Blogs are hard. It’s very easy to get into a cycle where you’re just recycling the same stuff over and over again. It’s the equivalent of doing a television clip show: “Wellll… we’re totally tapped out, so let’s just hack together a bunch of old stuff and call it a day.” That can work well for major TV series, but not so much for blogs. It’s possible to rework old content, but the new version has to have a life of its own. If you phone it in, people are just going to hang up on you.

Looking for Inspiration
I’m quite proud of myself for overcoming the temptation to use a really terrible stock photo for this, such as somebody looking through a magnifying class (this would have compelled me to include a really lame caption, like “So THAT’S where I put my inspiration!”).

Sometimes, you can find content wherever you happen to be looking at the moment.

But sometimes, your best work is what you knock out when your back is up against the wall. In his “Blah Blah Blog” post, Josh listed off our five most-viewed blog posts of all time. What he didn’t reveal was this: the second-most viewed post, “McDonald’s versus In-N-Out: Why Brand is More than an Image and Why Identity Matters,” was a completely unplanned post that Josh knocked out in less than an hour. And yet it’s gotten nearly as many views as our third-, fourth-, and fifth-most visited blog posts, combined.

At the time, we were a two-man crew, and were trying to put out three blog posts a week. On that Wednesday morning, I was due to have a blog post put together and ready to post. But I had come up completely dry. Josh was doing his usual morning perusal of business news when I told him. At that moment, he had happened to be looking at an article about the bigwigs at McDonald’s trying to figure out why their numbers were sliding (what’s old is apparently new again, judging by the headlines they’ve been making over the last few weeks). In a fit of inspiration and desperation, and with burgers on the brain, Josh had me editing that blog post in less than an hour, and it was on the site a few minutes later.

It was quick and dirty, so of course it was the one that was a hit. Go figure.

Leveraging interesting life events for your business’s benefit.

In June, I went on vacation to Turkey for two weeks. I put together a blog post that discussed the upcoming trip, and reflected on my previous travels.  It gave me the opportunity to explore how my traveling has subtly altered how I approach anything and everything, including my job. But that wasn’t quite enough. The most interesting and successful blogs are those that reach outward, instead of inward. They teach people how to do something, they offer up interesting insights into a popular topic of conversation (as was the case with Josh’s blog about McDonald’s), or they engage with specific businesses or groups who have their own social presence that you can borrow from.

As a result, I kept my eye out for opportunity. The result was my blog post about a tech startup company in Turkey that I did business with while I was there (“A Little Feature on a Little Tech Startup in Turkey“). It ended up getting some very quick traction and interest, and it ended up being the most popular blog post we’ve had in about three months. This was likely in large part due to the fact that the company in question was kind enough to share our post on their Facebook page, along with some very kind words.

In short, by giving the company a little publicity and exposure, we were able to leverage the strength of their social media fan base, giving us additional exposure as well. This isn’t something that you would want to force or do in an unnatural way (“If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”). But if something pops up in your life that you think is really cool, then chances are that your audience will think so as well, so do something with it.

Your life is your business, like it or not.

The first part of this post’s title is “your life is your business.” I kicked off with that because that’s the point this blog post is trying to make–that what you do in your life can really give your business life as well. But I want to close by pointing out that the opposite is true as well: destructive and questionable life choices can injure or even destroy your business.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of teachers, and a universal truth in the teaching community for decades and even centuries has been that teachers really have to mind their Ps and Qs in your normal day to day life. Teachers tend to be placed up on a moral pedestal, and so their professional careers ruined by gossip and public backlash in response to life choices–drinking, divorce, speaking out on personal and political beliefs–that people in many other careers take for granted.

However, the playing field for people in all professions is rapidly being leveled, thanks to the piece of communications technology that is allowing you to read this right now: the Internet. Our lives and our histories are indelibly tied up in social media, and what we do today can be fodder for discussion amongst millions of people on Facebook tomorrow.

When personal events go public and negatively affect business.

An excellent example of this is actually playing out right now. Recently, a dentist in Minnesota was identified as the game hunter who shot and killed a lion in Zimbabwe. The lion had been illegally lured away from the preserve where it had liven and been protected, and had apparently been a very popular tourist attraction.

As a result, literally millions of people have been taking to various social media networks, protesting the man’s actions. He has had to take his business’s site offline, and has even closed his physical business for the moment. In the meantime, his Yelp and Google review pages are being swamped with negative reviews, some of them quite profane. Currently, his Yelp page has about 1,800 reviews (plus another 500+ reviews that are hidden by Yelp due to being “not currently recommended”), and he has nearly 3,500 reviews on Google.

It has to be understood that the Internet has a nearly infinite memory. This is such a huge problem that in 2006, the European Union passed a law stating that citizens have a right to have information about themselves erased from Internet sites and search engines–this has been dubbed as “the right to be forgotten.” Even after Yelp and Google inevitably delete the reviews that aren’t actually related to the actions of his business, anybody who does a Google search about his business will be deluged with articles published by major news sources all over the world, describing exactly what the man did.

Regardless of your opinion of the individual and what he did, it’s obvious that his business and professional reputation will never recover from this. While this is an incredibly extreme example, situations similar to this negatively affect thousands of businesses every year. Sometimes it starts with a bad Yelp review, or a business owner’s minor crime being mentioned in the local newspaper, or a poorly thought-out post on a personal social media account. But it doesn’t take much of a spark to start a fire on the Internet.

Just as the positive things in your life can be used to invigorate your business’s image, the negative things in your life can destroy it. The line between our personal and professional lives is rapidly narrowing into nonexistence. So, just as you should always be on the lookout for elements of your life that can be used to lend color to your business, you should also always carefully examine the choices you make and actions you take in your personal life, and reconsider those that might come back to bite you.

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