More people are blogging than ever, but the blogs that really stand out feature good writing and storytelling. Bloggers can look to journalism for some tips that improve the quality of their posts.
1. Start with the most important information. If you’ve been taught to write academic papers, you learn to write an introduction – sometimes a lengthy one – that explains what you’re going to write about. Instead, write like a journalist and put the most important information in your first sentence or paragraph.
In some cases, such as telling an anecdote or using a quote to start your post, you may not get the “who, what, where, when, why, how” all laid out in your first paragraph. But make it as close to the top as makes sense, so readers quickly grab the point of what you’re communicating.
2. Look for the news. Readers will be most interested in something new or different. You don’t have to be radical in each blog post, but look for what’s dynamic even in more run-of-the-mill news items. Why should a customer care about your news? Tie it in to your customer interests. Is there a trend happening in pop culture or your industry? What are people talking about right now and how does what you do tie in?
Let’s take the example of hiring a new employee. That’s not earth-shattering, but it’s something new in your business that you want to inform your readers about. Write about what makes that new person qualified for the position, the special talents or knowledge he or she brings to your business, and a few fun tidbits (does he like to do woodworking? does she have a horse?) that will make your customers feel more comfortable talking to and working with the new employee.
3. Use quotes. Putting important thoughts in the words of someone else can be powerful. And using the ideas and opinions of other people can make your blog more interesting.
When you quote others, be sure to get it right. Journalists usually don’t let their sources review their quotes, but here’s where you can differ. Offer to let the people you quote review what they’ve said by email. This should be for accuracy – you don’t necessarily want them to rewrite what they’ve said.
Another idea is to conduct “interviews” by email. You’ll get back quotes that can be easily integrated into your posts and you know you’re getting the words right. Do correct misspellings or grammar errors in your sources’ quotes – it’s OK to make sure they don’t look bad – just avoid introducing any mistakes.
4. Avoid jargon or vague wording – at least, not without an explanation. Aim to strike a balance in writing for people who know everything about your business and industry and those who know nothing. Often, a short phrase or description or a link to another, previous post can inform readers of the background related to your topic.
As a business blogger, you want to include the words your potential customers might use to search for you. So sometimes jargon needs to be included. But make it as obvious as possible what you’re talking about. Give a short explanation if you can work it into the flow of the story, or link to a definition. Write out any acronyms in the first reference.
5. Don’t make it longer than it needs to be. Journalists are trained to keep their stories short and to the point. That stems from the need once upon a time to not waste newsprint, and even though story length doesn’t matter in a blog, it’s best to keep stories short and fast moving. Don’t limit yourself to a certain number of paragraphs; instead, write your post and then go through with an eye to what can be cut out or removed without changing the story.
6. Don’t worry too much about the ending. In the days of typesetting, sometimes the final paragraph or two were left off a story in order to make it fit. Even today, the last part of a story may be cut for space. So journalists put the most important things first and don’t stress as much about the end.
Also, studies show that the way people read online is to skim. They often aren’t reading word for word, especially the ending. Use a short summary, or perhaps a quote that sums up your topic.
7. Always check for spelling and grammar. Blogging often uses an informal style, but it doesn’t have to be sloppy. When you’re communicating with potential customers, you don’t want to turn anyone off with an error. If spell check doesn’t catch all your mistakes, have a co-worker or friend review each post before you publish.