Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Why a career in national newspapers is the ideal training for a blogger

I spent quite a lot of my working life on the production side of national newspapers - as a subeditor and night editor. 

That means I got paid to play with words. Retelling stories in the most easily digestible form, making them considerably shorter but still just as informative, and writing catchy headings. 

And yes it was often just as much fun as you imagine it might be. 

However, times change and late night production shifts weren't compatible with small children so I moved on... and into the world of blogging.

But the move wasn't that big a leap because the skills that make a good blogger are exactly the same as the ones that make a good tabloid sub.

An instinct for story telling. It's crucial to understand deep down what it is you're saying. What's the story or the post about or who did what to whom? Not just the topic headline but exactly the point you are making.

Can write for toffee. Or anything else. We're not aiming for the Booker Prize here, but it's quite important to be able to string a sentence together. And to spell, a bit. 

Can see things from the other side. Tabloid folk know how to get out from behind the paper and see what the reader sees. They - and bloggers - must understand how to provide the reader with what they want, how to answer their questions and entertain. 

The ability to grab attention. Can you write a headline that makes people itch to read on? If so, you're in. Blogs, like tabloids only have a titchy smidge of time to capture a reader before the move on to the next shiny thing.

Understanding images. A good picture will always beat words, however beautifully crafted. Deal with it. 

Happy to get down and dirty. Obviously one day I will be a revered author of great literary fiction, however, until then I'd rather have people read stuff I've written because it's funny, pithy and interesting. Who wants high-brow, when there's fun to be had? 

I can also work fast, punctuate properly and swear extravagantly. None of these are essential for blogging, but they can help. 

So if you want to find an exceptional blogger in the crowded marketplace of very good ones, look for one who is used to juggling words for a living. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Annoying mistakes bloggers make

If you spend any time at all reading other people's blogs - for fun or for information - then you'll quickly start getting frustrated by the annoying things therein. 

Here is a round-up of things that have me clicking elsewhere before you can say, well, anything actually: 

Captcha - this is the deeply irritating thing that forces you to copy some squiggly numbers and letters to "prove you are human". I find swearing and giving up also prove I'm human. 

Requiring log ins - Some blogs are set up to make you to sign up or sign in in order to comment. Also very, very annoying. Sure, it's better to make a comment using an identity, but it should be compulsory. 

Out of date content - If I find a business blog - or any blog - that I like the look of or am interested in, it's crushing to then find that there's been nothing fresh for months. 

Bursting posts.Clearly it's your blog, put what you like in it, but all too often there's far too much in one post. If your post is looking quite lengthy, ask yourself if you could chop it up into several smaller ones. 

Big lumps of text. We readers are simply creatures who don't want to have to work too hard. Therefore make it easy for us to consume your delicious content. Use short paragraphs, have a line break between each paragraph, use sub headings and bullet points. 

Follow me, follow you. Have some way that I can follow your blog without having to visit every day. Is there an email sign up, an RSS feed? I like you, but I've got better things to do than stalk you. 

Don't nag. We all know that ultimately a business blog is there to help the business. But there's no need to shout that in our faces. We'll follow, buy, log on or share if we want to so back off and let good content speak for itself. 

Explain things. It's helpful to assume that each post is a standalone thing and that whoever is reading it knows next to nothing about you. It might not be the case, but it means you'll give all the necessary information, introduce the key players and tell the back story.

Now you know what not to do. You can make sure your blog doesn't join the league of irritating, the ranks of the annoying or the army of unread. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Ten ideas for blog posts you can do right now

Keeping your business blog going can be a bit of a chore, especially when you feel like you've run out of inspiration. Well here are some ideas for ones you can do right now. 

What’s new? You’ve got a business, there’s always something going on. Then tell us about it. Have you made a good deal, heard something exciting about a new customer or even found the office cat has had kittens. Let us into your world. 

Who’s there? Shine the spotlight on who you work with. Can you do a quick interview and get a colleague to talk about what they do and why? Quite literally it’s the human face of your business. 

A day in the life. You might think that a blow-by-blow account of what happens at work is about the dullest thing imaginable, but you’d be wrong. Everyone loves to know what other people are up to, what happens in their lives. Let them do a little bit of eavesdropping.

Heard any gossip? Especially if it’s about your business... Obviously you can’t go spreading everything you’ve heard – no matter how juicy – but if everyone’s talking about something then, with a little caution, blog about it. 

Give us some tips. Can you offer a few well-honed nuggets of advice? If you’re an expert – and you are – share a few pieces of your knowledge. It’ll become a resource people will use again and again, plus it’ll tell the world how good you are. 

Answer a few of your FAQs. Do you get asked the same thing over again? If so, then give full chapter and verse of the answer on your blog. It probably won’t stop you getting asked the question, but there’s clearly a need for the answer. 

What’s trending on Twitter/ in the paper? Depending on where you go for your freshest news, see what’s making the headlines. Can you join in the conversation, add to it or have a view? 

Look at the calendar. What’s coming up? It could be a global event or something private, but there’s no harm in looking forward to on your blog. Has your business got something to contribute to an event?
Read anything good lately? If you’ve seen something online that you enjoyed, were impressed by or thought useful, then share it. Just let the person who created it take credit, with links back to their site too as it’s only good manners.
Have some fun. What about a little light-hearted banter. What’s making you giggle this week? What are you up to at the weekend? Is there something that might show the world that it’s not all work and no play.
Remember that there are hardly any new ideas out there, just variations on a few themes. Find some that work for you. 

What are you waiting for?

cute puppy
You could share this cute puppy for a start (from via Flickr)