How many blogs have you started and not kept up? If you're like me, the answer is a few over the years. I have a good idea, write a few posts, don't get any comments, and then allow other things in life take over.
I talked to two bloggers about how it should
be done. Ray Sidney-Smith, W3 Consulting
, helps businesses and organizations use web and digital technology better, including blogs. Patrick Ross, in addition to writing The Artist's Road
, teaches a course on blogging at the Writer's Center in Bethesda.
This month, I'll share what they told me about creating good content. It's not everything there is to know about blogging, of course, but I share a few particularly "a-ha!" points. Next month, I'll focus on ideas to boost readership and engagement.
Showing Yourself, Telling a Story
One suggestion from both Ross and Sidney-Smith surprised me: the importance of vulnerability.
What have you been struggling with? What is a challenge you've had to overcome? A lesson learned? That's the kind of compelling content that interests readers.
Corporate blogs, in particular, are often so rah-rah that they're just another form of a press release. For example, instead of a post about how widely successful your last event was, what about a post about how you dealt with attracting attendees on a Sunday night or choosing entertainment that fit your budget?
This does not
mean dissecting every failure and weakness, nor spilling every secret into cyberspace.
As Ross noted when I met him at a meeting of the Capitol Creativity Network
, vulnerability is important in blogging, but you still control how much of yourself to show. Sidney-Smith agreed, "You should be honest, but don't go overboard."
We know the importance of narrative in writing strong prose. Ross explained what that means for blogging. Every story begins with dialogue with yourself, he said. Invite the reader into that dialogue--what have you been thinking about? What have you been thinking? He said he started "The Artist's Road" literally to travel and interview artists. But the posts that have proven the most popular center on his own thoughts and experiences. Planning It Out
Both Ross and Sidney-Smith warned against jumping in to start a blog. Plan out the content and get in the habit of posting before you commit. Since, as Ross put it, "a blog is as good as your worst post," make sure you have it down.
Sidney-Smith advises would-be bloggers to set up an editorial calendar and write 5 to 10 weeks worth of posts in advance. He breaks down the process into six steps:
Brainstorm or research a few posts at a time, he suggested, to build up an inventory. Think ahead to seasonal themes that affect your organization.
Ross advised blogging for a while without publishing the posts. Not only will you experiment with finding your voice and getting into a blogging habit, you'll have a stockpile of posts to draw from when you do go online.
Reviving a Moribund Blog
This gets us back to those abandoned blogs. Should we revive them or relegate them to forgotten corners of cyberspace (except that no corner of cyberspace is truly forgotten)?
Sidney-Smith recommends being up front--and discussing it in your blog (again, within reason, but you are showing your vulnerability!). Talk about why you didn't stick with it. Bring people up to date about what you are doing
Another point to consider: While you bemoan your absence from the blogging scene, the reality is most people didn't notice.
Remember, though, that a blog, like most organisms, can only be recusitated so many times. Are you are willing and able to sustain the blog if you decide to create or re-create it? If not, wait until you are.
Where to Find Ross and Sidney-Smith
Patrick Ross' blog, named a "Top Ten for Writers 2011-2012, The Artist's Road
Raymond Sidney-Smith's blog Web and Beyond
Note: Both are on Twitter and other social media. You will find the links on their blogs.