Branding Thyself and Other Comment Challenge Ideas

(Playing catch-up today)

1. The other day, the task before folks in the 31 Day Comment Challenge was to consider how to best brand ourselves as part of our blog. I mulled this over, ignored it, then mulled it again, and then realized that I was having reservations about this topic. I wrote a comment over at Michele’s blog, where the tasks are being released each day, about my thoughts.

Here is what I wrote:

Hi there, Michele,
You know, I saw this task and ignored it, and then I went back and tried to figure out why I did not want to write about “branding.” I think it has to do with the perception that a brand is a commercial endeavor — the selling of self and ideas for some sort of profit (maybe not money, but recognition?).
And that rubs me the wrong way, although I know that some folks are making their blogging into their business. And a brand makes that easier.
I did read the post by Dauwd, which did explain the topic but I felt unconvinced by it all.
This issue of branding must touch some strain in me, so I am opting to pass on the branding questions for now.
Thanks, however, for giving me a platform here to express some thoughts. I expect others will disagree with me on this one, which if fine.

take care

What do you think? Was I misreading the whole “branding” idea? I would love to know if folks see the idea of a brand as important to you as a blogger and visitor to other sites. For me, I am looking for reflection, insight and personality — but maybe that is the “brand” that Michele is writing about.

The one thing that Dauwd wrote in the article reference in this task is that he realized at one point that he had multiple user names and nicknames floating all around the blogosphere and he made an effort to bring all of those personas under one “roof,” to speak. He hopes that people who see his name in comments and in article and on blogs will connect with him, and him alone.

2. I may just be cranky, but the next task was to consider how you use commenting to keep building the brand of your blog. Michele pointed us to an article that was interesting but the one fact that kept point out to me: the blogger uses the concept of comments in order to bring people back to her own blog. That seems disingenuous to me. I know it is a common reason for many to blog. But not me. I comment because I want to have a voice, and I want to engage in conversation, and not that I want people to follow me back home to my blog. The blogger did have some other interesting points — mostly from a business standpoint, it seemed to me — and it occurred to me that there is some sort of invisible line here among those who blog just for the sake of writing and sharing, and those who do the same but then use blogs as a way to create a professional presence for business interests (such as consulting, workshops, etc.) Interesting insight for me, anyway.

Let me know if you have thoughts on this topic.

Peace (in words),

  1. Hi Kevin–I responded to your comment over on my blog, but also wanted to say something here. I do think that whether we like it or not, we communicate a personal brand through our online behaviors. What we write on our blogs, what we write in comments on other blogs, our Facebook profiles, our Tweets, our ratings on Amazon–these all communicate something about us that contributes to giving people an impression of us. When people interact with us through our blogs, they probably get the most complete and consistent view of who we are. When we comment on other blogs, that’s a less complete picture–in a few sentences we can create an impression that may or may not accurately reflect who we are or that may leave a negative impression that we didn’t intend. For me, it’s important to be aware of this issue of online identity and branding so that we can be reasonably strategic about what we do. Obviously “commercial” bloggers will probably take an even more strategic view than someone who isn’t in it to make money, but there are all kinds of online currency and our commenting behaviors can either build up or take away from that.

  2. Great points, Michele.
    What I like about all of these tasks is how it gets us thinking in different directions.
    I appreciate your thoughtful comment here. It makes me think again.

    I do like the concept of “being strategic” in what we are doing.


  3. Well if the Challenge tasks succeed in getting us to at least revisit some of what we do and how we do it, then I definitely consider them to be successful. What I’ve been enjoying about the Challenge is the opportunity to reflect on our practices and to explore alternative ways of viewing what we do. I love the discussions!

  4. I think “brand” is probably a poor choice of word for bloggers that aren’t setting out to build a following, so I understand your hesitation. Maybe a better word would have been “identity’ or “personality,” because even if you are not trying to build a following, you still want to be different from other bloggers out there, right?–with a unique voice (which I think you’ve done very well, by the way.)

