Monday, September 26, 2011

"Here Comes Trouble"--Knowing Your Audience

"Bad Girls of Alaska--Here Comes Trouble!" So says the T-shirt I received today from one of my new friends in the MFA program. So, watch out!
Yes, well--actually, is that really me? Perhaps the fact that this isn't necessarily the primary image I project is what makes it so ticklishly funny.

Image, brand, projecting and tailoring to one's audience: this isn't something I've talked about much either, or placed a very high premium on. Shied away from is probably more like it... But I do want to talk about it some today--yes, it's going to be a philosophical post, coupled with some more gorgeous views of the fall weather and harvest here.

I've had this on my mind since I read a post by one of the most successful bloggers on whom I keep an eye, in which she observed (to paraphrase) that 'marketing' is involved in every aspect of life--what you say, how you say it, to whom you say it... A pretty striking claim--and difficult to argue with,

There are two sides to this: 'marketing yourself,' so that you can succeed, and 'knowing your audience,' who, in part, help you achieve this success, so that you know what they want and can give it to them.

It's truly shocking how many writers, whose success depends on an audience (whether narrowly defined as agents, editors and others in the publishing business or more broadly as the book-reading public) don't pay attention to this at all. We hope that we can pull people out of their comfort zone and into the worlds that we create ourselves, or profess not to care for the common denominator of an audience's opinion, or we efface ourselves, feel unworthy and undeserving, barely submit our works for publication, have low expectations of our blogger statistics... A less-talented writer who knows how to self-promote and tailors their work to a specific audience is going to go farther than a more-talented writer who never shows their work to the right people in the right way.

Averie's post really got my wheels turning in terms of acknowledging that even an introverted literary type--perhaps especially an introverted literary type--ought to be thinking about how she's presenting herself and what kind of an audience she's playing to. My first thought when I think of 'audience' is that I have so treasured the interactions that I've gotten to participate in as a result of writing this blog, and would love to continue to grow and nurture them, and to broaden them.

Here's another thing too: I am not a typical target audience for Averie's blog! Our lifestyles almost couldn't be more different, as are our attitudes toward diet (hers would be much easier to live with than mine ;) ) And yet, although I don't read religiously, I do keep an eye on her blog, mostly because I so admire her professionalism, her clear-minded, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude and, yes, her success! It's always been very clear to me that she knows exactly who she's talking to and what they want to see and hear, while managing to stay very authentic within her own integrity. She is so compelling, she makes you care about what she's talking about, even if it's a hairstyling technique you've never heard of and know nothing about!

I've always admired that, felt that I was admiring it from a distance as something out of my reach. This post came at a great time to suggest to me that it may be something I can do myself! It also alerts me that 'marketing myself' and being aware of my audience does not mean that I will completely turn away everyone who doesn't fit into whatever narrow definition I come up with. I could end up attracting a reader as diverse from me as I am from Averie.

It's a good time to be thinking about this because I've been acknowledging that how I choose to talk about things--on here and in general--will impact how I go on to deal with them in my life. Marketing again? Marketing to myself too! What best self am I building, what am I modeling for myself and others? For example, if I talk about my personal health struggles, framing the conversation in terms of what I'm doing to make things better, what practices I can incorporate to bring mindfulness to the process, what compassion it has taught me: that is something that I can take much more pride in (as a 'marketer' or otherwise) than if I just deliver a narrative of tribulations.

Since my blog's name refers to underlying balance, non-obvious underpinnings, it's going to be no surprise that 'balance' is a recurrent issue in my life. And the truth is, everyone, or almost everyone, struggles at times. Another truth is that one of the surest ways out of personal struggle is to do something that benefits another person or people. I believe, and hope, that writing is my primary mode by which I can do something beneficial for others. So, whether I'm talking about food, literature, health, homesteading and alternative lifestyles, Alaskana or whatever else (all those disparate elements that might make this blog hard to 'market,') I set the intention that I am here to do some good. I acknowledge that 'my audience' are real people. I am here because you are here.

Today was one of those swing-season days of sunspots and intense rain-squalls. As luck would have it, my workout on the rowing machine coincided with one of the latter.

Thirty minutes, and I was soaked! But I got to look at blue sky in the middle of the inlet, with sun shining on an untroubled ocean.
Harvest notes: after three years of beets galore, this year has been mostly a fail for beets (and I still don't quite understand why). But I'm finally seeing a few poking through that have gotten to a decent size and haven't yet bolted--nothing like we had last year, though.
We've done pretty well on the spuds, though! I've just been pulling a few from the ground whenever I need them, but Phil pulled out this bucketful yesterday--and we have at least as much again still in the ground.
Do you think about how you're 'marketing yourself' when you interact with other people?
Any suggestions for how I might do a better job?