How to Make Great Digital Storytelling that Attracts People [EP 15 The Blog Chronicles]

November 16, 2016

digital storytelling

Welcome to this episode of The Blog Chronicles.

My guest is a professional blogger and entrepreneur who runs her own online business called Kotaw– a Los Angeles based creative digital storytelling agency.

She’s a former journalist who uses 3 types of storytelling to make branding magic for businesses like Apple, Disney, Coca Cola, Lifetime and NPR. Her branding journalism and public relations clients have been featured on E! Network, ABC News, Cosmpopolitan, Marie Claire and Good Housekeeping magazines.

She has also written a bestselling memoir about her terrifying experiences with an ex husband that was made into a Lifetime Network movie.

Okay, let’s get our chronicle on with blogger Katherine Kotaw.

How to Make Great Digital Storytelling that Attracts People

Katherine Kotaw Interview Transcript

( For those who like to read.)


Katherine Kotaw, Founder and CEO of KOTAW, a digital marketing and branding agency.

Matthew Loomis: Hi Katherine.

Welcome to the Show!

Katherine Kotaw: Thank you so much!

I’m happy to be here.

Matthew Loomis: So.

You have reached a place in life that many people want.

You’ve started a web-based business and you’re your own boss. I want to start right here on this topic.

Do you have a home based office?

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

I do.

What Do You Enjoy the Most About Working From Home and Being Your Own Boss?

Matthew Loomis: What do you enjoy the most about being your own boss?

Katherine Kotaw: That I can work.

Whatever hundred hours a week that I want.

Katherine Kotaw:  Really. It gives me flexibility.

I love what I do.

I’ve always loved what I’ve done but it gives me the chance to organize my life the way that I want to.

Sometimes I write the best at four in the morning. And I don’t have to go any place to do it. Sometimes I want to take time off to do something with my daughters.

Or just walk the dog and I can do that whenever I want to.

Image result for caricature of lady walking a dog

So it gives me tremendous responsibility. But for me, it’s always been about the flexibility of choosing what I do and when I want to do it.

What In Your Opinion Are Your Biggest Challenges When Being Your Own Boss?

Matthew Loomis: Flexibility is great.

What would you say your biggest challenges are when it comes to being your own boss?

Katherine Kotaw: Being too hard.

As a boss.

Matthew Loomis: Being too hard on yourself?

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

I wouldn’t want to be my own employee. I think.

Although the people I work with I tend to be very flexible with in terms of ”ME”.  I tend to be very hard on myself. It can be eleven at night and I still think, ”Oh my gosh I still need to do something”

There just still something I want to do.

I’m driven by creativity and when I’m excited about something, that’s really what drives me. It’s not so much stress about, ”I have to please this client or life is going to turn around if I don’t do this”

But when I’m passionate about something I think about it 24/7.

So if I can’t sleep I get up and I write about it or I get up and think about it and strategize. So the biggest challenge for me is telling myself to ”STOP” 🙂

Sometimes the best work really comes when you do stop. So I insist that I take walks. I insist that I go to the park. I insist that I eat. Sometimes those are the kinds of things that I will let go of.

If I’m not strict about myself.

Matthew Loomis: I have the same challenges.

It’s alright here at our house, so yeah we’re tempted.

Katherine Kotaw: When you leave the office.

You can’t reach those things in your desk. You don’t have the phone number or whatever. But when it’s right here it’s just, all I have to do is pick up the laptop or walk two feet.

Do You Love Dogs?

Matthew Loomis: I just remember too.

When you talk about going for walks and getting away from things.

Aren’t you a dog lover?

Say Hello To Ivy!

IvyWriter Katherine Kotaw, CEO and Chief Storyteller of KOTAW Content Marketing, a Los Angeles-based digital agency focused on branding through storytelling, works alongside her two daughters and their Pit Bull | Mother-Daughter-Daughter-Pit Brand Storytelling Team

Katherine Kotaw: Yeah!

I have two dogs and a cat.

All three who chose to live here. They wandered into our house one at a time.

Matthew Loomis: 🙂

They were looking for Katherine Kotaw!

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

They were!

”Come and You Shall Be Welcomed”

Matthew Loomis: I have seen that on your website.

One of them is a pit bull, right?

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

Matthew Loomis: Those are great breeds.

You advocate for the Pit Bull breed, right?

Meet Stella!

Image result for KatherineKotaw images of Stella pit bull

Katherine Kotaw: I advocate for it strongly.

My daughters campaign it more than I do.

It’s sort of a separation of responsibilities.

One of the things I decided  to do when I opened Kotaw and to build our brand. Was to have a brand that meant something to me as well as to my clients. What we thought about, well, if we could brand pit bulls as well as with Kotaw we could brand anybody.

Because they’ve been such a disparaged breed.

So that has been a passion project of ours. Anytime I take on a project and I’m not sure about it. Sometimes I weigh on the basis of how passionate can I be about this project. There is going to be hard to find one that makes me as passionate about pit bulls in terms of reshaping a personality.

Some of them come close and when they come close I’m the life of the project and all goes well.

Is There a Separate Website For Your Pit Bull Advocacy?

Matthew Loomis: Do you have a separate website.

For your dog advocacy?

Katherine Kotaw: No.

It’s a separate tab on the website.

It’s tied together because we wanted it to be part of our brand.

It was a bit of a risk with our new company putting that up there right away because there is a, ”Oh my god”! reaction to pit bulls. Again it was important to me so I said, ” We can do it”!

And the response has been incredible. Almost every single day somebody sends to me a picture of a pit bull or a video of a pit bull. Something that they have heard about pit bulls, ”I thought you’d just want to hear about this Katherine”

So I know it’s working. Not just in terms of my own brand but it’s also helping a breed that needs help.

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You Took a Passion That You Have to Help a Breed of Dog and Incorporated it Into Your Online Business

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Matthew Loomis: I think it’s interesting.

