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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Blog?

Guest Post by Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn
I first met Dana Blankenhorn when I left enterprise software and was building an open source company. He was blogging about open source and two out of three of his posts I had to implement immediately. He was my teacher-from-the-cloud for over a year. He is still the only person I know who is a full-time blogger. I subscribe to his Buzz and sometimes see ten good posts in a day. We are fortunate that Dana will be on our panel at Blah, Blah Blog at the Web Managers Roundtable, on August 9.  

There are three reasons for blogging.

To advertise yourself. As journalism. As publishing.

Corporations have a habit of seeing "advertise yourself" and thinking "marketing" or "selling." That's wrong. Advertising yourself means bringing people inside your process, letting them meet your key people, helping them understand how you work, what it would be like to do business with you. If you want to market, or sell, in a traditional way, do it in a traditional way -- buy an ad. That's not blogging.

The difference between blogging and journalism is a paycheck. Journalists work for people who buy bandwidth by the gigabyte. That means we do what our editors and (ultimately) our publishers tell us to do. We follow the format. We advocate and associate ourselves with whoever the readers are, as defined by our bosses. We become the advocates for our readers, and the knowledgeable experts about them for our advertisers.

Publishing means making a market. It's advocating and organizing a place, an industry or a lifestyle. It's identifying both buyers and sellers, and creating an environment in which they can meet, understand one another, and do business. Anyone who thinks it's anything else is an amateur.

So if you want to blog, know who or what you're blogging for. If it's for yourself, do an honest inventory. What would you do for nothing? What drives you, motivates you, makes you want to get up in the morning? That's what you write about. You make yourself the only choice for knowledge about that one thing, whatever it is. And if you want to make a splash in the market, you stay focused. Opportunity will, in time, find you.

This lesson took me a long time to learn. For decades I let myself be identified purely by my publisher's interest, not my own. I was Newsbytes, I was Interactive Age, I was NetGuide, I was ZDNet. This was a mistake. I was, and am, Dana Blankenhorn. That's my product, that's my brand. I'm fortunate that it turned out I'm the only Dana Blankenhorn out there, because the etymology of my first name is Polish and that of my last name is German. If you're Joe Smith building a brand will be a little harder, but only a little. Figure out what makes Joe Smith tick and be "Joe Smith the Cuckoo Clock Guy" or "Joe Smith the Anime Guy." Whatever.

Can a corporation do this? I would argue that a corporation that doesn't do this won't stay in business. Figuring out your identity as a business, what makes you unique, what makes you special, is the only way to business success. You want to be the only choice when people want -- whatever it is you decide you're offering. The best caterer in Decatur? The best value in sump pumps? The biggest inventory of Toyotas in the Southeast? Whatever. That's what you are. Be that.

And don't be limited by media. I'm a writer. My blogs are written. But there are many other media available through which you can build an audience. Can you get your message across best through a podcast? Through video discussion? Through creative videos? Use whatever medium comes most naturally to you.

The key word is naturally. Be yourself. Be human. Be approachable, a little vulnerable. Tell stories. That's what makes any medium compelling, and that's what you're playing at here. If you can't do that, if you can't be that, you can live without blogging. Just remember that your marketing, your sales pitch, and your branding all have to do, through others, what you can do yourself through blogging. Make the people you want to impress see you as the only choice.

Check out Blah, Blah Blog at the Web Managers Roundtable, on August 9, and BlogLab, coming August 16.

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