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Bamboo Project Readers' Guide to Blogging for Personal Branding

Last week, I asked my readers to share their best advice for using a blog for personal branding and job searching. As usual, I got some incredibly thoughtful and helpful responses that merit elevation to a new post. I've also added some links and other resources. So below is the Bamboo Project Readers' Guide to Blogging for Personal Branding.

Should You Blog?
To the question of "Should I Blog?" the answer for most professionals is "Yes." Google is often the first place people turn  for information on potential employees and as we've discussed before, Google is not a search engine, but a reputation management tool.

Monitoring and managing your online reputation is a critical career management skill and your blog can be THE best tool you have to maintain that reputation.

A blog can:

  • Improve your search engine rankings
  • Establish you as a "thought leader" in your profession--someone with an opinion, credibility and a point of view.
  • Show potential employers and/or clients how you operate in a way that's more meaningful than what you put on your resume or how you answer questions in your interview.
  • Provide you with a valuable way to network with others who are online, expanding your connections and exposing you to new people and ideas. 
  • Be a valuable tool for your own ongoing learning and professional development.

All my commenters are bloggers themselves, so clearly they believe that blogging is an important part of the branding process, too.

Heather Carpenter shared a paper that she wrote based on interviews with Rosetta Thurman, Trista Harris and Sean Stanndard Stockton, all of whom have experienced incredible career growth as a result of their blogging experiences. If you want to read some real-life stories of how blogging has accelerated several careers, definitely check out Heather's paper.

Sacha Chua, another poster child for how blogging can support personal branding, offers additional advice in her presentation, Networking 2.0: Blogging Your Way out of a Job Into a Career (see above). She points out that blogging can help you develop your passions, build skills and make networking contacts, all of which are essential components of building your brand.

And if you need a final bit of convincing, then see what Tom Peters and Seth Godin have to say.

Time When Should You Start a Blog?

The entire issue of blogging for branding arose from a conversation we had in our first Career Commons webinar last week. Several people indicated they were in the process of starting up a blog as part of their job search, which raised the question of whether or not professionals should be blogging and, if so, how did that fit into the job search process?

Ideally, you should start a blog BEFORE you're in the market for a new job. As Catherine Lombardozzi pointed out, "Blogging for personal branding may be more productive as an ongoing strategy than a job-hunting one when you're in a crunch. Branding takes time..."

Tony Karrer, echoed this thought, pointing out that time spent on blogging is time NOT spent on your job search.

I would argue that the time to start a blog is NOW. If you are not actively job searching, then you'll have more of an opportunity to begin developing your brand over time.This is the ideal situation if you can do it.

However, if you ARE actively job searching, I still think it's worth spending time on setting up and maintaining a blog. It can:

  • Serve as an online portfolio and as a hub for all of your online identities and connections (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). 
  • Be your platform for connecting to other bloggers and the conversations happening within your industry and profession.
  • Provide you with a way to show your ongoing engagement with topics in your industry and profession and help you stay up-to-date on what's happening. This can be particularly important when you're unemployed.

Just don't get so hung up on blogging that you forget to spend time on actually looking for work! Set up your blog and then spend a few hours a week working on it. The rest of your time should be spent on making connections and working your network.

What Should You Write About?

Clearly if you're using a blog for professional branding purposes, your blog should focus on topics related to the skills, interests, and ideas you want to showcase as being key to your brand.

Clark Quinn said:

They should write posts talking about the things that interest them (positively or negatively) in the field they want to work in. That is, riff intelligently about the field. Chronicle new ideas, reflect on some issues, be constructively critical. You're showing that you're an active thinker in the field.

Catherine offered this advice:

Consider defining what you want the blog to be about - for a "personal branding" blog, you don't want to just post about whatever comes into your head. It should be about the area(s) in which you want to be seen as a thought leader or expert.

And Sacha said:

Read. A lot. Read blogs, books, and anything else you can get your hands on about the field or industry you want to be in. This will give you plenty of material to write about.

Join the conversation. Find other bloggers and comment on interesting posts. If you have more to say, write a blog post and link back.

Write about your experiences and what you're learning from them. Write about what you do and how you can do it even better. Teach people as you learn.

Create value. Don't worry about the number of readers you have or the number of comments you get (or the lack of either). Write things that are useful for you, then use that practice to write things that are useful for others, and then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to help others. When you answer an e-mail with generally useful information, spend a few extra minutes on putting that into your blog, where it can create more value for others. Think of ways you can help others, and use your blog to reach more people than your initial audience.

I would also recommend looking for blogs written by others in your industry or profession to see what kinds of conversations are happening. (Here's a good article on some ways to do that).

What are the topics people are talking about? Where are there gaps that you might be able to fill through your expertise or ideas? What questions are raised by what you're reading and what answers are you finding in response to those questions?

From a purely practical point of view, you might also want to check out these different types of blog posts--they can give you some ideas on the kinds of posts you could start writing. Just apply the basic posting types to the content in your field and see what you can come up with. (For example, this post is a combination of advice, collation, and link posting.)

Moocards How Often Should You Write?

Most of us live in a perpetual time crunch, so the issue of how often to post is a pressing one for many new bloggers. From reader comments, it appears that frequency of posting ranges from once a day to once a week.

