Recently, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming book called One Great Idea! I was thrilled to be asked. I accepted immediately. Then, reality set in, as I asked myself “what is my one great idea?” I had to think about this one for a while. All of a sudden it became obvious—branding by blogging.
As a small business owner, I have long recognized the importance of branding. As a small business owner whose brand is me, I have recognized the importance of personal branding. I am a keynote speaker, executive coach, organization effectiveness consultant, and author. I am my business; therefore, my brand needs to speak for me.
When I decided that I needed to brand myself, I began by asking everybody I know a simple question. “When you think of me, what is the first thing that comes to mind?” An overwhelming number of people said, “Your common sense approach to business and life.” My first reaction was, “Uh oh, common sense doesn’t make for much of a brand.” Then I started to think about it a little more.
I’d read several very interesting books about personal branding. The best is Career Distinction: Standing Out by Building Your Brand, by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson. Be Your Own Brand, by David McNally and Karl Speak; The Brand You 50, by Tom Peters and The Personal Branding Phenomenon and The Brand Called You, both by Peter Montoya are also helpful books on personal branding. I also read several interesting e-books by William Arruda: 1–2–3 Success! for Coaches, 1–2–3 Success! for Entrepreneurs, and The Brand Discovery Workbook. A few things stood out in my reading:
- An effective personal brand is authentic—it reflects the true character of the individual being branded.
- An effective personal brand repels as many people as it attracts.
- An effective personal brand is consistent.
As I started thinking about what my friends and clients said, and combined their comments with what I’d learned about personal branding from my research, I began to get comfortable with common sense as the driver for my brand.
Common sense met the three tests:
Authenticity—From what people told me, and what I believe about myself, common sense is an authentic representation of who I am.
Attract/Repel—Most of my clients tell me they choose me because of my down-to-earth, common sense style, and approach. On the other hand, I have lost business because some prospective clients decided that my common sense approach was not “heady” enough for them and their organizational culture.
Consistency—As Popeye says “I yam what I yam.” I don’t change my style to try to please a prospective client. I present myself as someone who can help them with their needs by helping them figure out and apply common sense solutions.
So common sense was emerging as the theme of my brand. However, I was still unsure of a tag line for my brand. I experimented with a few things. “Common Sense Coach” was too narrow. I do things other than coaching. “Common Sense Guru” sounded too pompous and New Age all at once. “Common Sense Doctor” (a play on my educational credentials) sounded too much like a medical doctor, etc.
One day I was having a conversation about my brand tag line dilemma with a friend. I was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t come up with a good tag line. I said something like, “There’s this guy who calls himself ‘The Goals Guy,’ I wish I had enough guts to call myself ‘The Common Sense Guy.’ She said, “What’s wrong with ‘The Common Sense Guy’?”
I hemmed and hawed and said things like, “It’s kind of pedestrian; it’s too informal; there’s already a goals guy.” As I heard myself speaking, I realized I was rationalizing. I have often said to people who were impressed with something I’d done—graduated from Harvard, started a business, written a book—“I’m just a guy.” And, I had already established that I approach my work in a common sense manner. So why not become The Common Sense Guy?
First, I trademarked “The Common Sense Guy” Then, I went to the Colorado Department of Revenue and registered “Common Sense Guy” as a trade name. I redid my www.BudBilanich.com Web site. I added a section called “Personal Characteristics.” I listed some words to describe me: Common Sense headed the list, followed by Cancer Survivor, Sports Fan, Optimist, Books and Movies, Rugby, Bicycling, The Power of One. I had taken the first step in branding myself as The Common Sense Guy.
My Common Sense Guy brand met the first two of the three tests—it was authentic and it was likely to repel some people while attracting others. I felt comfortable with it. It captured what I’m all about. It resonated with most, but not all, people. I figured I was on to something good. Now, I just needed to figure out how to meet the third test—consistency.
I began with my books. I have published six books. The last four all have references to common sense on the cover or in the title. For example: The cover of 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations has the teaser Common Sense, Uncommon Wisdom; Fixing Performance Problems is subtitled Common Sense Ideas That Work; Solving Performance Problems is subtitled A Common Sense Guide for Leaders at all Levels; Leading With Values is subtitled Eight Common Sense Leadership Strategies for Bringing Organizational Values to Life. A new ebook, Straight Talk for Success: Common Sense Ideas That Won'd Let You Down, will be out in early 2008.
My business cards and stationary say:
The Common Sense Guy
“Common sense solutions to tough business problems”
I have several Web sites: www.BudBilanich.com is my flagship site. It tells visitors everything they could possibly want to know about me; www.CommonSenseKeynotes.com is my keynote speaker web site; www.CommonSenseCoach.com is my executive coaching website. My blogs www.CommonSenseGuy.com and www.SuccessCommonSense.com help me reinforce my common sense message everyday.
www.CommonSenseGuy.com has really helped me promote myself and my Common Sense Guy brand. One way I promote my common sense brand on the blog is simple: At the end of most of my posts I begin a paragraph with the following words, “So the common sense point here is . . .” Then I go on to explicitly state the common sense idea behind the post.
When I began www.CommonSenseGuy.com, I described it as “a blog devoted to building a great career, leading people, and running a small business.” I have done a pretty good job of maintaining these three foci.
However, recently I decided that I could do a better and more focused job by splitting off my career advice and creating a new blog, while keeping www.CommonSenseGuy.com focused on leadership and running a small business. I created a new blog to highlight my career and life success thinking and to promote my coaching business: www.SuccessCommonSense.com. I used this blog as the early content for my Straight Talk for Success book.
www.SuccessCommonSense.com is very focused. The model on which it is based, has five points:
- Self Confidence
- Personal Impact
- Outstanding Performance
- Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Competence
I post about one of these categories every day on this blog. Monday is self confidence day; Tuesday is personal impact day; Wednesday, outstanding performance; Thursday, communication skills, and Friday, interpersonal competence. In this way, I have been able to accomplish two things: I reinforce my common sense brand and I reinforce the ideas in my Straight Talk book.
By always posting on the one subject every day, I provide readers with a simple, easy way to locate information of interest to them.
I haven’t forgotten www.CommonSenseGuy.com. In fact, I have sharpened its focus too. In 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations, I presented four fundamentals for running a business and leading people:
- Establish and clearly communicate clarity of purpose and direction.
- Enlist the sincere commitment of everyone in an organization.
- Skillfully execute the things that matter.
- Build mutually beneficial relationships with important outside constituencies.
This clarity, commitment, execution, relationships model is the basis of my consulting work. I use it as a diagnostic tool as well as a way to structure interventions.
Blogging has helped me gain an international reputation and build my Common Sense Guy brand. I’ve received comments on my blog posts from people in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia—I’m still waiting for the first comment from Africa. I’ve booked speaking, coaching, and consulting engagements as a result of my blogging. People send me their books to review on my blogs. Other people have requested my books to review on their blogs. I get calls to appear as a teleseminar guest. I had to open a merchant account to accept credit cards because I began getting orders for my books. I raised over $2,500 for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. I’ve made new friends and developed new partnerships—all as a result of my blogs.
So my One Great Idea! is branding by blogging. Anyone in business needs a solid brand. Mine is the Common Sense Guy. However, having a well thought out brand is not enough. All brands need exposure. Blogging is the best way I know to get that type of exposure.