  5. I appreciate the idea of branding when it comes to schools. Even though they’re not commercial endeavors, they need to be conscious of their public persona and how they serve their customers.

    In terms of blogging, however, if you view it as a personal act and view customers as secondary then I see your point. I also see my blog commenting as a way of reflecting, questioning, and changing my opinion rather than propagating a position like branding might imply.

    I see your brand, Kevin, if you must have one, as one of discovery both with technology tools, writing experiments, music, rock and roll, etc. You tend to approach topics from a lens of discovery and learning. And teaching as well, however, you don’t come at topics from a pretentious here’s the way it is as much as try this out with me, here’s what I’ve learned.

  6. @Kevin, thank you for putting so clearly what I was just confusingly feeling after reading the same posts you quote. Now I realize that I had been trying to separate “professional and non-professional” ways of blogging, so that I could extract some ideas about my branding that would not put me together with the former; perhaps it was some kind of prejudice and, @Michele, after your response I can now better understand how “branding” concerns our blogging and commenting independently of our commercial or non commercial ultimate goals. And, as “there are all kinds of on-line currency”I’ll take the advice “to be strategic” as a starting point to perform this activity that I was avoiding up til now.

  7. I prefer to think of it as “voice” rather than “brand”. This is a term that is already used to describe writing, which is the base of blogging and commenting. Image would perhaps be more germane. Branding doesn’t feel bad to me, just not the best word choice.

  8. I like “voice” as a term, too, as it defines me as a writer, and not as a product. Identity is OK, Nancy, but voice is more personal, don’t you think?
    Perhaps it is merely semantics, but words matter. Words have power and words are used for different reasons. This is likely the reason why “branding” hit me the wrong way.

    Thanks, Matt, for giving the view from outside.


  9. Tena korua

    @Alice, @Kevin – I have used the term ‘voice’ in the context of diction in the text of a comment (or post). I concur with you, Kevin, that it tends to define the writer. The brand that is associated with the ‘voice’ has the potential to connote the ‘voice’ of the writer. I see it as much the same vein as the author’s name in relation to the known works of the author.

    But the connotation that many have of the words ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ is perhaps unfortunate.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth 🙂

  10. Warning this may be a long comment 🙂 but here are my thoughts

    My thoughts are “Voice” is the emotions, imaginary and feelings we convey mainly in the text we write. Blogging is about creating our own unique, authentic voices that distinguishes us as who we are and what we stand for. We do need to be very careful with our voice because 1) the visual image people have of us will depend on the level and types of interactions and whether it is based solely on text and 2) written text can easily be misinterpreted (as can what we don’t say can be misinterpreted). For example what we think as humor may be wrongly interpreted.

    Branding is about online identity. Its how you want people to see you and be able to relate to you. If you don’t like the term brand then exchange with online identity. My personal belief is it’s important to create a constant online identity so any activity you are involved with is immediately recognised as you. I also believe that it’s better to have an identity that people can relate back to as a real person where possible. I personally find it easier to connect with people that use their real names (or what I hope are their real names 🙂 ). Definitely wish I knew all this when I first started out because dswaters does cause some identity confusion.

    When we create online identity we need to provide as much information as possible to help people recognise us as real people. People are more likely to connect once they have developed relationships; being seen as a real person helps relationship building. Text only creates one layer; photos help them visualise in their mind what we look like; videos enhance the image because they can now visualise your mannerisms, sense of humour and how you say/do things. With written text in posts we should also share aspects of the mundane and human sides of ourself so people see that human side (like how Britt told us about how he was going to make outdoor furniture on the weekend).

    Okay so getting back to building our online identity when commenting. Make sure your voice is consistent with how you post — try not to let yourself down by saying something inappropriate in a comment that you wouldn’t say in a blog post. Sign comments where possible with a consistent identity. For example when I use blogger I use the Name and URL option where possible. If that option isn’t available I sign my comment Sue Waters and insert under it the name of my blog and its link. You can also edit your blogger profile to link to your blog. I also changed my Edublogs username dswaters to Sue Waters so people can easily know who I am and don’t have to search too hard for who is this person.

