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Better Blog Branding: Your Blogs Hidden Messages

Body Language, or Non-Verbal Communication, is the majority of communication. Never more so than online.

OK, if you publish video or you are a podcaster you have more expressive possibilities.

For the rest of us though we have to be more careful to put across what we mean, who we are, our brand.

Your blog is communicating both intentionally and unintentionally. If there is a miscommunication there is no-one to blame but ourselves.

Audit Your Blog Brand

Take a good, long, hard look at your blog. What is it saying? Is there stuff there that shouldn’t be? Have you randomly built it up without any plan? Time to clean house.

This is not just about removing embarrassingly trivial widgets, that LOLCat picture, and the funny video of your friends stag party. (Although you might want to do that too!).

Just like in human body language, it is wrong to take one “gesture” and try to infer the whole meaning from it. If someone scratches their nose they might well be lying, but just as likely is they have an itch.

Our job with conveying the right impression with our blogs is to put together a consistent story combining all elements.

First of all you need to make sure your blog is making a good first impression. Does it instantly tell your reader where they are, who they are dealing with, what there is to read? This is all about being friendly and interesting. Many blogs are stand-offish, rather than welcoming you with open arms they make the reader do all the work. Most people won’t make the effort.

Put Your Best Dress On

Imagine you are going for an interview or meeting a client for the first time

  • How would you dress?
  • How would you behave?
  • What would you do to put the other party at ease?
  • If you were the other party, what would you look for in your non-verbal communication?

In most cases you are aiming to come across as professional and approachable, someone who can do their job but be likeable at the same time. It’s the same with your blog.

Content Might Be King, But Visuals Speak Volumes

A big part of how your blog communicates is visual. Of course blogs are about written content but your visitor will see the visuals first. We make snap decisions, our brains are hard wired to infer any given situation visually

  • Is this place “safe“? – does it look spammy?
  • Can this person be trusted? - what do I know about the author, if at all? Do they show their picture, bio?
  • Does the design appeal? – your design doesn’t have to win any awards but if it looks like it was created in 1994 you probably won’t win many fans either
  • Do I feel a connection with this blogger? – just like when you meet face to face, your visitor will look for things that make them feel on the same wavelength

We can’t all have a beautiful professionally designed template, but that is not necessary. If your design can convey trustworthiness and approachability then you will be making a good start. Perhaps you will pay for a professional design later, or maybe you need to guide your designer now, but make sure at the very least your readers first thought is “this is a blog I would like to get to know“.

Pictures = 1000 Words

One of the best ways to convey meanings is through photography. My favourite use of photography in a blog is my part-time blogging home, CopyBlogger. Each story starts with a photograph. It sets the scene and the tone and draws you in.

Your blog at the very least needs to show your own photograph somewhere. Preferably looking appropriately welcoming. I say appropriately, you don’t need to go to extremes. Consider getting a photographer friend to take a good portrait if your blog represents your company. I took my own picture while experimenting with my camera, I really need to do it properly, but it at least looks friendly (I hope).

Say It With Colour

Most people are aware that colours have meanings. Just as you are careful with colour when you dress, so should you consider what colours you dress your blog in.

  • Black = Secrets? Serious?
  • Grey = Maturity? Dull?
  • White = Purity?
  • Navy Blue = Business (IBM was “Big Blue”)?
  • Sky Blue = Optimism, a little feminine?
  • Pink = Childishly feminine?
  • Yellow = Warning, Cowardice?
  • Gold = Wealth?
  • Green = Nature?
  • Brown = Earth, History? Dirt?
  • Red = Alert, Passion, Blood?
  • Purple = Royalty?

For my blog my key colour was orange. It is a warm colour, evokes energy, positivity, while being friendly. A bonus is you don’t see it used that much. Highlights are in red, used sparingly so they stand out. Take a look now and spot where red is used. See what I did?