Because you took one of your passions and incorporated it into your business brand.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

To me, that’s always been important.

It’s one of the reasons I do personal branding as well as corporate branding. I’ve always felt that they have been intertwined. Because corporations are made of people. There’s sort of a myth if you are a corporation. Even if you are a home based entrepreneur and it’s just you. We have a tendency to think that we have to act corporate.

So what we sometimes do is act incredibly impersonal and nobody is particularly interested in us.

If you’re building an online business, it’s really hard to find something that no one has ever done before.

You put it out there and whether you’re writing a blog or whether you’re selling shoes. Whether you have some kind of dentist that does teeth whitening strips. Chances are somebody else is doing it.

Chances are somebody else is doing it. Probably a hundred maybe thousands of other people are doing that same thing.

What distinguishes your brand is what you bring to it personally.

It makes a huge difference and some of the major corporations are starting to learn that and embrace it a bit. The obvious example comes to mind with Steve Jobs.

He was Apple and the company has struggled some in his absence.

All of the complaints about the new iPhone. Part of it was some technical things but part of it was, ”It didn’t have his touch”, so some were more critical. There might have been things about some other phones that we didn’t like. It’s like, ”Oh my god” There had to be some things about Steve jobs that had to be great.

He was great, he brought that to the brand.

I think it’s important and I that’s what I wanted to do from the beginning. That there had to be a captain Kotaw brand as well as a Kotaw brand.

Matthew Loomis: Steve Job’s personality.

Had a way of turning a situation into gold.

Image result

Steven PaulSteveJobs (/ˈɒbz/; February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American businessman, inventor, and industrial designer. He was the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple Inc.; CEO and majority shareholder of Pixar Animation Studios;[2] a member of The Walt Disney Company‘s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT Inc. Jobs is widely recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Shortly after his death, Jobs’s official biographer, Walter Isaacson, described him as a “creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.”[3]

Katherine Kotaw: Of course.

Because he would own it.

It would be like, ”Thank you for telling me this”! Because now we can immediately go out and fix it. The response after this last one was kind of to ”pull back” and sort of hide from this mistake.

And Steve never would have. He would have been on top of it. He would have talked about, ”That’s what Apple is all about”

Being responsive, it’s innovated based on what our customers need and want.

Internally he may have been making things a living hell for the people there. But in terms of his personality to the public. It was going to be reassuring and inspiring and, ”Wow we’re on top of this”  ”This is what we do”!

Absent of that they have a tough time with this release.

Do You Find It Challenging Working With Your Daughters?

Matthew Loomis: He’s a great example.

Of personal branding.

Let’s go back to your personal brand.

Another aspect I want to ask you about is – You run your business with your two daughters?

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

Matthew Loomis: Is this something that is challenging.

At times as a family business?

Katherine Kotaw: It can be.

When I started Kotaw I did not expect my daughters to be interested.

They both have other passions and they were sort of helping mom get started.

Doing everything is tough. I didn’t have eighteen hours a day to spend on social media to be starting out. And also to be pursuing clients, pleasing clients and doing all those things.

So they said finally, ”They’d kind of help”.

Matthew Loomis: Kind of help?

Katherine Kotaw: Yeah.

As it turned out they were spending twelve-hour days fourteen hour days. I still considered it helping. They sort of did too. And then they sat me down one day and said, ”We want to be a part of the business” I said, ”Really”? As much as I knew they had all of these talents that would be great for Kotaw. I always thought that their passions led elsewhere.

So when they said they want to do this. I said, ”Sure, I know you’d be great assets” And they go, ”Yep, we’re in”!

It was wonderful. Yet there are challenges partly because I’m used to being the one and only for a long time.

Although Kotaw is new. I’ve been an entrepreneur, for probably twenty years. There was no one to be involved with what I was doing to check and say, ”Have you got this done on time”?

It’s a kind of play back and forth. So there was a bit of a challenge.

I do know that one of the things that you really want to know about people who are working with you or for you is – What are their strengths and weaknesses. As their mother, I really do know them. So that helps. That’s the flip side of it.

I know that Kelsey, my younger daughter is really a night owl. She makes me think like I could go to bed at eight O’Clock.

If I get up at four in the morning, she’s probably there working.

You can play to that. Instead of saying you going to start at nine O’Clock every morning and leave at six. If I know she’s doing her best work at four in the morning, go for it. So we’re feeling around it. That’s the beauty of it.

It’s also since we’re so excited about it. It’s something that we talk about when we’re out walking the dogs. When we’re interrupting a T.V show saying, ”Stop, wait I have this idea” So it’s really handy in terms of collaboration.

Image result for Images of iDEAS

If we didn’t get along so well it would have been more of a challenge.

There are time’s when there’s one person’s trust. There’s a client who’s not happy. It’s always up to me to talk to the client.

But it’s up to me to tell one of my daughters when a client isn’t happy. That’s a little tough when you’re both the mother and the CEO. 

We are fortunate in that we’ve always been close and we talk things through. If one of us is a little miffed five minutes later we’re okay.

Matthew Loomis: It sounds like.

You’re all at the same residence too.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

We are.

So yes it really is a 23/7 business. We are all here together.

Do You Ever Tell Kelsey and Bri They Should Take a Break?

Matthew Loomis: Do you need to tell them.

You need to take a break. Or you need to step away?

Image result for Photos of Kelsey and Bri Katherine KotawImage result for Photos of Kelsey and Bri Katherine Kotaw

Katherine Kotaw: Oh yes.

Parts of almost every day.

It’s getting a little bit easier but I have sort of given them the example of being driven.

Being an over achiever and just wanting to really pursue and make things great. As wonderful as an attribute that is it’s also you’ve got to stop. The good thing about telling them to stop is I’ve learned myself to do it as well.

There are times when, ”Wait a second, we have to eat” We sort of have to pretend that we have lunch breaks and we have dinner breaks and we have days off.

