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10 tips to being a blogger in consulting – 2011 in review

It’s now the end of my first year of blogging in anger. I’m reflecting on the year past and thinking to what I’m going to do the year ahead, and I thought I’d try to articulate the things I believe worked for me, in the hope that they will clarify my own mind, and also perhaps help someone else along their journey.

1) Relax, JFDI and avoid Sophisticated Procrastination

I often get people come up to me and ask me how I mange to blog. And the answer for me at least is I don’t worry about it, and I Just F***ng Do It. My early content was pretty poor, but it gets a bit better with time and practice. If you don’t do it, you won’t get better, and it is a vicious circle. And don’t make excuses like writing drafts, perfecting, research and “life” getting in the way.

2) Be true to yourself

You may make mistakes along the way if you are true to yourself. You may annoy people. You may cause some damage to relationships that you have to repair and you may get a hard time. But if you are not true to yourself then your content will suck, and that’s worse. Deal with the rest.

It always makes me feel great when Sanjay Poonen, President of Global Solutions at SAP catches me as he did last night and says something like: John, please keep writing this stuff. It keeps us honest and makes us better. And slightly offsets the abuse I get from elsewhere!

Also as Michaell Crapo points out, make sure you have fun. If you don’t blog on what you’re passionate or interested in, it will be dry. And then people won’t read it and you will be shouting into a bucket.

Edit: Thanks to Tom Cenens for the correction on Sanjay’s name. Fat fingers.

3) Be mindful of your relationships

On the other hand you have to be careful. I’m a SAP Mentor, Blogger, Partner and Customer. That’s at least 4 hats I wear on a daily basis. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write content because of that, but you need to consider what the impact of doing something might be, and how you intend to react. This isn’t a caution not to write it, but just to be mindful of what the reaction will be.

4) Be even more mindful of being sensational

If you’re going to be sensational, Thorsten (who wrote the article on the Death of SAP NetWeaver Java last year) then be even more mindful of the reaction. People within SAP or whatever other organisation, customers and then eventually your own employer may get on your case. People in large organisations (that includes SAP) often just escalate to make their point, rather than engaging with you. You have to be prepared to deal with this. When it happens, don’t escalate back. Engage with them and talk it through.

As Tom Cenens points out below, this is especially true in terms of a title. Doing this can generate a lot of page views, but also a lot of upset. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!

5) Remember that content doesn’t die

If you Tweet something stupid, it’s gone the next day (usually). James Governor reminded me yesterday that it’s not true if what you tweeted goes viral, but most of the time tweets go away. Blogs do not. Write something that may go out of date, and it may be used against you later. So delete it or update it, or deal with it. I had this happen recently on my SAP HANA FAQ, and I brought it up to date and apologised to the individual.

6) Throw a bone sometimes

Especially if you are a curmudgeon, you may consider throwing a bone sometimes. I can be critical of SAP and others and therefore when I see something I really like, I make a point of writing about it. It brings balance to the universe and gives people a warm feeling.

Edit: I thought I made this clear but Dennis Howlett had to interject with: “you missed one: kissing the odd a** helps occasionally…” – yes Dennis, it’s the same thing.

Edit: Vijay has his 2 cents this too: “good one mate…my own rule is “only write if u can stand both boquets and brickbats”. No bones thrown – it has to be earned”. Fair point, and remember point 2) Be true to yourself.

7) Build a support network

I can’t stress how important this is. And this is a good time for me to thank Mike Prosceno of the bloggers program in SAP for being a mentor and offering practical support. Same goes to Stacey Fish and Andrea Kauffman. And to my fellow bloggers Jon Reed, Dennis Howlett, Vijay Vijaysankar, Harald Reiter and Jarret Pazahanick in particular. You bounce ideas, help create content together and collaborate. Thanks everyone.

8) Never steal

Stealing someone’s idea in the blogging world is very bad. Very bad. You will be ostracised and hated because content is king – it’s what makes us. If in doubt and you came up with an idea together, ask if they mind if you write about it. It costs nothing, and losing a blog is nothing compared to your relationships and reputation.

Whilst we’re there, don’t intentionally lie. It’s pointless and you will be caught up. Sometimes you will misquote someone or do something wrong as I did the other week to Alexia Tsotis on my blog: Why TechCrunch is boring, SAP is not, and the world has gone mad. Apologise, correct the mistake, and move on.

9) Be relevant

This relates to where you post. I post on my company website, personal website and SCN. I try to make that content relevant to the location. If you read my content hopefully you will realise that I often don’t put market stuff on the Bluefin website. Or community stuff on my personal site. Or Bluefin stuff here.

It also relates to your content. Avoid cross-posting except where relevant – it just annoys people on the whole, and try to actually come up with something original. Blogging for the sake of blogging sucks. Technical content and HOWTOs is especially well-received by SCN and is a great way to get into blogging if you are scared.

10) You are not too young or too junior – or too old!

Several of my graduates from this last year blog. Brenton wrote the most this year so he gets the plug to his profile. He writes on matters of development, mobile and he has great content. He writes what he knows and it’s good stuff. You can also do the same.

