Should You Bleed On The Page?

James Altucher does it. Rand Fishkin does it. Ben Huh does it. So does Neil Patel and Chris Brogan.

They all write extremely personal posts outlining their successes, their processes and their failures.

In short, they open up a vein and bleed on the page.

As writers and marketers, it’s easy for us to put a wall between us and our readers. When we write a blog post–even if it’s a more “personal” post, we try to put our best foot forward and not get too personal. After all:

Someone may judge us.

We don’t talk about “things” like that with strangers.

We think that writing about our failures isn’t an appropriate topic.

We think nobody wants to hear the real story.

We’re embarrassed.

Can we write about our successes? Sure. Can we pen an impersonal essay on Google’s latest algorithm, or how to be more productive, or how to do X? You bet.

But writing about facing a class action lawsuit, not being able to make payroll, feeling suicidal or the process of leaving an industry and transforming ourselves? Well, that takes guts (or another body part that’s lower down.)

I’m one of those people who writes behind a wall. Sure, I’ve written some more personal posts. I’ve alluded to stuff that’s gone on in my life.

But there’s still a wall. I can feel it. And I’m wondering if I need to get over it.

My more personal posts get the most comments (even if many of those comments are behind the scenes.) They touch more people. I’ve built online friendships by disclosing how my ex-husband committed suicide, how I was hanging off a 25 foot rock ledge and how I’ve felt totally and incredibly overwhelmed.

This got me thinking: Should bloggers (and brands) be even more transparent? Sometimes, that may mean showcasing our successes. And other times, it may mean talking about our failures. Our insecurities. How getting up in the morning some days seems…hard.

Because those types of visceral posts build connections. They get people talking. They help people realize, “Hey, I’m not the only one who feels like things are f-ed up.”

From a business blogging perspective, it’s true that not all posts can (or should) be “Here’s an accounting of all the minutia happening behind the scenes.” People don’t care about the minutia. But the overarching lessons? Yes.

Chris Brogan talked about this in a recent newsletter. He said: “The best wave of media making is upon us: personal media. And it’s not a small-vs-big company story. It’s about people who care about connecting with their buyers and the community they serve. It’s about people who understand that lazy robot marketing and business practices don’t work. And it’s about you.”

I see this as more than, “Write in a personal voice that resonates with your audience.” It’s digging deeper and writing content that truly touches your audience. And yes, this occasionally means bleeding on the page. You don’t have to bleed every time. Just enough that people know that there’s a human being behind the brand.

I know that many businesses will kick back when they read about this. “Bleeding on the page” may feel like “Telling the competition about their failures.” They may feel like writing about internal struggles (whether those struggles are personal or corporate,) is “too much” information.

And certain industries (for instance, regulated industries) may not have the freedom to bleed. After all, they barely have the freedom to write a word without a legal team looking over their shoulder.

But for the rest of us, consider if writing on a more personal level could help connect you with your customers.

Here are some great examples:

James Altucher Confidential: Not only does James list some fantastic tips, the way he writes will make you bleed along with him (but in the good way.)

Rand’s Blog:  If you’ve ever dealt with depression, you’ll connect with this post. Rand Fishkin (the author) is the founder of Moz.

WhatDidYouDoWithJill: From SEO expert to personal transformation expert, Jill chronicles her insights, successes and setbacks.

BenHuh!com: Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezeburger, discusses his suicidal thoughts – and how he broke free.

What I learned from fighting a 12-month long lawsuit:  Neil Patel bares it all and talks about his very expensive (and stressful) year.

Climb out of your comfort zone: My experience on taking time off, conquering my fears and feeling stuck beyond belief.

What about you? Would you write a more personal post? Or do you feel that bleeding on the page has no part in personal or business branding?

And do you think I should dig deeper and bleed on the page more often?

Your thoughts?

 Photo credit: © Ainteractive | Dreamstime.com – Red Heart Bleeding On Note Photo

6 replies
  1. Michael Blumfield
    Michael Blumfield says:

    Here’s how I look at it: Keep the wall up most of the time, but pull it down once every so often. I’ve read one prominent writer who tells us too much. I end up thinking less of him and feeling like he’s more taken with himself than he should be.

    Say enough to let us know you better, but keep a distance. It’s a little more alluring. Think of how depressing it is to see a faded rock star reduced to hawking signed copies of his CD after a show. Think of how much more appealing TV newscasters were 20 years ago before they did all that annoying chit-chat between news items.

    Save most of the personal stuff for calls with paying customers where it is more natural to have an exchange along those lines as a way of providing support.

    Reply
  2. Tom
    Tom says:

    It think one should, as there are so many blogs out there that look and sound like each other. By imbuing it with your personality and your human vulnerability, people identify with you better than other generic pages.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Hi Heather,
    I believe you might want to share some of your personal life with others, especially in terms of your personal brand. I know for me those posts can be difficult to write and are sometimes misinterpreted. I’ve written some humorous personal pieces and had horrible, negative comments in response. It definitely takes thicker skin, which might be the gauge for when you feel comfortable sharing the stories. Make sure that you have handled the personal personally and believe you can handle the possibly negative responses.
    Nice post and great links!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Tammy Hawk-Bridges
    Tammy Hawk-Bridges says:

    Great post heather! I especially loved going back and reading the links you offered.

    It’s a tough struggle when you’re a blogger. You want to be personal but if you’re someone like me who in my REAL life I’m a bit of an introvert it’s really hard to give people a peek at the real me. What if they don’t like me?

    Also on occasion I will get an email from a follower that says”You always have it together, how do you do it all the time?” I’ve gotten this email (worded differently but same point) and it really bothers me. How do I communicate to make people think that I have it together all the time? Is my writing “full of myself”? Because I sure as hell don’t have together ALL the time. As I’m putting together ideas for my blog posts for 2015 this gives me a lot to mull over. I look forward to reading your blog on a regular basis! Great stuff!

    Reply

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