So yeah I do have told them because they tend to follow mom’s lead in thinking, ”Well there’s just one more thing I could do” There are times you know when the house is just silent and when I walk out into the other room.

They’re just both ”lightning fingers” and I’ll say, ”Hi” and they won’t respond. Because they’re that intensely focused.

Because we have dogs that helps.

They always need to be walked. I think it’s fun to go to the beach sometimes and fun to go to the far away park sometimes. We do take some long breaks during the day. So even though we work on Saturday and Sunday, we know for instance that on Monday coming up. We’re probably going to spend most of the day at the beach.

So that’s a luxury that we also need to do.

Image result for Images of beaches in California

Matthew Loomis: That’s a luxury that you California folks get.

Katherine Kotaw: That’s true.

Matthew Loomis: Must be nice.

Katherine Kotaw: It was a luxury.

When we lived in Canada we went without it.

We shoveled snow.

Image result for Images of Canada snow shoveling

Matthew Loomis: I’m in Missouri.

So I get snow and hot weather. No beaches and no mountains.

Katherine Kotaw: I get to look a those.

I really am blessed!

Image result for Images of mountains in California

If Someone Were to Start Their Own Family Business from Home, What advice Would You Give Them?

Matthew Loomis: You really are blessed.

That’s great.

So for someone, that’s wanting to start a home-based family orientated business.

What would be your biggest ”tip” for them?

Katherine Kotaw: One would be.

To sit down and talk about it before you begin.

Don’t let yourself just fall into it being a ”family business” You have to treat it as a BUSINESS.

That there is a separation and again we really did fall into it and probably would suggest that you do it a different way.

In that it can be easy to say, ”Well it’s just my kid, if there’s a little slack it’s okay” Or, ”If it’s my kid I have to be really hard on this person because it’s going to reflect on me”

You have to do the separation to a certain state and just sit down and talk about it. Otherwise, the risk is, it’s one thing for a business to fail. But it’s a disaster for a family to fail. You are putting both at risk. At the end of the day if you have to choose one, choose family!

Just Want to Get Your Last Name Said Correctly Here 🙂

Matthew Loomis: Well.

That’s good stuff.

Before I go onto a new topic.

I want to make sure I’m pronouncing your last name properly. Are you saying K O T A?

Katherine Kotaw: Yeah. You got it right.

It’s like the K O T A without the D A in front of it.

Matthew Loomis: It’s not KOTA.

It’s K O D A (How you say it)

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

I want to Get into the Topic of Blogging and Specifically Blog Commenting

Matthew Loomis: Gotcha.

Okay. Great!

Katherine, I want to get into the topic of blogging and I want to start in the area of blog commenting.

That’s where I discovered Katherine Kotaw.

I started following you on social and grew to enjoy your branding and the content that you produced. The blog where I met you in the comment section was Copyblogger and what captured my attention that day was you got into a discussion.

We’ll call it a debate and it did get a little bit contentious between you and Brian Clark the founder of Copyblogger.

What caught my attention was how you were able to stand your ground  and you made a great case in your opinion. I don’t recall exactly what you two were talking about.

Do you recall it?

Katherine Kotaw: I do recall it.

I don’t remember precisely what we were talking about.

I actually don’t. I don’t remember the discussion.

Did Anything Interesting Come From That Discussion?

Matthew Loomis: I was just curious.

Did anything interesting happen from that experience?

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

I did get a lot of blog worth on my own blog because of it.

I got recognition among some of the influencers because the blog is so well read. I gained a new respect because at the time Kotaw was still very young. I’m not what Kotaw was and people weren’t really used to seeing that kind of discussion there in that form.

Matthew Loomis: It really stood out from.

The great job, great post!

Katherine Kotaw: That’s one of the things that I would recommend.

To any bloggers.

Or anyone really starting a business.

If you’re going to comment and I think it’s terrific when you comment is to be interesting.

It’s just that crucial.

I’ve engaged in Twitter discussions with celebrities. I’ve had great discussions with people from the New York Times and on Forbes. It really is being interesting. Whether it’s a great job or patting somebody on the back or you’re wonderful.

Nobody remembers.

And it’s okay to have an opinion that’s different from the writer.

As long as you are respectful. As long as you can support what your statement is and if you have the confidence it can be helpful to be a little bit, ”In your face” as long as it’s a respectful, ” In your face”

Matthew Loomis: And you were being respectful.

Katherine Kotaw: I saw that my intention was not.

”Oh wow I’m going to get a lot of great stuff out of this ” It was just, ”No I think you’re wrong about this”

I had the backing to say it.

And of course that was some of the argument, is that – ”Oh I looked at your website and it’s a year old” He wanted to kind of put down my credentials which were actually an opportunity for me to really support my credentials.

Which go back at least as far as he does.

So again if you are challenged and personally I was delighted that he got into me with it because it was terrific for me. It was not my intent but I certainly was not going to pass up the opportunity to have that kind of discourse with someone who was that well-known.

And just to demonstrate that I can hold my own.

I have opinions . They are well-founded opinions. I respect your opinions but you know what? This is a blog and there are comments here.

Respect those that come to your space.

Which also by the way I had to say when he closed the comments down.

Matthew Loomis: Oh.

I did too.

And it’s interesting that they’ve come full circle and now they’re back.

I think that comments can benefit the reader and add more value to the post.

Katherine Kotaw: Oh.

It’s going to bring so much attention to your blog.

People look at those comments. Almost no publication I read. I go to the comments. Sometimes I go to the comments before I go to the actual blog post. Those are important and if I see someone who has something interesting to say in those comments. I want to comment back. I want to maybe take another look at the blog because maybe I missed the point they were trying to make.

It had tremendous value. And never be afraid of people leaving negative comments. The only time I’ve ever removed a comment on the Kotaw blog, is when it was hateful.

Matthew Loomis: Right.

Katherine Kotaw: I have no tolerance.

