Think of Martha Stewart. Not for her baking or cleaning tips, but for how she markets her products. Everything she does is essentially a “commercial” for something else. She’ll preview topics from her television show in her magazine, and then show new books or videos on her television show.
When you sign up for one of her magazines you get previews of new baking or home decorating products. When you go to her website you can get a free sample of one of her magazines, sign up to receive recipes and craft ideas via email, and watch video clips from her television show. Finally, Martha appears regularly on the Today Show giving tips about decorating, crafts, and food, which in turn promote all the other media outlets she’s a part of.
All of it is connected, and all these methods of promotion give Martha a platform to promote something else. In essence, one thing becomes a commercial for the next.
The Martha Stewart Approach
To take this concept and apply it to us as writers, let’s think in realistic terms. First of all, we need a platform that is affordable. Next, while Martha Stewart has a talented marketing staff behind her we are often juggling other demands in addition to promoting ourselves. Many women balance their writing careers with taking care of children, their aging parents, relationships, and community and church commitments, to name a few. We don’t have all the time in the world. Besides that – we need time to write!
So the first part of our platform should be a reasonable media plan, both in terms of monetary concerns and time commitment. Both these objectives can be met via the Internet. After all, it costs very little to have a blog or website, and we can make updates or do interviews in any timeframe that suits our schedule.
A reasonable way to develop our platform might begin like this:
• Instead of a television show, we have blogs.
• Like Martha Stewart, we as writers have the ability to promote ourselves via a website.
• Rather than a magazine, we can send electronic newsletters.
• While it is possible to get on the Today Show, let’s think a bit smaller for now, say, someone else’s website or blog.
Since much of the promotion on the web involves writing, we are already at an advantage. Additionally, as writers we are naturally curious, so figuring out new ways to promote our work will come easily.
Find an Area We Are Passionate About
Before we do that, however, we need the second component to our platform. That is: the subject we are passionate about. It doesn’t have to be just one. All of us have many varied interests and any subject that appeals to us can be the thing that makes us an “expert.”
Don’t be shy about sharing your expertise on a subject, and don’t be intimated if it’s already a subject that is covered by other “experts.” Do try to distinguish yourself, however. Never copy someone else’s routine, information, or delivery. By bringing your own personal viewpoint to the subject, you’ll be able to find a niche.
Remember our Martha Stewart example? She declared herself an expert at housekeeping, cooking, and entertaining. Does that mean she’s the only one that has knowledge in these areas? Far from it. Her topics are ones many of us as women are already familiar with. However, she doesn’t let that stop her from showing the basics of cooking, how to fold towels, or how to throw a nice dinner party. Her “brand” developed because she talked about doing basic household tasks with the best quality products and approach possible.
To use my own personal example, I chose to write about a subject that has a great deal of competition on the web: dating. There are countless “experts” out there today writing about dating. So why did I even bother? I still felt like I had something valuable to say. I met my husband on the Internet and had developed an approach I thought would benefit others. Lots of people complained to me about their dating experiences, which always puzzled me, because I thought Internet dating in particular was a blast. I decided to write about what I did and my platform grew slowly from there.
Once you decide what your area of expertise and passion is, write an article about it. Your article doesn’t have to be perfect, but should give you a start to determine if your subject has potential to appeal to others. The first article should spark other viewpoints, or ideas you’d like to cover. Get three articles you’d like to start with and submit them to places that accept free articles, such as http://ezinearticles.com. This is the starting point for your platform. Keep writing, and while you’re doing that, simultaneously develop your media platform.
Start with a blog because it’s easy and free. Sites like Blogger or WordPress give you the ability to have a no-cost blog up and running in seconds. Blogs generally submit daily to search engines so any new post will be available to readers throughout the net in just a day.
Next, search for other blogs that discuss your subject matter. A search engine like Technorati or Google Blog Search will help you find what other folks are writing (and commenting) about in regards to your subject matter. Find blogs you enjoy and add them to your blogroll, or comment on their blogs. Don’t do this gratuitously but with genuine interest. Lurk until you have an idea of what this person writes and feels passionately about.
Aim to post on your own blog at least three to five times a week. What to write about? Your own thoughts, articles, or comments on news items relating to your subject matter. Encourage comments on your blog and respond to anyone that leaves one, regardless if it’s positive or not.
Next, develop a website that will hold links to your articles, RSS information for your blog, and contact information. Your website might seem kind of empty at first, but you’ll develop links, blog and website appearances, and articles frequently so make sure your site is always updated with the most current information. Add your website information to your blog as well.
Give readers a way to find out more about you and get additional information. Send an electronic newsletter monthly or every other month updating your readers on any web appearances, reviews to books or articles, or news items relating to your subject matter. Get readers involved by encouraging opinions and offering polls and giveaways. Yahoo offers a free and easy method to host a newsletter. As you obtain additional readers, companies like Constant Contact also offer relatively inexpensive graphical newsletters and widgets to maintain and add to a subscriber list.
Start contacting online magazines relating to your subject matter, and ask them to keep you in mind if they should need an expert opinion. Often editors are desperately looking at new angles for story ideas, so starting out as an expert, rather than pitching yourself as the writer, can get your foot in the door to more work.
Is there an online service related to your area of expertise? Can you provide assistance or advice by way of answering questions or providing advice? Start with organizations related to your expert subject, and start contacting. Ask if you can be a consultant for them or write a monthly column in exchange for providing contact and website information.
Do a blog tour. Tours aren’t just for book authors anymore. Contact blogs you’ve frequented and find out which ones would welcome a guest column by you. Or, perhaps they’d like to interview you for their readers. Never turn down an opportunity, regardless of how small or well known the blogger is. You never know what kind of contacts exist on the web today.
Create a Squidoo Lens or Facebook account, and provide links to your articles, or ones your readers may find of interest. Become not just an expert but also a resource on your subject.
Learn what creates great SEO copy, and continue writing. The first few articles you write may not need an actual income, but instead provide valuable exposure on the web. Once you get established, however, look for ways to make your writing pay. Go back to the consulting gigs you did for free and ask them if they can work out a pay schedule.
No matter where you appear on the web, make sure you link back to your website, blog, and any articles you write. If one appearance on the web links to the next, people will be able to find you more easily and through different channels. Everything you do, regardless of how big or small, builds to the next thing. You’d be surprised what one appearance, article, or consulting job can lead to. Remember Martha Stewart, and ensure every article or project you do becomes a way to promote everything else.