Writing a Blog
Exploring Ideas in Your Industry
According to a recent study, around 6.7 million people around the world publish blogs, and this number is growing rapidly each year.
A large percentage of these blogs are personal, but an increasing number of professionals are using them to showcase their expertise and expand their networks.
Publishing a blog might sound quite simple, but you need to dedicate a lot of time, energy and attention to make it successful. A well-written blog gives you a platform to share your ideas with a variety of industry professionals, and it can open doors and lead to new business opportunities.
In this article, we'll look at how you can start and maintain a professional, career-related blog.
The Benefits of Professional Blogging
Although publishing a professional blog might seem like a time-consuming addition to your workload, it can offer a number of benefits and opportunities.
First, you can use a blog to demonstrate your expertise, and it gives you the chance to sharpen your thinking and develop your skills. You'll gain a deeper understanding of your industry as you research topics and articles, and you'll build skills in important areas, such as writing and communication, marketing, and self-promotion.
Next, a blog can also lead to valuable networking opportunities. For example, you might be invited to speak at trade conferences or events, or you might develop relationships with industry experts who are in a position to pass along important projects.
Blogging gives you an outlet to voice ideas that others in your organization may have overlooked; and you might find that your blog catches the eye of key decision-makers, who want to hear more about what you have to say.
Last, a well-written blog can also be an extension of your résumé. It has the power to impress prospective employers and recruiters, and it can open up job opportunities.
Although blogging presents many potential benefits, it also poses a number of risks.
For example, negative posts or comments can damage your reputation, or even cost you your job. And be careful not to share organizational information, news, or trade secrets – if you're in any doubt, don't post it.
It's important to keep your blog informative and positive, and to maintain your online reputation. Never criticize anyone in your organization, your stakeholders, or any people or companies that you do business with. If you wouldn't say something out loud at work or in a public forum, you shouldn't post it online.
Low-quality posts can also negatively affect your reputation. As such, it's a good idea to post regularly, but not at the expense of quality. It's better to publish one excellent post each week, rather than a poorly written one every day.
When you publish a blog, especially when you share other people's ideas, you run the risk of copyright infringement. Always make sure that your material is original, and that you quote all sources – including books, articles, journals, and websites – correctly, and that you're up-to-date on local copyright law. (For example, visit these sites for information on copyright law in the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia.)
Before You Begin
At this stage, you may feel excited about the opportunities that an industry- or career-related blog presents. However, blogs take a lot of time and energy to maintain, so consider the following steps before you begin.
1. Set Goals
First, think carefully about what you want to get out of publishing a blog. Why do you want to start? What is your ultimate goal?
It can take months or years to see any financial returns from a blog, so it's often best to use your blog as a learning or career-building tool. Publishing a blog for self-education may not pay off directly, but it can lead to income opportunities through networking or career advancement.
2. Ask Permission
Consider whether you need your boss's permission before you set up your blog. This is especially important if you plan to write about topics related to your organization, or to its business activities.
Be prepared for a cautious or skeptical reaction, however, keep in mind that your organization may welcome your blog, and that it might even link to it from the company website.
3. Find Your Market
The style and tone of your blog should reflect the needs and interests of your target audience. Who is your blog aimed at? What is their level of education or experience?
Develop a marketing strategy for your blog to think about how you'll promote it.
Use market segmentation to divide your potential audience into several groups, select the segments you want to address, and then choose the most appropriate approach for these people. Make sure that your posts offer something valuable and interesting to these readers.
4. Improve Your Writing
The quality of your content has a huge impact on your reputation, so you need to create clear, compelling articles that your audience can understand and relate to.
Use the 7 Cs of Communication to ensure that every article is concise, well-constructed, and effective. If you need to improve your writing skills, use our Bite-Sized Training session on written communication to develop these.
Online writing is different from traditional business communications. Keep in mind that the internet is highly visual, and that readers often scan articles to decide whether they want to read them in depth.
Use bold headings and subheadings to make key points stand out, and include a sensible number of pictures or videos to tell your story. Use short sentences and paragraphs, and avoid jargon, to ensure that all readers can understand your subject matter.
Remember to concentrate on your audience when you write each post. Your readers clicked on your post because they're interested in the subject, so keep it focused on what's "advertised" in the title. If you want to include other, related topics, write a unique post for each, and interlink them with one another. This connection will give readers the chance to get this information if they want it.
Your article's title is vitally important for capturing a reader's attention. It should be short, but it should also be rich in information. It needs to summarize what the post is about, and it should be compelling enough to entice someone to continue reading. (You can read examples of effective headlines on sites like the BBC® and The New York Times®.)
5. Schedule Writing Time
Successful blogs publish content regularly – this is important to maintain professionalism, and to keep readers satisfied. Posting sporadically leaves your blog looking stale, and it can put readers off.
You may want to write several posts when you have time, and then schedule them to publish on specific days. This allows you to take advantage of free time or a slow schedule, and it means that you can "stock up" on posts for when you're busy.
At a minimum, you'll need to devote several hours each week to writing, maintaining, and promoting your blog, so make sure that you have the time and energy for this commitment. Remember that your blog is a tool for developing and promoting your career, so make an effort to schedule regular time for this.
6. Find Your Voice
It's important that your blog offers something new and valuable to readers, so think carefully about what you have to say. Research your competitors' blogs, and think about how you can make your perspective or approach stand out. What can you do or say differently to set your blog apart, while ensuring that it's a valuable resource for readers?
Even though your blog covers a serious, professional topic, you should aim to make it personal, entertaining, and candid. One 2009 study found that self-disclosure enhances bloggers' social capital, and that it builds their sense of well-being and connection with their readers. Sharing your thoughts and mood can enhance and build relationships, but you need to strike the right balance between a professional tone and a personal one.
7. Use Social Networks
One of the best ways to promote your blog is to use social networks. You can use sites like LinkedIn®, Twitter®, and Facebook® to share your posts, and to connect with other professionals in your industry.
You can also submit your blog posts to aggregator sites such as Alltop©, Pinterest®, Digg©, or Mashable®. These sites compile breaking news, interesting articles and posts, and pictures from around the internet.
Next, consider developing a weekly or monthly email newsletter, and make it easy for your readers to subscribe to this. Your newsletter could contain brand new content, or a selection of recent posts.
You can also use your network to gain exposure. Offer to write guest posts on other industry professionals' blogs, and invite them to contribute to yours. Leave intelligent, thoughtful comments on their posts (but avoid "spamming" their comments section with adverts for your blog), and you'll likely find that, over time, these bloggers will visit your blog and return the favor.
There are a number of services that you can use to build your blog, including WordPress®, Blogger®, and Typepad®. These platforms are free to use, and they're relatively easy to navigate, even if you don't have any technical skills. To add to your credibility and professionalism, you may want to have your own domain name – check that the blog software you select allows you to do this.
You can publish a professional or career-related blog to build skills, stay up-to-date on your industry, grow your network, and enhance your reputation.
Think about why you want to write a blog. What is your ultimate goal? Create a mission statement to clarify your aims, ideas, and purpose. Then, identify your target audience, and work to improve your writing skills.
Last, keep your blog informative and positive. Never say anything negative about a colleague, client, or employer. A blog can make or break your reputation, so use it to open doors, not close them.