For hateful comments about me or anybody in the universe. Including animals, dogs or anybody. (I guess animals are dogs in a sense but I treat mine like people) 🙂

That I just won’t allow and I make that a straight point. Anything – You want to disagree with me. You want to talk about anything. Fine thank you.

That’s the whole point of it being a blog is to invite discussion.

Matthew Loomis: Right. I think that.

A lot of people have a hard time understanding that – Disagreeing doesn’t mean that you’re a troll.

Image result for Caricature of a ugly scary troll

Katherine Kotaw: No.

Disagree means that you thoroughly read the article.

In most cases, if you have a thought or an opinion. It meant you cared enough to take the time to write something instead of  just, ”Yay” or ”nay” You want those people because those people are invested.

They’re going to remember you the next time you write something.

They’re going to come back and say, ”Can we have this argument again”? Or ”Can we have this thoughtful discussion again”? Or ”Can we make each other laugh again”? Whatever.

Whatever happened in the first one people are going to want to repeat that experience.

Are You Still Leaving Blog Comments?

Matthew Loomis: Absolutely.

It sounds like you are still leaving blog comments today?

Katherine Kotaw: Oh.


I wish I had more time for it.

I would probably do it night and day.

I really enjoy it. I do make a point. Sometimes it’s just the letter writer now, ”Wow I’m impressed” But if you want to be remembered you make a specific point about why you’re impressed.

Now if it really is a great job. Or that particular line is that what really struck me. It means something to a Writer. Having to be the Kotaw writer I know how much it means to me if somebody remembers my words.

If you are using comments as a way to get remembered. Quote, the author. It isn’t that hard to do, cut and paste and say this is the one thing that really stood out to me.

That writer is going to remember you.

And it does not matter if it’s the New York Times or a Pittance at Lisa’s blog – writers remember.

Matthew Loomis: Absolutely.

I’m making a note here to maybe have you back sometime. To talk some more about blog commenting.

Because I think we could do a whole show about it.

Katherine Kotaw: Oh. That would be fun.

I would love that. Yes.

That would be terrific.

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Why Do You Approve of Storytelling So Much?

Matthew Loomis: Let’s now talk about storytelling.

I know quite clearly on your website with your blog and your copy that you do appreciate the power of storytelling.

In fact, you help online businesses tell stories.

For someone who wants to build an online following with their blog and potentially monetize their message. Why do you recommend storytelling so much?

Katherine Kotaw: Because people love stories.

People can forget facts. They can forget issues but stories resonate.

It’s really is what distinguishes you from everybody else.

If you are sitting there with a blog and there are tens of thousands of other people who want to write a blog. Let’s say that you’re passionate about tulips and if you just write about what tulips look like and how you grow them and the best color arrangement.

There’s only so many ways you can write those blogs. The topic matter of tulips is pretty limited.

But to tell stories about tulips. About the first time, you ever saw a tulip in a garden. The reason why you chose tulips in your wedding bouquet. The way you taught your daughter colors, was to bring your daughter to a garden full of multi-colored tulips and she learned the difference between purple and red by looking at tulips.

Those are stories that people remember.

Image result for Images of multi-colored tulips

If you don’t have those stories. If you’re not passionate about tulips, why are you writing about them in the first place?

If all you want to talk about is how to care for tulips. How to buy tulips, all of those things. Look on the web and see how many people are already doing that. Why do they come to you?

Because your love for tulips is told through stories and the stories will be remembered.

Matthew Loomis: And it’s the personal stories that separate.

That distinguishes us.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

It’s what happened to you.

Do you get teary when you look at a tulip? Do you pick a fresh one every single day? Is it something that’s sitting on your desk can you look at it all day long?

Those personal stories resonate. We remember those things.

From some native American cultures, for instance, comes from that storytelling background. And the Irish. I’m mostly Irish and a little bit Indian so I think storytelling is a little bit in my genes.

There is a reason why they carry and a reason why people preserve them. It’s personal. When people get to know you on your blog, we want to come back. If we’re just getting facts and information on your blog? well, not too much.

What Advice Do You Have For Bloggers Who Feel That They’re Not Good At Telling Stories?

Matthew Loomis: Right.

But Katherine, some bloggers don’t feel like they’re good storytellers.

For whatever reason.

What advice do you have for someone who feels inadequate about storytelling?

Katherine Kotaw: Most people don’t recognize.

Their own story telling ability.

Now I’m not going to say that everyone is a gifted storyteller but if all of us didn’t have the ability to tell stories. We probably wouldn’t have any conversations in our lives.

Just go back and you just come home from work and somebody says, ”How was your day”? Chances are you have a story about what it was like being stuck in traffic. What some idiot in line at Starbucks was talking about.

You have those thoughts. They come to mind.

We tend to shut down when we’re writing a story for a business purpose.

And that’s the failing. It’s like, ”Oh, oh, I’ve got to be serious now” I’ve got to stick to the facts. I’ve got to talk about statistics and all those things and that’s not what brings people back.

It’s not what’s going to make your money for you. It’s bringing your stories and you do have them in you.

Sometimes when we talk about Kotaw. We talk about the undersold stories because companies don’t usually know what the story is. If I sit down and talk to them for a half hour, I find it. It’s there.

Why did you start this business? What get’s you up in the morning? They’re there. You sort of have to – I don’t know whether it comes from schooling when your told to do a book report or research paper. And you think that the more serious in detail and fact-orientated you are. The more powerful paper it is. Sometimes I think our high school teachers do us a real service

Sometimes I think our high school teachers do us a real service by training us to always think in those terms. By really what’s going to engage us. Get us jobs. Get us money from our blogs. The clients get us the ability to tell the story. And we all happen because we talk to people all day long.

I Like How You Explain How People Are Always So Serious When It Come To Business

Matthew Loomis: I like how you bring up how people seem to when they hear the word ”business” their brains kind of go serious.

You on the other hand with Kotaw Content Marketing don’t shy away when creating witty or humorous content for you clients.

