Today I want to talk about how to write a blog. Not how to become a blogger, or how to use your blog get a kajillion hits to your site, or how to supplement your income by working from home 4 hours a week. This is for employees of companies like SMC, who regularly publish a blog (5x/week for us) in order to share insights into the company process and build thought leadership from within.
Here are a few guidelines that should help you turn your thoughts into a perfectly interesting and readable blog.
- Be who you are.The whole idea of blogging is that publishing has become an informal, everyman’s game. You don’t have to sound like a writer for the New Yorker or Economist or some shit. Because there’s so many bloggers blogging so many blogs every day, it’s easy to hear a canned voice expounding on a stale topic and say “BLAGH.” The eccentricities of your personal voice, flaws and all, will serve you well when writing blogs.
- The thesaurus is your enemy.If you don’t trust your vocabulary and constantly go in search of bigger, better words, you’ll end up writing a Frankenblog and no one will trust your patchwork voice.
- Don’t turn what should be a sentence into a paragraph.
- Use your passion.I wrote a blog about Bill Murray that is probably the best I have written in my time here at SMC. The idea came to me at home, organically. John has written over 1,000 blogs for SMC and our clients, but one of his best is a recent post that teaches lessons on social media through the lens of off-roading, one of his passions.
- Keep your audience in mind.I recently wrote an opening to a blog for a client that read, “Like deep fryers and firearms, some things should only be handled by a professional,” but because the team agreed that funny as this was, it didn’t fit the client’s voice, it was scrapped.
- Do your research.Everyone at SMC spends a lot of time reading content. What sources do you find yourself returning to again and again? What about their voice draws you in? Do that! If you fear lacking originality, remember there is no such thing.
- Get another set of eyes.You may have some idea fully articulated in your head that’s got you absolutely buzzing with excitement. I’ve had this feeling many times only to find my first reader confused and bewildered by what they read. Having another set of eyes read your work, editor or not, is crucial to ensuring your point gets safely across.
- Make the headline shine.Obviously the headline is the first part we see of any blog or article that we read. For most, it’s the only thing we see. Make it specific and tangible. Use sense words, strong language, and make it clear what value you will provide.
- Clarify the takeaway.If your intro is engaging and in the end your takeaway is clear, you’ll often be forgiven for any slight missteps you made in the middle. Wherever you decided to go in the body of the blog, make sure you make good on your initial promise when it comes time for your conclusion.
So now you have a few guidelines for turning your idea into a blog post. But, one of the most difficult things about writing blogs for me is often not what but how. What is the best format to get your idea across? Here are a few common frameworks for blogs that you can apply to your ideas.
5 Reasons Why: Or however many good reasons you’ve got to prove your point in a reasonable amount of space. Almost like the connect-the-dots of blog formats, this allows readers to easily digest the content presented to them while simultaneously allowing you, the writer, to fill in the blanks as you go.
Dear Special One: I’ve written a blog especially for YOU. Targeting your blogs to a very specific audience makes both your and the reader’s jobs easier. My blog for this week is titled, “Why Your Private School Should be on Social Media.” It’s so specific that most of our audience won’t bother clicking on it. But if a director of a private school happens to find it, we’ll both be in business.
In the News: Has there been some big event or news story in the marketing world? Maybe there’s a prominent trend we haven’t commented on. This is your opportunity to share your (the company’s) perspective on these events.
If you want to think about blog writing as “doing your part” or “making the company better,” that’s fine. It’s true that we get stronger the more fully we harness everyone’s unique strengths. But there’s a personal benefit to be had for you, too.
Making your idea come to life and actually make sense is super rewarding on a personal level. Also, writing and verbal communication in general are skills that have been slowly devolving as the digital age matures. Don’t believe me? Ask any high school teacher over the age of forty. Actively practicing these skills will benefit you going forward, no matter what you’re doing.
So go forth and write a blog! If you don’t have a social media related idea right now, just write something for yourself. The first blog I turned in to SMC had basically nothing to do with social media, but writing it helped me “get the hang of it,” so to speak.