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Riding for the Brand

Everywhere you look these days, somebody is talking about brands. Gotta have one. Especially if you’re a writer. Well, how about that? This may be the first time I’ve ever been ahead of the pack. I’ve had my brand since I was a kid.

Actually, that’s not my brand. It belongs to my parents. It is registered in their name with the Montana State Department of Livestock for use only on horses, and only on the right hip. No one else in the state is supposed to use that specific brand in that specific location.

My parents have been raising and training horses for the entire fifty two years since they were married and they’ve been putting that brand on them for most of those years. There are a sizeable number of people who know when they see a Reverse K Bar on the right hip of a rope horse, it’s probably going to be a good one.

People don’t call us when they want a cutting horse or a reining horse. That’s not what we do. If they need someone to train a steer wrestling horse, we’re not going to be at the top of their list. But if they want to rope, there’s a good chance my dad will get a call.

My parents have built their brand in every sense of the word.

No matter what you’re selling, whether it’s horses or books or your blog, you have to start by answering two questions. What is my product? Who are my customers? Until you’ve answered those questions, you are more likely to create confusion than an audience.

When a reader clicks on the link to your blog, what are they going to find? A laugh? Information? Poetry? Deep thoughts? Political commentary? Gorgeous photos? A combination of the above? What are you offering that they can’t get anywhere else?

Mandatory disclaimer: I am not an expert on blogging by any stretch of the imagination. What I share here is my personal experience, both as a reader and as a blogger. Nothing more.

I am lucky that my personal blog is a natural extension of my lifestyle, which is apparently unique enough to be entertaining. I suspect I also attract the same kind of folks who rubberneck car wrecks. (As in, “Oh, dear Lord, what did she do now?”) I keep the content on my blog pretty consistent, alternating between short humor pieces, photo-journal style posts of people, places and events I think my readers will enjoy, and educational posts about ranch and rodeo life.

I do not write about writing on that blog. Why? Because of question number two: Who are my customers?

A lot of the people who follow my personal blog are writers. Not because it has anything to do with writing, but because they are a part of the community I interact with on Twitter, and they visit my blog via links I tweet.

A whole lot more of my followers are not writers. They are other rural folks who can relate to our trials and tribulations, friends of my parents, people who want to see more of what they get from my newspaper column. They are from places like Ireland and Scotland and are awed to learn that cowboys didn’t go extinct along with the dinosaurs. They could care less about point of view or character arcs or author branding. They come for a giggle, for a peek into a world most will never experience first hand, and because watching me wade through the snow and mud and cow poop makes them feel better about their career choices.

If I mixed in a post about writing every week, I would dilute their interest. Oh. It’s one of THOSE days. Back arrow. And next time they have five minutes and half a dozen blogs to choose from, they might click on someone else’s link because they can count on that person to deliver a consistent product. I have, in fact, gone so far as to ask a friend to let me do a guest post on their blog if there’s something I want to write about that doesn’t fit my ‘brand’.

Does this mean you should never experiment? Never stretch your limits? Of course not. It’s a necessary part of discovering yourself as a writer. Or you may begin your blog with a clear concept only to learn it just doesn’t work. Short, semi-non-fiction humor is my wheelhouse. It comes easily to me, and my writer’s voice suits the genre. That isn’t true of everyone. I don’t expect every writer can or would even want to replicate what I do.

Understand, though, until you find your product, you won’t find your audience. You won’t build a base of loyal readers who click on your blog link every time until they know what to expect for their effort. And you have to give them bang for their cyber-buck. There’s a whole lot of competition for their attention. Quality, quality, and more quality. When it comes to short humor especially, I try not to throw anything onto my blog that I wouldn’t be willing to submit to my newspapers.

So…what are you giving to your readers? And who are those people anyway?

Kari Lynn Dell

Montana For Real

**For those who are interested in such things, the three horses pictured are Nico, Scotchman and Bailey. They are dun, sorrel and brown. Or maybe a bay. Bailey can go either way.


Addendum:  I thought it might be helpful to share some very different writer’s blogs that are on my must read list as examples of what you can do.

Suzy Hayze is just an amazing writer. I’ve had the privilege of reading part of her novel, and I can say that her blog does an awesome job of reflecting her ‘brand’. It also never fails to make me think, or wow me with the sheer beauty of the imagery.

Tawna Fenske will make you snort soda on a regular basis, as will Linda Grimes.

I can’t even define what Elizabeth Black does. I just know I like it.






6 Responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this! I have a 2nd personal blog that has been pitifully neglected of late. but I do the same there. there is no writing life on that blog. it’s not what’s for.

  2. So, do you have that backwards K tattooed on your right hip, by any chance? 😉

    Not sure if I’m branding myself correctly, but I hope people visit my blog knowing they’re likely to get a chuckle out of it. Which, incidentally, is why I hope they’ll read any books I manage to get published in the future. *knocks wood, tosses salt, spits twice* (Er, not that I’m superstitious…)

  3. Ok – honest confession here…if I click on a blog and the discussion is writing, I move on. I go to blogs that entertain me, make me laugh, give me a view in the the author’s life. I love the blogs that tell me about things about which I have no idea…how a saddle is made, how to rope a calf, etc.

    I LOVE the videos of your life. The roping. The hay hauler diet!

    That’s why I come back.

  4. Awesome post — a lot to think about, and I have to go do that before I can say anything worth sharing, but just wanted to “thumbs up.”

    This has definitely given me some food for thought before I return to my own blogging in November.

    It’s a good argument against scheduling “theme of the day” scheduled posts as well, which I tried for a while, and it was okay, but I got bored, and it does split your audience — but this is a nice way to draw in mixed readers/audiences as well through another area of expertise.



  5. Keri: It’s hard to keep up with more than one blog. I don’t know how people do it and keep the quality up there.

    Linda: No. My registered brand is a K Walking Y on the left rib. *flashes belly* And I find your blog very entertaining. It’s on my subscription list.

    Cyndi: Thanks. Like I said, I am lucky to have a lifestyle that lends itself to blogging. And I’m like you…I don’t read writing blogs much, with a few exceptions. I read Bill Cameron’s rare posts because they are gold. Sean Ferrell and Jeffrey Somers mostly just poke fun at writers, and they’re hilarious. And Tawna Fenske does a better job of melding writing with entertainment than any blog I’ve read.

    Samantha: Pubbed writers are in a little different position because you’ve got more of a built in audience who are going to stop by to see what’s new. But if you want to build your blog as an entity in and of itself, I think you need a different approach than one that’s built just for book promo.

  6. What a great post. I am taking MBA Marketing this semester and Branding is one of the main topics we have been working on. What is your Brand and who are you Marketing too?

    Your Target audience is so important when deciding your marketing strategy and yes, you are definitely using a marketing strategy when you put yourself out there for your readers.

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and your perspective on it.

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