About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

Free Content for #Rotary and NFP Use
Please use any posts for Rotary District or club Newsletters. Include the profile at the bottom of each article, Robyn's headshot and a link to this blogsite. Let him know and he'll promote it to his social media followers.

Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Part 1 - Write On! Blogging is a Great Way to Tell Stories and Build Communities! Tips

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Blogging is an excellent way to tell stories. A blog will help to build your Rotary Club's brand by informing and shaping the opinions of others and demonstrate what you are known for. 

Of all the social media platforms, blogging has cache and mystique. With your first post you will officially become a published writer. That is why making a good first impression is important. You want visitors to return to read your next post.  

Like every social media platform, there are protocols and practices that are unique to blogging. Success requires hard work and discipline.

Blogging is much like
 piecing together a puzzle.
Your ultimate goal is to build a community of followers who will become fans of your content. Communities grow when fed a steady diet seasoned with quality content that is relevant, trustworthy, authentic and transparent.

Then, there is writing style. Perfecting your craft and developing a style that is all “you” takes dedication and persistence. Writing content for blogs requires a slightly different approach than writing for print media.

I have separated my article into two parts. In part one, I will focus on developing;
  • Editorial policy
  • Content strategy
  • Finding your voice
  • Writing structure

Part two will discuss;
  • Blog platforms
  • Guest contributors
  • Subheadings
  • Use of photos, graphs, charts
  • Marketing

Before introducing you to the fun part of blogging, I must point out the downer. Those darned deadlines, whether imposed by yourself or an organization. I confess! The real reason I am writing this today rather than tomorrow is to meet my Rotary District 5360’s eNewsletter deadline.

I’ve had this topic in my editorial calendar for months and have been gathering resource material. However, with me being me, I probably wouldn’t get it written for a few more weeks without my deadline.

Editorial Policy 

An editorial policy provides a guide for the overall management and creative development of the blog. It serves as a guide and helps you plan forward. Start by asking these simple questions.

  1. Who is your target audience? 
  2. Who will create your blog’s content? 
  3. Who will act as publisher and/or editor? 
  4. What tools will you rely on to help tell your stories? Text only? Photos? Graphs? Video? Podcasts? Interview formats? 
  5. How often will you publish? 
  6. What posting frequency will be needed?

The simplest podcast interviews
only require a good mic and a phone.
Publishing once a month is reasonable while publishing once a week is work intensive. I caution you to choose a schedule that is manageable and then stick to it. In social media terms, it is better to not start at all then to have site visitors discover the last post was published 6 months ago.

When you’ve answered these questions, write a descriptive paragraph that is as broad as possible. For example, if you plan to feature guest posts from club members who have just returned from a polio mission in Ethiopia, include that. If you plan to include audio interviews with guest speakers, note it.

When the document is finished, you will have your editorial policy completed. Done!

Content Strategy

Creating a content strategy that will resonate, be relevant and build your community takes careful thought and deliberation. It is all about story.

Make your strategy as broad as possible. For example, if your club has a single service project like raising funds and volunteering for the local food bank, your content will be extremely limited without other topics.

However, if you make it about “Local people serving communities at home and around the world,” you’ve just opened your content to a world of topic possibilities and story ideas. Your writing style and content will shape your literary voice.

The very nature of the planning process will produce editorial consistency, continuity and flow over the long term. Your blog will take on an overall theme that will become central to your brand.

A Name That Resonates

Now, based on this process, give your blog a name. It should reflect your theme, your voice and your content focus. My writer/speaker's blog is called Brandit and this one... well you know what it is called. Both very clearly explain the content.

A Headline is Your Promise to Readers

A simple, engaging headline is the cheese that will trap your reader-mouse. When a headline gets their attention, they are compelled to click on it so satisfy their curiosity.

Think about who your audience is. Write a headline that will capture their imagination.

Make a promise that you will deliver through your article. Note that, as with any sales negotiation, it is better to under promise and not disappoint than to over promise and fail to deliver.

The ideal blog-post headline will include keywords that help explain the article. Keywords will enable online searches to pull up your post when people google that topic.

You will also cut and paste the headline to promote your post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media platforms. It will only have a few seconds to “hook” the reader, so make it compelling.

A Cautionary Tale

This may seem obvious for Rotarians vis a vis the 4 Way Test, but do not write a headline that has no relevance to your article. If the article does not deliver on the promise made in the headline, it breaks trust with your community and destroys authenticity.

But, there is more. Search engines like Google will penalize your blog's ranking if the headline and body copy are not aligned.

For those uninformed about the twisted ways some online marketers think, some website designers and bloggers try this in an effort to fool search engines and generate higher traffic to their sites. Higher traffic returns advertising dollars based on volume. The practice is called creating clickbait. Don't do it.

Clarity Trumps Cleverness

Topic clarity increases reader engagement. Give the central idea away in the title of your post. Provide background knowledge that will motivate them to read on to find the answers to the question, “Why?” that you posed in the title.

In print pieces, writers often hide the main idea until the “grand reveal” is made near the end.  The goal is to draw readers in and build suspense so they will continue on until “grand idea, ultimate motivator, or big reveal” is made at the end.

The hope is to move them to say “Now, I get it.” or motivate them to take some kind of action at the end.

Not so in blogging. Writing must be clear and concise. Get right to the point.

Nix the $100 Words

Resist the temptation to use uncommon words. They won’t make you appear smarter or more profound. They will simply cause reader’s to click out and move on to someone elses post. Don’t feel you must use a $100.00 word when a $20.00 word will do.

There is the famous story taken from the ongoing conflict between William Falkner and Ernest Hemingway. Falkner criticized Hemingway for dumbing down his work. Hemingway's reply suggested he would have been a great blogger.

When tempted to use a $100 word when a $20 word would do, stop and ask, “WWHD! What Would Hemingway Do?”

Sentences and Paragraphs

Sentences and paragraphs are structured differently for online reading than for print. In fact, many people read and absorb information differently in the online universe.

Most blogs, websites and online media pages are formatted horizontally. The content will fill most of the screen of your computer or communication device. Print newsletters, newspapers and magazines are formatted into columns.

Dividing paragraphs into 2-4 sentence blocks make them easier to read. You have probably seen blog posts comprised of huge blobs of information. They are difficult to wade through. Most readers move on.

Writing shorter sentences helps readers to absorb information. What is too long? What is too short?

As you develop your style, sentence length will become a matter of feel. Shorter is better. However, trying to rigidly adhere to a specific number of words per sentence will make your writing seem wooden and lack feeling.

Stories Captivate and Provide Context

Tell stories. Plain and simple. Paint pictures with your words.

Personalizing your content through telling relevant stories in your own words make the idea you are trying to communicate interesting and memorable. Story relevance is the key word here.

The Write Stuff

Finally, blogging, like all other writing, is a process. Allow yourself to make mistakes and then learn from them. As with any of life’s teachable moments, that is how you improve your work and yourself. Write on!

The End

What do you think? Do you publish a blog? Do you have tips? What writing advice do you offer? Formatting? I want to hear from you. Please comment below.  

Robyn Braley is a brand specialist, professional speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. He has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. He often speaks at Rotary clubs, conferences and leadership development assemblies.

Contact Robyn

Email: robyn@robyntbraley.com   Connect on LinkedIn Follow on Twitter: @rtbraley_rotary 

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