Also as Michelle Crapo points out, and Dennis Howlett lives, you can’t be too old too. You can be boring and irrelevant though. And angry. Just kidding Dennis, age has nothing to do with it.

Some final words

I’d also like to put a special thankyou to my mentor, John Niland, who has helped me this year create clarity of thinking and action. Some of these ideas came from him (Sophisticated Procrastination for one) and he has been great. John is a great public speaker and would be great at an SAP event. So if anyone at the events team is looking for a keynote speaker then please get in touch with me, or with him.

I am grateful to the SAP Community Network for providing me with so many new friends and colleagues and relationships. And Mark: don’t worry about the delayed new website, no one will give a crap in 3 months. Just get it right and get it live. Thanks to everyone and have a great 2012.

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  • Hello John

    You bring up some interesting pointers in this blog. I tend to believe anyone can blog and by doing so change their work for the better.

    1,2,3 – Agree. Although 3 is sometimes difficult because if I don’t blog certain things out then I don’t stay true to myself. So I would say 2 and 3 can get in the way of each other at times.

    4 – I think I just used a 4… I get your point though on being sensational. The problem is that sometimes it’s almost necessary to grab people’s attention. If you don’t do it then people say your title is pretty lame and doesn’t attract any attention and your content gets lost without any traction.

    Landscape Virtualization Management pricing model discussion

    It’s not because I want the product to never make it. it’s because I have a genuine concern that it won’t make it SAP doesn’t change something and I really want this product to thrive and become a best practice. So this is 1,2,3,4 and 5 mingled and it makes me feel double-sided I have to admit but it’s out there now.

    I did what I felt was right at the time and I will be happy to blog about how vivid the product is when that happens.

    I love the fact that you address point number 10 because I agree on that and I know first hand what it’s like. I have been fighting the “but you are  too young to…” comments frequently in the past years.

    I hope the new SCN platform brings some more color to the blogs. The current default text/headers etc make the blogs look kind of old/dusty/dull. I tried to change that around in my last few blogs but it’s a lot of work to do so.

    Kind regards


      • I was thinking about putting too old too! Guess I need to update that. Great point.

        I wouldn’t want to comment on whether people find you strange 🙂

    • Oh, 2,3,4 are definitely in conflict with each other. Balancing them is a tricky act and it gets some people.

      I said be mindful of being sensational, not “don’t be sensational” 🙂 – just make sure you know what you’re writing and can handle the heat.

      I think your blog is fine because it offers a way forward. I think that sort of content should be welcomed. It’s a good point though: titles are the thing you need to be most careful of.

      It’s an AWFUL amount of work to customise SCN blogs and I don’t have time for it. On the new platform it works great, and you can copy/paste from Word or whatever.

  • I think this relates to both consulting and non-consultants – LIKE – like me.  I just happened to read Jamie’s blog this morning with some great tips on marketing blogs.Michelle

    • Thanks for the feedback!

      I seem to often do this – write something I think it is specific, only to realise it has wider appeal. Guess I have to think outside the box more.

      Have fun is a great one and I know Jarret has mentioned this. You should blog about what you’re passionate about. If you’re not, it will come over. I guess this is part of true to yourself.

      I’m not sure about the splitting it up thing. Different people write in different ways. I guess it should be easy to consume, but it could be a stream of consciousness or a set of bullet points. If it’s easy to read then it’s all good. I guess for beginners in particular, breaking it up really helps.

  • Hey John,

    Although you published this in 2011, it popped up again for some reason. (Point #5: Good content doesn’t die?) Curious if you would change – add, remove – any of your points with the 2 additional years of experience?

    • It’s a SCN bug! I followed Jason Lax ‘s advice and started to move my blogs out of my personal space and it is re-promoting them 🙂

      Thanks for making me thing and yes, I think I would add #11

      11) Give away your IP and make it relevant to your audience. A lot of consultants think that their IP is their secret sauce that makes them relevant. That was true in the 2000s but in the 2010s it is all about reputation. Give away your IP and customers will want to work with you based you your reputation.

  • Hi John,

    Sylvia Santelli brought this post to my attention, and it’s a great example of #5 – Remember that content doesn’t die. Sylvia spends a significant amount of time enabling SAP consultants in social media and blogging. We’re still seeing your points 1 and 2 as initial hurdles to overcome for new bloggers.

    You might consider addeing a #12 as well.

    12) Collaborate more with marketing to help them understand the customer challenges and business value for your topics. Marketing needs to understand how your piece fits into broader storylines. Authentic, relevant content builds credibility that marketing usually cannot accomplish with messaging alone. Joining forces can lead to higher content engagement and potential personal brand building.

    I really appreciate your authentic voice and believe other consultants can really learn from your example. Keep up the good work.

    • That’s the great thing about social media, I didn’t need to add #12, you did it!

      My advice to marketers is to help individuals 1-1 on this stuff. The rule of thumb is that 5% of the audience create 95% of the content. Therefore you only need to enable a really small number of people to get a measurable impact.

      I’m with you that anything that gets Marketing closer to customers is a good thing