Branding Bull Runnings

14 05 2009

OK, I admit it: I have an MBA.  I got it 20 years ago from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.  And while I did pretty well academically – I even earned membership in a national honors fraternity called Bata Gamma Sigma – I can’t say that my degree actually did me any good in my conventional career in business (which ended ingloriously about 17 years ago when I got into appraising).  But I did put my marketing concentration to use when I set out with this blog.  I had a definite, if general, idea of what I did and did not want Bull Runnings to be.  And I’ve pretty much stayed within the parameters I set at the beginning.

One of the things I wanted to do was stay on-topic, and I think I’ve done that.  Not that every single post here has been about Bull Run, but I think they’ve been related to my project (if sometimes tenuously).  They include topics on digital history, how other blogs handle things, doings of the National Park Service, stories about participants, my Civil War related travels, the art of history in general, etc…  In particular, I didn’t want modern politics discussed here.  Not that I’m unconcerned with certain situations in our world: I just don’t want this blog to become a forum for bitching or pontificating, at least not about modern politics.  Sticking to this guideline has been my most satisfying decision.   In one respect this has evolved as my outside writing projects have become greater in scope.  I even decided to stay away from certain Civil War topics (like Black Confederates, causes of the war and the legality of secession) unless they relate to First Bull Run and its participants, but sometimes I come across Civil War themed stories, like the Kilpatrick Family Ties thread, that I just can’t resist.

I once wrote in reponse to a comment thread that was developing here that I want Bull Runnings to be more like Switzerland and less like Belgium and France.  That doesn’t mean that I ban heated discussions and disagreements; it just means that I don’t want commenters to bring baggage and personal history here.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and that’s very apparent in online discussion forums.  I get my share of kooks commenting here – hopefully, because of the rules I’ve set for myself and the blog, I get less than my share.  You don’t see their comments, because I delete them.  No fanfare, no explanation.

When I first set out, I didn’t anticipate the Resources section of the blog.  That was supposed to be a separate, database website.  But I’m pleased with how it’s worked out, and how easily the paging features of WordPress have accommodated the project.

In no way is this a criticism of bloggers who don’t have similar guidelines.  A blog can and should be whatever the blogger desires it to be.  My only advice to new bloggers is to have a good idea of what that is.

All of this is done with a reason.  I want returning readers to have a general idea of what to expect when they click in to Bull Runnings.  I hope I’m succeeding, but your input is always welcome.  And as always, thanks for stopping by.

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4 responses

14 05 2009
Craig Swain

You have succeeded, in my opinion. In fact, provided a fine example of how best to approach a study of a particular topic, in this case a battle, within the blog format. But you’ve heard me say that a few times before.

The admirable part is you’ve built a well followed blog essentially by “brute force.” In my day job we are constantly pulling out tricks to lure users into web content and attract traffic. Stuff that I’d violate a stack of NDAs just to name. But you’ve accomplished quite a bit simply by having quality content. Sort of a “Mr. Smith Writes a Blog” story line when compared to some of the technical blogs I read during the day.

Seriously, though, I admire your focus!

14 05 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Craig! You know, “focused” is not a term typically used to describe me.

I think I know what you’re talking about re: my “brute force” marketing. I’m pretty sure there are other ways, besides those that are content related – certain topics that are sure to draw readers – to increase traffic. And I’m just like anybody else, I DO want folks to read what I write. But I think I’m too old to learn these tricks. Diggit, delicious, etc. I tried “stumble” and “technorati”, but I’m not sure I did it right. Hey, at least I got on Facebook!

14 05 2009
cenantua

The important thing is that you enjoy what you do and it shows in your posts. I especially like watching the various forms of creativity in getting historical information out (as in what you do here). You get the job done (getting out the historical info) while at the same time throwing in some personal features that make it more than just an info compilation blog. I think a good balance of both are an encouragement for folks to return.

Signed… a kook… I mean a FOBR :-)

14 05 2009
acwresearcher

While I may have commented here before and encountered your blog in passing, I am a relatively new subscriber to your feeds through Google Reader. I am impressed that you have maintained focus on a specific Civil War battle and resources related to it. This just goes to show (as if 50,000 titles weren’t enough) the study of the Civil War is hugely complex and not nearly as simple as some would have us believe.

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