The Art of Blogging

A long time ago, I sat on a teleconference presentation on blogging. This was a pretty odd day for me for a couple reasons. First of all, I haven’t been on a teleconference presentation since the late 90s. Not having to sit in front of a PowerPoint presentation taking over my screen was kind of a novel idea for me.  Second, I was in the middle of preparing to move into a new apartment, so I was moving around a lot to pack. I don’t know if it was the freedom of the teleconference or the very real desire to do anything but pack, or maybe it was actually the content (which, I have to admit, can be a novel idea in itself these days), but a few things stuck with me; I’d like to share some of these insights with you.

Now I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes here, but one of the things that they were talking about was the concept of “CODA” (Content, Outreach, Design and Action). These are my insights into this concept:

Content: Obviously, everything that you write on your blog should be relevant to your industry. You can start a personal blog for family photos, trip journals and thoughts on the latest election. When it comes to your blog (and I can’t believe I have to say this) focus on your business! You’d be surprised how many people decide that they can kill two birds with one stone. True, your readers getting to know you better makes them more likely to buy from you, but don’t alienate people who may disagree with you. Controversy is a great way to spark debate, but, like I said, make sure that you’re staying in your field.

Also, when you’re writing your blog, write it like you’re talking to your favorite client or customer. Taking a personal tone makes it more readable and helps you connect with your audience.

Outreach: How are you getting your blog out into the field? When we’re building a website, we refer to this as “findability”. How are you being found? Is this something that you want to direct people to yourself or are you going to opt for the keyword heavier option and make sure that it can rank in the search engines? Maybe you want to focus on commenting on related blogs to drive traffic to your own or start a full on social media campaign and get into the Internet world at large.

More likely than not, you’re going to employ a mix of those methods to drive traffic to your blog, and rightfully so. There is no magic lever and anyone who tells you differently should be looked upon with deep suspicion. Whatever methods you do use, make sure that you have a plan to work with.

Design: This should be another fairly obvious one. When you design your blog, you want to make sure that it’s branded consistently with your organization. If your brand color scheme is primarily navy blue, a black background on your blog is just going to confuse people, and look pretty bad, besides. Obviously you want your logo prominently placed, as well as easy ways to get back into your website.

These days, more often than not, blogs are integrated into a website that you would build or have built for you, but it’s something to think about.

Action: This is one of the most important aspects of anything on the web. When we’re building websites, we refer to this as “conversion”. Basically, you want to take into account what you want people to do.

Do you want your readers to contact you directly? If so, is your phone number prominently placed? How about a contact form so they can email you directly from the page?

Do you want them to subscribe to your feed? You might want to think about having a reminder at the bottom of each post to go along with the main subscribe options at the top of the page.

Whatever action you want your reader to take, make sure that you make it as simple for them as possible because, more often than not, if it’s too difficult (or more difficult than a simple click), it’s not going to happen.

The Four E’s of Blogging

Education

When you’re developing a blog as a marketing tool, there’s a lot that you want to consider. Since we’ve already gone through CODA (Content, Outreach, Design and Action), we’re going to focus a little more in depth on the content and utilizing a concept referred to as The Four E’s of Blogging: Education, Entertainment, Engagement and Enrichment. These will all be discussed in separate entries over the next week or so.

Education: One of the things I love most about being in my industry is that I get to teach people more about marketing. I come from a city in New York called Rochester, which was once a vibrant economy. I was too young to remember most of these stories, but to this day, walking around the city, you can see remnants of what it used to be. As Kodak, Xerox and Bausch and Lomb (the big three that were headquartered there) started pulling jobs from the area, Rochester found itself in the middle of a very scary transition. All of a sudden we saw people with these tremendous skill sets unemployed. A lot of these people tried to start businesses, but, since all they knew was how to actually do their job and not run a business, a lot of them failed. Now I don’t know if anyone from Rochester is reading my blog and learning about marketing tools to help their businesses succeed. What I do know that every post I publish gets read by a lot of people and I like to think that it helps them learn a bit, and maybe not become another cautionary tale.

That, to me, is one of the most important aspects of writing a blog. Being able to educate someone on the ins and outs of your industry not only improves your standing as a leader in your field, but it gives you the opportunity to help people understand a little bit more about what you do and why you do what you do.

Besides that, teaching someone how to do your job is a great way to show them why you’re worth what you’re worth! I always say that the best way to get someone to ask you to do something for them is to teach them how to do it themselves. It’s one of the reasons I’m a huge advocate of seminars and workshops. There’s a reason that you’re in business. There’s a reason that you’ve chosen the industry you have.

