The Million Dollar Question: How Did You Build Your Brand?


Two days ago, someone invited me to coffee and asked: “So, how did you build your brand?”  My first thought was: “This conversation requires way more time than a 10-minute coffee run!”  And my second thought was: “Great question.  Do I have a great answer?”  So I got to thinking about it and surmised that taking the following steps have helped me build the Justice Fergie brand online:

It Takes Hard Work. And time. And more hard work.  There is no magical secret to it – just as with any offline brand, building one online take a lot of sweat (and sometimes, tears).  The good news is that while 5 years may not be a lot of time to build a business in the offline world, it can take a lot less time to develop a name for yourself online.  That said, you cannot expect to earn equity in your brand overnight.  As bloggers, we are writers first and foremost.  Developing a portfolio, in your blog, should be priority number one.  Take care in your writing, finding your authentic voice, and providing engaging content on a regular basis.

You also have to develop relationships, online and in-person, with everyone from fellow bloggers to PR reps to business owners to media professionals.  Like any relationship, those you are looking to cultivate in the name of your brand must be nurtured.  This also takes careful thought and attention.  Whether it’s over email or face-to face, you must spend time meeting and talking with people – you never know who could eventually have a hand in sending a game-changing opportunity your way.

Staying on top of your game is crucial as well.  Knowing and using the latest social media tools and technologies is important.  Being responsive and accessible is critical.  This also means that you must treat your brand and your blog as a job – one requiring your devoted attention and commitment.  Ask anyone of your favorite bloggers and I have no doubt they will each say that early mornings, late nights, and all sorts of other sacrifices definitely have been a side effect of building a successful brand.

Consider Your Brand Name.  Back in 2006 when I came up with the idea for Mamalaw, I never anticipated that 5 years later I would be an avid social media enthusiast, blogging conference co-founder, regular speaker and brand ambassador.  At the time, the only thought was that my co-bloggers and I wanted to remain anonymous online because we were (a) parents, and (b) practicing lawyers.  Thus the “Justices of Mamalaw” were born and I became “Justice Fergie” (a play on my last name).  As it turns out, people thought the name was great and before I knew it, I couldn’t shake it.  I quickly became known as Justice Fergie and it’s stuck for all of these years.  I think that having a clever ‘gimmick’ like that helped me to develop an online persona.

On the flipside, I often wonder whether I should have started my social media career using my real name.  It can be exhausting explaining to people the origins of Justice Fergie and that “no, my first name isn’t Justice.” Imagine the bad PR pitches I get.  I sometimes think it would have been awesome to be a Cecily Kellogg or a Katie Granju, and to be “myself” online.  Then again, the creation of my alias may have been a blessing given that I share my birth name with a major celebrity.  Had I used my real name, no one would have ever found my blog on Google!


But wait! There’s more.  To Be Continued…