Have you noticed that whenever there is some political news on the TV, certain politicians always have something to say? It doesn’t seem to matter what the story is about, up pops the “same old face” to comment on the issue. In the media world these individuals are known as “rent-a-quotes” – and some of them even say in advance to the interviewer “what do you want me to say?”. They appear rather keen to get publicity. Of course, what they are actually doing is “playing the game”. The TV reporter needs someone to comment, they need it “now” and they need someone who is not nervous, who can say what they need to in 20 seconds and who can get their point across. The successful politicians know that usually there are only a handful of answers they need to give – “I shall raise this in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity” or “I shall be writing to the Prime Minister” or “I’ve spoken to many of my constituents and they simply do not agree”. Job done. Simple. These politicians would make fantastic bloggers – indeed some of them do.
The reason why many businesses find blogging bothersome is that they do not think like MPs. What I mean by that is MPs know there are several “slots” which need filling on the media and they provide a handful of typical responses which are needed in those slots. On Newsnight, for instance, they are meant to argue, on the Andrew Marr Show they are meant to be more personally revealing and on the morning TV sofa they are supposed to have a bit of a laugh. Horses and courses.
In the world of business blogging people struggle to know what to do. That’s because no course has been set for the blogging horse; in other words, no structure exists which provides the slots which can then easily be filled. Most blogs merely have “tags” or “sections”, but that’s not enough of a structure to provide guidance. It would be rather like providing an MP with the tag “late night programme” instead of telling them they were in a “three-way on Newsnight”. One only gives them a rough idea of what they need to do, the other tells them exactly that they need to argue with their opposite numbers.
So, most blogs could do with much better structure so that writers know exactly how to fill those “slots”. But what “slots” can you have on your blog? Here are my Top 10 structural ideas:
This is material that is brand NEW, stuff that people do not already know. It may have been published elsewhere but your specific audience does not read that source and does not know the information. That makes it news. Only publish news when it is new; don’t try to make stuff news that isn’t..!
Give your view on something. Be controversial. Say something different on a topic, take an alternative view. Don’t just rehash old material pretty much saying what anyone else has said on a topic. If you don’t have an opinion on a subject, don’t write about it..!
Speak to senior people in your sector or industry. Video record an interview you can use on YouTube and then use what the interviewee says as the basis for a blog article. If your interviewee has celebrity status within your business area, so much the better.
Look at other products and services in your sector and review them. Analyse how well they work, give star ratings. But give proper reviews. So many so-called reviews online are nothing of the sort, they are ill-disguised ways of people selling affiliate products. Real, honest reviews will shine out.
Ask questions and answer them. You can even get your readers to submit their questions and you choose one to answer. But a regular Q&A will attract readers because many people have similar questions but are reticent to ask because they fear looking daft.
Set up two sides of an argument and get two people in your business or sector to take opposing views. You then stitch these views together in a for and against kind of article.
Oh goodness look at what you are reading now…! People love lists – the top 10 of this, the 7 secrets of that.
8. How to
Instructional blog articles also go down well. Providing the “how to” you write is not the same as general stuff people can find elsewhere yours will do well. Taking a “sideways look” at a problem and coming up with a different solution is what you need. But provide a “how to” with an angle that no-one else has thought of.
Provide hints and tips based on your experience and people will lap it up. Things you have learned along the way that can help other people in your business sector are always well-read. People learn from the experience of others; show your experience with your tips.
Conduct a poll or survey in your business sector and then discuss the results in your blog. This makes interesting reading if your survey asked probing questions and looked at things in some depth. Simple polls rarely give you enough to write about, or enough for your readers to become interested in.
If you use these ideas you can then work out a plan. For instance, let’s say you plan to write 10 blog posts a month. You could then simply say what each of those 10 “slots” would be, making it much easier for you to decide what to write about. Rather like those rent-a-quote politicians it would be much more straightforward for you to write the right thing.
Oh, by the way, here is a BONUS IDEA – No 11 on your list..! Feature articles: these are in-depth articles that might include elements of several of your Top 10. For example, during an interview with a business leader you could ask about your survey results to get their opinion on it and their advice on how to solve the issue the survey raises. In one article you would combine survey, interview, opinion and how to. And if you want to see how that is done almost every day of the week, buy The Times and look at the features section…but beware of the political quotes, they have been from a “rent-a-quote”..!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+