HippoCamp 2016 Session Recap: Get Over Yourself! “Narcissism or Personal Branding?”

by Cija A. Jefferson


John baldino speaking

If you didn’t attend John Baldino’s session—Narcissism or Personal Branding? Using Video and Other Digital Tools to Boost Your Personal Brand—then you missed out, but don’t worry I’ve compiled a few savory tidbits here for you to enjoy. Baldino is the president and managing director of Baldino Digital, a digital media, marketing and advertising firm, and he is passionate about his tagline: Don’t let bad video happen to good people. As I sat in the front of the room, laptop open and fingers primed for note taking, I wondered if I’d made a mistake attending this session. I’d been so fired up by the session title question, narcissim or personal branding, that I’d missed the word video.  What did this have to do with authors/writers: do we need to really shoot trailer promos, staged interviews, and FAQs? According to Baldino the answer is yes.


I can tweet, blog and gush with abandon about somebody else’s work but when it comes to mine, I become self-conscious and wonder if I’m indeed being a narcissist. Then I self-sabotage and convince myself that rather than be perceived negatively, I should do nothing at all.


“There’s a fine line between the narcissistic opera singer,” says Baldino, singing the scales, “ me, me, me, me, me, meeee… and the confident professional.”


So how do you do it?  He suggests writing your bio in third person to create a world in which someone else is telling your story. For instance, Cija Jefferson is an author living in Baltimore… you get the point. But that’s just the beginning; he also strongly urges authors/writers to consider hiring a professional to produce video content.


“Video is vital. It’s the most compelling and engaging type of content on websites,” he said.


Baldino admittedly is the owner of a digital media company, but he is clear that even if you can’t afford to hire a professional like him, take a few video and lighting classes. If that’s not an option, then he pleaded that we at least hold our cellphones the right way when shooting video content, horizontally.


So what can a writer do with video on their website and in other places? Baldino suggests you shoot a trailer promo for your book or even an upcoming published article. For an example of an effective book trailer, I recommend you watch author MK Asante’s trailer for his memoir, Buck. This video is about 2:30 seconds, within Baldino’s recommended 2/2.5-minute attention span maximum.


Do you find that during interviews or after readings you are asked the same questions all the time? If yes, then why not shoot a video answering those frequently asked questions. They don’t have an expiration date and can live on your site forever. Why not also stage an interview—have a friend ask you questions off-camera and post to your site, set up a talk-show style interview about your project, and record reader reviews and testimonials? By having a third person perspective in video and in your bio it “gives credibility,” says Baldino.


While this all sounds like fun, don’t forget to be mindful that you are self-marketing. Be sure the header art/graphics on your website, YouTube page, Facebook and other social media are consistent. If you’re afraid of someone stealing your content, graphically brand it using the “lower third” of the screen. Basically insert a constant background graphic of your brand—think the ABC graphic in the corner of your TV screen.


Start an opt-in email list and embed video in those newsletters. Remember they need to be CAN-SPAM compliant—subject line can’t be misleading, unsubscribe has to be an option and if requested must be honored within 10 days. Emails must also be COPPA compliant—checkbox required for each email: I certify that I am age 13 or older. While social media is important, Baldino noted that many people forget the value of newsletter emails.


“Including video in an email leads to a 200-300 percent increase in click-through rate, but if video looks lousy people don’t take it seriously,” he said.


What are you waiting for? Get started. You don’t have to jump all in at once! Begin with your bio. If you’re a good reader—record yourself reading your work. Get those FAQs posted.


“Remember to ask yourself, what am I promoting: what is it, what’s it about, why do I want to read it, is it going to change my life and if it’s not, lie about…” says Baldino. “…and don’t forget a call to action: go to website and sign up for emails. The viewer wants to know what’s in it for me.”


FAQs here I come! Oh, yeah; and remember the look of the video is just as important as the content, so be professional and, at the very least, hold your phone sideways!