My business is blue, but I chose a lighter blue because it still has to reflect the customer experience which is anything but super-formal. It is blue and white which I hope evokes optimism (blue skies, etc).

The problem is while we all share some overlap in colour meanings, we also interpret them our own way, and some colour meanings are very cultural. You just have to do your best to put together the best package as possible.

This is why your whole message needs to be congruent, it is the impact of the whole that has the lasting effect.

Your colour scheme needs to work to both draw attention but also be soothingly readable. If your content is too jarringly high-contrast nobody will be able to read it but at the same time it needs enough contrast for people with poor eyesight to be included.

Wash and Brush Up

Don’t get too stressed about this. Just audit your blog and look for what message each element conveys and the combined story they are telling. Does what you are communicating fit with what you want to be communicating? Tweak to suit. Make sure you are not sending mixed messages and people will respond.

How did you decide on your blog design and layout? What other factors should you consider that I have missed? Let us know in the comments …

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Comments

  1. branding through blogging I can say is the most effective way of getting your name out and recognized. its easy and its very accessible since you are what you write

  2. branding through blogging I can say is the most effective way of getting your name out and recognized. its easy and its very accessible since you are what you write

  3. Yes I would say for the majority of us it is the single best way to create a personal brand, but also for most businesses the best way they can enhance their company brand

  4. Yes I would say for the majority of us it is the single best way to create a personal brand, but also for most businesses the best way they can enhance their company brand

  5. If it is the best way to create a personal brand then it could also be the best way to ruin your own reputation (which really is the old school word for personal branding or not?). Hence is it surely good advice to think twice about everything and to be careful about the what’s and how’s.

    Personally I find it very hard to judge these things myself. I started out with the best design I was able to make based on the template I liked the most and plan adjusting it as people comment on it or I find out what works and what doesn’t. Eventually will I probably be able to make something which suits everyone better, but if I had to go for that from day one I would still be tweaking rather than blogging I think :-)

    Isn’t it something of an obsession with photos of bloggers btw? If your looks fit your purpose then I find it to be working well. Darren, Brian Clark and yourself are good examples I think. When I see those photos they correspond very well with your blogging style and purpose, but there are also plenty of examples where I just can’t combine the two and would rather have missed the photo altogether.

  6. If it is the best way to create a personal brand then it could also be the best way to ruin your own reputation (which really is the old school word for personal branding or not?). Hence is it surely good advice to think twice about everything and to be careful about the what’s and how’s.

    Personally I find it very hard to judge these things myself. I started out with the best design I was able to make based on the template I liked the most and plan adjusting it as people comment on it or I find out what works and what doesn’t. Eventually will I probably be able to make something which suits everyone better, but if I had to go for that from day one I would still be tweaking rather than blogging I think :-)

    Isn’t it something of an obsession with photos of bloggers btw? If your looks fit your purpose then I find it to be working well. Darren, Brian Clark and yourself are good examples I think. When I see those photos they correspond very well with your blogging style and purpose, but there are also plenty of examples where I just can’t combine the two and would rather have missed the photo altogether.

  7. People have to use good judgement whenever they communicate. You can cause good or bad effects with your resume/marketing, your interview/pitching technique, even the way you shake hands. Better that people try to put forward a good impression than hide away in fear, right?

    Powerful tools work both ways, it is up to us to handle them carefully.

    The same can be said about photography. Some could be ill advised. You will notice there is very little photography on this blog, in fact I am getting far too wordy :) But in most cases at the very least a photograph of the author goes a long way to build trust.

  8. People have to use good judgement whenever they communicate. You can cause good or bad effects with your resume/marketing, your interview/pitching technique, even the way you shake hands. Better that people try to put forward a good impression than hide away in fear, right?

    Powerful tools work both ways, it is up to us to handle them carefully.

    The same can be said about photography. Some could be ill advised. You will notice there is very little photography on this blog, in fact I am getting far too wordy :) But in most cases at the very least a photograph of the author goes a long way to build trust.

