I am in search of The Outstanding Blog Post.
Terry Starbucker asked me to write something up for him on this; “How do you write an outstanding blog post?” and I’ve been sitting with his question for a few days now, because I honestly don’t know.
I don’t say that from a sense of feigned humility or false modesty, but from a stance of pure truth, as raw as it gets. In fact, it’s starting to annoy me that a good three years into blogging I haven’t figured it out yet. I just never know when something I write will strike a chord with someone and when it won’t. I am surprised all the time with how blog posts I thought were winners get totally ignored, and how others I almost didn’t hit the publish button for take off like rockets after collecting dust bunnies in my list of drafts. Blows me away when a post of mine actually ends up on the popular page at deli.cio.us or gets dug at Digg. Best of all, it humbles me in supreme gratitude when you comment here.
They say that blogs are “lead generation.” Not always.
I began blogging to start my web presence as a management and leadership coach, and guess what? In my case a business blog is more ‘brochureware’ than marketing savvy. As time’s gone by, I’ve discovered that the majority of managers and leaders who are exceptionally good at what they do don’t read blogs very much —if at all. The “exceptionally good” part of that last sentence refers to my preferred customer: I feel I do my best coaching when I can take people from good to great versus from struggling to now improving. Wanting to help everyone is not the same as being able to, and I fully realize what I’m less-than-best at.
As for those already good and seeking great managers and leaders, their habits haven’t changed since blogs invaded the web because they aren’t predominantly online in the first place, and don’t generally web-surf much for SEO brilliance to help me market to them effectively; they are the Great Managers doing those great things they do every day, face to face with the people they manage and lead. Reading more about it is still largely considered luxury time when they are in the throes of action, action, and more action. They will pick books over blogs because print is still more convenient for them.
Many will say that these kinds of great managers and leaders are a minority, and that we need more of them who are in the thick of things instead of in their offices. I think there are more people like them than we give credit to, for the only “whole picture” we see of someone’s life is our own. However I agree we need more of “them” who bring values like aloha, respect, dignity and nobility to the professions of management and leadership. Thus, I write to encourage those who ask themselves, “What if ”?”
My peeps; The Ho‘ohana Community (which includes you!)
Our Ho‘ohana Community of readers is far more diverse, and I love that you are. For instance, I’ve come to realize that many of you are professionals who don’t manage others, but boy oh boy do you lead like crazy!
Many of you are those who are managed versus those who do the managing, and every so often I get an email of introduction from a first-time newsletter subscriber, admitting they heard about me when an employee printed out one of my blog posts and anonymously left it on their desk with a smiley face and handwritten phrase that says something like, “Because I know you do care, and may just need some help.”
[Most outstanding blog posts don’t have long sentences like that last one”]
Many of you are other bloggers, and you are here for community, for collaboration, for continuously insatiable learning and for linklove, and I appreciate you one and all. I love the same things and I visit you for them too: Blogging is global fun in creating collaborative relationships, with emotional intelligence and raw intellectual honesty thrown in for good measure. Many is the day I have come to understand that my silent readers are on vacation again, and that you who are bloggers never are.
Now what was the question again?
Therefore, if I look to those who I normally address my posts to, their outstanding-ness (by “their” I mean the posts) as judged by my audience who is the Ho‘ohana Community, is as hit and miss as it gets, and counting feedback in the way we’ve learned to do so far on blogs —comments, traffic, subscriptions, emailed responses— becomes only part of the story. Keep those things coming though, because they really do help me!
So I suppose there’s only one way to realistically respond to Terry’s question, and that’s with how I also try to write an outstanding blog post, from both my standpoints of post writer and blog reader, for I’m that not-so-ordinary manager and leader who loves to read other blogs daily (like Terry’s)!
Oh yeah, “How do you write an outstanding blog post?”
Mahalo nui loa Starbucker for suggesting in your very generous heart that I do!
Here’s what I do: I follow these Five Self-Imposed Blogging Rules.
1. Fulfill an implied promise.
Search aside, people have come with a certain expectation. In my case, this means I write about my Ho‘ohana (my on-purpose work). On www.managingwithaloha.com I write about Managing with Aloha. On www.teachingwithaloha.org I write about teaching with aloha. On www.joyfuljubilantlearning.com I write about the joy in learning, and I encourage people to do it constantly. On www.lifehack.org I write about management and leadership for Leon as succinctly as I can, but I admit that’s tough for me —great management and leadership aren’t true lifehacks, for they don’t happen overnight and you can’t take shortcuts. There is a ton between listing what to do, and actually doing it as your habit. I think the single best lifehack of them all is creating good habits to replace the not-so-good ones.
