Hi from NYC! I’ve come here for some presenting work. I never knew it was so chilly! I flew Virgin Atlantic for the first time + I loved them.
Following Mail & Guardian’s recent article “Ten Of The Biggest Voices on South Africa’s Social Media Scene“, I discovered a group of photographers who collectively call themselves “I See A Different You”. They are based in Soweto + photograph their world the way they see it. Soweto stands for “South Western Townships” + is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. I find these guys really inspiring. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook + Instagram. This week I definitely take my inspiration from this group of creative entrepreneurs who seem to be among the loudest shouting online – and have over 16,000 people who are listening.
For my readers who don’t know, Mi Casa is a South African band. They’re most well-known for their hit song “Jika”. They were recently down in Cape Town for a performance at the Cape Town Convention Centre. One of my business partners was managing them on the evening + he took me backstage to meet them, right before they performed for the president! Pretty cool, huh? It makes me proudly South African to see such brilliant talent + especially to see how they’re conquering the global music scene. Kinda like another South African duo – you may know them – Die Antwoord. See my photos with them here. Mi Casa is my “Inspired By” spotlight this month – see last month’s inspiration, Victor Matom.
It’s always interesting to see which articles I write get the most views. Looking back on my stats from 2014, here’s what people liked to read about most:
Here’s what I had tons of fun writing:
DAME Helen Mirren looked every inch the Hollywood star as she arrived at the airport in Cape Town to catch her flight home.
As she strolled through the terminal with her husband, Taylor Hackford, by her side, the 69-year-old looked cool, calm and collected in a pair of dark shades and matching attire.
The “RED 2” star, who has been in South Africa promoting her latest film “Eye In The Sky”, had certainly dressed comfortably for the flight but still managed to look good.
Grinning and waving at photographers, Dame Helen wore a pair of cropped black leggings with a matching cardigan and ballet pumps.
She carried a lilac coat and a pink scarf over her arm, as well as a tan coloured handbag as she made her way through security.
“No way does she look her age – she looks amazing. I want to look like that when I’m 69.”
Reblogged from express.co.uk
After quite an emotional week for the country, with the Oscar Pistorius verdict, I’m hoping to simply wind down this weekend. I still don’t know what to believe. A lot of my friends overseas aren’t convinced he’s telling the truth. The papers here were critical of him being cleared. Reeva was in the industry I’m in, not to mention she was from my home town! It’s my aunt in the courtroom sitting next to her mother. Here are some interesting links for you:
1. Think long & hard about your blog categories
Your categories are the main sections or “magazine columns” that you feature on your blog. Your categories can be a drop down menu on your sidebar. They should be simple and logical. Use hierarchies to organise your ideas better. Try think of a catchy angle for them so you peak your viewer’s interest and stand out from the rest.
2. Design your site as simple as possible
Keep your design simple and appealing. Make it intuitive and well-structured. People should intuitively know how to navigate your space. Make pages along the top for sections you want to highlight. Use a category drop down menu and a follow widget wouldn’t hurt. If there are other platforms you want your viewers to know about, include those widgets also. A direct link to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram invites viewers to connect with you.
3. Operate it like a real magazine
+ Who you want to appeal to (age group, gender, interests)
+ What your content will be (which topics you choose)
+ How involved you’ll get in your articles (short, long, lots of resources)
Plan out each piece well. It’s always a good idea to think about a catchy title and invest time into each piece. Edit and format your posts and add great designs to them. Write in a natural tone and keep it simple. Decide on your intentions with each post. Publish often (weekly is great). If your favourite magazine missed a few issues, you’d eventually find a replacement.
4. Share each post into infinity
You write and publish something once, but who’s to say you can’t share that post once per month on Twitter, a couple times a year on Facebook or every other month on Google+? Pinterest is a lovely fresh platform with a constant stream of ideas. It’s a great way to advertise your blog. Make a board dedicated to your blog and pin your stuff to it! It will make it easier for people to find you and re-pin your stuff. Due to the “timeline” nature of most social media platforms, if you only share something once, it will only be seen by a small percent of your followers. It’s also a good idea to make an advert with your heading and URL on for sharing purposes.
5. Make sure you know what your audience wants and needs
Your readers/clients have specific questions, desires and needs. You can start to figure out these needs by putting yourself in their shoes. What would you want to read about if you were them, visiting your blog? What tools can make things simpler for your viewers? Why do they come to your blog? Read more about figuring this out here.
6. Post frequently + consistently, with quality as your best friend
Remember to keep your material current and up-to-date. Try cater for a blog audience while maintaining your brand goals and sanity. This is, of course, if you are operating your blog like a business.
7. Invest in your blog
The things you spend money on are the things you want to get value out of. The things you spend money on are the important things that you care about. The best things in life are free, but some of the things that help you create your best life cost money. Invest in marketing your blog online or elsewhere if you want the traffic that will get you money in the long run.
8. Format your posts to be read by busy, lazy humans
This means short titles, bullet points and headings. Also, it means blog posts which aren’t too long.
