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Building reputation with content serials Knowledge in a series

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Tags: freelancerme brandJon Christoph BerndtKerstin Hoffmannwriting tippscontent serialsknowledge strategy

If you want to become known as an expert in a field, there is one major thing to do: write a lot. Content serials help minimizing the stress and make your expertise clearer, if you follow some general guidelines.

I owe Kerstin Hoffmann the inspiration to this article. Her book "Prinzip Kostenlos" ("the principle of free", only available in German) is one of my strongest inspirations at the moment, in which she describes how freelancers and enterprises can position themselves as experts in their fields. The idea is to offer knowledge free of charge, creating value for the readers. In doing so, a good reputation is built in order to provide commercial consulting services. This approach is ideally suited for building a personal brand which is inseparably connected to one's personality, providing a good way to distinguish oneself from others.

I am the brand.

I have taken the idea of a "me brand" from another book: "Die stärkste Marke sind Sie selbst!" ("You are the strongest brand", only available in German) by Jon Christoph Berndt. The author transfers marketing methodologies to individual humans, combining this with a philosophy of life.

The brand personality of a person describes, who he is and how he is; what makes him what he is and what is his true impetus.
Jon Christoph Berndt, Die stärkste Marke sind Sie selbst!, S. 14

Jon Christoph Berndt creates various models of his brand personality. I particularly found the brand triangle to be valuable with regard to content serials. This is my interpretation of it.

Brand triangle
Brand triangle by Jon Christoph Berndt with the accentuation "I have", the competitive advantage "I break norms", which I would call "I can", and the contribution to society "I do"

The brand triangle is made up of three central elements:

  • Accentuation: This is the classic "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP) – something making the own service unique. For freelancers, the answer is often very simple: If I offer my own performance, I am in the end myself the USP. Other than me, nobody could do the service in the same way. It is important to carve this offer out in a clear manner.
  • Competitive advantage: If you market yourself, you still need something which you do really good – a clear advantage compared to others working in a similar field. This is not simple, yet of vital importance for services. "I can take photographs or create web sites or work as a DJ, too!" is not very convincing. But do not worry: There are many ways of photographing, creating web sites or working as a DJ which offer enough potential to distinguish oneself. It is thus "just" about finding the right way.
  • Contribution to society: The Golden Strategy – the famous feeling of "I want that". Do we need chocolate? I do not think so – but we want chocolate. This is similar for services of any kind: You will only be successful if your customers see the value of your offer – if you manage to create a contribution relevant enough to think about it or even pay for it. Kerstin Hoffmann's knowledge strategy is a good approach of making your own contribution to society tangible in a direct way, because the value it creates for readers is the principal criterion of quality.

Content serials as the driving forces of the me brand

I think that content serials are well suited to make the own brand personality obvious. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Content serials make the own USP obvious, because it often is not explicit enough in a single post. Once is coincidence, twice is luck, three times is a system – you can only be considered an expert if you constantly back this status up with content. Another advantage is that content serials allow to divide your expertise in various smaller areas in a credible way, so that it is not necessary to include each aspect every time (which would also be hardly possible).
  • Covering a range of topics helps in distinguishing oneself from others, because they allow to make one's own opinion explicit. For example, a web designer writing a content serial about trends in web design shows that he is up-to-date, while at the same time he has the chance to add something new to the discussion – e.g. as an addition or a well argumented opinion. This helps underpinning the own role as a freelancer – you are part of a group of experts, and at the same time a distinctive individual clearly distinguished from others.
  • Content serials stress your contribution to society, because with the help of their regularity, they create value which goes beyond the individual article. For example, a series about social media tools creates additional value via the comparability, spares its readers doing the research on their own, and creates trust in being informed about future social media tools as well.
Drawers in an archive
Content serials can be held in stock and help putting the author in the right drawer

Tipps for content serials

In order to use these advantages, a couple of measures are appropriate:

  • Opt for a unique and memorable name: Each content serial should have a unique name which allows to get an idea of what it is about. It is okay to play with words as long as this does not make the serial incomprehensible. Ideally, you should also check wether your target audience really looks for this name, because content serials can have a real benefit in terms of search engine optimiziation.
  • Group content serials in a descriptive way: This is an aspect which I recently became aware of, putting it on top of my next re-organization of my contents. Content serials become tangible when they are constructed like a magazine. In blogs, a category for each serial is usually enough. This creates the additional advantage of a separate RSS feed, so that readers can subscribe to a certain serial alone.
  • Create visual recognizability: Another aspect out of the area of "personal backlog". A unique visual design helps to make the content serial tangible and recognizable, for example using a small typographic element.
  • Create content regularly: It is relatively simple to collect possible topics for the next round of a content serial – often, this almost happens on its own, if the content serial belongs to the personal focus areas. Readers expect a certain regularity. However, there should still be enough room for prevailing single posts. Every author should decide on her own how this balance will look like, and it is also possible to adjust as needed.