Said Clark:

I try to hit a post a business day. I don't get there, it's more like 3-4/week, but it's my goal. More than one a day I think puts a burden on your audience. May seem too frenetic. Tweets are for short thoughts, blogs are for more reflections. Of course, it may depend on your field; maybe it's important that you're processing and reacting to an ongoing slew of announcements of new products, pieces, etc (ala Engadget or Gizmodo).

I'm like Clark, shooting for once per business day, although not always hitting the mark, depending on what's happening elsewhere in my life.

Catherine favors once a week:

I find a commitment of one blog post per week is a good pace. I think it's frequent enough so people won't lose interest in monitoring the blog, but far enough apart that I have time to ruminate on a good topic. It takes me several hours to write a blog post, so I can't be doing it every day at this point.

And Sacha says at least once a week, but try for more often:

Write at least once a week. You don't have to write every day, although you'll get the most benefits from blogging when it becomes a natural part of the way you do things. Learn something? Blog. Do something? Blog. Got through another week? Blog about your achievements and your plans for the next week.

Most bloggers find that if they are writing shorter posts, once a day can work, but if they are doing longer, more thoughtful posts, then once or twice a week is your best bet. Plus most readers can't handle really long posts every day.

The point, as Soha El-Borno pointed out, is to get in the habit of writing regularly. You should also be sure that whatever you're writing is creating value, as Sacha mentioned earlier. Better to write nothing, than to write just for the sake of writing.

What About "Voice?"

Another issues that many new bloggers worry about when they are blogging for branding is their "voice." More to the point--what's the balance between sounding "professional" and sounding like a human being?

Catherine reminds people that it's OK to let your personality show, something I agree is critically important. Blogging, by nature, is a medium that invites you to have an opinion, to tell stories and to show who you are.

If you take the time to check out other bloggers in your professional space, you'll find that there is usually a range of "voices" from the purely professional to the sometimes irreverent. Each blogger has to find his/her own way on this, but in general, the more "you" that shines through, the better. 

It's Not Just About YOUR Blog

As several readers pointed out, blogging for personal branding is not just about writing your own blog posts. It's also about connecting to other bloggers and participating in the conversations happening elsewhere online. 

Said Catherine:

To be visible, find ways to get your blog out there... answering other's blogs is a terrific start - especially Learning Circuits and like forums. Respond to hot topics on other's blogs - I've found some of my favorites by following links when I was reading a comment trail on a particularly interesting post.

Soha echoed this:

Make friends and link to other bloggers. Add your point of view. . . . always leave comments and connect.

And Tony offered this advice:

I would highly recommend the trick of engaging in interesting conversations with some of the bigger bloggers in the persons space.

For example, if you are in the world of eLearning, you should definitely engage me around one of my conversation topics.

If you're blogging for branding, keep in mind that blogging is not simply the act of posting to your own blog. It's also interacting with people who leave comments in your blog and the comments you leave on others' blogs.

It's all part of a package and for blogging to work as a strategy for branding, you have to be prepared to visit and comment on other blogs as well. (For more advice/ideas and practice in commenting, check out the Comment Challenge activities)

Additional Advice

A few commenters had some additional advice:

Clark suggested:

Pick a good name (.blogspot or .wordpress is okay, but have a good 'meme'), and pick a professional design.

Ideally, have a branding that follows through on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.

Make it easy for people to follow (make your RSS feed easy, and have an email link, ala FeedBlitz).

Have different topics, and list your categories. Have a blogroll of people you follow. Do follow other folks, go out and comment on their posts; let people know you're active and supportive.

And Catherine said:

Personally, I generate readers when I teach, and when I present at conferences, plus I put my blog URL in appropriate e-mails and other communications. Getting listed in eLearningLearning has also helped.

Additional Resources
I'm going to close this post with some additional resources and links that might be helpful. And a BIG thank you to all the readers who commented and shared their advice. I think that together, we came up with a great (if a little overwhelming) guide!

UPDATE--Check out this post on blogging when your industry/occupation isn't that into it.

Flickr photos via Tonivc and  mexicanwave

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Comments

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Michele, this post kicks butt! I've already bookmarked and tweeted it. Thanks for the great resources you continue to share.

As usual, great article Michele. Thanks especially for including the additional resources. They're a goldmine of ideas and advice.

What a great summary! Thanks for wrapping everything up so nicely. =)

What a great summary! Thanks for wrapping everything up so nicely. =)

Your blog is nice.
I agree that a blog can help give an added boost to the job profile. As companies are now starting their own blog, it would be good if you have prior knowledge

Michael this is an excellent and useful post. I would have understood better about blogging and commenting on blogs earlier if I had someone tell me this stuff before. Anyway I have started but I'm not that regular yet.

Thanks for sharing all this!

Sreya

Great, fully agree that this is how blogging worked for me. However, it doesn't work for all professionals is my observation...

Great post...tons of detail and facts to back up your observations! Definitely recommending this to others.

I'm a recruiter and agree blogging helps any candidate get credibility. It demonstrates an expertise in your field. Companies can use this to find you and know your abilities before hiring you. Recruiters do the same thing.
Blogging is a great way to brand yourself.

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