Katherine Kotaw: No.

When Is It Appropriate To Use Humor In Content Marketing?

Not at all.

Matthew Loomis: I saw that on your website.

When is it a good idea to use humor in your content and when is it not?

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Katherine Kotaw: It’s almost always helpful.

There are some topics that are too serious.

You are not going to make laughs about child abuse. For example, you’re not going to make jokes about global warming. How ever in each of those even in those very serious topics, if you can find traces of humor. It draws people in.

For instance, child abuse is a horrible topic.

If you don’t find something even in a topic that serious people are going to look away. Because it’s too painful. So if you can find a gentle story. A humorous story it helps.

For anything else, a touch of humor makes the business ”likable” If you can make a person laugh, you’ve made a friend.

Image result for laughing cartoon characters friends

How Important Is It To Get Personal With Your Audience?

Matthew Loomis: How important is knowing your audience.

When it comes to humor?

Katherine Kotaw: Critical.

Absolutely critical.

That’s one of the things that you should think about before you write the first word of your blog. Before you try to get any clients for your business. It’s one of the problems that small businesses really have.

When I get an inquiry about someone who wants some help with brand personally or with a corporate. I’ll say, ”Well, who’s your audience”?

Nine times out of ten I hear silence at the other end. And I say, ”Okay we have to back up here”

I can’t tell you how to brand your business. I can’t tell you blog ideas or strategy or content marketing. If you don’t know your audience. If you’re just talking to the universe. You might as well be talking to nobody.

You have to narrow it down.

You really have to think about who wants to hear this. Who wants to buy this. Who wants this service. You have to think that through, it can involve research and sometimes it involves soul-searching. It involves creative thinking but if you don’t know your audience – Shut up!

There’s really no reason to talk because you’re really just talking to air.

Image result for Images for Audience is everything

Matthew Loomis: You’re even risking.

Just blowing them out of the water.

Katherine Kotaw: Absolutely.


Matthew Loomis: Okay.

Whether, let’s say they know their audience with or without humor. I just want to touch on or get an overview of your content marketing process. What should they do first.

Like a brand or a solopreneur who is ready to start using their blog.

What should they do first?

Katherine Kotaw: Well.

First, they need to determine their audience.

Then they need to determine the tone they want to take. Two things should happen:

One is that they should do a little experimenting. For all that you plan and all that you strategize about. You don’t really know how people are going to react to your blog until you start writing it.

So don’t just start out to be, ”Well I’ve got to be funny every day”

Your audience might not react to humor or you may run out of humor.

Not everything is going to be humorous. Or funny to you or the topic isn’t going to be funny but once you begin to write, the biggest thing is to write about something small.

Tell a small story really well, rather than a big story not so well.

The smaller you make the story the more detail and interest you’re going to bring from it.

If somebody asks you, ”What was your life like”? You’re going to talk, ”Well you know I graduated this year” ”I had a couple of kids, I had a couple of businesses” It’s all kind of the same.

If somebody asks you, ”What do you do Tuesday afternoon”? You can bring that to life.

Choose small topics and really provide the details to them.

The detail probably lends itself to the story. If even if it doesn’t right away the detail is what distinguishes you from anybody else who’s writing about the same topic.

Matthew Loomis: I really like that advice.

Katherine Kotaw: Can I give you an example?

Matthew Loomis: Sure.

Katherine Kotaw: When I was teaching writing courses.

At the University of Michigan.

One of the first things I asked them to do. Was to write about how to tie a shoelace.

Image result for image of tying a shoelace

And they looked at me like I was ”nuts”

”We’re going to this pretty cool school and we’re juniors and you’re asking us to write about how to tie your shoelace”?

And so I said, ”Give it some time” Then I saw people were taking their shoe off. They were mentally tying it like they were confused. If you think about it, it’s really hard to tell somebody how to tie their shoelace.

It’s something you don’t think about anymore. The more they thought about it and I talked them through I said this is why the detail matters. You can’t assume that your audience knows how to do this.

If you do assume, again why are you telling them? Some people were even going to bring a little flair to the story about tying a shoelace.

Think about something that small and how difficult it is to tell that story well. If you assume your audience doesn’t know anything about the process.

Matthew Loomis: That is a great example.

It’s simple. Cut and dry. And it’s true we all tie our shoes the same way. You’re going to get an infinite number of variations on that story.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

Matthew Loomis: Each person’s story is going to be unique.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

And when the people wrote about their own process. half the class had their shoes off.

Half the class had their shoes off. Some were tying their shoes their desks. Eventually, everybody saw the humor in it and that became a whole story in itself. That becomes our own take and suddenly you remember how you learned to tie shoes for the first time.

Matthew Loomis: Right.

Katherine Kotaw: And that feeling.

Of accomplishment when you finally got it.

Then I would listen to forty stories about tying shoelaces I saw the difference in each personal story.

Each Story Creates an Individual and Independent Brand

Matthew Loomis: Right.

Each story is going to differentiate them in the story and make their brand unique.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

How Do You Estimate How Much Content You Need to Produce to Your Blog?

Matthew Loomis: I think that’s a great exercise.

I like that.

Over on the – Kotaw Content Marketing dot com / blog

You appear to be creating content once a month that’s your publishing schedule.

How does a blogger figure out how much content to publish?

Katherine Kotaw: It depends on two things.

One is what you want your result to be.

And the other is the allocation of your time. If you’re writing your blog and that’s the source of your income, you’re going to be writing a lot more often than I do.

But you’re not going to be writing so often that you’re writing for  the sake of writing.

How many can be interesting seven days a week, if you can write as often as that. If you can be interesting once a week and you can make money doing that? Go for it!

For me when I first started and the brand was unknown. I wrote about once a week and then I started writing about once every two weeks. One, this is that my blogs take a lot of time to write. I don’t dash them off.

Sometimes I spend two or three days writing a blog. I take them that seriously. I can’t afford to run a business and spend half of the week writing a blog.

