A visit to Pensacola Beach and thoughts on branding oneself as sacred

Expanding on a comment I posted earlier in response to Dan Holloway's excellent post on The Cynical Self-Publisher about the difficulties of consistent branding in the current publishing/social networking environment.

Yesterday, I sat at a particular spot by the Gulf of Mexico in Pensacola Beach, where I lived when I was a kid. It was a dive back then: a small row of shabby Nixon-era townhomes with long flanks of empty beach on both sides and flea-infested, trash-strewn empty lots across the street. Now it's all swankypants. The old place was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1990s and replaced with high dollar apartments and upscale houses side-by-side the entire length of the once God-forsaken road.

I won't nostalgically argue that the old place was better. It wasn't; it was a shithole. But it was a shithole with a beautiful white sand beach. Yes, it's crowded now, but back then it was lonely. Yes, it's overly commercial now, but back then it was ill-maintained because only a few people cared about it. Eventually, all these new things will fall away and be replaced by something else.

What remains constant is the beach. The white sand and blue Gulf -- that's the source of the spiritual, recreational, educational, physical, emotional, financial power of this place.

All of which is to say that branding has to be about who we are, not what we do. Our nature is consistent; money, bizzyness, trends and opportunities are not. Each of us has this powerful natural wonder within ourselves. The question we're asking (though we might not like the sound of it) is: "How shall I best exploit this?"

The broad strokes are obvious:

In any development, as many windows as possible should face the beach. Key to our commercial value is a firmly fixed focus on the art and craft of writing.

Boardwalks and roads should be kept up properly. We have to make our work accessible and reader-friendly. This encompasses everything from excellent grammar to a well-designed, easily navigable website.

The beach must be protected from pollution. Greed, jealousy, negativity and grasping are bound to make an appearance. They should be disposed of quickly and appropriately.

Access to the beach should be open in some areas, controlled in others. Our secondary goal is to welcome as many readers as possible; our primary goal is to lead happy lives. We must reserve significant quantities of time, love and creative energy for ourselves, our work and our personal relationships.

Above all, the beach should be shared, enjoyed and loved. Honored. Because the beach came from God and ultimately belongs to God. It's both fiscally prudent and spiritually healthy for the beach to be consistently branded as sacred.

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