One year ago, I took the plunge and started a blog (http://seasonoflight.blogspot.com). Registering a domain on Google Blogger took approximately five minutes; coming up with the title and first post took several hours. After the fact, I told exactly three people. And this is the story of how it grew from there.
For PR peers who are thinking about blogging, or even talking with their clients about launching a blog, here are a couple of lessons I’ve learned from the past 365 days for your consideration:
Lesson #1: Deciding what your blog should be “about” is the second hardest thing you will do. I received some great advice from a fellow SHIFTer (and dual–blogger) Chris Iafolla, who told me to focus my blog theme on something as specific as possible. Without a defined direction, the motivation to routinely come up with an interesting topic can be overwhelming. So I chose something that I was passionate about, currently learning about, and that I felt wasn’t being given enough attention: child trafficking, and my subsequent involvement with a nonprofit called Love146.
Lesson #2: Keeping your blog updated, interesting, and consistently relevant is the hardest thing you will do. Knowing that abandon rates for first-time bloggers are high, I decided to keep my site under the radar until I built some momentum and proved to myself that I could keep it going. In the meantime, setting up Google alerts for news stories and other related blogs proved to be invaluable. I also searched Twitter to find people who regularly tweeted about child trafficking, modern day slavery and human rights, and began following them. I did eventually “announce” myself as a blogger and started calling attention to posts as I published them, and that’s when the real commitment started.
To be completely honest, my motivation and interest in posting has been cyclical; it peaks and wanes depending on what’s happening around the topic, my conversations with other interested parties, and what’s going on in “real life.” Ultimately, the way I’ve come to think about blogging is that if you have any sort of loyal readers, it’s holding yourself accountable to what they’ve already invested in you. Sometimes blogging is most about just continuing to contribute even during those periods when you feel like throwing in the towel.
Lesson #3: You really can make blog friends. In PR we talk a lot about community and interaction—and in the blogging world, it’s remarkably easy to build relationships with people who have the same interests. It’s communicating with an agenda—the difference is, it’s a shared agenda. I really appreciate it when colleagues and friends give me a head’s up on something related to human trafficking that they think I’d be interested in. By being friends with bloggers who have no connection to my job, it’s become easier to reach out to those who are. I’ve gained better insight and more confidence around how to interact with other bloggers in general. Which leads me to my next point.
Lesson #4: Being a blogger can—and will—make you a better PR person. First of all, it’s just good writing practice. It’s coming up with a story structure and thinking of what would interest the audience. It also reiterates what effectively motivates me as a blogger. For example, my favorite (and, IMHO, best) blog posts are the ones that result from a personal experience instead of those I’m reporting on second-hand through a news service. The more hands-on, interactive, and personalized you can make an experience for the blogger, the better chance they’ll be inspired to write.
Of course, having your own blog is also a good reminder of what NOT to do—I’ve had people post their entire press releases as a “comment,” or suggest I write about something that I’ve already posted on. I’m not going to complain—at this stage of the game, I appreciate that people are even visiting the site and taking the time to leave a comment—but it has reminded me to always triple check that the news/angle I’m pitching isn’t redundant.
Lesson #5: “Blogging is a conversation, not a code.” – Mike Butcher, Editor of TechCrunch Europe. The “lessons learned” in this post aren’t meant to be seen as a code; instead, they’re more like a few talking points to jumpstart your own conversation. Ultimately, there will always be a significant gap between being knowledgeable about a subject and actually putting that knowledge into practice. When my clients want to talk about blogging, I feel like I can serve as a valuable resource for them, because I’m not just talking about the practice of blogging. For better or worse, I’m out there doing it.
And for the next 365 days, you can be, too.