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If you’ve read any advice for content creators, chances are you’ve seen countless discussions about the importance of creating a personal brand. Now the word ‘brand’ may conjure up images of lavish marketing campaigns and influencers hawking their latest merch. But branding doesn’t have to look like that. On the contrary, it’s possible to have a perfectly serviceable brand without those things. In this post, I’m going to talk about my experiences developing my own brand as a specialist blogger. 

Why is a brand important?

My name is Jason Loch and since 2014, I have written a blog about the British constitution called A Venerable Puzzle. I didn’t think about branding at all when I was first starting out. As far as I was concerned, that was something that only corporations or Kardashians needed to worry about. But the reality is that any content creator, no matter how large or small their following, needs to think about their brand. You may have a wealth of knowledge in your field, but it’s not going to matter if no one reads your content. But a good brand tells your reader “I should care about this person’s insights.” It can also make your life easier in the long run by providing you with a template to follow.

I like to think of a personal brand as having three components: vision, voice, and limits.

Vision is the keystone of your publication’s brand

Having a vision is important–just ask George H. W. Bush. But this doesn’t mean you need to churn out a few turgid sentences laden with the latest corporate buzzwords. Fundamentally, your vision is the answer to the question, “why have I created this publication?” This is arguably the most important component of a brand, as it’s the linchpin that holds everything else in place. 

In my case, I started my blog because I saw there was a lot of misinformation floating around about the British constitution. The problem went beyond armchair ‘experts’ pontificating on Facebook. Even respected journalists and academics have repeated false or misleading information about constitutional topics. It’s not a matter of malice or incompetence–it’s just that the UK’s uncodified constitution is riddled with so many caveats and contradictions that it’s incredibly easy to say something problematic. It doesn’t help that a lot of the relevant source material is squirreled away in scholarly monographs or long rolls of vellum from the Middle Ages. 

My goal has always been to make the British constitution as accessible as possible. But at the same time, I don’t want to mislead people by presenting problematic generalizations. I also take care to ‘show my work’ by citing my sources. This way, if a reader wants to learn more about a topic I’ve written about, all they have to do is consult my footnotes to see where they can go to find additional information. 

I’ve done my best to adhere to this approach across all channels of communication, though obviously some adaptations are necessary depending on the medium. On X (née Twitter), for example, I can’t include footnotes, but I can add screenshots of source material.  

An authentic voice is the best voice

Voice is the way you express yourself. My goal is to be professional without being stuffy. So, for example, I use contractions even though you wouldn’t necessarily see them in a journal article. Some of my earlier posts were slangier than what I write nowadays (I once titled a post “WTF is the Lord Privy Seal?”). I ended up discarding that approach because I didn’t think it added much and could easily have alienated readers.

I generally avoid being too quippy. Humor can be difficult to pull off online. When shorn of things like body language and tone of voice, something meant in jest can seem downright cruel. If you’re going to go that route, you really need to go all in, but it would be difficult for me to be consistently humorous (it’s hard to incorporate zingers into a discussion of, say, the language of ministerial submissions to the Sovereign!).   

I also aim to be kind at all times, particularly on social media. Naked provocation might get me a larger audience, but the more bombastic you are, the more you invite people to cut you down to size. And at the end of the day, there’s plenty of snark and spite on the Internet as it is. I don’t need to add more. 

Whatever voice you choose, it’s important that it be authentic to you. Formality works for me because a) it suits me personally and b) it’s not going to seem weird or stuffy to my audience. Although I try to make my content as accessible as possible, my audience is dominated by British people working in law, the church, or government. They consume formal content regularly, so it’s not off-putting for them. It’s also a good idea to be consistent with your voice. It would be jarring to say the least if I posted a thread on X about the shift to capitular election in the Middle Ages and then followed it up with an expletive-laden rant about an inept delivery driver.   

For more advice on how to develop your voice, check out this article from Writer’s Digest.

Limits are how we shape our brand

This might seem like an odd thing to include, but I think it’s absolutely vital. You need to be comfortable with every facet of your brand. For example, even though plenty of branding gurus talk about the value of Instagram, I’ve made a conscious choice not to use it. Leaving aside the fact that I don’t think it’s particularly well-suited to detailed commentary on the British constitution, I’m just not a shutterbug. Trying to maintain an Instagram presence would be like pulling teeth for me. 

Similarly, I have no interest in using TikTok. Despite its popularity, a platform that emphasizes short-form video content is ill suited to a project that’s all about discussing the complexities and nuances of the British constitution. I’d inevitably end up having to make the kind of sloppy generalizations that inspired me to start my blog in the first place.  

Ultimately, I don’t want to use a platform that I fundamentally don’t enjoy. It would end up feeling like a chore, and that’s not a recipe for long-term success. 

I also try to keep my public persona focused on my constitutional work. I know we live in an era where the line between public and private is often blurred to the point of non-existence, but I’m okay with having a firm boundary between the two. While there’s a lot more to my life than the British constitution, those things are best saved for personal conversations rather than public pronouncements.

A corollary to that rule is that I try to avoid getting drawn into the day-to-day tussle of party politics. I’m always mindful of the fact that, as much as I love the United Kingdom, I’m not a British citizen. This means I generally won’t comment on something unless it actually touches upon some aspect of the constitution. So, for example, when there’s a ministerial reshuffle, I might comment on the constitutional aspects of the process (e.g., the role of the King) without discussing the personalities involved. Similarly, I might critique a party’s proposal for reform of the House of Lords, but I would never urge people to vote for (or against) that party because of it. Keeping above the political fray also helps me reach a wider audience since I don’t have to worry about people dismissing my work out of hand because they believe I’m aligned with the other side. 

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t feel like you need to use a particular platform or adopt a particular strategy just because other people tell you should. If you don’t want to run a Discord server or have your own merch, don’t. Do what feels right for you.  

Summing it all up

Regardless of your niche or your audience, all content creators need to think about branding. Your brand is how you present yourself to the world, and it can be helpful to think of it as having three components: vision, voice, and limits. Your vision is the overarching purpose of your publication. Your voice is how you communicate your message. And limits are the boundaries you place on your brand for the sake of your comfort and peace of mind. By considering all of these facets, you can come up with a brand that’s both authentic and workable. 

If you’re interested in more of my insights for specialist bloggers, check out my posts on choosing topics and the editing process.