By Sophie Hobson, editor of LondonlovesBusiness.com, the online newspaper for London’s business community
Well, this is a great start. You already write a blog, or are thinking about it. Creating useful, unique or exciting content is a brilliant way to add value for clients and to establish your expertise among peers.
But how do you create a blog that people actually want to read?
1. BEHOLD: The 3 secret C’s
First of all, I’m afraid that very few readers care about you. They do, however, care about what you have to say: your expertise, insights and advice.
That means your blog should NOT consist of irregular updates on company news and staff appointments.
Instead, it must provide articles that help or interest readers, on subjects that fall within your area of expertise (be that M&A or HR). I’m going to let you in on a little formula I’ve devised. The subject of your blog should be one of the following:
- Counter-intuitive: If you’re writing for your peers, don’t tell them what they already know. Share something that you have discovered that goes against the grain and will make people think.
- Clear: If you’re writing for clients, basic guides and explanations of complex subjects can add real value, and so win loyalty. Avoid – or explain – jargon. Ask clients what they would most like to learn about, and be led by that.
- Controversial: I don’t mean defending-Jimmy-Savile controversial, obviously. I mean challenging industry norms, or suggesting that established structure X could be radically improved. Controversial opinion is generally more shareable. Just be sure before hitting “publish”.
Here’s a bonus C: CUT!
The key to great writing is great editing. Make your sentences as short as possible. Cut out anything you can, including adjectives and adverbs, semi-colons, waffle and repetition. Let the ‘Hemingway App’ be your personal automated tutor.
2. You’ve already learnt lesson two…
…because lesson two is: A killer, catchy, must-click-on-it headline is essential.
Your headline is usually THE ONLY CHANCE you have to make someone click onto the article in full. I cannot overstate how important a good headline is. (But I’ve tried anyway, using caplocks and bold and underlining.)
You’ve already learnt this lesson, because you clicked on my headline. Why? It told you that you would get a quick, easy answer to a problem you face. Here are more ideas for how to write good headlines. Blatant but relevant plug: check out how we write headlines on LondonlovesBusiness.com, because we do quite enjoy making them punchy.
I often find it useful to write my headline before anything else. It forces me to work out what the most important or most exciting element of what I’m writing is.
Then I can leave out more or less everything else I know about that subject, and just focus on that one part. “But WAIT,” I hear you cry – “that ‘everything’ else is what showcases my extensive knowledge about this subject!”
Ah, but it’s your extensive knowledge that is precisely the problem. When you really understand a subject and have researched it thoroughly (as you should before writing anything), you could harp on about it for days.
The trick to writing a strong blog is just to present the digestible and delicious cherry that tops your weighty cake of expertise. A blog should cover just one key idea or insight or theme, not digress out into every other piece of connected information you know, like a hyperactive fractal.
If the reader wants more of your expertise, they’ll contact you. And bingo – you just acquired a new customer. Of course, you’ll need to put your contact details on your blog so they can do that.
3. Pretend you’re in the pub
The best piece of writing advice I ever got was to pretend I was talking to a mate in the pub when writing, rather than Composing A Serious News Feature.
Writing blogs is not like writing reports or proposals or briefs. You should be punchy, chatty, and straight-talking. And don’t be afraid of saying “you”. It helps you connect with your reader. (You notice how it’s been working for you and me so far in this blog?)
4. The listicle effect
If you haven’t heard of BuzzFeed yet, check it out as soon as you finish reading this. It’s full of fluff, but it’s the Mr Miyagi of “listicles”, which are articles that take the form of lists (“Five top tips”, “16 reasons why”, etc).
BuzzFeed is so good at listicles that it now boasts 150 million “unique visitors” (individual readers) a month. Why? Online readers love listicles. They’re very easy to read, and very shareable. Lists are particularly useful if you’re not used to writing for an online audience, because you don’t have to worry so much about narrative structure.
Here’s a really handy article on writing lists, from a Buzzfeed writer.
5. If you build it, they won’t come
People will not read your blog just because you’ve written it. YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR BLOG IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. Here are some tips for how to get people to your blog. You should probably use them all:
- Share it on social media – Twitter, LinkedIn, et al. And share it multiple times over the space of a few weeks
- Include a link to your blog in your email signature and on your LinkedIn profile
- Link to your blog from your blog. If someone chances upon one post, link to other relevant posts at the end, to keep them on the blog
- Tell people about it! Mention it at networking events and in meetings, then email a link the next day
- Offer your content out to other websites, and ask for a link back to your blog (this is called content syndication)
Sophie Hobson is the editor of LondonlovesBusiness.com, the online newspaper for London’s business community