By Sue Stoney, the Message Crafter
I was talking to a web developer recently, and he was complaining about the dearth of original thinking reflected in content in recent times. It seems busy subject matter experts (SMEs) don’t have time to write about what they are expert in, so they’re doing what they feel is the next best thing: copying other people’s ideas, changing them up, and posting them as if they were theirs.
My advice? If you don’t have time to blog about what you’re good at and love to do, don’t. But let me spend the rest of this article trying to convince you that you do have time to blog about your own thought leader content. In fact, blogging about your business makes good business sense – when it is done with authenticity.
Original thinking versus copy / paste
Blogging falls under the category of “content marketing”. The accent there should be on “content”, not marketing. That is, give away little pieces of your original thinking that makes you the expert in X, Y, Z as a free good will gift to prospective and current clients. As I say in my last article about blogging, “Blog Article Writing for Small Business Owners”, “Ensure the content of the article is something useful – irrespective of whether the reader becomes your customer or not.”
A mentor of mine when I started in proposal development called the kind of writing business people do, “thesisful writing”. Why? Because writing in the business environment needs to turn someone else’s thinking in the direction of the writer’s point of view (POV) – his or her thesis (read “original thought”).
In the case of a blog, a SME is writing with the ultimate purpose of convincing the reader to purchase products or use his services…but, first, if the SME has no “peeps”, she might need to get some. (“Peeps” are people who believe in you and your expertise enough to pay you for it. If they believe in you enough, they tout you on social media, and you get more “peeps”.) Writing a blog is an effective way to establish your credentials in a market that may not know you yet, but, when they do, they find themselves thinking, “This person sounds as though he knows what he’s talking about. I need to contact him to talk about X, Y, Z.”
How original thinking works in a blog
“Thesisful writing” is not original to the business world. It comes from the academic community, where a graduate student or doctoral candidate submits a thesis to his or her department that governs the student’s area of study. In this case, the student attempts to turn a first (and sometimes, second, or even third) reader from the department toward the POV of the student’s thesis. To get the reader to see the idea from the student’s point of view, the thesis must be an original idea of the student’s – but backed up by research from primary sources (read “other experts respected in the field of study the thesis is about”).
Research (aka “information” or “data”) should substantiate (not replace) your original thinking. Plagiarism (copying other people’s ideas and calling them your own) is such a clear and present danger – even in academia – many institutions of higher learning are employing some version of search engine technology to attempt to stem the tide of plagiaristic writing. Why? Because they don’t want to be in the business of conferring degrees on mediocre copycats. They want those degrees going to people who see themselves as professionals in X, Y, Z and who can think for themselves as they practice their craft.
SMEs in the workplace (in a corporate gig or as business owners) have the same responsibility for credible content as academics – and for the same reason – if you are doing the work you love and are good at, you have no need to copy others’ original thinking. For this reason, a rough template for a blog article should begin with material properly cited from other sources, followed by original thought to further the idea – OR – the blog article should start with the blogger’s original thought, followed by substantiation from others.
The stuff of the blog article is, properly, coming from the SME’s daily work life. (A great framework for your article might be a quote [between quotation marks] with the author’s name after it followed by your POV in the remainder of the article.)
One final thought on original thinking: In a blog article of 500 to 900 words, the majority of those words should be the blogger’s original thoughts. If, say, most of the text is directly (or indirectly) quoted from someone else, even if it is properly sourced, all you are doing is parroting other people’s ideas, which the reader can get from them.
Where and how did blogging come to be?
According to Wikipedia “The term ‘weblog’ was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, ‘blog’, was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase ‘we blog’ in the sidebar of his blog, Peterme.com, in April or May 1999.” SMEs used weblogs in the early days of online sharing to vet their ideas with other SMEs working on the same, or similar, projects.
But, before the advent of the Internet…
…there were newspapers with reporters on regular beats who became SMEs in their own right with respect to what they were reporting about. Eventually, they had their own columns (because they had “peeps” who began to follow them and trust their opinions).
The OpEd sections of newspapers contain many articles written by people with their own “peeps”, who submit their opinion pieces to the newspaper. The OpEd section also contains articles written by editorial staff members. Several people who have “peeps” because they reported for / wrote for individual newspapers now have columns syndicated in many newspapers and (you guessed it) their own blogs, which morphed from their syndicated columns.
So, how does a blogger, just starting out, get “peeps”?
The type of blog you create depends on the audience you want to read your stuff and your purpose for writing the blog (“Why am I writing this NOW?”). A SME’s reasons for blogging include sharing thoughts with and creating a community of like-minded people, gaining leads for your business, showcasing your expertise to a market that does not know you (and / or the company you work for) yet, forming alliances with others in complementary businesses – all so that you can sell the products and services your company offers.
You do that by gaining the respect of “peeps” who come to know, like and trust you…before they shell out one dollar to buy what you offer. You are not a salesman with his foot caught in someone’s door trying to sell the person something he neither wants nor needs. You know something valuable that can help that person overcome personal or professional challenges. That’s why you give away pieces of content as free good will gifts – to establish street cred.
The type of blogging you do will also depend on your audience and purpose. Here are some examples of types of bloggers (source: https://firstsiteguide.com/blogging-types-revealed/):
|Personal blogger||Philosopher (aka the spiritualist)|
|Essayist||Reverse blogger (aka “guest host blog”, “affiliate blog”, “curated blog”)|
|Video blogger (“vlogger”)||Politico|
|Story teller||Educator (aka “business blogger”, “professional blogger”, “SME”)|
Notice the overlap among the types of bloggers / blogging. A recent example of story telling / personal blogging that has been monetized to great benefit for the practitioners are “mommy bloggers”, who, according to Elna of twinsmommy.com, can make upwards of $30,000 a month by selling ad space on their blogs. But, of course, their “product” IS their blog (and vice versa).
What can blogging be for you?
Ask yourself: Is the business I’m in my sweet spot (what I’m good at + what I love to do)? If so, what your English teacher probably told you is true, “You write best about what you are passionate and knowledgeable about.” So, stand in your excellence, and they will come…but first you have to show them you know what you’re talking about.
Blogging is one type of content marketing. Content is the just the stuff you know that helps sell your company’s products and services. Marketing is the way you let people in on the expertise you and your company have that they need. If the content and marketing are perfectly matched, people will see you as a knowledge leader who offers them what they are willing to pay for because it has value for them. Anything you write needs to connect to your business’ bottom line…or you will be out of business.
Five tips for making your blog the best it can be
- Decide who your audience (market, readership) is and your purpose for writing (why this, now?).
- Define what type of blog suits your audience and purpose.
- Carry a notepad and / or recording device to capture ideas for your blog during your workday.
- Associate your blog with your website (consistency of brand matters – a lot).
- Write regularly and maintain a conversation with your audience by responding to their comments.
Parting advice for bloggers
Good writing takes practice…and time. Resist the urge to copy, but do read others’ writing with a view to learning the craft. Study professional writers – their pin-pointy word choices, phrasing, scene setting, argument building, character development. The day you find yourself admiring someone else’s great turn of phrase, congratulate yourself on having become (maybe almost without noticing) a writer, too!