The Design of an Effective Tagline


You might have noticed that I’ve changed my tag line on my blog a few times.  My latest tagline is “proven practices for getting results.”  Choosing a blog tagline sounds like it should be such a simple thing and yet, it’s really not.  Your tag line can make a big impact for both yourself and others.  For you, your tag line can help remind you what your blog is all about and serve as a source of inspiration.  For your readers, it can quickly tell them why you’re different and why they should care.  It’s less logical though, and more emotional (Think Nike’s “Just do it.” )  The beauty of an effective tag line is that the right tag line can instantly connect with your readers, like a long, lost friend.
Lessons Learned in Tag Lines
While trying to figure out my tag line for Sources of Insight, here’s what I learned …

  • Tag lines come in all shapes and sizes.  Short one, longer ones, punch ones, pretty ones.  Some tag lines just rap you up side the head.  Other’s make you think.  Other’s make you chuckle.  Just browsing various tag lines across various blogs will show you there is no standard formula.
  • Alliteration is a good thing.   One of my advisors suggested sticking with alliteration to make it easier to remember.
  • Single nouns are better than multiple nouns.  One of my advisors suggested that single nouns are easier to remember and that an adjective is OK (e.g. “proven practices” vs. “patterns and practices”)
  • Model from successful tag lines.   The beauty of tag lines is that they are readily available and easy to research.  I explored a lot of tag lines looking for patterns and anti-patterns to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Get feedback.  I ran through various flavors of various tag lines with multiple friends, family, colleagues, and experts.  If you’re reading you know who you are and thank you for putting up with my relentless inquiries.
  • Test it.  The nice thing about the Web is it’s easy to test things out with a live audience.
  • Audience is a strategic decision.  Your audience is a strategic decision … Who’s in, who’s out.  Think Steve Pavlina’s personal development for “smart people.”
  • The difference is the difference.  What makes you stand out can be the biggest deal of them all.  On the Web, you really want to carve out your niches by being different.  Otherwise, you get lost among the sea.
  • Benefits over features.  It’s easy to fall into the feature trap.  I fall into it all the time.  I like to describe exactly what something is.  The problem is, that’s not the snap, crackle, pop.  As one of my friend’s reminds me, “sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

The Dilemma
How do you design an effective tag line that sells the sizzle while helping your blog stand out?  You can imagine the whirlwind of questions that ran through my mind, given all the factors.  It doesn’t help that I’m an engineer, not a marketer.  All I wanted was a simple one-liner, but simple itself is even an art.  Also, I don’t want my blog to be about me.  I want it to be about the stuff I share with you.  I want the differences to shine through.   The problem is, which difference?

  • Principles, patterns, and practices.  I tend to shine the spot light on timeless principles, patterns and practices.  Principles are simply laws or governing rules of how things work.  Patterns are simply recurring themes that show up time and again.  Practices are techniques and skills applied in action.
  • Effectiveness.  I tend to focus on effectiveness.  The world isn’t black and white.  One of my best tools for finding my way through challenging scenarios, is to measure against effectiveness.  Covey did a lot to make effectiveness mainstream.  After all, who doesn’t want to be effective?
  • Corporate warriors.  I live this stuff in a complex, challenging environment called Microsoft.  It includes the full meal deal from leading projects cradle to grave and doing executive reviews.  It means dealing with stress, politics, turf wars, conflict, time management, productivity, teamwork, leadership challenges, and you name it.  It’s all there.
  • Real life.  I have a life outside of work and that means dealing with all the basics in life too.
  • Books, people, and quotes.  I draw from books, people, and quotes to bring you the best insight and action I can find.
  • Skilled living.  I focus on skills and skilled living.  I love the line from Training Days where you’re trained or you’re untrained.  Skills really do make all the difference.  Everything from happiness to self-discipline are skills you can learn.  You just need to know the patterns and practices that work.
  • Hot Spots for life.  I focus on hot spots for life (mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.)    See Hot Spots for Life.
  • Technical author.  I’m a published author with several technical books under my belt (yeah, I know .. boring unless you’re a techie or a tech writer.)    What’s a little different is that I’ve focused on the art of prescriptive guidance.  Whereas documentation tends to describe, prescriptive guidance is about prescribing recommendations for scenarios.  This has helped me learn how to simplify some incredibly complex information and make it more consumable by the masses.
  • Best selling authors and unsung heroes.  I get best selling authors and unsung heroes to share their best lessons in life or their super powers.  Some of the unsung heroes are amazing individuals with incredible lessons to share that just haven’t had their 15 people of of fame yet.  BTW, if you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to check out the featured guests.
  • Cool peeps.  I get to meet some cool peeps that really shake things up.  Check out my posts on lessons learned from Stephen CoveyKen Blanchard, and Jack Canfield.
  • Silly stuff.  Some posts are just for fun.  Check out Lessons Learned from Santa.

