I found this gem of a blog post — Why You Should Write Your Own Blog — in my twitter stream thanks to Jeffrey Waggoner. The author is Tom Albrighton, principal at ABC Copywriting — a company he founded in 2005.
If you’re a professional blogger or considering a blog for your content strategy then Tom’s post is a must-read. His post is best appreciated by reading from beginning to end — a few sips of wine is all the time you’ll need to invest.
Even though Tom is a continent and an ocean away from Seattle, his philosophy echoes LexBlog’s core beliefs but in a different voice — his voice. Our commitment to this “philosophy” hasn’t wavered, waffled or drifted since our inception in 2004 and I’m proud of that.
So, if you’re one of the 8,000+ professional blog authors making up the LXBN community, I share Tom’s post to inspire and as a “continuing blog education” tool for you. If you’re considering LexBlog, I share his post as a gut-check to help you determine if you’re ready to blog professionally.
Remember, blogging is less about the lightening and thunder and more about the steady rain of passion, authority, expertise, sincerity and authenticity — balanced with proper measure of transparency.
Tom embodies that.
…blogging, like keeping a diary, is something you can’t really outsource.
Well, how did I get here?
A blog as a whole is made, not born. Its themes, style and structure coalesce gradually rather than being imposed or decided at the outset. Instead of appearing as a fait accompli, it emerges in fragments, its overall shape only becoming clear over time.
Like the rings of a tree, a blog shows where you’ve been, and how far you’ve come.
The whole story
Over time, a blog develops into a true reflection of its author (or authors), with all their contradictions, frailties and failings.
…our blog will be the most enduring cultural artefact we create. Your blog is the book of your life, and since work is a part of life, that’s true of business as well as personal blogs.
More subtly, blogging helps you know thyself. Sometimes, to write your opinions is to discover them – maybe even to be surprised by them. And that deeper self-knowledge can easily lead to new directions in your work.
Sense of purpose
This is why blogs are special: they embody the human thoughts and feelings that give life to a business. Organisations are made of people, and blogs answer the big questions about them. Why should anyone, inside or outside it, care about this business?
Short of physically speaking with the people in a business, shaking their hands and looking into their eyes, you’ll find your best answer on their blog. And it’s this human dimension that distinguishes a blog from other forms of commercial writing.
If reading a blog is like taking a look at someone’s diary, following them on Twitter and Facebook is like meeting them in a crowded pub.
If you believe everything you read, you’ll probably conclude that good blogging is about information, opinion, entertainment, search-engine prominence, frequency, relevance, uniqueness and ‘shareability’ – ideally, all at the same time.
Some of these aims have not come from bloggers, or their audiences, but have been imposed by the middleman who stands between them. Because Google is the gatekeeper of the web, it’s skewed the idea of ‘quality’ towards its chosen proxy measures for that elusive concept: keyword density and any old backlink in the early days, social profile and human-curated backlinks more recently.
As Google tried to reflect human values in its algorithm, it placed new obligations on website owners. Suddenly, everyone had to have a blog and update it regularly. So people started blogging for the sake of blogging – not because they necessarily had anything to say that week. Blogging became less human, more mechanistic, as businesses looked for the parameters and processes that would deliver an effective blog. Having been like painting a picture, blogging was now more like painting a fence.
Welcome to the machine
Those who ‘get it’, and do not expect straw to be spun into gold, hook up with thoughtful, professional copywriters who will give their blog the time and attention it deserves – which is the next best thing to doing it yourself.
Once bought, such ‘content’ is expected to perform, to deliver value, to yield returns like any other asset. But words aren’t rivets; they’re the thread that links us together. They’re not just valuable, they’re precious.
Instead of trying to game the system, businesspeople could consider how their own writing could help. Not by rocketing them to page one, or going viral Gangnam style, but by opening a conversation with the people who are visiting and leaving their site without picking up the phone. And as Google Analytics will readily tell you, there are always far more of those people than you might want to admit.
Sincerity, enthusiasm and understanding
Instead, you’re looking for someone who understands. Someone who’s already thinking about the things that are important to you. Someone who’s sincere about what they do, and enthusiastic about the benefits they can offer you.
The odd spelling slip or grammar howler doesn’t matter. You’re not marking an essay; you’re getting to know a human being. Conversely, there is no need for the blogger to try and impress you with Martin Amis-style verbal sorcery; this is a situation where simple truths beat technical mastery.
The blogger’s mindset
Creating a blog like that is all about cultivating ‘blogger’s mind.’
Chance favours the prepared mind. To get better ideas, just keep the question ‘could I make a blog post out of this?’ always at the back of your mind. Believe me, it works a whole lot better than sitting down to try and generate ideas for posts by force of will. And it’s something that can only really be done by someone within the business rather than a third party.
Through their eyes
Arguably, a better approach than writing for the client is to induct them in the way of ‘blogger’s mind’, so they can build up their own blogging muscles. Teach someone to fish, and they eat for life, as they say. But this requires some initiative and commitment on their part, and some clients aren’t prepared to ante up. In a way, it’s hard to blame them – after all, they hired someone to write for them, not chivvy them to do it themselves.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for them to make the effort is to manage the conversation that a good post can generate.
Responding to questions and challenges off the cuff, when you don’t really know what you’re talking about, is hair-raising for the writer and reputationally risky for the client. (It’s the same problem that plagues those who run Twitter accounts on behalf of clients.)
So, if bringing the personal touch to a blog is so cool, shouldn’t business people write all their stuff? Should they, perhaps, write their own websites, brochures and ads as well?
The answer is an emphatic ‘no’ – and not just because I have a vested interest.
As I’ve argued, blogging is a very particular type of writing, and the points I’ve made here don’t apply to other formats. When we look at a website or an ad, we’re not expecting to talk to a human, but to see the benefits of a product or service communicated in the most vivid and engaging way possible. And not just expecting – hoping. In this case, a bit of the copywriter’s magic is exactly what we want.
That’s why I’m still delighted that people choose me to give voice to their product or brand. But I’m increasingly uneasy about doing the same for their blog. They really might be better off doing it themselves.
I get zero credit for this post today. My objective is to draw attention to Tom’s good work and his strong mind.
Tom, I hope that sharing your post is the highest compliment I can pay you. And, Jeffrey, thank you for “tweeting me” Tom’s post. If “the social media ethos is all about giving without asking” then you both gave to me in a huge way. I’m privileged to be connected with each of you.
Does Tom’s viewpoint about the essence and purpose of blogging resonate with you? Please share your perspective via a comment. LeadershipCloseUp is always looking to showcase other voices, angles and approaches.
P.S. Tom wrote his post over 15 months ago but that doesn’t lessen the impact today. Your “digital tracks” (like Tom’s) live for the long term — remember that as you write your blog posts — be discoverable.
P.S.S. If you’re a sweet-spot client for LexBlog, we won’t write blog posts for you but we will catapult you over the technology hurdles (design, development, hosting, etc.), coach you to write quality, sharable posts and expose you to a broader audience via LXBN.
If you need a “copywriter’s magic” for websites, brochures or ads, please call Tom.