This was originally posted at my AccMan site for a professional services community. The principles outlined seem to hold true(ish) for many environments. It is cross posted here by request. Enjoy.
Following on from my ‘why blogging isn’t dead‘ post it struck me that’s all very well but then I can’t count the number of professionals both those who are connected to marketing and what I would call functional experts who have come to me saying they find it really hard to write posts. It’s not they don’t know where to start but they don’t know how to frame in such a way that a topic becomes interesting. I’ve found this method works well but you decide for yourself.
- The perceived wisdom is – know your audience. OK – but what if you’re new and don’t have an established audience or are unsure? Hugh MacLeod said it well many years ago. I can’t immediately find the reference but it boils down to this: write for yourself. We’re not in this to show how super freakin’ smart we are or win a Pulitzer Prize but to share our interests.
- More perceived wisdom – give readers something they can’t get elsewhere? Hmmm…if you’re new or unsure than how do you know what they don’t know? Here’s what to do: ask questions. Rather than spout about something that may be completely irrelevant, talk to the reader as though you were having a conversation. As a professional you already know this consists of asking LOTS of questions so frame your position but invite questions. Examples might be: what did I miss? Am I on the right track? Does this make sense? Am I mad?
- Tell a story – everyone loves an anecdote and as professionals we all have a rich store of those. Starting is easy: One day I was scratching my head over a client’s tax return when… And I’m betting it won’t be long before you’re into adding a touch of humour and wit. Always a winner.
- Don’t be afraid to get it wrong. I’ve never met, heard or watched THE one person who had a lock on what I need to know but I can learn from many sources. That’s why I shun terms like ‘expert’ ‘guru’ and the like.
- Link like crazy. Much of what I’ve read recently suggests that blogging has become so skewed towards traditional media that linking is now passé and to be avoided. Screw that. I still link to send people away. Why? So they come back. And they do. As a side note it is a mark of humility to link to someone who does know more and with whom you connect.
- Stay focused. I’ve said this many times before but I don’t always take my own advice which makes me something of a hypocrite. On the other hand, I genuinely believe this is the easiest one of all. If you have bags of experience in just a handful of industries then you’ve got lots to say. Chances are you read around industry topics anyway and can readily find angles that have a way back to what you really want to say.
- Keep it simple. Unless you are the world’s expert on some arcane area of tax/audit or whatever then I can assure you nobody will care. Attention spans are shortening as well so you need to get into and out of your topic area as fast as possible. It’s a good discipline for sharpening thinking processes.
- Short and sweet. Another area where I lack discipline. But seriously, when I was at uni I was given an assignment that was meant to run 1,500 words. I wrote a brilliant, superbly researched 2,000 piece that scored me a D- because I ignored the word length criteria. That taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten: If your reader can’t skim through and get the nuggets in less than 2 minutes you’ve probably failed.
- Be original. This is often perceived as very difficult when in fact it is much easier than you think. All you have to do is consider a topic of likely interest and then ask yourself: but what do I really think? I”ve never met anyone who didn’t have something original to say. Give it a try. This goes hand in hand with…
- Be current. Nobody cares about what happened 10 years ago unless it has relevance to today. Sometimes it does. I often think: I’ve seen this before and can then add insight or a refreshed view based upon experience.
- Strong positions loosely held. Nothing is forever and last time I looked there were very few universal truths. In our practice lives things change all the time if for no other reason than our government masters like to set new tax puzzles every year. On the other hand it never hurts to take a strong position – provided you can back it up. But then don’t be so dogmatic (unless the position is born out of genuine conviction and faith) that you cannot wriggle out as circumstances dictate.
- Develop your own rhythm. There are no hard and fast rules but it helps to set expectations. If people ‘know’ you’ll have something to say once a week then stick to that. If they know you only write when you have something to say, do that as well. That’s how I roll and sometimes it means there are gaps. So what? (See no.1)
Anything glaring I’ve missed? As I said – this is a formula that pretty much works for me. I didn’t know it at the time I started but these, along with a passion for sharing knowledge has kept me going nicely.
Finally. Don’t give up. This is a tough one but learn from this person – it’s a cryptic link to take you further 😉