9. Create a content calendar
….One that includes suggested post dates and categories. Editorial Calendar WordPress plugin is great because I like a visual representation of when I should post. Without a calendar and some type of plan, you’ll get around to that one post about that one thing on the 10th of NeverEver.
10. Add in promotion & maintenance tasks
Sponsored blogging (getting paid to publish promotional stuff) must be scheduled into your usual blogging routine. A lot of the time, clients/sponsors need a date for publishing. It’s good to plan ahead so you can give them an exact date.
11. Establish a writing routine that gives you time to think
Creative people are always thinking. Sometimes I have great ideas that pop into my head which I jot down. When I get around to writing a post, I’m always excited to publish it straight away. But I’ve learnt that it’s better to save the draft and give it an ‘incubation’ period in your head. Trust me, you’ll think of different things to add over a period of just 24 hours which will add value to your post.
12. Be you. We won’t like you if you’re being someone else
Enjoy your own space online. Add photos of your life. Write the way you would speak in real life. See how you do this in my post Find Your Voice Online.
13. Get high quality photos of yourself
It’s a good idea to have quality photos of yourself. These will come in handy for your “about” page, as well as any articles you write where you have personal experience. Allow your readers to connect with you! Keep a professional flavour by getting nice photos taken. It’s good for you and will be a plus for the photographer. There’s power in collaboration!
14. Audit your blog regularly
That post you wrote three months ago? It totally needs a link to the post you published earlier this week because they’re heavily related and your readers will be happy to have guided/quick access to both. Always keep in mind that no matter what order you write things in, any post or page on your website has the potential to be the first post a visitor sees. P.S. Blog audits are also a great way to make sure you’ve included your affiliate links and product/service links in all the organic ways possible.
15. Check your grammar
Make sure to double-check your articles.
16. Be available + interactive
No one likes a person who never responds to anything. Granted, you may be so “big time” that you can’t get to every blog comment or tweet, but none of them? I’ll accept that when you become the President of the United States. Even then, you can hire some people to help you out!
17. Pay attention to the questions your readers ask
There may be a new blog post you’ve written, a new eBook you can sell, a problem you can fix or a service you can offer that is lingering in questions from readers. Cultivate community around your blog so people feel they are in a safe space where they are supported and encouraged. Grow a family around your blog. You do this by being attentive to your readers.
18. Guest post like a champ
Once you have a healthy collection of quality content to lead people back to, pitch to some sites that fit your brand (or that are frequented by your ideal readers) to do a guest post. Think about larger online magazines and websites as well. These guest posting opportunities will help you build relationships and will lead new readers back to your site.
19. Accept guest posts like a champ
If someone else is willing to say some valuable and entertaining stuff on your blog, let them. Make sure each post fits your blog, fits your readers, and is the type of quality content you want your blog to be known for. Make sure to promote your guest authors and show them love. They will likely spread the word of their guest post, which can potentially give you lots of new readers.
20. Stay focused
We creatives like shiny new projects and get distracted easily. When you have lots of ideas racing through your head, stop and focus your energy on one thing at a time. Make a list. Lists are great.
Photo: Death To The Stock Photo
In my acting classes at the New York Film Academy, we were often taught about embracing our inner truth. I never understood the concept. I originally thought it was just an acting thing! My teacher was strong, loud and confident. She was sure of herself and what she liked and didn’t like. She had so many stories about her days in acting class with Bradley Cooper! She was in touch with an incredible inner “knowing” of who she was. It was a core strength of utter authenticity. Over and above her clothing, there was an X-factor. It transcended a 1 dimensional existence. It was mesmerising! It was attractive! I wanted it! As the months rolled on, I threw myself into her teachings and soon came to a total understanding of the word “truth”. It wasn’t just an acting thing, it was a human thing. I ‘got’ that if we could learn to be free in our own unique footprints, we’d be so much more victorious in every day life.
So what is “Truth”?
1. It’s Not a Brand
If you’re going to try and contain your inner workings, human psyche and organically fluctuating creative spirit (also known as being a human being) in a box labelled “brand”, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
When it comes to business, there are things to a brand which must be in place. They are super relevant and should be well-planned. But publicists globally have now started a trend toward extending that concept to the personal human being. To be honest, I did enjoy reading the Personal Branding for Dummies article on developing your private brand!
Personal branding has become a huge money-making realm. Coaches in it teach us to:
+ calculate every part of ourselves precisely.
+ manipulate ourselves to portray a desired “angle” to the public at all times.
To me, that’s not branding. That’s a forced existence. It also opens up the can of worms of living for others. Can we be free in our own thoughts, feelings and emotions if we are living for others?
2. It’s Not Boxing Yourself In
Why do we have to harness the expansiveness of the human spirit to limit it to a specific way of being?
