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Personal Branding: You Are What You Write About

by Tom Johnson on May 3, 2009
categories: technical-writing

Last month I was selected as the Personal Branding Winner of the month from Jason Alba's Jibber Jobber site. I met Jason Alba at Podcamp SLC last month and enjoyed his easy-going, confident style. He said I should be charging $250 an hour for WordPress consulting, not $75. Jason's site, Jibber Jobber, is one of the most successful career sites for job seekers and career strategists.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been thinking about what being a personal branding winner means. Just six months ago, I hated using the word "brand" with blogging. It felt too much like marketing and sales. I don't necessarily write to a brand, I thought. I just write.

Then the other night I had dinner with Alan Houser of Group Wellesley. Alan (@arh) is one of the Summit chairs responsible for selecting and shaping the content of the STC Summit. As we were talking, I learned that Alan provides training and consulting on the Adobe Technical Communication Suite. This surprised me, because in the past I had seen Alan present only on DITA and XML, so I assumed DITA and XML was his niche, not the Tech Comm Suite. He said was aware of the DITA/ XML branding and wasn't sure he wanted that as his brand.

I know that I've branded myself as someone knowledgeable about blogging, podcasting, and WordPress. Being branded is always a mixed feeling. On the one hand, you do want to be recognized as someone worth listening to on specific topics. On the other hand, it always feels stifling to be categorized and labeled. Alan did acknowledge that I write about a broad range of topics on my blog.

Branding is an inevitable consequence when you pursue a specific niche. But here's the cool thing about branding and blogging: you can construct your own identity, more or less, by simply writing consistently about those topics.

For example, do you want to be an expert on XML publishing? Start an XML publishing blog. Do you want to be an expert on career management? Start a career management blog. Do you want to be an expert on cincillas? Start a blog on cincillas. You get the point.

The path to branded expertise is not so different from traditional branding paths -- it's just easier. Traditionally, to brand yourself as an expert on any topic, you publish articles in journals, you write books, you give presentations, etc.

The difference is that with blogs, you can just start writing, publishing, and presenting without the hassle of editorial rejection and filtering. Your content still appears in a print form online (or in audio or video), and to the general reader, seeing you expound on a topic in a semi-interesting way is enough to persuade him or her that you know what you're talking about.

In sum, just as blogs simplify publishing, they also simplify and streamline identity management. The real question is deciding who you want to be.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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