Don’t Make Your Blogging Hat Your Marketing Hat

Welcome freelance writer Michelle Peterman with a post about blogging and marketing!


Image by Chris JL

As a writer, you probably think of your various roles within some kind of metaphor or narrative framework. (It’s okay. We all do it.) I’ll use the hat metaphor, even though it’s a bit cliché and your personal metaphor is probably much more original.

So hats. You put on your “writer” hat when you’re writing the good stuff and your “blogger” hat when you’re drafting blog posts – except, of course, when you’re trying to write a blog post that markets a new book or product, in which case you grab your “marketing” hat. Then sometimes you tweet under your “writer” hat, your “blogger” hat, your “marketing” hat, or maybe under your “snarky” or “political” hat.

(That’s a lot of quotation marks. Better get out my editor hat.)

What I’m here to tell you today is that the reason your marketing isn’t working is because you’re making “marketing” a separate hat.

You can’t keep marketing separate from your day-to-day writing. If you do, you’ll have much less outreach than you would if you accepted that what we think of as “marketing” is just part of your day-to-day writing life, and that it comes out in the emails you write, the blog posts you upload, and the social media updates you send out.

Don’t Think About Marketing. Think About Your Audience.

Here’s a quote I read from the good people at 29 Prime, a company that should know all about marketing hats and when to wear them. They were cross-linking an article from Jenny Halasz about marketing, and they quoted Halasz as follows:

Instead of thinking of “marketing,” which is defined as the act of promoting and selling products or services, SEOs need to be thinking about how they can deliver the best possible experience for their subject — the visitor.

That’s how you need to think, as a writer. Your job isn’t to sell your book; it’s to create an experience that invites your fans and site visitors to buy your book. The posts you might be tempted to write, the ones that are all about BUY BUY BUY and are chock-full of SEO metadata, aren’t the ones you want to write, not if you really want to get people excited about your writing.

You sell people on your books by telling them the story of you.

One of my very favorite writing blogs is John Scalzi’s Whatever. Scalzi’s taught me more about writing – and about being a human – than any other writer I know, even though I’ve never met him. Am I going to buy Scalzi’s next book, even though I don’t even know yet what it is? Yes.

(If you’re not yet a John Scalzi fan, start by reading Scalzi’s story of his 17-year “dateiversary.”)

Take off the hats. Write from what’s underneath.

See how I used that metaphor there? If you want to connect with people, you have to write from who you are, not from any predetermined idea of a “marketing hat.” You have to be honest, and probably a little humorous, and certainly empathetic. You have to tell your story in a way that makes people want to read it, which requires every tool in your toolbox. You have to put as much of you into the blog post that says, “Hey, I finished a book, here’s how to buy it” as you do in the book itself.

People can recognize a marketing hat from ten miles away. They run, the same way we push the YouTube button to skip past the ads. (I was going to write “change the channel during commercials,” but no one does that anymore.) The only way to really get your message across, even – or especially – if that message is “I wrote a book that I’m really proud of, and I’d like you to read it,” is to make it come from you.

Not from your hat.

Michelle Peterman is a former communications associate who transitioned into her own freelance writing business. She enjoys sharing the knowledge accumulated from her journey with the business community.

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13 Responses to Don’t Make Your Blogging Hat Your Marketing Hat

  1. D.G. Kaye November 11, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Great post as always Molly. Thanks for putting it out there for a reminder. I know I sometimes forget which hat I am wearing,..or two?

  2. Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    It’s true, D.G. – self-pubbers do have to wear a LOT of hats!

  3. CF Winn November 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Great post! I just wish you would have given an example of a short tweet that might illustrate your point…I’m wearing my “insecure hat”, so I need confirmation that my ideas are on track…LOL I will swap it out for a “courage cap” and give your advice a try. Thanks for setting us straight. The last thing I want to appear is insincere because I have no marketing experience.

  4. Norah December 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Thanks for publishing this post. It has lots of good advice which I’ll try to make sense of and apply.

    • Molly Greene December 5, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Thanks so much, Norah!

  5. Shelley January 4, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    Great blog post as always but now I have a sudden urge to go hat shopping 😉

    • Molly Greene January 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

      Hahaha I know, right??

  6. Andrea Altenburg January 4, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    Thank you for your insight! This article makes wonderful sense and is good to remember each time we sit down to produce content.

  7. Jenny Halasz March 6, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    I just saw your post and wanted to say thanks for the mention! I love how you talked about the different “hats” we all wear. Nice article.

  8. Linda Maye Adams September 30, 2014 at 3:53 am #

    I was on the verge of giving up my blog because I had to ask myself if it was worth the time. No one was visiting, and I felt like I kept reinventing what was in it, hoping to find something that clicked. Absolutely none of the advice given to writers worked. I even took the WANA class and was shocked when the writers hung around for less than two weeks and were gone. Was I really that not interesting? (The latter is probably because I was not writing how-tos about fiction).

    Then I starting noticing that two posts kept popping up. One was hair for military women and the other was for the uniforms. They seemed both like such boring topics to me, but people were really interested. So I shifted my blog to posts about the military life and about what Desert Storm like. It’s not the big stuff like what we did in this battle, but stuff like we were packing up, getting ready for deployment, and what the fear was doing us. I’ve been surprised at how popular it’s gotten!

    But it was very painful getting there. The one thing I did do — and a lot of my fellow writers didn’t — was that I kept posting regularly. No matter what, once a week. That keeps it visible and keeps the thought processes going about what’s going to work. The two popular ones about the military were the result of newspaper articles, and they ended up being very important. If I hadn’t kept at it anyway, I wouldn’t have found that out.

    BTW, I’m running a Desert Storm deployment series now, since we’re coming up on the anniversary of when I deployed and next year is the 25th anniversary.

    • Molly Greene September 30, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Hi Linda! So smart of you to realize that what works for authors is to blog about nonfiction elements in their books. And yes, weekly, consistent posts are a must, and it takes time to build a readership. You can consider those posts a “body of work” and compile them into a nonfiction book someday. Thank you so much for visiting and sharing!