Category Archives: Branding & Platform

What is “branding?”

brandingBranding – what the heck is it?

An “expert” came to me with a proposed guest blog about branding. I looked at her site, Twitter, Fan Page. Her site had a rheumy picture and bland copy. Her Twitter had five tweets (still has five tweets months later), and her Fan Page had four posts in six months. Each site looked different. There was no consistent message. What kind of branding is that?

Why would I follow her advice (or feature her on my blog) when she can’t brand herself out of a paper bag? Couldn’t brand herself with two hands and a map.

In proper Word Shark fashion, I started to research. I Googled “branding.” I read a bunch of blogs and articles. And I asked my connections what they thought.

April Michelle Davis Editorial Inspirations – “My website, business card, print materials, and everything about my company has the same colors, fonts, look, and feel.”

I think the theme/scheme is important. You don’t want to be pastels and floral on one page, and dark and gruesome skulls on another page. You want your colors and your feel to translate from one page to the next.

Shark and bluek

If you look at my Fan Page, you see a shark in blue water. If you look at my Twitter profile, you see a shark in blue water. My website – shark and blue. My blog – shark, blue.

Published writer Ilil Arbel – “Personal branding is positively grabbing someone’s attention by creating a unique, unforgettable image. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. Each one of us has to develop their own USP – Unique Selling Proposition – to communicate our brand, as the big corporations do.”

Ilil digs deeper – “Yes, I think branding goes deeper than a logo and a color scheme. It has to create an image that is strong enough to be remembered by concept, not just shape.”

Going deeper

I like what Ilil said about going deeper. Branding is not just a color scheme or font. It’s what you stand for, it’s what you deliver; it’s following through on promises and conducting oneself with professional integrity.

Public identification

Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Heartspoken and Riverwood Writer says, “Branding is the development of a public identification through marketing, imagery, logo, and consistent messaging. In includes everything related to social media activity, advertising, etc. In a nutshell, it’s what pops into people’s minds when you or your company name is mentioned.”

k 2Consistent messaging

I try to put forth a consistent message about the importance of editing and proofreading. I like to introduce new writers, bloggers, poets, musicians, and artists in my special monthly features. I am a bit (a bit?) sarcastic at times, but try to present it in a humorous fashion. I share what I’ve learned and pay it forward.

Consistent message

Artist and illustrator, Janice Phelps Williams – “Good branding is nothing more than knowing who you are, who you want to be, what you are good at, what people will respond to, and how to live your personal and professional life in a consistent manner. It is being consistent in words, in graphics, in subject. It is being focused and knowing where the boundaries are. These are the only rules I focus on. I don’t really think of my brand, but I know when something ‘doesn’t feel like me.’”

Doesn’t feel like me   

There are certain bloggy features that don’t feel like me, i.e., book reviews, interviews, or constantly hawking myself or my services. So, I just don’t do any of those things.

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What is “branding” to you? What is your consistent message?

“Become someone worth knowing. Then your book will become something worth buying.” – C. Hope Clark

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Were you always picked last in gym class? My three cents on self-promotion.

This blog was originally posted in September, 2011, and was recently discovered by friend and writer, Heather L. Reid. So I thought I would resurrect it.

Heather has a book launch next year, Pretty Dark Nothings, and she has a way cool website.

I edited the Two Cents blog and made it Three Cents. Because, well, I’m a better writer now, and I have more sense.

Recommending books

I make it a habit to recommend only books I’ve read and loved – when I think they are brilliant or if I liked them. I have a small posse of followers who trust me when I say a book is a “must read” or a “good read.” To maintain integrity and honesty, I can’t make myself retweet a book promotion or post it to my FB when I haven’t read the book. I will recommend the writer’s blogs and blog posts.

Writers promoting

Just to be clear, friends, I’m all for writers promoting other writers – that’s how the word gets out. But I am not jiggy with the writers who bang-bang-bang their own drum over and over. Like a woodpecker at 4:30 a.m. on a sleep-in Saturday.

