I've covered the topic on here before, but that doesn't mean everyone reads every post--or that I do a good job of communicating my message in every post. So I'm going to tackle each of these questions in order.
What is branding?
The short and sweet answer is that branding is how someone communicates the image (and hopefully identity) of a product, service, or whatever. For instance, Kroger grocery stores have recently been branding themselves as a place that has shorter waiting times for customers at check out (image)--and they've been following it up (at least in Duluth, Georgia) by opening lanes on the spot to keep lines from forming (identity).
|What sets you apart as a writer?|
Writers might brand themselves as fast and affordable, but what sets many apart is their unique voices and/or subjects they handle. If I had to peg my own brand, I'd probably say that Robert Lee Brewer is an expert on the business of writing who also enjoys the art and craft of poetry. I might also take it a step further by claiming to be nice and helpful.
Branding is not about selling stuff as much as it is about effectively communicating who you are or what sets you apart from everyone else. In a way, I guess branding (whether for yourself, a book, or a webinar) is your USP (or unique selling point).
What is a writer platform?
A writer platform is a combination of tools that--when used effectively--help writers brand themselves. The writer platform is not used to sell specific products and services exactly; it's used to communicate who the writer is and build confidence in the writer's authority, whether the writer handles parenting topics or pens horror novels.
Recently, someone made a comment on one of the platform-related posts that a platform isn't useful unless you have a product to sell (a book, a webinar, a course), but I don't agree with that assessment completely. Sure, it's going to put more money in your pocket if you have something relevant and worthwhile to sell as you build your platform. But even that product would add to your writer platform; it's another part of your brand.
Writers start building a platform from day one by working on the craft of writing. Then, they build up the courage to communicate that they write when they're locked away from other people. Eventually, they start submitting their writing--and then, that writing starts getting published. All this adds to the momentum of the writer platform. Eventually, some writers find that their platforms are solid enough that people start coming to them with projects.
Why should I care?
Earlier today, I read an interesting article on Poynter about Forbes.com's contributed content model of publishing. It's having great results for Forbes, and it's changing the way journalists have to view their work and their way of earning a living. In the article, the author (Jeff Sonderman) writes, "If this is the future, journalists may need to prepare for living every day like a hustle — leaning on their personal brands and piecing together a multi-stream income. But then again, we were never in it for the money."
I've felt for a long time that the contributed content (or "entrepreneurial journalism") method is one of the most likely to succeed for publishing in the future. While I don't think every outlet will adopt this model, I think it's success with Forbes.com--in addition to the success of sites like Wikipedia--underscores how the traditional role of a "writer" is changing.
I think writers should care, because it will become increasingly dangerous and foolish for writers to build their brands around a book or a webinar or a course. Instead, writers would be wise to brand themselves as the product offering various services, whether that's writing an article, completing a book, leading a webinar, or speaking at an event.
Circling back to Kroger, the grocery store doesn't brand itself as a carton of eggs or a gallon of milk. Instead, Kroger is the helpful and reliable place you go to find eggs, milk, or a number of other things, and they'll get you checked out quickly.
If a writer has a strong brand, it won't matter if the future is in print publishing, e-publishing, traditional publishing, self-publishing, education, apps, or a combination of several products and services. What will matter is that customers (editors, agents, publishers, and readers) will know that you're the person to see about subjects x, y, and z.
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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:
- How to Build (or Improve) Your Writer Platform in 30 Days.
- How to Brand Yourself (and Take Over the World).
- The Newest Way to Make Money as a Writer: How to Make Digital Products That Sell.