  9. Chris, I really appreciate how, even though you have over 3,000 subscribers, you still take the time to respond to most comments personally. I think that’s regrettably rare among top bloggers. Thanks for the personal attention! You make us readers feel appreciated :)
    Anyway, as to your post… I like what you said about color and it made me notice that you don’t use pure white for your background color. It is unusual, in my experience, to see that and it’s so much easier on my eyes! There is still enough contrast, but not so much that it’s jarring. It makes me think you put effort into choosing your colors. You also have the orange that helps links jump out and makes your information easy to scan (but I read the whole article, naturally!)

  10. Chris, I really appreciate how, even though you have over 3,000 subscribers, you still take the time to respond to most comments personally. I think that’s regrettably rare among top bloggers. Thanks for the personal attention! You make us readers feel appreciated :)

    Anyway, as to your post… I like what you said about color and it made me notice that you don’t use pure white for your background color. It is unusual, in my experience, to see that and it’s so much easier on my eyes! There is still enough contrast, but not so much that it’s jarring. It makes me think you put effort into choosing your colors. You also have the orange that helps links jump out and makes your information easy to scan (but I read the whole article, naturally!)

  11. I do make an effort to answer as many comments as I can because it is how I like to be treated myself :)

    The design of this blog is mostly tweaked based on another original design and I will be getting a professional version done soon but the color choices are very intentional, that they work might well be as much luck as I am not a designer by any means :)

  12. I do make an effort to answer as many comments as I can because it is how I like to be treated myself :)

    The design of this blog is mostly tweaked based on another original design and I will be getting a professional version done soon but the color choices are very intentional, that they work might well be as much luck as I am not a designer by any means :)

  13. If the author looks as friendly and trustworthy as you it surely does :-)
    It is a very interesting way to look at content and design though. I would normally talk about content and form I guess, but seeing the design as another kind of communication really sets new thoughts and ideas free.
    Does trust not ultimately have to be won through what you write though? That you put your face on it is telling me that you stand behind what you write, but that will only work as long as you write as you do. Any other kind of writing would deem the photo useless in gaining trust would it not?

  14. If the author looks as friendly and trustworthy as you it surely does :-)

    It is a very interesting way to look at content and design though. I would normally talk about content and form I guess, but seeing the design as another kind of communication really sets new thoughts and ideas free.

    Does trust not ultimately have to be won through what you write though? That you put your face on it is telling me that you stand behind what you write, but that will only work as long as you write as you do. Any other kind of writing would deem the photo useless in gaining trust would it not?

  15. Yes trust is an ongoing process. As I say in the post, you have to look at the whole and not just the individual details – the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

    In the end, while we look for trust or warning signs, the final experience is what matters most, does the actual “product” live up to our branding?

    We need excellent content/product/services/customer experience, but in order to get people to consume we first need excellent packaging and promotion :)

  16. Yes trust is an ongoing process. As I say in the post, you have to look at the whole and not just the individual details – the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

    In the end, while we look for trust or warning signs, the final experience is what matters most, does the actual “product” live up to our branding?

    We need excellent content/product/services/customer experience, but in order to get people to consume we first need excellent packaging and promotion :)

  17. As Jan just mentioned, the friendly smile as much as the colour scheme is a big part of the ChrisG brand, warm, approachable, and instantly recognizable on toolbar or in bookmarks.

    I’m not much for “matchy-poo” in interior design, but in blogging it would seem to make sense to match up the header graphics and favicon and avatar, etc… what do others think?

  18. As Jan just mentioned, the friendly smile as much as the colour scheme is a big part of the ChrisG brand, warm, approachable, and instantly recognizable on toolbar or in bookmarks.

    I’m not much for “matchy-poo” in interior design, but in blogging it would seem to make sense to match up the header graphics and favicon and avatar, etc… what do others think?