The Rule of Three  

My writer-pal Shawn MacKenzie and I had a conversation on appropriate give-and-take (the conversation was last year, but it still holds). Shawn and I promote each other because 1) we appreciate it, 2) we say Thank You, and 3) we pay it forward – not only to each other but to writers who have earned our respect.

Like you? I don’t even know you  

Reminds me of the old joke, “Tissue? I hardly know you!” While I have relaxed my stance on liking Fan Pages, I do not like begging “please please please like my page” missives. I may be friends with over 500 people, but if I never hear from you, ever, and then you write me to promote your page or book, I think, “What have you done for me lately?”

Read my review

If I’m not interested in your book, why should I read another review? If I am looking for a new book, I’m most apt to look for the genres I prefer or ask trusted friends what they have read and enjoyed. And honestly, with all the fall-out over book reviews lately, I am even more likely to disregard most reviews.

11,986 other books  

“My book just went from 12,429 to 11,987 on _________ [fill in review site here]!” Since your book is 11,987 then I have 11,986 other books to read before I get to yours. When it gets to the top hundred, then I might be interested.

Free give-away of my book

I’ve seen a pile of these give-aways, and I check them out. Who doesn’t like a free book? Please make it easy for us. I still remember one give-away – all I had to do was 1) like her page, 2) make a comment on her page, 3) follow her on Twitter, 4) mention the give-away on Twitter, 5) and sign up for her newsletter … oh, is that all?

Friend mills  

“Please like me so I can get 250 fans.” So, you don’t care who likes you or if they have read your book, you just need 250 fans. I’ve seen this carried as far as “I have a bet with a friend to see who can get the most fans.” If you win the bet, I get what? A new crock pot would be nice – I lost mine in the flood.

The whining why  

I saw a guy post his book and ask for tweets. Then he actually came back and said (to an online group) “Why aren’t you tweeting my book?” Um, because you are a nincompoop?

Blogging about me

News flash – you may not be the center of the universe.

I’ve seen thousands of blogs that are not blogs at all – they are self-promoting, self-marketing me-mes. Give me tips I can use, give me suggestions that are helpful, give me inspiration I’d want to share with other writers.

Sneaking it in  

Like a smelly silent one in an elevator. I have observed writers that no matter where they post a comment, they have to sneak in a little tid-bit about their book (with a link of course). Unless it relates directly to the blog post, knock it off.

Facebook THANK YOU!!!!!

You connect with someone on some form of social networking. So, you friend them on Facebook. Next thing ya know there is this big-ass post on your FB page announcing your new friendship and a link to their book. Ick. If you haven’t noticed, I delete these posts. And oft, unfriend.

Unsolicited email lists

Don’t add a stranger to your email list. Several writers have done this to me because I made the mistake of corresponding with them. Seconds later, I get a pile of auto-emails, “Read my book!” “Like my fan page!” A personal reply would be much better.

What irks you in the social networking scene? What uncomfortable situations have you personally experienced in social networking? What social media behavior pisses you off?

“When science discovers the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to find they are not it.” ~Bernard Baily

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Opening photo by C. Christine Roberts (my d-in-law). Additional photo by hardstyle_1993 via Photobucket. Quotes from Quote Garden.

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Tips for personal customer service in a virtual world

What is good customer service?

Susannah Friis wrote: For me, it’s helpfulness, coupled with polite friendliness. If I crack a joke and the sales person laughs, they are my new best friend. (Find Susannah at Personally Speaking and follow her writing journey at The Writerly Way. Stop by, say g’day.)

Geoffrey VanDyck, VanDyck Computers, wrote: It starts with the customer. Without the customer, there is no business. If helping the customer is beyond the capability of the customer service agent, then it means directing the customer to someone with the authority to do something. (If you are in Minot, ND, look to Geoffrey for his awesome computer skills. Find Geoffrey on Facebook.)

