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Feeding the beast

August 17, 2010

There’s a reason that when I’m talking about blogging or starting a blog in presentations, writing, or conversations, I always refer to the need to “feed the beast.” At the end of the day, the key thing that’s needed to keep a blog going is a motivated writer. Original ideas are great, a wonderful template or design is certainly visually appealing. But I’ve seen a lot of good blogs fail with those qualities, when what they lacked was a bit of fortitude on the part of the blogger.

In my transitions between working with traditional, social media, and bloggers (and the line is quite blurred these days, I’ll tell you), one of the arguments I always got against engaging the blogosphere was the fact that “anyone” can be a blogger. And that’s a true statement, in the very egalitarian, democratic nature of the web where there are few barriers to engagement and freeware blogging platforms are plentiful.

In my actual experience of reading a lot of blogs, and particularly a lot of blogs in one genre, it was quickly apparent that clearly, not just anyone can blog. Sure, you see a lot of blogs that get started, but those that stick around with any sense of being enduring presences on the web have authors with more than belligerent passion – they generally have a pretty good ability to feed the blogging beast on a consistent basis, and with coherent content.

Since there are tips for everything (and what can I say, clearly my blogging pattern is that I love lists), I’m going to share a few of the tips I give corporate bloggers getting started:

1. Create a mission statement for your blog before you start. What will your focus be, and what topics would you most like to write about? Get an idea of that before you get started, and don’t think that you can write about everything under the sun. Once you get started, there’s nothing stopping you from writing about everything from pencil lead to foreign policy, but if you start that broadly, in my experience it will be difficult to focus on specific topics to write about.

2. Draft a few posts before you launch. There’s a reason most blogs have just a single post. Most people don’t take the time to craft a few days, or at least a few topic areas, worth of content before they get started. And if you expect your blog to take off with a bang, brace yourself – most start off with a putter, and it takes time to build readership.

3. Create a calendar of posts for each day. Especially important for corporate blogs, you need to have a general idea of what you’d like to focus on each day, if your plan is to post five or seven days out of the week. This can be loosely followed, but it sure helps when you’re brainstorming topics. For the U.S. Army blog, we had days set aside for hot topics, strategic communication lines of effort, photo or video content, and social media focused content.

4. Know your limits, and tell your audience. I find some people get discouraged with blogging but then fail to go to the community they’re supposed to be engaging to let them know that – this is especially dangerous behavior for corporate blogs. If you’re with a military command who’s deployed or for any other reason maintaining a blog is difficult and you want to throw in the towel, feel free to take a break – just let your readers know. I’ve seen way too many official blogs just go on radio silence for weeks at a time, whether due to personnel changes, frustration, or simply forgetfulness. It’s perfectly fine to take a break, but be transparent with your audience – let them know what to expect.

Blogging basics 101. Not rocket science, but hopefully helpful if you’re one of the faithful few keeping a blog going day after day. And trust me, from corporate blogging to personal, I feel your pain!

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