Back to Basics: Blogging

Many clients and colleagues have felt a rush of anxiety when I asked them to blog for their business or nonprofit. Maybe harsh memories of high school and college essays past haunt them. Maybe they freeze and forget all their expertise. Whatever the cause, it seems to bring about more hesitation than inspiration. So in this Back to Basics post, I’ll give you the simple ingredients to writing a good blog post and the right practice to get good at it. If not, you can always hire someone.

Anecdotes

This is the favorite element of columnist and editorial page writers the world over. How does this argument affect my life/relate to me/relate to a close friend or kin? While anecdotes don’t count as evidence, they do make your evidence more human. Even if you’re extolling your readers to dump their hedge fund managers and invest in an index fund (or whatever), personal stories make your blog post less boring. Here’s a formula that may be familiar:

1st paragraph: Introduce argument, introduce supporting points

2nd-3rd paragraph: Point, supporting evidence

4th paragraph: Conclusion

If you’re at a loss for what to write, this is a good starting point. But I will have to challenge you to go deeper and get more creative. Try out the age old storytelling format:

1st paragraph: Background, introduction to main points/players, relationships

2nd – 3rd paragraph: Conflict, rising action, adversity

4th paragraph: Resolution

Stories about sporting heroes use this formula to great affect. Read any biography in a magazine, you’ll see it there, too. How will this make your point of choosing your product over your competition’s? Think about framing the features and benefits of your product or service by highlighting a customer or even your own experience:

What was life like before your product/service? What challenges faced your customers? How did your product help resolve those challenges?

When you write like this, you avoid many pitfalls of blogging, namely the Info Dump where the post lists a lot of facts, so many facts, without context.

Keep it brief

Notice there are only four paragraphs in my above examples? You needn’t write a 1,000 word essay to make an impact. In my experience, though, I’ve had to cut more than I’ve had to add. When people get on a roll, they really get rolling into long diatribes. Stick to the above formulas, that’ll keep your word count down.

Practice makes pretty darn good

It may be cumbersome, but try to write everyday. I don’t mean block out two hours to agonize with your muse. It can be as simple as taking a few notes when an idea strikes you. I like to write tag lines like: A paralegal takes on the governor to bring environmental justice to her community.

Even better: before your head hits your pillow at night, keep a journal by your nightstand and write down all those thoughts that have been buzzing in your head all day. Your worries, anxieties, triumphs, to dos. No one has to see it. When you wake up the next day, look at it with fresh eyes to see what could be a good blog post.

End with a call to action

Now that your readers have been captivated by your words and your storytelling prowess, tell them what to do. You don’t need to be as aggravating as the HEAD ON commercials. You can be a little bit sly or subtle. But give them an idea of where they should go next – your testimonials page, your services page, your about page, whichever. As a busy small business owner or brand, you may not know what the heck is on your website. So you might want to hire a copywriter and experienced blogger to think of that for you. 😉

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