Jessica Pettengill Messinger wrote: Customer service reps who sound like they’re smiling, who are friendly, and who do all they can to help get my appreciation. If they can’t help you, they should refer you up the chain of command. I talked with a customer service rep today, and she made a very stressful situation much better because she was pleasant. (Check out Jessica’s children’s book Stinky Feet via CreateSpace.)

Tonia Marie Houston wrote: A good customer service rep knows how to listen before asking the right questions. This takes empathy, experience, and respect. (See Tonia Marie blogging at Passionfind or at the group blog Hugs and Chocolate.)

Yesteryear

Years ago, I could walk into a local store and the cashier would call me by name and shake my hand. I’d ask for specials, find a few sales, and get a good deal. I would walk out of the store feeling valued, an important person.

Today

Much is lost via internet connections, emails, Facebook messages. You don’t get the same friendly face-to-face you used to.

“Shake hands” as soon as possible

When I get an email from a prospective client, I send a return email within 24 hours.

If I know I cannot respond to emails within a day (travel, family visiting, whatever), I consider putting an auto reply in my email with a brief explanation for my absence and my estimated return.

Sharing, not dumping

When I connect with a new person online, I check out their Facebook, Twitter, website, and blog.

When I respond, I interject something personal. Like, “I see you live in eastern Pennsylvania. My mom grew up in Lansford, PA.” Or, “I see you are a Yankees fan. I’m a die-hard Phillies Phan. Perhaps I will see you in the play-offs?”

Agreements and promises

Agreements, with or without a contract, are critical. Though I conduct most editing business with a contract, I often mentor and advise without a contract.

If I promise turn-around in three days, you get turn-around in three days.

Honesty and providing other resources

Recently, a prospective client came to me with a sword & sorcery novel. I told him his genre was not my strong suit. Even so, I gave a free sample of my editing prowess, noting problems, suggesting numerous changes and improvements. I also suggested a number of editors he could contact if he was not happy with my critique.

Obligations, sincere apologies, no excuses

Ever screw up? Yeah, me too. See my recent blog post, Obligations, sincere apologies, no excuses.

What personal touch do you miss with virtual customer service? How do you connect – personally – with new friends via the internet?

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Opening photo by Rhonda Harvey. Connect with Rhonda via Facebook or on her Rhonda Is Losing It blog.

Handshake photo by Charles Simpson Global via Photobucket.

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Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, writer, and a fabulous grandmother to two wonderful little boys.

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Obligations, sincere apologies, no excuses

The dog ate my homework.

OMG! I’m so sorry!

I’d much rather say it myself – “I’m so sorry. I screwed up.” – in a phone call, in an email, in a Facebook message – than have someone come back to me and say, “You screwed up.”

We’re way past, “The dog ate my homework.” Note: do not make this excuse if you have no dog.

Promises

You make a promise. You keep a promise.

Simple, isn’t it?

When I hear excuses

You may be uttering remarks that are quite different, but I hear, “I messed up but I’m making excuses because I can’t admit I made a mistake.”

Keep a calendar

I keep one calendar for all things. I tell everybody, “Let me check my calendar,” so I don’t over-extend myself.

Family first

I think I have made it fairly clear that my family comes first – before all things. When I make an agreement with a new client, I consider my family obligations, t-ball games, birthdays, special events, and my own personal relax time (yes, I take time to veg out).

Friends, clients, blogging

If I tell a friend, “I will meet you at The Bagel Stop on Thursday at 10:00 a.m.,” then damn straight I’m gonna be there by (probably before) 10:00 a.m.!

If I tell a client, “I will have a full MS edit and an Editor Letter to you by Saturday,” then you can take that to the bank.

If I tell you your guest blog will go live on Monday, I will have your guest blog up that Monday morning.

Fire, blood, hurricane, flood

These are truly the only excuses that work for me. If you are not on fire, bleeding, or in the midst of a hurricane or flood, then lame excuses feel icky. I actually got to use the flood excuse last year, and it still felt like I was letting people down.

Apology

I’ve screwed up mucho. When I realize it, I apologize immediately. I keep it simple and honest.

