12 Things I Learned Reading My Own Blog

About three weeks ago, I signed off from blogging for an extended period to focus on being a new dad for the second time and asked a group of bloggers that I highly respect to take over the reigns for a few weeks.  Over that time, I had the unique chance to be able to read my own blog as a spectator and it was a great experience that was well worth the break.  Of course, as any blogger will be able to understand, I wasn’t able to fully turn off my blogging radar or stop collecting ideas.  I’m sure I’ll be writing about some of those in the coming weeks … but in my first post back I wanted to extend a big THANK YOU to all the bloggers who stepped in and contributed a post while I was out.  As a tribute to all of them, here is a recap of all their efforts mixed in with some things that I learned as a result of reading all of their insights:

  1. If it’s nature vs. advertising, the ads lose – In Geeta Saini and Jinal Shah‘s first guest post to kick off the guest blogging, they shared the interesting example of Sao Paulo in Brazil where the mayor banned all forms of outdoor advertising.  In many cases, these outdoor ads compete with nature … leading to Ogden Nash’s famous words, "I think that I shall never see: A billboard lovely as a tree."  It seems to me that the most effective outdoor ads are the ones that are better than the alternative.  A billboard may never be lovelier than a tree, but it can certainly be lovelier than construction scaffolding along the interstate.
  2. Blogging platforms are all hot Ann Handley from MarketingProfs blogged about some interesting data points from the Top 10 US Social Network and Blog Site Rankings published from October.  Chief among them was the observation that blogging platforms are experiencing hot growth, with WordPress in particular at a growth rate of more than 400%.  I shared an observation through a comment about how blog platforms have also started to represent stereotypes of the style of blog that each platform fosters.  Not sure if other people feel that way, but it’s an interesting topic to watch.
  3. The basic questions are often not so basic Peter Kim shared an interesting perspective from his experience at an event he was attending in Barcelona for Forrester (side note … I really need to get a job that sends me to places like that).  The questions he raises are surprisingly basic, until you work in a role like mine with all kinds of clients who subscribe to what our team has taken to calling a GMOOT strategy (Get me one of those).  Peter’s post is a great reminder that a killer idea or campaign is no substitute for smart strategic thinking.
  4. Creativity overlaps – David Armano shared some of his trademark brilliance in a post all about the evolution of creativity, essentially sharing a perspective that the new model of creativity does not place people into defined roles where they can only do one thing, but let’s them overlap.  This is a topic that is close to my heart as I went from working in an Ad agency in Sydney where I was not considered one of the "creatives" and was therefore not allowed to exercise creativity, to my current role where a large part of every day is spent generating creative ideas and bringing them out of others.  I didn’t change, I just evolved into a role that valued the overlap.
  5. Blogging for the relationships, not the money Mack Collier shared his thoughts on the power and importance of community, pointing to my example of inviting guest bloggers as one way a blog can try to keep up the bond with their readers.  His point is a great one to consider as more and more corporate blogs are started for reasons other than building community, such as promoting products, dealing with crisis, or offering a personal soapbox for egotistical executives.  Building relationships with a blog is a return to basics that is much needed.
  6. Storytelling and marketing continue to intersect – Kevin Dugan is one of the smartest PR pros I know and authors the aptly titled Strategic Public Relations blog.  It was fitting that a blogger focused on PR took on the idea of storytelling as part of marketing because it is so inherent to the art of good public relations.  He offered a strong guide for things to consider when using storytelling … a topic close to my heart also because Chapter 4 of my book is dedicated to using the principles of storytelling in an unexpected way to demonstrate personality.
  7. Word of mouth is the ultimate discipline John Bell leads our 360 Digital Influence team at Ogilvy and is also on the board of WOMMA … so it’s no surprise that he offered a great recap of the state of the WOM industry and laid out an argument for why WOM should be considered a discipline instead of a channel.  John knows what he’s talking about, and his post is required reading for anyone who wants to know where the WOM industry is likely to head in 2008.  One interesting element I will be watching is the degree to which the growing number of experts in social media embrace the decidedly offline (as well as online) world of word of mouth marketing.
  8. The power of namingNedra Weinreich turned her great writing style and marketing insight to the idea of naming … brilliantly bridging the name my wife and I chose for our new son (Jaiden) with some of the battles she has been facing around the term "social marketing," and now around the term "social advertising."  I had joined Nedra in speaking out against an ill-advised idea by naive researchers to try and redefine the term "social marketing" some time ago.  The interesting point of her post is that if you happen to be a little guy trying to hold on to a name someone else is trying to usurp, it can be a losing fight.  Especially if your opponents don’t care if the name is already taken.  At least with Jaiden, my wife and I were cool with the fact that Will Smith used the name for his son too.  Will hasn’t told us whether he’s ok with it yet or not.
  9. Virgin America’s safety announcement with personalityKarl Long shared a link of Virgin America’s safety video that is far more watchable than anything any other airline has simply because it shares the personality of the brand through the video.  Ironically, this is already an example that I am using in my book … but it’s great to see that the ad agency behind it (Anomaly) posting it on YouTube and getting more mileage out of it as well.  (Disclaimer – Virgin America is a client of Ogilvy PR, however I/we had nothing to do with this safety video)
  10. Social Networks and SMOLee Odden is a brilliant online marketer that I have run into several times at events.  He manages to bridge the gap between search marketing (which can often be an insular world filled with "search guys") to encompass online marketing more broadly.  His post about using social networks and social media optimization to help your content travel further is a great example of that.  If you want to see how ideas like SMO can help you to spread your content wider and perhaps relate it even better to bloggers, his post and his blog are a great place to start.
  11. Focus on more than FacebookKarl’s second post offered a short and sweet cautionary tale about just focusing your marketing on the flavor of the month … which this month would definitely be Facebook.  He may be right and people may move away from Facebook in droves when the next latest and greatest thing comes along.  In the meantime, the point is not to create the most brilliant Facebook profile and groups the world has ever seen, but to use Facebook for what it is good for and take Karl’s advice to avoid putting all your eggs in Facebook’s basket.
  12. Build your personal brandJay Berkowitz built on a previous post of mine and talked about how to build your personal brand.  This is a post worth checking out, as Jay and his skills in building his own personal brand got him (and me, through is recommendation) featured in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago.  His tips are all things that I highly recommend following, and a great resource to start (or continue) building your personal brand.

Finally, the most important lesson I learned from this time away from blogging didn’t come from a blog post at all.  It came from the fact that I was able to get away from the online world (and subculture) for an extended time to really focus on what’s important … bonding with my new son.  There are some things that should always come before blogging, or work, or anything else.  Speaking of that, I think I hear Jaiden looking for some daddy time …

Update (12/3/07):  I realized that there were two additional guest posts that I had not published or referred to in this note, and hence updated the title from 10 reasons to 12 and added Lee Odden’s post as well as Karl’s first post.  Apologies to both Karl and Lee for missing those posts the first time around.

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