I would love to do it. But I can’t afford to do it. I can’t afford to take on clients and then just write about the blogs that I love writing every day or every week.

I have had to find a balance. And think about it in terms of your business. Once people became familiar with the Kotaw brand. Once I started getting followers I started to become worth the wait. That’s when I started slowing down when people started asking, ”When is your next blog coming out”?

I go, ”Ah ha, I can relax a little bit now” Now they’re going to come when I’m ready to present to them.

When you’re building your audience you can’t really wait a month because they’re going to forget about you. Whether it’s a business that’s separate from a blog or whether you’re trying to make money from a blog.

You have to have more. But more isn’t always better than a little more. Really don’t write every day if you’re out of ideas or if you’re just tired. Or if you think, ”Oh I just read some blogs that said, ”Write every day and I’m going to make money”

You’re not going to make money if people don’t care what you read.

It’s better to find a balance. The other thing I really suggest doing before you publish anything. Give yourself a little library of blogs. Write six maybe ten Evergreens. Blogs are going to have a nice long lifespan.

Write them ahead of time because whatever your schedule is whether it’s once a day. Twice a week, once a week, semi-monthly or monthly. There’s going to come a time when you just can’t do it.

But you need to have them So have a library in store.

Then the other thing that I would say in terms of making your blog come out frequently enough. And still getting enough audience so that you’re going to make money from it whether it’s acquiring clients, selling products or getting advertising from your blog.

Is that, don’t let a blog have only one life cycle.

Bring them back. Social media. You put in a new picture you put in a new quote. You can reuse those same blogs over and over and over again. Without doing the one thing that I hate – Repurposing. I hate that. That’s just a whole new subject for me. I won’t do that.

But I will tell people about my blogs all over again because presumably you’re building an audience. There’s always going to be fresh eye’s and the nice thing is there are also a lot of people who really want to read your stuff.

To me, that’s the most gratifying. Is sometimes when I put a blog out for a new audience and I’ll get people who read it six months ago and say, ”Wow, thank you for sharing it again”  What a nice feeling that is.

That they don’t feel pestered or that I’m just shoving stuff at them.

It’s like, ”I wanted to re-read this, thank you for giving it to me again”

What Would Be the Main Objective of Your Blog?

Matthew Loomis: Katherine.

What is the objective of your blog, would you say?

Is it to establish your authority or what.

Katherine Kotaw: It’s to establish my authority.

It’s to establish my brand. 

People are going to have a good sense of what they are going to hear from me when they come to the blog. They may not know what the subject is going to be and I don’t write exclusively about branding or personal branding.

Or even content marketing.

I did for the first year and a half probably and since the I’ve written about other things that are important to me as my brand.

My objective is for people to know that I write about things that I care about. I write about things that I know about and that I support what I write about.

A lot of it is about authority and a lot of it is about just making an emotional connection.

On my blog in the comment section. People write extraordinary heartfelt things about themselves. And that’s when I’ve really got the audience. When people aren’t telling me about me but they’re telling me about themselves.

Matthew Loomis: That is a good indicator.

Isn’t it.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

When people share their stories with me. I know I’ve got an audience for life.

Matthew Loomis: They talk about personal stories.

Not about what they know.

Katherine Kotaw: No.

”You reminded me of the time when” –

” I was at my grandma’s house and I was six years old” Or, ”You reminded me of this adversity that I had to overcome” Or, ”You reminded me of this…They start to tell their own personal stories.

There’s a bond there that’s never going to be broken.

I just wanted to comment in terms of monetizing your blog. (My blog is not there. I don’t take advertisements so I don’t want to advertise in that way) But if you write a blog that people care about no matter what it is you’re really writing about.

Those people become the rabid fans that you always want to have.

The ones who recommend you to their friends. To their co-workers to their employers.

I’ve heard people complain to me. I’ve written a blog on a client’s behalf and I’ll get a comment from a school teacher, let’s say, and they’ll say, ”Well why do I have to care about what a school teacher has to say about my blog, I want corporate comments”

I’ll say, ”Well, do you know how many people that school teacher influences”?

If she has six classes. All those students all those parents. If that teacher cares about your company who reaches hundreds easily. If she affects one of those parents positively and they buy your product or service.

And they tell their community. It’s a huge, huge outreach.

More so than one corporation being interested in you.

Matthew Loomis: Right.


Now Katherine speaking of personal stories. Someone emailed me recently

Someone emailed me recently who wanted to start her blog as a domestic abuse survivor. She asked me how to keep her identity private as a blogger. She was concerned about her ex-husband and even his parents.

Now you happen to be a domestic abuse survivor yourself, in fact, you have a memoir published by HarperCollins called: ”Quicksand” One woman’s escape from a husband who stalked her, a true story and your story has been made into a movie called, ”Run For Your Life”

Run for Your Life (2014 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Run for Your Life is a 2014 American Lifetime TV movie and drama film based on a true story. Meredith (Amy Smart) is a battered Canadian woman who flees Canada to escape her abusive husband. She settles in Seattle, but her now-remarried ex-husband finds her. To protect her children, she must choose between killing him herself, hiring someone to kill him, or disappearing with her children and assuming new identities.[1] It is based on Katherine Kotaw’s Quicksand: One Woman’s Escape From the Husband Who Stalked Her.[2]

That played on the Lifetime Network.

Can you talk a little more about that?

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

Just briefly the story.

The reason why I wrote quicksand was for two reasons. One was, when I escaped we went everyone into hiding.

My ex-husband had hired a hitman and when I found out about it I was given a choice, ”You’re either going to have to kill this man or disappear” So one morning, instead of going to school we made a detour.

A bus stop a train stop and we disappeared.

So what I left behind. I had a great career going in New York and a name and prestige. I had a great resume and I left all of that behind.

I wrote Quicksand for two reasons. One very commercial reason was to re=establish my authority. For a couple of years when I did not know how to work without credentials.