What lame excuses have you heard? Have you been tempted to make excuses to get out of some event or obligation? What do you do when you realize you are over-extended?

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Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and the University of New Mexico. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.

Opening photo by Jink Willis. You can find and link to Jink via her website here.

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A bunch of stuff I’ve learned in my 40+14 years

Cyndi Briggs

I am a guest on Cyndi Briggs’s blog, The Sophia Project, today!

Here’s the link to A bunch of stuff I’ve learned in my 40+14 years. You’ll understand the title if you read Cyndi’s 40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years. Cyndi’s “40 Things” was my inspiration.

I found Cyndi’s 40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years through my friend Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Heartspoken. Elizabeth did a guest post for Cyndi’s The Sophia Project, so I started to go through Cyndi’s blog posts.

Enjoy!

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The writing life is like Family Court, only Family Court was more fun

This blog post was inspired by Vaughn Roycroft’s post What Building My House Taught Me About Writing.

In Vaughn’s post he said: “Writing a book is a big undertaking. Are there projects from your past that prepared you for your writing journey? Building our house was one of mine.”

For some odd, screwed-up reason, I thought of all the years I spent in Family Court, mostly at the behest of my screwed-up ex. You should have seen our file. Or rather, files. If I sneezed in the ex’s direction, he hauled me back into court.

And, yeah, I would say that my multi-year Family Court project prepared me for this writing life. Though none of my writing friends has pointed a shotgun in my face, smashed my 35mm camera with a hammer, or slashed my favorite dress with a razor blade. Not yet.

Wonderful people

There were some wonderful people in Family Court. People that helped me. People that commiserated with me. People that held my hand while I cried on their shoulder. Writing is exactly like that when you have the awesome writing friends like I have.

Funny in a bad-sort-of-way people

I met a few funny people in Family Court. Mostly in the waiting areas. If you observe long enough (and if you are waiting to see a judge, you’ll wait a long time), you can discover who is glaring at what ex. And who should be approached with caution!  Same goes for the writing life.

Outrageous fakery

Some witnesses tell the most outrageous lies and literally made me laugh out loud. You really shouldn’t laugh in front of a judge. If you watch people and their campaigns on Facebook or Twitter and see what they post over and over, you know what I mean.

No matter what you do, there will be one person out to get you

You can be nice, give of yourself, and make sacrifices, and there is one special person who would prefer to eat you up and spit you out. Doesn’t matter what you do, there will be that “one person.”

Egos

People that fight for attention – nearly every post or tweet is about them, their book, their Fan Page! There are people who think self-promotion is the ticket to gather favor in the court (or in writing and publishing). But they are really just stroking their egos.

Liars

Mostly my ex, who lied to get what he wanted. But also a couple of his witnesses. Just like writing – a smattering of people are here for their own gain while the bulk of people are here for the good of the babies, our stories.

Struggle and giving it up for a friend

Every freaking little bit of Family Court was a struggle. You want the love seat, too? Then you’ll have to give up the coffee table. You want the birthday weekend? Then you’ll have to give up Thanksgiving weekend. If you see a friend in need, give it up and help out! You can get back to your own baby tomorrow.

The paperwork is endless

It’s writing letter after letter (blog after blog, query after query); social networking; saving critical blog posts for a rainy day; saving information on e-pubbing for the “I’m-ready-to-publish” day; developing meaningful relationships with people that are helpful and really believe you; waiting for good news or bad news to come in the mailbox.

Stories, Family Court has a million of them

Some stories go on and on when you would like to chop them to bits with a butcher knife. Or a machete. Yeah, a machete.

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Thanks, Vaughn Roycroft, for the inspiration.

In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened. Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business before his return to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy.

Connect with Vaughn on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to read Vaughn’s What Building My House Taught Me About Writing.

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What arduous projects prepared you for the writing life? Did you expect the writing life to be so tough?

