Having an alias allows you to separate your main business and not hold back.
This is about creating something that has no prior reputation or association with others.
When you have worked hard to establish your business and create something for others to buy from, why would you even think about developing an alias?
Just like Bowie’s creation, a business alias, separate from but complementary to your core brand, can take your business to another level.
This article is not about how to fashion an alter ego but about what can happen when you create an alias. In this way it is not something to hide behind but somewhere both you and your audience can meet, free from any pressure:
They won’t feel like they’re in a sales funnel and you, not beholden to company ego or sales message, can give free rein to exploring the values, thinking and inspiration that makes you tick, and start building a community.
For example, Farrow & Ball knew that a blog in which they just talked about their paint wouldn’t get much traction. Looking beyond their products, they created The Chromologist, a separate content brand where they became the almanac of colour and could inspire others far better than if they were plain old Farrow & Ball News.
In the same way, Wessex Cancer Trust didn’t want to send an email to their audience purely about their own fundraising and news. They created a monthly email called The Closer Look that also responds to the challenges the sector faces and the people who are part of their community.
Giving People A Reason
If I invited you to subscribe to the ID Group (which is my main company) newsletter, the chances are you probably wouldn’t.
Your perception would be that subscribing would be a one-way street where you’d be exposed to sales-centred messages designed to convert you from a lead to a customer.
Trust me, it’s how I started my email marketing in the days when you would buy a database or just download your email and LinkedIn contacts via a CSV file and close your eyes.
So, why do some companies still think that people will subscribe and get behind them when all they do, is promote what they do?
Unable to take a step back, these companies look at their businesses only from their own (sales) perspective. The result, when you receive an email that has the company stamp all over it (right through to the sender called info@) is that you recoil, knowing that you’re probably going to be sold something you don’t want or need.
The alternative is creating an alias from which to email your audience.
The alias is a separate identity whose primary motive is not to sell, but to inform, discuss, share and inspire. This, driven by the values that motivate you becomes something that people can come together on. Shared values build trust and trust builds loyalty (see the recent Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust? (June 2019).
And so the content you create, not the name behind it, becomes the trust leveller.
As an example, Trevor Young created PR Warrior in 2007. It is now one of Australia’s longest running marketing blogs and whilst it’s very much Trevor behind it, the PR Warrior brand – helpful, engaging and trustworthy – wields its own power.
The alias for my work is You Are The Media.
Initially created by chance as a place to test ideas and explore my thinking, I realised over time, that You Are The Media was the thing that people were getting behind.
With people reading, commenting on and eventually sharing my work among themselves and their networks, You Are The Media subscribers became a community that grew organically.
I can guarantee that this wouldn’t have happened if it had been driven by a company called The ID Group. That said, there is of course alignment between what my main company does – content marketing – and what the alias (YATM) represents – a community that comes together to learn about how you can build your own loyal audience through marketing on owned platforms.
You Can Do It Too!
If you have a message to share with others, explore how it could become an alias that communicates your over-riding purpose.
What I have witnessed for myself is that the bigger the alias grows, the more it becomes not about you but about the people who relate to this purpose. You Are The Media started as an email. It became a conference.
A time frame for your alias could look something like this:
— It starts with your company name as the attachment (first 6 months to a year)
— It grows under its own steam with people subscribing to the alias itself (from a year to 18 months)
— The primary attachment shifts to the content alias you created and what it represents, not to the company name from which it sprang (from 18 months)
This Is How:
Give the work that you want to create an overall name that reflects its purpose.
Have fun! As long as it’s relatable, it can be as random as you want but should give you the flexibility to expand your offering over time, e.g. capacity for adding a podcast or events to that initial alias blog.
Create a logo for your name.
Whether this is via Canva or a graphic designer (thanks to Media Lounge who helped with YATM), you do need to have an easily recognisable visual identity for your alias.
Be comfortable about starting from scratch.
Similar to when you’re setting up a new business, you begin with little or no reputation and a limited bank of work. This is ok, the content you produce will soon become the differentiator.
Produce content that aligns with your business’s wider purpose and values.
Freeing yourself from sales messages and shedding that ulterior motive to convert, will make the content you produce more relatable and create something that people can become attached to for its own sake.
Find a way to get people to subscribe.
Be visible and consistent in your alias space. Respond, react and interact. A cautionary note: I’ve found that podcasts are not the best medium for driving email sign-ups.
Over time build a profile that reflects your audience’s interests as much as your own.
When you know who you’re creating for, you can put together content that’s ever more appealing to them. A lead article drives the YATM email – opportunities to sell are secondary and complementary to this main offering. If the email was led by the sell, I can guarantee that events such as our conference would not sell out.
Keep up the pace!
It’ll help you attract new subscribers and build a stronger community.
Let’s Round Up
When you create an alias, you take your business to a higher plane. The people who follow you and the community you create will share your values.
Just like Ziggy, (remember him?) you’ll have the freedom to try new things and take that alias in whatever direction you feel comfortable. Adopting a publisher’s mindset and having the satisfaction of saying, “I made this,” means your work will become a continuous live lab, rather than being constrained by a company name.
This freedom will, of itself, reap rewards for your business.
And another bonus? It can also, in time, become a revenue generator in its own right.