I was walking dogs. I was going to the  dumpsters looking for furniture I could refinish. I was doing a lot of things I wasn’t really qualified to do. So I wanted to rebuild my career by telling my story.

The reason I wanted to tell my story was that it wasn’t unusual but I had never told my story before. Even today we sort of tend to think that anybody that was in an abusive relationship is probably dumb.

Or maybe lives in the South is that stereotype.

I wanted to crack that stereotype and give women like me who didn’t think that they could fall into that kind of relationship because they weren’t that stereotype. 

Image result for caricature of an abused woman

How a strong educated breadwinner in the family, how that person can fall victim to a different kind of abuse. And be a voice for those women who weren’t telling their stories.

That’s how my book ”Quicksand” came to be. I did that in pseudonym. We were still living in hiding when I wrote the story.

My purpose was not to make a lot of money with the book. Or for the book to be extraordinarily popular but to give me credentials. As it turned out, before the book was ever published. I got movie offers.

I said no. I’m not going to risk it. I could write under a pseudonym but I did not think that it could be told under a pseudonym. I said no.

I got pursued over the course of ten years. Finally, it was about two and a half years ago when Lifetime said they wanted the story. Mariska Hargitay wanted to support the story.

Her, Joyful Heart Foundation was going to be a part of it and it was going to come out in the Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I sat down with my daughters and said they’re asking me but it’s about all of us. This is the time where we would become public if we chose to. ”What do you want to do”?

We chose to do the movie as an opportunity to become public. We chose what I hoped to be a chance for people to have me as a source of help and support if they needed it.

To me, that has been the most extraordinarily gratifying decision about letting the movie play is that it’s now been two years. It gets played twenty-two times I think in the U.S. It’s been expected to air twice. It’s been in Asia, Europe, and Australia it’s still playing.

And every single week some woman writes to me.

Matthew Loomis: That’s amazing.

Katherine Kotaw: It is amazing.

I was helping a woman (I’m not going to say where) but it was somewhere in Europe.

And she wrote asking me some advice. She wrote back and forth and about a week ago she won her court case for herself and her kids and she couldn’t wait to tell me.

Just to be able to do that. To let some woman who I will probably never be able to meet, help give her a sense of victory. A sense of letting her know that she can do this and she’s stronger than she thinks.

To me, that being a part of my personal brand just means the world to me.

Image result for Images of women comforting abused woman


What Would You Tell Women That Are Victims of Domestic Violence?

Matthew Loomis: Your story is so compelling.

And that’s why I wanted to ask you about it.

If someone like the lady that emailed me. Who has experienced domestic abuse and wants to blog about that experience but has understandable fears about doing so.

What would you tell them? 

Image result for Images of women comforting abused woman

Katherine Kotaw: First of all.

If you know whether you’re in a place.

Where you know it’s okay to take the risk. To really think about that. If you have reason to fear retribution from your ex-husband. Think carefully how you can write your story safely.

If you can’t. Don’t do it. WAIT!

If you decide you can do it and you want to do it. Go to some extremes to protect your identity.

What Can an Abused Woman Do To Protect Her Identity Once She Decides To Tell Her Story?

Matthew Loomis: Like what?

Katherine Kotaw: First of all.

Besides just doing the Whois or the website domain which people can still find.

  • Get a lawyer to buy your domain up for you.
  • A trusted friend who your ex-husband doesn’t know. If you don’t want to spend the money on the lawyer.
  • Separate yourself from the domain.

Matthew Loomis: Or the hosting service.

May provide domain privacy.

Katherine Kotaw: That’s right.

Go to some lengths to make sure the domain is private.

  • Make sure first of all when you write. You write when you are calm and clear- headed. When you are writing when you are upset or you’re feeling traumatized or reliving some of your experiences. It going to be really hard to change some of the details to protect yourself.

For instance, before I wrote Quicksand  I sort of created a storyline for myself.

So that I knew what things I could change that would protect me. But that wouldn’t falsify my story. You want to think about if you have kids. I gave each of my daughter’s different names and sometimes I’d have to go back and look them up. Before I wrote a new chapter.

Since I was writing a book and not a blog, nothing became public until I double checked. To need to take that extra time to sort of fact-check yourself. If you currently live in Missouri maybe you’d want to place yourself in California.

That means you’ll have to do some studying of California to make the story fit. 

You have to create a back-story in order to give yourself protection.

Because if you’re talking about – (You’re in what, St. Louis?)

Matthew Loomis: In the area, yes.

Katherine Kotaw: In the area.


Let’s say you were the woman writing about her situation and she’s from St. Louis or some city elsewhere and you’re constantly referencing a local diner the place where you buy shoes, and all these different things come up.

It can put you in danger so if you want to write about your experience you’ll have to fictionalize it enough to protect yourself.

How To Get a Copy of Katherine Kotaw’s book – Quicksand

Matthew Loomis: Right.

If someone wants to get a copy of your book, how do they do that?


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002000644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002000642
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

Katherine Kotaw: They can go to Amazon.

It’s the best place to buy it.

There’s one seller who has new books and it helps support domestic violence.

So I’d recommend looking for the new.

I think the books on that site are cheaper than some of the copies.

But, yeah that’s the place to go.

Matthew Loomis: Okay.

I will link to that in the Show Notes.

Katherine Kotaw: Thank you.

Is the Movie ”Run For Your Life” Still Available on Lifetime Movies?

Matthew Loomis: Sure.

Is the Lifetime movie available still?

Katherine Kotaw: It was supposed to come out on DVD.

Two years ago and they still haven’t made it yet because they’re playing it.

It still does show. It comes out about every two months now I think on Lifetime. As often as I can I don’t catch every one of the showings but I usually post it on Facebook.

If anybody is interested they could follow me on Facebook. Or they could just type ”Run For Your Life” Into the T.V guide and it should come up there.

How to Connect with Katherine Kotaw Online

Matthew Loomis: Well.

Go ahead and tell us how can people follow you online?

Katherine Kotaw: If you put in Katherine Kotaw in the search engine. You’ll see that I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ Or you can go to Kotaw dot com

Or you can go to – Kotaw dot com

Just remember that Kotaw is – K O T A W

I’m pretty easy to find.

How Blogging Has Changed the Life of Katherine Kotaw

Matthew Loomis: Awesome.

We’re coming down to the last question.

This has been a great discussion. Loved having you on the show.

Time for the question that I ask each guest and I want to ask you this.

Katherine, how has blogging changed your life?

Image result for Images for How Blogging Has Changed mY lIFE

Katherine Kotaw: It has created immediacy to my writing.

That I never ever had before.

It’s extraordinarily rewarding to really hear from people and to know how my writing affects them.

When I wrote for different newspapers or magazines and I’ve written different books. You don’t hear in real-time and sometimes you never really hear how your word impacted someone.

With a blog, sometimes minutes after you hit ”publish” Somebody’s there telling you, ”This means something to me” ”It made me laugh, it made me cry” ” It made me remember an experience I had”

It’s drawn me closer to my audience than I ever, ever experienced.

In all my life and I have been writing professionally since I was ten. That’s meaningful to me. That has been the biggest change. Also in terms of a professional standpoint, it’s really given me a sense of  who my audience is, who I’m writing to and how it affects them.

I really pay attention to the comments I get. I count comments more than I count shares. Although one particular share on Kotaw just went viral and still don’t quite know why. It’s nice but I really count the comments.

That’s where relationships are made. To me, blogging is all about relationships and that’s where I grow my business.

Matthew Loomis: It’s a real privilege.

I am so grateful as a writer to have that connection with the audience that F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t get to experience.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940), known professionally as F. Scott Fitzgerald, was an American novelist and short story writer, whose works illustrate the Jazz Age. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of theLost Generationof the 1920s. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote numerous short stories, many of which treat themes of youth and promise, and age and despair.

F Scott Fitzgerald 1921.jpg

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

And you sometimes wonder how can writers be so depressed.

Suicidal and things are not great. They never get any feedback. They never get to experience what you and I hear in real-time. That is just incredible.

Matthew Loomis: That is a great point.

That is so true. Yeah.

And that’s why they drank and took drugs.

Katherine Kotaw: That’s right.

And just about writing a book. It can take you a year. Sometimes longer to write, it takes another year to publish.

Then it just goes off into this world of bookstores. There were no online… You didn’t really know how people were affected

Matthew Loomis: Right.

Katherine Kotaw: Now students are reading them in their assigned courses.

People are quoting them all the time. But they weren’t around to hear any of it. You know bloggers are an incredible blessing and  if you wrote a blog for no other reason that to make those connections. It’s worth every ounce of effort you put into each blog.

Matthew Loomis: I’m sure Hemingway.

Gertrude Stein in that era, they probably got a few letters here and there

Katherine Kotaw: Of course.

Matthew Loomis: Most of their feedback was their editors.

It was very serious and critical.

I can see why they might be a little depressed.

Katherine Kotaw: Yes.

They put so much effort into it.

Except for counting book sales they really had no idea of how they affected people.

Matthew Loomis: It’s amazing.

Even to try to put yourself in their shoes…There was no internet!

Image result for caricature of a writer with typewriter















Katherine Kotaw: I know.

Matthew Loomis: It was a very quiet time.

Much more serene.

Well, Katherine, it’s been a real pleasure having you on The Blog Chronicles today.

Katherine Kotaw: Thank you.

It’s been a great honor.

Image result for Images of the Kotaws

Wow! I really enjoyed this interview with digital storyteller Katherine Kotaw

Show Notes

Katherine Kotaw’s Book Quicksand – Amazon

Katherine Kotaw’s Book Quicksand – Goodreads

Katherine Kotaw’s Website

Katherine Kotaw on Twitter

Katherine Kotaw on Facebook

Katherine Kotaw on Instagram

Katherine Kotaw on Google+

Ending Pit Bull Discrimination


Brian Clark Founder of Copyblogger

LifeTime Movies

From Fearful to Fearless

Joyful Heart Foundation – Mariska Hargitay

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Thanks For Tuning Into This Episode of – The Blog Chronicles.

I’ll see you next time on The Blog Chronicles!

Image result for images of Matthew Kaboomis Loomis

Author Bio:

Matthew Kaboomis Loomis is the owner of Build Your Own Blog. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter


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  1. Sona Mathews says:    •   3 years

    Story telling is an art. Not everyone can tell their story that efficiently how some best story tellers can do.

    It is also good to learn about Katherine and how blogging has changed her life. Really motivating.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   3 years Author

      Hi Sona,

      What a marvelous pursuit storytelling is, you know? Each of us can get better at it if we practice, practice, practice.

      Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed the interview and the parts where we talked about Kotaw’s personal story. I appreciate feedback from listeners!

      Drop by again soon,


    2. Katherine Kotaw says:    •   3 years

      Thank you, Sona, for your kind words — and for appreciating the power of storytelling.

      I wish you every success in your own storytelling journey and thank you again for listening to my podcast

  2. Lisa Sicard says:    •   3 years

    Hi Katherine and Matthew, what an awesome interview, you really told a lot of stories in this one. I loved your graphics too by the way.
    I love how you combined your personal and corporate brand Katherine, you are right – people do make up corporations and when others can see the “people” behind the corporation they tend to want to buy or work with them more.
    Thanks for sharing this with us Matthew and I hope you both have a wonderful holiday ahead.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   3 years Author

      Hi Lisa,

      Katherine has lots of stories to share. I agree about her success combining both her personal and corporate branding. You really get a sense of who Katherine is and what she can do for your branding and content marketing by her own branding and content. She projects an authentic-feeling branding of who she is and what she does that makes you open and interested in what’s going on at her website.

      How’s your branding going, Lisa? Keep us posted.