Photos, Photobucket – Reactionkc26, Ylva51, Byrdeth

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The Internet and Real Relationships, by Randy Mitchell

Ever since Al Gore famously invented the internet (Ha Ha), the personal information we share through our computer keyboards has exploded like the world’s arsenal of nuclear bombs firing off at once. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. have each grown at such an astonishing rate that oftentimes these websites periodically shut down for a while trying to catch up with their increased demand. We all frequently post, like, befriend, tweet and whatever else in an attempt to share and promote our opinions and viewpoints, each vying for that coveted piece of the super information highway. And there are us bloggers–the ones who really try displaying our inner emotions. According to Wikipedia, as of February 2011 there are more than 156 million public blogs in existence. My friends, that’s a bunch of fingers dancing along some plastic letter and space buttons!

When I started my social media campaign to promote my book and website, I knew absolutely nothing about how to proceed. I worked with someone who specializes in just this sort of thing, and off we went into the wild blue yonder spreading the word, that I, an unknown personality, had a story to tell and product to sell.

The blogs I write, usually every week, are now read by hundreds of people on a routine basis scattered across several websites. I know, because we all have the unique ability of seeing these numbers as they happen. It’s been lots of fun doing this, and has given me the opportunity to try something I never thought of before–the successful creation of a new, part-time career.

I would venture to guess that virtually every person reading this also has more than one social media account. It doesn’t matter where, because the fact that you have them says something on its own. You see, when you hit that “create account” button a magical thing happened: you opened your life up to the whole world to notice. Shortly afterward, you started searching for people to connect with.

At first, they were those you knew personally: family members, best friends, old college and high school classmates, co-workers, etc. Then, you started getting friends and follower requests from those you’ve never even met, more than likely looking for a professional connection. No matter the reason, suddenly and miraculously, you glance at your network numbers one day and notice you’ve added hundreds of people knowing very little about them, not to mention, never meeting them personally.

Like so many, I read other writers blogs. I really enjoy the creativity which goes behind each and every one. There’s tons of gifted talent online, and you don’t need to walk inside Barnes & Noble and buy the latest bestseller to find it. It’s out here, and at everyone’s fingertips. Sometimes, I find myself reading the comments underneath different articles. Most are appreciative and congratulatory; some are often negative and critical.

Which draws to mind: Who are these people, really: the writers and those who post? What do they actually think? What are their true beliefs? Are they only writing what looks good or popular to say, therefore appearing socially and politically correct? If you met them in person, would you actually enjoy being around them or bolt for the door screaming to yourself, “Whoa, not exactly what I expected!”

Ever since I started participating in social media, I’ve had lots of personal exchanges from those I connect with, and it’s been great. Two which come to mind are one who’s a mega-bestselling author and another that had their book made into a movie. I asked for, and they followed through with some wonderful advice. They graciously gave me their time and counsel without ever even meeting them, although I would jump at the chance.

The people we all meet through social media can be priceless, but we should all guard against replacing them with real relationships, therefore substituting bona fide flesh and blood for focused words on a screen–it kind of goes along with my opinions on replacing personal communication with texting and e-mailing, it just isn’t the same. I for one would love to have a huge party someday with each and every friend, follower, fellow blogger, and whoever else I’m connected to on the internet. To spend time with them, place a hand-in-hand, watch their mannerisms, and listen to the tone of their voices as they speak. It would be an amazing adventure to actually see and sense what brought us all together inside Al Gore’s super creation (once again, Ha Ha).

Now log on and let’s connect, I’d love to meet you!

Randy Mitchell

Mr. Mitchell lives in Dallas, Texas and has spent most of his career as a commercial airline pilot. He’s an avid blogger, movie fan, martial artist, and lover of all things Dallas Cowboys. His first romance novel, Sons in the Clouds, is currently available wherever e-books are sold.

See Randy’s website, The Inspirational Writer.
Connect on Sons in the Clouds on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Watch the Sons in the Clouds book trailer.
Books available online at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader Store, Apple I-Bookstore, and KoBo.

See Randy’s guest blog from April 26, The Balance of Happiness.

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