  11. @Sue – I’m not so sure one can be as definite about the term ‘voice’ as you describe. Even ‘branding’ may be interpreted by some different than others, though I tend to concur with you that branding is more to do with a writer’s identity in the same way that a fingerprint is.

    Though there is overlap between how you have described ‘voice’ and my view of it, there are also some distinct differences. You alluded to some of those when you said, “written text can easily be misinterpreted”.

    I question whether there is merit in attempting to define the term ‘voice’ to such a fine degree as you have. I also question if there is a “need to be very careful with our voice”. In being very careful with our ‘voice’, far from being authentic, there is a real danger of being non-authentic. We have to ask ourselves “what are we trying to convey here?”

    Taking care with my ‘voice’ could mean that I attempt to be someone that I’m not. If I falter I may be found out, as in the witness who attempts to weave a story of lies that becomes difficult to maintain.

    But if I’m not mistaken, you are also likening ‘voice’ to something linked deeply with the integrity, thinking and feelings, possibly the psyche, that the writer possesses as well as accompanying emotions and imagery. I’m at odds with the acutance of that idea of ‘voice’.

    I can understand how a writer may want to maintain integrity and perhaps even the feelings by what you call ‘voice’, but the emotions and imagery that a writer may wish to convey must necessarily be different if there is to be some recognition that the ‘voice’ belongs to a human being. You alluded to this in part when you said, “we should also share aspects of the mundane and human sides of ourself”. I’m not suggesting that by using different ‘voices’ a writer could possibly convey a schizophrenic aspect that could be perceived, but there is even potential for this to occur legitimately.

    What’s more, a writer can legitimately use more than one ‘voice’ and with good effect. I am well aware of my own ‘voice’ as a writer when I am addressing students, for instance, quite different than when I’m addressing teaching colleagues.

    Ka kite

  12. Thanks for the interesting discussion here. It has me thinking.
    I can understand the need to focus your online persona, I suppose, but I have to say that I created this blog with the idea that it would not be just about teaching (although that clearly is one important strand) but also as a place where I would explore writing, music and other ideas that came across the path.
    I called it Kevin’s Meandering Mind for a reason. Even then, with a blank blog slate, I knew it would bring me all over the place. It is possible that I have lost some readers over time because of this, but I am fine with that. I am on a personal journey here, made public by the blog, and I need to follow that path as I see it unfolding before me. The blog just allows me to share, reflect, get feedback and move into technology in interesting ways.
    Perhaps we are just talking about two different things — voice and projected persona, and sometimes they mesh together and sometimes, they do not. It depends upon our intentions and the situation.

  13. @Ken It’s not about not being authentic but about realising “written text can easily be misinterpreted (as can what we don’t say can be misinterpreted).” Unfortunately it looks like I can’t illustrate it without providing an an example — so let me show you an example of me slipping up (*cringing*).

    I wrote a post about a presentation I was going to be doing for another organisation. I couldn’t even decide on a title so said jokingly (very tongue in cheek) “they’re screwed” in my post and asked readers for their input for ideas for the presentation. I occasionally might use this saying in speaking as a joke because anyone who knows me well knows that I work hard to do my absolute best. One of the organizers saw it and took it how it was meant; the other was really offended (understandably so). Lets be honest I had slipped up — I don’t want people thinking that I take important tasks lightly, don’t work hard to deliver the goods or can’t be trusted to do what’s expected — because that isn’t who I am. So I kept the words in the post but went in, added additional words to explain better.

    @Kevin Definitely “voice and projected persona, and sometimes they mesh together and sometimes, they do not”. Often it is a mixture of what we perceive we are conveying as opposed to how it is interpreted by others. In f2f conversations the people’s body language provides clues as to they are responding and interpreting what we are saying — we adjust accordingly our conversation to handle their body language response. I’m not sure if you have worked with people who are visually impaired; but social interaction and conversations for them are often harder because they aren’t able to read the visual clues.

  14. Pingback: Finishing My Homework as The Comment Challenge Comes To An End | Mobile Technology in TAFE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *