In order to build your brand, you must know your voice, audience, and niche
Beauty editor Tracey Brown shares her secrets to blogging success
Building a brand (or blog) is no easy task. One of the most important things one can do in the beginning stages is understanding these three things: voice, audience, and niche.
What is your positioning? Who are you speaking to? What industry will you be focusing on?
Answering these questions, coupled with having a clear understanding of what makes you special (and why you want to build your brand) will be crucial to your success as you attempt to scale and grow.
For today’s BRANDMAKERS, I chatted with Tracey Brown, editor-in-chief of beauty blog Blinging Beauty and long-time beauty professional (with over 35 years of experience under her belt.) I first met Tracey late last year when I became a part-time contributor on her site. It’s been a pleasure getting to work with her and see how a successful beauty blog is run.
After interviewing Tracey, I learned so much more about what it really takes to have a successful blog. Tracey’s perspective on the state of blogging and what newcomers need to understand about carving out a space in the blogging will inspire you to evaluate your current strategies.
In today’s BRANDMAKERS you’ll learn:
- Why Tracey decided to launch a beauty blog
- How your “obsession” might just inspire your next blogging venture
- The one thing that Tracey believes has helped her increase her readership over the years
- The important difference between being an “expert” and just having an “opinion”
- The one thing Tracey wishes she had done earlier in her career
- What you should to do super-focus your blog
- How being able to “endure” has helped Tracey build her brand
My biggest takeaway? Know your brand positioning. Having an “opinion” doesn’t make you an expert. (CLICK TO TWEET)
What inspired you to enter the beauty industry?
Tracey Brown (TB):I had a natural affinity and talent for skincare and makeup. I used to do a lot of freelance work and shows. When I started having kids, I slowed down and didn’t do as much travel. I got my esthetician license and opened up my own studio and salon and became a trainer in the industry and worked for L’Oreal Professional and other prestigious companies. I worked with sephora.com when that launched. I’m a writer at heart so that’s where my love for writing and cosmetics was married. It was the perfect match. I didn’t really realize that until I started blogging.
The blog came about by chance.I had some corrective surgery and was out of commission for a long time. I said I would blog as a hobby so that’s where Blinging Beauty started. I didn’t think it would turn into a huge thing as it did. I’m glad it did.
How did you launch Blinging Beauty?
TB: I started two blogs at the same time. One was all about beauty in your fifties. It was too much to do two blogs. I had to narrow it done. At first, I was just a general beauty blogger and appealed to everyone. I said I wanted to be an expert for Black women because I think that is something that is missing in the blogosphere.There’s a lot of people who do a lot of blogging but I don’t consider them experts.
I wrote consistently. I tried to write every Monday-Friday.I was writing about products that I bought. Before I knew it, I had readership.
PR firms started writing me. I did a negative review on a major company. The next day they were emailing me saying let’s send you stuff. Now, I don’t have to buy anything. I feel kinda sad because I want to shop for makeup but I get everything sent to me. It’s really nice to have that luxury. Everyone who is a beauty blogger doesn’t have that.
I have a niche that is a little bit different. I have a lot of “other” that follow me, which is great. I think that makeup and skincare knows no color. Some of my blogs, however, will say specifically for Brown girls.
Is it necessary to have traditional professional experience before trying to start a blog?
TB: I think there is a different opportunity for everyone. For me, I wanted to be seen as a professional and have an expert voice and opinion. I’ve been in this industry for 35 years There’s a lot of people who are opinionated and know a lot about makeup and some things about skincare… but they just have an opinion and not a very strong voice.I have worn several different hats. I have studied paramedical skincare. I have been trained by top doctors. I have worked on burn victim… I can say I am an expert.
I don’t want to compare myself to someone who is a novice and say they shouldn’t be doing it, but I think it’s important to recognize your niche and speak with a voice that is appropriate to that.
TB: I got called out by a younger blogger because CBS did a piece with me and called me a “beauty guru.” I tweeted it and the person said, “I never call myself a guru.” I said, “Do you know what a guru is?” She didn’t really respond.
A guru is an expert. I am an expert. I can say that after this many years. I can answer any question. I’m not embarrassed or shy about it anymore. It’s important to know your voice, audience, and your niche.
How does you position as a “leader” even though they may not have years of expertise behind them?