The reality is, I can’t capture all that in the tag line.  I can simply wrap it.  The tag line really is just the tip of the iceberg.  I try to paint more of a picture in the About as well as over time across my posts.  I’ve tried to simplify the sidebar too and I added a Getting Started to help take a quick tour.
Why Proven Practices for Getting Results?
It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.  Proven practices is a single noun + an adjective.  It’s also alliteration in action.  It’s also a distinction.  The bulk of what I share is tested in some way.  Either I’m testing it at Microsoft with teams of people and mentees, or it’s been tested and vetted with others.  I’m usually the first guinea pig because if I can’t get results with it, I’m not interested.  Best practices is subjective, whereas proven practices puts the emphasis on whether it simply works.

As far as getting results, it’s a magnet.  Who doesn’t want to get results in their life or improve their effectiveness?  I originally tried personal development, but for a lot of people, it wasn’t their cup of tea.  I tried personal effectiveness, but it was too complicated for some people.  I also tried “exponential results for the underdog,” but some folks don’t identify with being an underdog.  (I would argue that everybody is an underdog in some situations at some point in their life.) I checked with some folks and the single thing they think of me is about getting results.  It’s sticky and it resonates.  Getting Results it is.

Helping Anybody, Anywhere Make the Most of Their Situation
I wanted to be more specific with my niche, but one of mentors reminded me that one of my special abilities is to help anyone make the most of what they’ve got in any situation.  She said that trying to slice the niche by audience type would be more harmful than helpful at this point, and I agreed.  I figure I can let people self-select based on values.  For example, I value learning, growth, adventure, awesomeness, realness, humor, results … etc., so if that floats your boat, cool beans.
Testing the Tag Line
O.K., so how do I know if the tag line is working?  I don’t, but I’m testing it.  I’m a fan of bouncing things against reality to see what sticks.  Time will tell.  It’s a blog and it’s subject to change.  I’m a fan of testing results so my tag line is no different.

Here’s to you rocking onward and upward and if this little bit of insight helps you find your blog’s tag line, I’d like to hear about it.  If you have ideas or feedback on my tagline, feel free to share that too.

Photo by wili hybrid.


  1. Hey, I am here reading your blog and you just posted this wonderful article. This is cool advice. I have been recently making some changes and maybe I will give this one a try.
    Thanks J.D.

  2. Hey Bunygotblog … perfect timing!

    I was hoping sharing my lessons learned might help out. Good luck with your changes and I look forward to your results.

  3. You know JD, I have to tell ya… Taglines are tough! A few areas I’ve always had trouble in are my “About” page, my tagline, and my title. For the blog, it’s always been an ever-evolving piece. And sometimes, I think that’s ok…

  4. Your new tagline is great! With “Getting Results” in it that alone should bring you up in searches and such, if it’s linked to do so.

    I’ve certainly had fun with my tagline “contest” and there are a few favorites there I’ll probably start rotating, the ones that seem to reflect the true depths of my blogging and real-life soul.

  5. This is a great post on taglines. They are so important, even though they might seem small. You have some great info and suggestions here! Everyone working on a tagline should consider this post a must-read!

  6. […] post: The Design of an Effective Tagline – Sources of Insight Comments […]

  7. Nice fit on your tag line. (and good discussion too). My biggest hang up in deciding on a tag is that it often reinforces decisions you have to make about your product. Decisions that sometimes mean not doing things that would have been cool because they no longer fit.

    Also a good reminder here that as things change, so should your tag.

  8. @ Ricardo

    That’s actually a perfect tagline – “an ever-evolving piece” 🙂

    @ Jannie

    Thank you. I think you’ve done a great job testing and showcasing your various taglines. You’ve had quite the spectrum and each one had it’s own special flair.

    @ Positively Present

    Thank you. It’s like that saying, “great things come in small packages.”

    @ Fred

    Thank you. I agree – evolving your tagline to keep up with you, is a good thing.

  9. Hi J.D.

    This is a great post, because there is just not too much written about tagline. Thanks for the awesome information.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  10. I would just add one more thing to consider when you’re coming up with a tag line: rhythm. Test how it rolls of the tongue. Does it ra-ta-ta-ta or bom-be-bom? If not rhythm, then melody – something that flows a bit musically. That also makes a tag line (or slogan) more memorable 😉

  11. @ Giovanna

    Thank you. I figured sharing what I went through might help out. It’s still a work in progress.

    @ Melissa

    Great point! When things roll off the tongue, they’re easier to say and share. Nothing’s worse than a tagline you don’t like to say 🙂

  12. […] The Design of an Effective Tagline is a very interesting read and delivers practical advice. With The Six Sources of Influence , J.D.  has written a wonderful article and displays graphs along with it. Powerful stuff that can be used in so many areas. Then J.D. also shares the most popular articles on his site: read his Most Popular Posts as of June 2009. […]

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