the words you’d like others to use as well. These words and statements are so important. They’ll help you decide or determine the personality of your blog, and should come across in your content, engagement, and connection with others.
Just take a moment to note some words that describe the values you identify as part of your blog, and those you want to convey. It doesn’t matter how many you have. As you work on defining your blogging brand, the strongest or most meaningful values will become more obvious. If you have several subject areas, some values may apply to certain topics more than others. For example, I’d consider my value of “hardcore” (yes, that is a value of Penny’s Lane!) to apply more to my running content than my recent post on daily painting.
Think About Why…
I found the whole “finding your why” so hard! I mean, it shouldn’t be that difficult, should it? Every time I tried to think about it, I experienced a mental block. Thankfully, I got there in the end. The clincher for me was honing in on the topics I wanted to write about, and clarifying why they mattered to me.
Even though we’re all writing for others, establishing why I wanted to write about Cornwall, coastal life and running was part of the process. Finding your why can be connected with some deep-seated reasons and personal feelings. If I know why I want to write about these things, I’m more aware of what I can offer others and what they’re likely to want from me. When it came to writing down my reasons, some chimed more than others. Rather than judge the process, I wrote down my thoughts, whittled it down, and tried to be specific. Every time you think of a reason, ask yourself “why?” again. Remember people like the story behind a brand, experience, post or caption. These might come up when you’re working out your why, and that’s fine. People like a story so why keep it to yourself?
Who Are You Writing For?
This is the golden question. When you know who you’re writing for, so many other parts of the blogging jigsaw fall into place. When I started out I had no idea who I was writing for, and would often conclude it was “people like me.” (hi, if you’re reading this.) While that holds some truth, it’s not very specific, is it? There’s a need to be specific because it’ll keep your content focused and shows your reader that you’re holding them in mind. If you’re trying to write for everyone, you’re casting your net too wide.
If you already have a blog, you can check your demographics through Google, but knowing your audience is more than thinking about their age or where they live. Consider your audience niche – what do they like doing? What sparks their interest or creativity? How do they spend their free time? Where do they shop? What do they read? What values resonate for them?
If you know what your values are, these questions will be easier to answer. Let’s say one of your underlying values is being kind to the environment. This means your ideal reader is more likely to consider environmentally friendly products. If so, where would they shop, both on the high street and online?
Really think about who you’re attracting, and who you want to attract in the future. Be strategic – it’ll inform your content and what you offer your audience. Everything you write will need to be done with your audience in mind.
What Problem Are You Solving?
If you’ve defined your audience and are able to think about your blogging brand’s core values, the next question is what can you offer that’s of value to your audience? My experience is that if you know your audience and have your values running through your work, your content ideas will come quite easily. You’ll inherently know what your audience are struggling with, and you can offer them the solution. If you’re unsure, ask them. Pop a poll on Twitter or Instagram, someone will get back to you. It may also trigger additional thoughts and ideas for future content.
How Are You Different?
Think about how you can be a bit different or unique – what will make you memorable and stand out from others? This could be your writing style, your brand aesthetic, or how you approach your content. You want to offer your reader an experience and evoke feelings. People will probably remember that more than the words you spill out into your blogposts. Think about who you follow online and the blogs you read. What makes them memorable? This is something your readers will want to experience from you.
Defining your blog isn’t necessarily an easy or a quick task. I routinely revisit my audience and values. It helps curate content ideas, and enables me to keep Penny’s Lane grounded and moving in the direction I want it to.
Are you finding it hard to define your blog or brand? Which bits are you struggling with? Maybe you’ve managed it. If so, what helped get you there?