– a logo
– a colour scheme
– a fashion style
– a haircut
– an attitude
– a music taste
– a behaviour
– a profile on a social platform
I believe in giving people the freedom to come and go as they want. I believe it’s everyone’s right to decide how they want to do stuff. I personally like innovating constantly. I believe its a good way to be effective. When we box ourselves in to do certain things, we shadow the multi-faceted prism of human nature. We run the risk of putting a blanket over our natural glow which changes all the time. As individuals, we aren’t a business. We have an ebb and flow of likes and dislikes. We don’t have to box ourselves in the way businesses have to.
A Brand is the “design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.”
3. It’s Natural Distinction
We all like distinction. But we must remember that we don’t need to do any work in trying to be distinct. As humans from totally different backgrounds, countries, personal histories, families, religions and cultures, we already are distinct. We can simply stand in that. We don’t need to try harder to stand out more. We are already individual just by being here. No one else has our story.
I wouldn’t be looking at this topic if it hadn’t come up as a theme in my own life. Many people ask me about how I crafted my “brand” and I have no idea what they mean. I’ve always gone with the flow of my spirit and what it likes, when it likes it.
The whole idea of personal branding highlights the importance to me to draw the distinction between being human and being a brand. It’s my belief we should do away with the pressure of “branding” ourselves if we’re ever to live naturally and freely in the world.
We want to live naturally so we can be empowered in ourselves; so we can be happy. I think people can confuse themselves by trying to assign adjectives and labels to their being. Some spend hours crafting their behaviour and appearance across all their portals because they think they should. It stops being healthy when it comprimises your sanity.
4. It’s Your Own Style
I have friends who are actors, writers, designers, musicians, bloggers, models. They’re people with good talents first and foremost. They’ve started:
– dressing in a certain way to be “appealing”
– posting updates on Facebook about topics they’re not really into
– instagramming certain things
– speaking in a certain way
– tailoring their Facebook pages to be a certain “look”
There’s a part of them that feels they have to. But it sounds like a lot of effort to stage themselves for the world. Rather cultivate your own style of talking online; post about what you really like. I value the power of branding and marketing/PR strategy in the workplace. But when living as a personal entity, I see more power in authenticity. We can have many tastes and celebrate our varied preferences on a daily basis. There’s no need to label any of it, or change it to suit the world. It’s our individuality that makes us special.
At castings, I see people come in having changed their hairstyle or “look” because their agent said they must be a different “brand”. They change themselves. They try to be someone they authentically aren’t. It’s a disservice to their natural strengths, which no one else has. People can make the mistake of thinking fashion defines them. It doesn’t. You can choose to be classic and simple this week, and next week wear a scruffy sundress with messy hair. One of the constraints personal branding puts on people is to stick to a certain fashion. Fashion can hide who we really are. A lot of time can be saved when we realise we don’t need to focus too much on the tactics of branding as the world knows it in our personal capacity. Simply have core principles and the rest is fat on the bone.
5. It’s Your X-Factor
If I think about it, let’s look at it practically. My husband one day won’t fit in to any “brand”. All I know is that the essence of his spirit will transcend what he’s wearing, what he’s driving, what music he’s listening to, how he acts, what his website looks like, what his instagram looks like, what he tweets or how popular he is on Facebook. My impression of him will be superior to all that. His business is one thing, his human-ness and personality is another. That’s his X-factor. His business needs a brand, he doesn’t. I know he will change every day. His tastes will evolve according to his truth, his fashion sense will transform over time, his values will change, his passions will vary. His simple, elegant “way of being” will fly in the face of any personal brand he meticulously crafted once. He won’t overthink his existence. And I won’t be able to put my finger on why I like him.
6. It’s Your Common Sense
Some things to me are common sense, not brand buzzwords. Things like:
– Be authentic
– Treat others with respect
– Stand out in your own way
I also believe we all know these things on a instinctive level. There’s a deep X-factor which is all of you that you cannot force or change. You can try to dress it up or manipulate it to stick to an “angle”, but that wouldn’t be truth. That wouldn’t be your common sense.
7. It’s Changing Everyday
When you put labels on yourself, you create a need to be loyal to “consistency” which brand building entails. This is pressure. As human beings, we are naturally inconsistent. Things are happening to us every day which shape how we think and how we do things. What I feel today will be different to what I feel tomorrow. To force yourself to be the same all the time could be suffocating. To force others to be the same is also suffocating. That’s a huge disservice to the mind. We should all give ourselves equal permission to flourish.
When you agree to trust and surrender to who you really are on a daily basis, you’ll have a deep contentment. You’ll stop needing to control yourself or others. Business is the only thing that needs a “spin” on it.
Truth begins with knowing who you are this morning and that you will grow and adapt by sunset. It’s enjoying your personal way of being and of doing. It’s not trying to understand it, it’s going with the flow of it. It’s being proud of it. My teacher knew that.
– It’s Not a Brand
– It’s Not Boxing Yourself In
– It’s Natural Distinction
– It’s Your Own Style
– It’s Your X-Factor
– It’s Your Common Sense
– It’s Changing Every Day
My teacher embraced these things. As a result, she was whole. It made her energy irresistable.
Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.
Photo: Death to the Stock