TB: It’s difficult. You have to find one thing that you can say you are proficient at and have an affinity for. Maybe you know all about lipstick and contouring. One thing is all you really need. Start there. Everyone doesn’t know everything.
Think about what you love the most. The people you follow. The experts you lean towards. Find an area you have passion for. Don’t pick something that you don’t care about. Find one thing and stick with that.
Makeup and beauty is not something that is going to really affect people’s lives too greatly. It’s just makeup. It comes off. I do think you have to have a little expertise when it comes to skincare. In the long run, find one or two things that you really feel passionate about. Become an expert.
Once you started building your readership, how did you make sure readers still liked coming to the site?
TB: I went through this period where I thought I wanted to be an editor. I wanted to have a staff of 10 writers. I got a lot of people to write for me. I noticed my numbers (analytics) were falling. That same year I went to a workshop and Iman was speaking and she said , “You have to remain authentic to your voice.”
Your readers are coming to you because they want your voice. Don’t change it.
You have to remain authentic to your voice. Your readers are coming to you because they want your voice. Don’t change it.
That’s where I realized I made my mistake. I had a lot of voices going on. It was wonky. Not everyone could write like me. They can’t have that opinionated voice that I had in the beginning. I wanted more of a magazine feel, which I’ve maintained. I let go of a lot of writers.
When it comes to reviews, having a variety of writers comes in handy. I don’t have the same skin as everyone. My age and concerns are different.
I used to have a column I did called Circumspect Sunday. I spoke from my heart. People loved those posts. Engagement came from recognizing what people read and commented on and keeping that momentum going. I want to go back to being my opinionated self. If you write something that is an issue or things that reach emotions, people will engage.
How did you stay consistent with your writing?
It’s hard. I use different themes. It came about doing them one time and I noticing people liked it. Having specific, daily and weekly themes helps me with planning. It helps me get it done. What I have been doing recently is getting some of the stories in the bank. Some things are evergreen. I try to post some a couple of times a month.
I view blogging as a job. I get up. I start work about 6am. I like to be done by noon. If i miss a day or two, it’s hard to get back on track. I use the weekends to write and be ahead. I have a schedule and stick to it.
What helps keeps you going?
I had the chance to interview Pat McGrath and she said, “You have to be obsessed about whatever it is.” I always thought you had to be kind of cuckoo to love makeup so much. I get excited at Walgreens over makeup. When she said you have to be obsessed, that was an epiphany for me. I am obsessed, but it’s okay. You have to be the best at your craft.
If you could start over, would you do anything differently?
Career-wise, I would follow my love for journalism. I would want to have a job as a beauty editor. That’s my calling. A couple of months ago, I made that comment to someone in PR I work with. She said, “You are a beauty editor! You are one of the few bloggers that submits your editorial calendar. You have great stories and themes. We always knows how to work with you. The same exact thing with beauty editors you do!”
I sat back and thought, “Yeah, I am a beauty editor!” It makes me feel good that people consider my work to be that good. It has opened doors for me such as with NY Fashion Week. I’m considered a reporter. I would definitely pursue a career as a journalist in the beauty field earlier in life rather than later.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start his/her own blog?
Look at yourself and think about what sets you apart in the world. Is it your personal style? Your hair? What do people compliment you about? Take that one thing and make that your topic for conversation. Make it your passion. Be consistent with it.
Don’t compare yourself. Everyone is special in their own right.
What’s next for Tracey Brown?
I have a couple of businesses planned. I’m also building my organization that works with at-risk girls. I’ll be working on keeping the blog going. I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and have a hard time working for other people. I’m not great at corporate America. I plan to stay busy within the umbrella of beauty.
What makes you shine?
I have endurance. At times, I’ve felt overlooked. I wanted to be recognized. At the end of the day, I realized I am still here. I am still blogging. My numbers are increasing all the time. While some big names may not recognize me as a Black blogger, a lot of other journals recognize me as a significant blogger. I have to be proud of that fact. I’ve learned that you cannot compare yourself to anyone else. I have my own area that makes me unique. That’s what I had to recognize.
Persevere. If I missed a week, fell sick, or had to take a break, I didn’t quit. I came back stronger than ever and kept going. I’m six years in and couldn’t be any prouder.
Connect with Tracey Brown Online:
What’s one way you are going to work on your brand this year? Share your story in the COMMENTS section.
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