Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Branding your platform, or platforming your brand?

When you are first thinking about starting a new blog or website, if you're like me and you go searching for tips and tricks to make it look interesting (eye-catching but easy-to-maneuver), one tip is often to make sure you know what your site's purpose is and make sure you keep the focus on that. If you blog is about being a first-time mother and is for first-time mothers, you shouldn't stray to movie reviews. If yours is a crafting blog, there shouldn't be posts about your trips to the gym. 

I've always thought this was good advice—your goal is to build a brand, so to speak, and talking about anything and everything dilutes that brand—but I've also always had a hard time sticking to that. CoffeeQuill was a blog I began because 1. I am a writer, and 2. A writer has a blog, for them to talk about their process, their stories, their tips and tricks, and the challenges and delights of publication. 

But earlier today I was reminding a friend that they are more than a writer. It can be a big part of a person's identity—it certainly is for me—but it isn't the whole of who I am. And frankly, there are only so many posts one can make about the importance of the oxford comma. (Don't get me wrong, I will defend the oxford comma to my dying breath, but there's only so many times someone wants to hear about it, and I know from experience, for someone people the number of times is often zero.) 

I am a writer, but I also love music and art and fashion and history and nature and crafting. I take photographs of the flowers around my neighborhood, and landscape pics of the sea. I sew stuffed animals and messenger bags and totes. I wire-wrap gemstones and create necklaces and bracelets. I loved sculpture when I took it in high school, and the only thing really stopping me from doing it now is space and equipment. I love fantasy art, and am essentially teaching myself Photoshop to improve my digital art and graphic art design skills. Don't get me started on my love of watching (and critiquing!) TV shows and movies. 

I have a variety of social media outlets, tumblr for the fandom primarily, twitter for short bites about important issues in the publishing and movie industries. Both of these to address, signal boost, and examine issues of privilege, equality, and representation. Facebook is for more daily life things, keeping in touch with friends I don't get to see as much. Livejournal (yes, I'm still on LJ) for personal venting and self-analysis, and for keeping in touch with some authors who also use it (I am not the only one!). And two blogs, Red-Inked Leaf for very specific editing posts (updated rarely because so much has already been said, and I don't want to rehash the same things without adding something new or different). 

That leave CoffeeQuill. As I said, it started as a writer blog, but my interests are varied. 

I made a Yakul (from Princess Mononoke) for a friend of mine.
Here's what I realized. Even though I think it's a good idea to have a focus for one's blog, there is a way to do that while still bringing in the variety of interests you have. 

That mom blog reviewing movies might do so from the perspective of someone who needs/wants to bring their child, or for whom being a mom has changed their perspective on what they find amusing or worth their time. The craft blogger talking about their time in the gym might be examining time management—how to fit in crafting with self-care or other obligations. Or they might be talking about how the gym provides them the energy to craft, or a chance to generate ideas, returning home with a lot more plans for things to make. 

I write fantasy. I create worlds that are informed by my knowledge of art and fashion and history and politics. The publishing industry is informed by and informs the world's ideas and attitudes about equality, representation, and diversity. The photographs I take sometimes become inspiration for locations, and the drawing and painting and crafting are ways for me to give my mind a break when a story is being difficult, and sometimes they help me visualize something I couldn't before. When I post about the ABC show, Once Upon A Time, I am breaking down the story structure and looking for ways to make my own writing better. When I write about white privilege, I am examining my own attitudes and seeing how they inform my writing, whether I want them to or not. 

The key is bringing it back to your platform, your brand. It's not always easy. (I'm sure there are posts where I could've done better to bring it back to the writing angle. It's a learning process.) But it's worth the effort. You get to write about something you enjoy, and you give readers a bigger glimpse into who you are. 

The author blogs I've most enjoyed have been ones that also talked about their families and pets, their daily walks, the shows they enjoy watching, and the issues that are important to them. There's more to them than just the writer, and it's okay to show that.

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