Here on Talking Story I do just that; talk story about the whole of my ho‘ohana. This is my more-personal blog where I talk about whatever I happen to be interested in. I used to think of it as my business blog, but not anymore. My header stills says “Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching” because it’s the same thing ”“ SLC is me. I also don’t want to change it because Christopher Bailey made the Talking Story header for me as a gift, and I love thinking about that each time I look at it.
2. Make it interesting, valuable, and relevant.
I have vowed to never, ever think too little of your attention. I will not take it, or you, for granted. We live in a world where we never seem to have enough time, and where everyone seems to be screaming at us for their share of it. If you are here reading this, I need to honor you, and write well as a way to say thank you. You need to click away having received some value.
I have this on my list of Twelve Rules for Self-Management: Be interesting. Read voraciously, and listen to learn, then teach and share everything you know. No one owes you their attention; you have to earn it and keep attracting it. At Management Craft, great coach and Breakthrough Guru Lisa Haneberg expanded on it magnificently for me: take a look.
Another thing is that I’m not so vain or silly to think I can be interesting all by myself in blogging. That is why I love my forums, and why I love to involve other writers in my blogs, interviewing them, or asking them to guest post. When I take a break from doing so it’s a time shortage for me, for those efforts do take some management. This was the last one, done for Joyful Jubilant Learning: A Love Affair with Books.
3. Resist adding to the clutter, yet write enough to make it complete.
It used to be that I had a lot of fun with strategies like this: 10 Ways I Got 4,700 Subscribers in Three Months (which Leo Babauta wrote in an extremely generous way, as he’s truly someone to learn from), and when I reflect back on my online history I smile from ear to ear. The investment paid off in the early creation of the Ho‘ohana Community a couple of years ago, and in getting Google and other search engines to be kind to me. One of the SEO (search engine optimization) techniques I was faithful to was posting something every day.
Not anymore, for a couple of reasons. The first is that I have gotten increasingly sensitive to adding to the clutter as the blogosphere has blossomed, and it relates back to being interesting, valuable, and relevant. If my draft is too obvious, too commonplace, too nothing and too boring to me it never gets posted. As you can tell with this article, though it is longer than normal, now I defer to the longer and fewer posting strategy.
Second, I do write for five blogs regularly now, and I like to say yes when other bloggers send a tag my way (like this one), and ask me to participate in their forums or do guest posts for them. Writing every day, even for my own blogs, is simply not possible —until the day SLC runs without me!
4. Cut back on the this-is-continued links: Write each post for the first-time reader.
This is a new strategy for me, and I haven’t gotten in my groove with it yet, but I keep trying! I’ve had too many links in my posts that are not linklove for other bloggers, but go back to my own writing, and I want to clean it all up —“all” meaning my archives and faulty assumptions! Even my most faithful readers cannot keep up with all I write, and I need to do more self-contained articles as opposed to blog posting sequels.
On the other hand, the link continuity is what makes blogging so unique … three years into it, and still so much to learn…
5. Be Mea Ho‘okipa and talk story with those who read, comment, email, trackback and link.
To be Mea Ho‘okipa is to be a gracious hostess of aloha. It will be interesting to see how I change my own rules as time goes by, for I admit that timely responsiveness gets tough to do on my schedule as my blogs get more popular and my newsletter subscriptions continue to climb. However as I write this in the here and right now, I still think of blogging as having a conversation. You wouldn’t just walk away from someone while they were still talking to you, would you?
That said, I’m not one to look down upon those who turn their comments off, for being good about responding to every comment in a clutter-free way is also tough (i.e. to keep them readable for newly reading arrivals). The day I can’t handle responding to them I’ll likely turn off my comments too, or consider a venue other than blogging altogether, because I can do that easier than doing away with my email address and not responding to my inbox where so, so much other conversation happens.
This relates back to the writing of an outstanding blog post, because sometimes the best way to continue a conversation and finish it well is with another post. These days I find I am visiting my own archives more and more because yesterday’s post has become today’s relevance for some reason or another, and that reason came back on my radar as a talk story.
Plus, I truly, truly love our Ho‘ohana Community of readers, bloggers, and aloha practitioners. All of you give me great joy.
If you’ve never before responded, will you do so now, and tell me more?
Help me learn more, would you? Just who are you? Where are you reading from, and what have I missed knowing about you so I can be more interesting, valuable, and relevant to you?