Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

My blog has moved!

Please visit my new home at http://www.asthemoonclimbs.com/blog.php

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Business vs. brand

Al Ries at Advertising Age:

“Building a business or building a brand? That’s the most important question in marketing.”

I’m thinking this pithy statement sums up all the confusion in our economy today.  Through social media and the internet, because we’re truly now global citizens, we are transitioning to an economy that is based in brand rather than in business.  The vast majority, though, have no idea what this means.

If you spend all your time online, as I pretty much do, you can’t miss the emphasis on authenticity and brand building.  But in the brick-and-mortar world, huge gaps in understanding remain.  Most business owners and workers simply don’t have the time to research, so the important strides discussed on the web pass them by.

When I attend local networking meetings, I know my talk mystifies those present.  I tell them about virtual assistance and social media marketing, but they are skeptical.  Business, for them, is an exercise in self-defense; they are held in terror of not making quotas, not making budgets; the shame of failure threatens their well-being constantly.  Their souls are buried under mountains of  paranoia.

Did we boomers cause the present money problems?  Probably.  We discovered a new personal freedom through our hippie days of the 60s, but neglected to transfer its meaning to business.  While we became personally more open, very few applied the same thinking to business.  Until now.  Now, we find the intersection of commerce and personality to be the key to success, at least in terms of marketing.  Now, at last, we are becoming aware that branding and self-awareness are more valuable, richer, and much more durable than business.

But the average business person, however pervasive these ideas may be online, has not yet come to this understanding.  Part of the problem is that lifelong learning, an important aspect of brand awareness, is not part of the old business culture.  To many, the thought of having to learn an entirely new system is abhorent.  And of course, the concept that your life can be absolutely what you want it to be is still a suspicious one to these folk.

For me, the hard part is feeling the suffering.  If you don’t experiment with the processes of branding, if you stay stuck in the old business concepts, you’re likely to be suffering and afraid.  You have no idea how to progress in today’s economy.  You are still caught up in suspicion and competition, and most likely every day is a trial.

There’s a whole lot of gentle prodding to do.  Admittedly, this is a radical change for all of us.  And through hard times, perhaps it’s extremely challenging to keep believing in your brand.  But, as Ries points out, though it may at times test your loyalty, your brand will endure while your business will come and go.  

It’s a long row to hoe, but I see working with small businesses on establishing brand through social media as a way to relieve a whole lot of suffering in the world, to bolster belief in the self, and to free up business people from the oppression of the old style so that they may at last be able to offer their very best.

PLEASE NOTE:  This is the LAST POST of this blog on the WordPress site, and I’m off to live at my own URL from now on.  Please visit me there!

Virtual writing

My favorite online forum, where I’ve been a member for over a year, yesterday offered me the chance to revise my username.  The original pick I made was not helpful in SEO terms, so I happily decided to take up their offer.  But what to change it to?  My actual business name, Virtual Writing & Communications, seemed too long and difficult for a username.

It was a useful exercise, one that reminded me how useful it is to bravely strip down to essentials.  Rather than padding, setting up fluffy barricades to protect your identity and meaning, the trick is to chisel down to the core and then surface with a simple, naked, unadorned truth.

(If you Twitter often and well, you can appreciate the power of brevity.  If you’re a poet, you know real poetry is stark, not ‘flowery’ at all.)

So my username has become plainly,  ‘virtual writing.’  And of course, I can’t just accept that, but have to consider the precise meaning of those words.  We have fiction and non-fiction writing, we have journalistic, poetic, and prose styles.  And now we have this new form of writing that’s called ‘virtual writing.’

What distinguishes this new form?  We can infer that the ‘virtual’ qualifier at least points to the internet, and probably involves product delivered digitally.  Further, I’d like to suggest that virtual writing is writing tailored to the speed and engagement level of the internet; to the ‘scanning’ behavior of most people when they browse;  to the necessity of SEO; and to a global audience of anyone (as opposed to a much smaller audience of those who choose to purchase your writing.)

So that takes care of the virtual part, but what about the writing part?  The internet is about writing in a very big way, resulting in huge numbers of bloggers and online writers who are trying to get their message out, but are seriously compromised by their sub-standard writing skills.  We plunge into the opportunities of the internet without solid practice in this skill, and many a post includes misspellings, poor grammar and rhetoric, obvious total lack of proofreading, and other written communication failures.

Does it matter?  If most can decipher your meaning even if the writing is terrible, who cares?  I think it really doesn’t matter much at first.  The reader is there for your message, after all, and if it can be gleaned from the morass, fine.  But in the long run, the quality of your writing is a major influence on your reputation.  A reader may get a kick out of your post, but will not remain devoted for long if your writing’s not accurate and rich.

I’m passionate about writing, it’s true.  Words are objects of great beauty to me.  The internet, also, has captured an enormous part of my attention.  So I’m happy with this new moniker: ‘virtual writing’ is me!

P.S.  This blog is moving to http://www.asthemoonclimbs.com/blog.php, and will no longer appear here after this week.  Please visit my website!

Fruits of holiday musings

Two solid weeks of quiet introspection, and here we are back in the real world.  A problem with unconstrained free thinking is that it’s extremely hard to focus.  Without boundaries, we’re fertile ground for any whim or circumstance.  

In the past couple weeks, I’ve read a great deal, and watched an incredibly moving TED lecture, and visited the zoo, and improved my baking skills, and painted.  Painting is an especially effective way to brain dump.  I ran across this amazing quote from Christopher Alexander (thanks to Gretchen Rubin):

” … the more one understands of painting, the more one recognizes that the art of painting is essentially one way, which will always be discovered and rediscovered, over and over again, because it is connected with the very nature of painting, and must be discovered by anybody who takes painting seriously. The idea of style is meaningless: what we see as a style (of a person or of an age) is nothing but another individual effort to penetrate the central secret of painting, which is given by the Tao, but cannot itself be named.”

Sometimes you paint as worship for the beauty of the world; sometimes you paint as a way to bridge consciousness and truth.  When your awareness, hopes, and beliefs seem to get you nowhere in life, using paints is always comforting and affirming.  I’d show you some of what I painted, but I keep painting over the same canvas.  The value is in the action, not the product.

What’s the result of this vision quest?  Well, I’m starting off this new year with great expectations.  I’m more dedicated than ever to the search for my deepest authenticity.  I have renewed energy for the continuous effort to effectively use my gifts for the benefit of others.

And I’m at last going to move this blog to my own website!  I’d originally kept the two separate, to allow for more freedom of expression in the blog.  Now I realize that taking the risk of exposing my personality through my blog is an important part of establishing my business.  It’s a social media basic!  So, as of today, you can find these writings at http://www.asthemoonclimbs.com/blog.php – where you’ll need to re-register the RSS.

I mentally journeyed through many a cosmos over the past two weeks, and wondered at the mysteries and possibilities, and even experienced the despair of overwhelming confusion.  But I’ve emerged calmer and more hopeful; and excited about going ‘from strength to strength’ with you as 2009 unwinds.