  19. something a lot of businesses do is to build up a brand scorecard. on one axis note down the elements you’re going to use to communicate your brand. on the other axis, note down every single touchpoint between the business & customers. make sure you haven’t left anything out &, whenever you update any of your brand elements, make sure they’re up to date on each of your touchpoints.

  20. something a lot of businesses do is to build up a brand scorecard. on one axis note down the elements you’re going to use to communicate your brand. on the other axis, note down every single touchpoint between the business & customers. make sure you haven’t left anything out &, whenever you update any of your brand elements, make sure they’re up to date on each of your touchpoints.

  21. I have noticed also that some styles of writing are more inviting also. The voice that comes out in our writing style can also go along way to letting readers know who you are. I generally write just as I would be speaking the same words. I notice alot of blog content is written in a similar style. Much different than say a newspaper or magazine article. Although I write a monthly magazine article on technology it is still written as I write here and in my blog.

    Great post Chris…I specially like the part about color. Since I just today ported my blog to WordPress I have a blank slate to start with color and a theme.

  22. I have noticed also that some styles of writing are more inviting also. The voice that comes out in our writing style can also go along way to letting readers know who you are. I generally write just as I would be speaking the same words. I notice alot of blog content is written in a similar style. Much different than say a newspaper or magazine article. Although I write a monthly magazine article on technology it is still written as I write here and in my blog.

    Great post Chris…I specially like the part about color. Since I just today ported my blog to WordPress I have a blank slate to start with color and a theme.

  23. Chris, I just want to stop by from my feedreader and tell you that this series is sheer quality, and I think this post may be the best so far.

    You’re one of the few bloggers offer give value in 99% of your posts. I’m not even sure Mr. Rowse is that good :)

  24. Chris, I just want to stop by from my feedreader and tell you that this series is sheer quality, and I think this post may be the best so far.

    You’re one of the few bloggers offer give value in 99% of your posts. I’m not even sure Mr. Rowse is that good :)

  25. @Jen – Consistency is important, not that you would want to be Coca-Cola but you can spot any part of their branding and know instantly what it is, from the shape of the bottle, through to the color scheme, even that swirly swoosh thingy. You can be eclectic, but will just have to work harder at having that recognition.

    @daniel – A scorecard is a great idea, if you have a post about it I would love to link to it. The way I have seen it is a simple check list, I think they called it a “brand map” or to be really fancy “weltanshaung” which I think is German for “world view”.

    @Steve – Yup your writing style and tone would be the equivalent of a speakers. I tend to write how I speak too but I obviously have to change it up a bit when copywriting for clients or guest posting to fit into their style

    @Armen – you will have me blushing, thanks you are very kind :)

  26. @Jen – Consistency is important, not that you would want to be Coca-Cola but you can spot any part of their branding and know instantly what it is, from the shape of the bottle, through to the color scheme, even that swirly swoosh thingy. You can be eclectic, but will just have to work harder at having that recognition.

    @daniel – A scorecard is a great idea, if you have a post about it I would love to link to it. The way I have seen it is a simple check list, I think they called it a “brand map” or to be really fancy “weltanshaung” which I think is German for “world view”.

    @Steve – Yup your writing style and tone would be the equivalent of a speakers. I tend to write how I speak too but I obviously have to change it up a bit when copywriting for clients or guest posting to fit into their style

    @Armen – you will have me blushing, thanks you are very kind :)

  27. I totally agree!

    Basically I would say that Content is king, but design is the royal garment.

    No monarch can keep the throne without proper garment, and color, typography and layout seem to just fit the role of the crown and the sceptre.

  28. I totally agree!

    Basically I would say that Content is king, but design is the royal garment.

    No monarch can keep the throne without proper garment, and color, typography and layout seem to just fit the role of the crown and the sceptre.

  29. Yup but as well as a crown (packaging) any King needs an army to keep him in power (promotion) :)

  30. Yup but as well as a crown (packaging) any King needs an army to keep him in power (promotion) :)