Can you successfully market anything today without a unique angle?
More and more, marketing in a genuine and human way means connecting with the people you serve. And for many, this means having a blog.
Whether you’re in a product or service business, whether you have a hundred employees or trade only your own time and expertise, it’s becoming impossible to differentiate yourself without finding your voice.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), the Internet is a vast sea of dead blogs. Personal blogs, corporate blogs, niche blogs, authority blogs. Not every blog that has failed is forgettable. But you can be sure that every forgettable blog has failed.
The changes in the economy didn’t start with the recession in 2008. Workers in every age group, but especially young people, are faced with a reality where everyone needs to be the best in the world in something. Forgettable can no longer cut it.
Finding your voice means becoming the best in the world at the one thing that counts: being you. In a connection economy where authenticity and humanity are requirements, not add-ons, the benefits to speaking with a voice that’s uniquely you are profound and potentially career-defining.
What is the Triangle Method to Finding Your Voice?
Chris Brogan of Copyblogger fame and Julien Smith writer of In Over Your Head released a book called The Impact Equation. One of the techniques they cover for finding your voice is called the Triangle Method.
Imagine a triangle. If you are a company, then each point on the triangle is also a company. If you’re an individual, or if you have a blog, then each point becomes an individual or a blog, respectively. In the middle of this triangle is you.
Julien’s example is Marshall McLuhan, Seth Godin, and Tony Robbins. Chris’s were Sir Richard Branson, Howard Stern, and Lady Gaga, interestingly enough.
You can also use the Triangle Method on emotions or information. Julien’s example is The Flinch (which I highly recommend). He says the most common feedback he gets is that it’s as if it is written by a drill sergeant, with an undercurrent of anger and hope.
The Agile Lifestyle Triangle
After reading the passage on the Triangle Method in The Impact Equation, I immediately thought about who the three points of the Triangle would be for Agile Lifestyle. After churning up plenty of possibilities, I decided on these three:
Seth’s a huge influence on many voices in the personal development and lifestyle design niches. From Seth Godin, I primarily get the megatrends that are shaping modern life and society. Seth, more than anybody, has been at the forefront of the transition from the Industrial Age economy to the new creative/connection economy.
I owe Jim Collins a huge intellectual debt for the Hedgehog concept. Finding your Personal Hedgehog has become a signature topic for Agile Lifestyle. But also from Jim Collins, I get the basic methodology of examining successful businesses and drawing generalizable lessons from them. The only difference is that Agile Lifestyle applies these lessons to your personal life.
Here I’m lumping together Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus, Colin Wright, and even Everett Bogue’s early writings. From The Minimalists, I get that materialism and hyper-consumption are bad. Your stuff and your fear of change (in other words, losing your stuff) causes people to stagnate. The consumption lifestyle keeps you from reaching your life’s potential.
Note that the Triangle Method is about your persona, not your content. For instance, the three points on my triangle don’t cover the psychology research that makes up a key component of Agile Lifestyle’s content. But the Triangle Method is about finding your blog’s voice, not defining its topics.
The Minimalists are righteous. Seth Godin is visionary. Jim Collins is authoritative.
These three voices contribute to finding my voice whenever I write an article. Keeping the three points of the Triangle Method in mind while I write allows me to course-correct if I veer too far from Agile Lifestyle’s persona.
After I finish an article and re-read it, and if it sounds like it could have been written by at least two of the three above, I’ll be satisfied that my voice for Agile Lifestyle has stayed on track.
Define Your Positioning: The 5 Posture Technique to Finding Your Voice
While the Triangle Method is powerful, you don’t want to sound like an exact copy of anybody. In addition to the Triangle Method exercise, you can group the most successful blogs into the following key 5 Postures that define a blog’s positioning.
Positioning locates you (and your blog or your marketing or your brand) in relation to the rest of the field. You might think what you’re doing is wholly unique and innovative, but chances are, you are responding to some kind of industry around you.
The 5 Postures cover nearly all the important and influential blogs and websites out there. Think of it as the 80/20 Rule applied to finding your blog’s voice: If your blog falls into one of these five postures, you’ve probably differentiated yourself successfully.
- The Master. The Master positions herself as an authority. She has years of experience in her chosen field and the achievements to back it up, but she doesn’t simply rattle off dead talking points. Instead, she uses her vast store of knowledge to form new insights and push the field forward. The Master succeeds by being a primary source and highly citable.
- The Student. The Student is on a journey to understand the industry he’s chosen to comment on. He hopes to be The Master one day, but for now, his main contribution is showing other newbies what the path to expertise looks like. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of expertise, the Student is a mere Three–but others are only Ones, Twos, or even Zeros, so his perspective is helpful to them. The Student succeeds by being open and optimistic.
- The Fool. The Fool values no authority within his chosen field. He rips apart the arguments of The Masters and laughs at the gullibility of The Students. His chosen form of communication is often snark, a noxious mixture of jokey sarcasm and biting commentary. The Fool succeeds by being provocative and controversial.
- The Collector. The Collector generally doesn’t create her own knowledge, but instead seeks to make connections between ideas that aren’t necessarily obvious. Or she puts many ideas together in one place. Popular examples of Collectors include Malcolm Gladwell, Jonah Lehrer, and Maria Popova. The Collector succeeds by being helpful and surprising.
- The Revolutionary. The Revolutionary has a message to spread: Everyone in the industry is wrong. Unlike The Fool, who pokes fun without discriminating, The Revolutionary is an evangelist for a particular worldview. She will use humor or anger to demonstrate how the conventional wisdom is wrong and her interpretation is correct. The Revolutionary succeeds by being a catalyst for change.
The formula is Persona + Positioning = Finding Your Voice.
You can use the Triangle Method to triangulate your Persona. And you can use one of the five postures to develop your Positioning.
(If you’re curious, I believe that Agile Lifestyle fits The Collector posture first and foremost, with a bit of The Revolutionary mixed in.)
If this all sounds formulaic or too constricting, keep in mind that over time, you will naturally find a unique voice by drifting topics, editing out your weak content, and iterating on what works.
The truth is, finding your voice is a process of continuous improvement. A good writer or marketer will admit that a voice or brand is always a work-in-progress. Even the Apples and Nikes of the world periodically refresh their brand and their image.
Embrace that your voice will change over time, but that you need to start somewhere. The Triangle Method and the 5 Postures can help you on the journey to find your voice.
Image by EmptyTerms.