Writing is everything when it comes to building your personal brand. If you can’t write, your brand will suffer. It’s not just enough to be able to string together a few sentences into a coherent thought. You need your own voice, your own style to come through what you write.
Your writing needs to stand out from everyone else
If you write like everyone else — average quality, basic word choice, long meandering sentences, incomplete thoughts — your writing, and your personal brand, will die a thousand mediocre deaths. But if you can harness the power of language, learn to write with rhythm, learn to write simply when conveying big ideas, your writing will far and away exceed that of most people in your company and your field.
Writing with rhythm
Read some of Seth Godin’s work. Better yet, listen to his latest book, Linchpin, on CD. Godin has a rhythm to his language that I think makes him such an outstanding author. It’s not his ideas so much as his writing that moves me to action. When I listen to Godin read his own work, I want to leap out of my seat, confident that I can do whatever he says I can. When I read other writers who just regurgitate Godin, it takes all of my energy to keep reading, let alone leap out of anything.
Writing well does not mean using big words or using a lot of them, despite what your college professors may think. It does not mean, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “compressing the most words into the smallest idea.” It means writing simply, with short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
Leaving out the boring parts
Writing well means leaving out all the boring parts that people skip (Elmore Leonard). It means not writing a bunch of background. It means starting a story in the middle, not at the very beginning with “so I’m sitting in the coffee shop with my friend Joel.”
Writing well means creating pictures with words. You do this by avoiding adjectives. They’re really, really excruciating, and I want to brutally smash myself in my throbbing head whenever I see them. If you want to write with power, use metaphors, and if you have to, similes. For example, after you attend a conference, write “my brain is full of pop rocks and Coke.” Never say, “I got a lot of really great and awesome ideas at the conference.” One has power and imagery, the other, well, really sucks. Also, more adjectives does not denote more excitement. It denotes more suck.
Writing well means you find a rhythm to your language. It means understanding how poets and speechwriters work. It means you write with your ear, as if your words are going to be read out loud. You should hear your voice when you write, and your reader should hear it when they read. In addition to reading Seth Godin, listen to The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart MacLean (available as a podcast on iTunes). His stories have rhythm that most writers would kill for.
If you want your personal brand to grow, learn to write well. Then write as much as you can. Focus your energy on your blog, the center of your social media campaign, and write guest posts and articles whenever you can. Share your words and wisdom with people, but make sure they’re your best words. If you can make your writing stand out, then your personal brand will too.
But if you don’t try to grow as a writer, if you insist on using lots of big words and long flowing paragraphs, if you think cramming in adjectives makes your writing powerful, people will ignore you, and your brand will slip into the murky depths of mediocrity and “meh.”
Erik Deckers is the co-owner and VP of Creative Services for Professional Blog Service in Indianapolis. He has been blogging since 1997, has been a published writer for more than 24 years, and a newspaper humor columnist for 17 years. Erik co-authored Branding Yourself: Using Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (Pearson, 2010) and also helped write Twitter Marketing for Dummies.