When did “ideological” become a bad thing? It used to be that having an ideology meant one relied on a principled and coherent philosophical system in order to make governance decisions. Actually, it still means that, but for some reason certain circles of people spit the term out as if the object of their derision wore a scarlet “I”. They tend to treat people who adhere to conservative, libertarian or liberal world views as close-minded fanatics who promote extremism. And anyone who proudly fights for partisan (i.e. Democratic or Republican Party) ends is simply mucking up the works and preventing real change from happening. In other words, bi-partisanship is the only means of moving forward, and those who brand themselves as one thing or another make compromise impossible.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The funny thing is, no matter what anyone says to the contrary, labels are important. Indeed, they’re indispensible. The whole point of labels and branding is to convey important and consistent information. It greatly shortens the amount of time people need to spend researching different candidates and issues.
In the commercial realm, this is done by making sure, for example, that every Denny’s looks the same when entering and has the same menu, or that every Shell gas station provides the same cleanliness, and pricing options. By breeding familiarity, more customers will opt to sit down at, say, an Outback Steakhouse when visiting an unfamiliar place: they already know the choices and value they will receive there, and don’t need to research all the possible alternatives, possibly getting something they don’t want.
The importance of branding is just the same in the political world.
For the most part, voters are far too busy worrying about their everyday lives (e.g. getting food on the table, gas in the car, Johnny’s homework done, Sally’s college applications submitted, and retirement accounts funded, etc., etc.) to give much thought to politics. Most of them have one or two issues that drive most of their voting decisions, and they rely exclusively on branding to know who they will pull the lever for on election day. Knowing what each brand stands for in relation to that voter’s preferences means less time following Inside-the-Beltway rigmarole and more time paying attention to what’s truly important to that voter and her family.
One of the biggest phenomena of recent years has been the explosion of popularity of blogs. Most of the attention has been put on the social or political commentary provided by blogs. Less noticed has been the fact that businesses have begun to realize the benefits of blogging. In fact, blogging is an excellent way for businesses to increase their visibility on the web, and to project their brand into the marketplace. The business blog offers several key advantages for business that are seeking to get the word out about their products or services.
Because most blogging software sends notifications to the major weblog update services whenever the blog is updated, thousands of potential customers are notified when they peruse the list of recently updated blogs. This helps to bring more customers to the web site. The more often the blog is updated, the more often this potential customer stream is pulled towards the web site.
In addition, constant updates help with search engine placement. Many search engines use an algorithm in their “spiders”, i.e., web programs that catalog your web site’s content for the search engine, that causes them to spider your site more frequently if the content is regularly updated. If you have a static web site, the frequency of spidering falls off, and your web site may begin to drop lower and lower in search engine placement as its perceived relevance declines. By maintaining a regularly updated blog, you keep the search engine spiders coming to your site, and your relevance stays high.
Additionally, a blog is an excellent way to implement search engine optimization. If you want people to find your web site through searches on Google or Yahoo, you have to have content that the search engine can match with the types of searches that users are doing to find businesses like yours. A blog is an excellent way to create content that contains those important key words and phrases that users enter into a search engine when looking for a business or service.
A blog is also a fantastic communication tool. Because of the power of blogs to increase your web traffic, they also provide you with an avenue of direct communication with your customers. Traditional methods of communicating with the public, such as press releases, often have to pass through a media filter. This means that the information may not be reported the precise way you’d like to see it presented, or indeed, it may not be presented at all. And, of course, press release distribution has a cost. Effective PR services can charge hundreds of dollars for every press release you submit for distribution. The blog, on the other hand, offers a low-cost method of direct communication with your customers. Moreover, because most blog software has a comments function, your readers can communicate with you directly as well. This gives you the opportunity to get direct feedback from your customers, and to respond to customer feedback directly through the blog, and to do so in a highly public way.
A blog also increases the ability of your staff to contribute content to your web site. One of the drawbacks to a traditional web site is that it is difficult for many of your employees to add content, because they don’t know how to put content into web pages. So, either you must have a Webmaster on staff that can convert that content into a web-readable HTML content, or you have to be satisfied with less staff input on your web site’s content. Blogging software, on the other hand, requires no serious knowledge of HTML. You simply write text into an input box, and the blogging software handles all of the tedious HTML formatting for you automatically. Having a blog means that anyone on your staff can contribute content easily and directly to your web site, and do so instantly.
So don’t be fooled into thinking that blogs are solely the province of political junkies or compulsive journal-writers. The blog offers your business effective new ways of communicating, building web site traffic, and increasing your search engine placement. And that translates into more customers and more sales.