“I have no time.” “What would I say?” “How could I keep it going?”
These are questions that staff, clients, and colleagues have asked about maintaining a business blog. And they’re all fair questions and objections. Blogging isn’t always easy. If it were, everyone would do it. And even though it may seem like everyone is, blogging has dipped a little since its heyday, and blogs aren’t quite the community hub that they once were.
But as outlined in a previous post, “6 Reasons PR People Should Blog,” it has many personal and professional benefits, particularly for communicators. As a follow-up, I promised some tips that have worked for me over the past six years. Because I’m not well versed in the technical aspects of blogging, and it’s a branding tool to support my PR business, it’s written from that perspective. (There’s a ton of great advice on blogging for profit, but this is not that.)
My advice is strictly based on first-hand experience, some of which may conflict with conventional wisdom, so — as they say, your mileage may vary.
Decide on your scope, and stick to it 95% of the time
My blog is naturally about PR, and I almost never deviate from the broader PR or communications industry. I’m often tempted to stray into other areas – parenting, politics, or recent experiences, good and bad, with big-brand companies. But unless there’s a clear PR hook, those topics represent a slippery slope. (Yes, customer service is increasingly linked to PR and reputation, but you can only grouse so much about the cable company.) To slide there would negate the business benefits of the blog and the reasons for investing the time.
But I say “95% of the time” because even a tightly focused business blog can handle a personal or off-topic post once in a while. I recall the first time I saw Laura Sholz’s first post about her struggle with depression, which really stayed with me, precisely because I’d only known of her updates about professional matters. But that’s an exception that proves the rule. One of my off-topic bugaboos is perfectionism, which is surprisingly common among PR professionals. (Hence, this post’s title.)
Don’t worry about an editorial calendar
I know, I know, an edcal is Rule #1, and it works for most bloggers and staff teams. For whatever reason, it’s never worked for me. I need to be reacting to another post, or the communications aspect of a news item, or an issue that’s arisen in the course of our work for clients. A schedule is not motivational for everyone.
But do keep a folder of great blog ideas and posts you envy
Or blurb a few lines into your wordpress (or other) dashboard and save them before you lose the thread. The challenging thing about blogging as a business owner is that, when inspiration strikes, you won’t necessarily be able to drop everything and pound out a post. It pays to capture key phrases and the emotions or questions that triggered the idea for the post right away.
Start in the middle
Beginnings are hard, especially for us perfectionists. It’s sometimes helpful to jump into the post and save the intro paragraph and polishing for later. Everyone skims it anyway.
Create posts that you’d read
Yes, you should consider your “target audience.” But if your first objective is simply to get moving, ignore the advice to create a “persona” through a deep analysis of your ideal prospect’s hopes, fears, dreams, and what car they drive. This works well for inbound marketing, perhaps, but if productivity is your goal, try blogging for yourself.
Take inspiration from other blogs
Some of my colleagues don’t do this, for fear they’ll be accused of copycatting. I think they’re missing the point, which is to enter the conversation. It can start with a single post and go on for days or weeks through reactive posts from different individuals. Just make sure you add something new and fresh to the dialogue, or advocate a specific point of view, and link to the original post.
Don’t be discouraged by few comments
If I had a dollar for everyone who’s told me they read or liked a post but didn’t comment, I could retire. In general, people don’t have time to comment, or they don’t have a strong feeling about adding to the conversation. Know that it’s okay if you’ll never be Brian Solis or Mark Schaefer. But you can gather inspiration from them and others (and cleverly link to them to show your good taste.)
Break it down. Less is always more
Example: I started the last post by sharing a couple of tips, then segued into reasons for PR pros to blog, then realized that it could stand alone, with tips or ideas serving as a follow-up. This happens all the time. Many posts are actually two or more, and it’s far easier to unpack a smaller, simple idea than to race to cover the map.
Don’t worry about repeating yourself
I used to steer clear of a topic for months after blogging about it for fear of being redundant until I realized two things: First, most website and blog visitors are first-timers. (Check out your site analytics if you don’t believe me.) Second, most people read or scan scores of posts weekly, so they’re unlikely to focus on a preoccupation with, say, misperceptions about PR, or the missteps of large agencies, to name two of my favorites. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should repost the same update, unless it’s clear that it’s from the archive and it’s newly relevant.
When you’re out of ideas…
Browse your industry-focused google alerts for interesting developments. Scan the top blogs in your area, trade newsletters and communities, or blogs about adjacent industries (for me, this means marketing or advertising.) Look at your own meeting calendar and review the issues that arose in the past six months. Ask employees, clients, and vendor-partners what’s on their minds. Beg a colleague to do a guest-post. Or, write a post on trying to come up with ideas for a post. Others will relate.
Save the headline for last
I know, most people will tell you to blog to the headline, but my posts tend to wander, and why waste a perfectly good update just because it changed in the writing? I like to save the heads for later also because I invariably struggle with them, and if I wait until the headline is perfect, nothing will ever be written. You’ll note that the head above is long and bumpy, but this is about getting it done, not getting it perfect.
A final note for perfectionists (added after this post was published.) Blogging is ideal if you’re a compulsive editor. Remember, you can always update!