Show your customers that.

Show your prospects that.

Hey, show your competitors that!

Figure out how to become an educational force and not only will people keep coming back to you to learn, but they’ll come to you to get the work done, too.

Entertainment

There are a number of different reasons people will keep coming back and reading your blog: to be educated, to be entertained, because they’re engaged with the subject matter or topic of your blog or to be enriched in some way. This time around, we’re going to be focusing on “E #2”.

Entertainment: Think about how much sense this makes: one of my favorite things to do is laugh. There’s nothing better. If I’m not laughing, I want to be amused somehow. Whether it’s a story, a bad joke or just an interesting fact, I want to be entertained. If I’m not, I’m bored.

Bored readers aren’t return readers.

If you look back through my blogs, I have the tendency to tell a lot of stories. I’m a story teller; I always have been. I like to think I’m pretty good at it, too. I’m also a musician, and when I’m on stage, in between songs, I tell stories. It’s just what I do. More importantly, it’s how I keep people interested in what I’m doing.

If you can make people feel like they’re a part of your life, invariably they’ll be more engaged in what you’re talking about (if you can make it funny, it’s even betterJ). No matter what industry you’re in, you can always relate it to some part of your life that’s worth talking about.

That’s my way of entertaining people. What’s yours? Do you have an awesome sense of humor? Can you weave a tale with a moral and a point? Incorporate it into your writing and you’ll keep a lot more readers.

Enrichment

By now, if you’ve been reading regularly, you know that we’re dead set in the middle of a series on blogging. If not, you should go back and read the past few installments ;-). Here we are, in the home stretch and moving onto the third “E” of blogging.

Enrichment: This is an interesting one. How can we, as business owners, enrich our readers through our blogs. This one, to be honest, kind of stumped me for a little while. Then I did a search for the definition of the word “enrich” (you can find the search that I ran here).

Personally, my favorite definition of the word is apparently from Wiktionary: To make (someone) rich or richer; To adorn, ornate more richly…

The reason I love this definition so much is because it defines my business perfectly. The mission of Score Consulting is, and always has been, to help each and every one of our clients succeed in their field. We aim to, quite literally (according to this definition), enrich our clients. One of the ways that we do this is by blogging and offering free advice through our blog to our clients and the business community at large.

How do you enrich your readers? Do you offer free advice? Do you teach people? Give them more information than they have now? Maybe some information that’s not typically available to the public (nothing that you would get in trouble for revealing, of course) would make your readers lives easier.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all in business to make a profit (even non-profit organizations need to make a profit to operate), and we don’t need to make any excuses about that. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make things better for our readers outside of that.

Engagement

And here we are in the home stretch of The Art of Blogging series! For the past few posts, we’ve been discussing the importance of blogging, how to keep people coming back and how to make it effective.  For the final post in this series, we’re going to focus on the final “E” of blogging: Engagement.

Engagement: So you’ve created your blog and you’re getting a few hits here and there. But why should people keep coming back?

The first rule of engagement is this: Be engaging! Seems pretty obvious, right? But still, there are people out there who just post articles, victories, news, etc. that has absolutely no interest to half of the general population.

There was a time that I took a job with an Internet marketing company in San Diego. One of the groups they catered to mainly was lawyers. I remember talking about blogs with some of these lawyers, and they seemed to grasp the concept fairly well, but when I’d have my monthly calls with these lawyers, we’d go over their blog, and all that was up there, if anything, was recent legal decisions and law articles.

Now don’t get me wrong, those are important, too. They help with the reputation of these lawyers by showing how well they’ve done in the past and how well they know and understand the law.

My question is this: How am I supposed to relate to it? How am I supposed to comment on a legal decision that I only understand every third word of?

In any blog platform worth using, you can create different categories. If you’re going to have a category detailing legal decisions and articles, at the very least try to have another one explaining the significance of those articles for me to understand. Otherwise, you’re just throwing information at people, most of whom have no chance of understanding why they should care.

And, just like that, you waste valuable space.

Obviously, this is a very specific example to a very specific industry, but the concept applies across the board. Think about your industry. How much industry jargon can you use while writing an article that your consumer just won’t care about? I know I can talk about CMSes, SEO, SEM, SMM until the cows  come home, but unless I’m talking to another marketing expert, no one’s going to have the first clue as to what I’m talking about, and they’re not going to engage in the blog itself.

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