Last week, Joe Hackman hosted Danny Brown, Gini Dietrich and me on his BlogTalkRadio show, aptly entitled PRapalooza.
Boy, was it fun!
I hadn’t actually spoken (voice-to-voice) with Gini before, so it was great to finally do so, as well as talk to Danny after ages and Joe after not-so-long.
Image: Chris Lott via Flickr, Creative Commons
One of the questions that Joe asked us was what our blogging experience has been like. As I answered, and listened to Gini and Danny share their thoughts, I wanted to tell you why I think all PR pros should take the plunge (because I know there are many who haven’t).
1. It helps you understand what a journalist feels like when you start receiving completely off-topic pitches.
Last week on BNET, I talked about the two critical elements of the perfect media pitch; the subject line, and the first paragraph of the email.
Once you’ve been blogging for a bit, you’ll start being pitched. Yes, you. Because as the media universe continues on its inexorable changes, bloggers are starting to be just as influential as mainstream media; sometimes, even more so.
And then you’ll know how journos feel when they get pitches that are completely off-topic, rambling pieces of nonsense or, worse still, just plain boring.
2. It helps you understand the medium.
Blogging is a strange beast. It’s not quite journalism, it’s full of opinion and bloggers live by their own rules even as the best of them do their utmost to adhere to FTC guidelines.
The only way to really understand how it works is to do it yourself. And understanding is one of the most important building blocks to a successful career in any field, and particularly in business communication.
3. It makes the blogosphere less frightening.
Image: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr, Creative Commons
I’ve already said that blogging is a strange beast. And, quite frankly, the blogosphere can be daunting. How will you ever get in good with such-and-such A-list blogger?
Once you start participating in it, you’ll start figuring out what works, and what doesn’t.
Pitching bloggers and pitching media ain’t that different. They both want good stories that will resonate with their audiences.
4. It’s a great way to exercise your writing muscles.
So much of what we do revolves around good, if not great, writing. Pitches, content creation, op-eds, etc.
Writing is one of those areas I believe is critical to good PR, because the written word – albeit sometimes through micro-blogging, sometimes through long-form – is how most of us first appear to our audiences.
Blogging is a great way to improve your writing. It makes you focus on what you’re trying to say, and how you’re going to get it across.
And if you’re already a good writer? You get even better.
5. It starts emboldening you to try other mediums of communication, such as video and images.
The really cool thing about blogs is that you’re not restricted to the written word (I love blogs that focus primarily on the written word, but that’s a personal thing).
But if what tickles your fancy are other mediums of communication, go for it. Video (think YouTube at the very least), images, podcasts… really, you’re only limited by your imagination.
And if you can incorporate one or more of those into your posts; so much the better!
What a great way to show clients how to use the Interwebz, eh?
6. It’s good discipline.
We’re used to conforming to other people’s schedules. We’re not always that great at keeping to our own.
If you commit to blogging, it doesn’t matter how often you’ll do it; at least in the beginning. But it does help if you decide what level of regularity you’ll blog with; once every couple of weeks, or once a week, or 2-3 times a week.
Like anything else, practice makes perfect (or almost perfect). And practice requires discipline, as Nadia Comaneci can tell you.
And that’s a great asset to bring to your job.
7. It helps you build your portfolio online.
Especially if you’re just starting out in the “real” world, I don’t believe there is a better way to start building your online presence… and your online portfolio.
Do a Google search for Bryce Keane, one of WUL’s regular guest-bloggers.
See how we show up at #s 4 & 5?
And Bryce has already talked about how social media changed his life. Blogging has been a part of that.
8. It helps you understand the reciprocal nature of 21st century communication.
The really cool thing about business communication today is that it’s no longer a one-way channel. Now, we interact not just with the media who will (we hope) tell our organizations’/clients’ stories, but we interact with our stakeholders directly.
It’s a two-way street. Give and take. That’s what blogging is all about.
If you don’t do it, you won’t understand it… not really. It’s that simple.
9. It brings unexpected connections your way.
How did I get my gig editing Women Grow Business? Because I guest-blogged for them (before I’d even started publishing on WUL). How do I get new clients? Because they find my posts. How am I suddenly a BNET blogger? Because my blog serves as my de facto portfolio.
None of these connections were planned. But they happen, more and more, because I’m trying to show, through my blog, that I’m committed to spreading the good word about public relations, social media, and measurement.
Social karma works in strange ways.
10. You’ll inspire someone else to find their voice.
If Kami Huyse hadn’t given me the opportunity (and a genteel kick-in-the-butt), I would never have ventured into the blogosphere.
If I hadn’t given Bryce Keane or Herwin Icasiano a genteel kick-in-the-butt, they may never have ventured into the blogosphere.
If our future lies in online collaboration, translating to offline understanding, why not start now?
Give someone else that voice.
Give yourself that voice.
Final image: Beverly & Pack’s Flickrstream, Creative Commons
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I’m really late to the blogging party, having hid behind the “I don’t have anything new to add” excuse (and lots of other ones) for a long time. I’ve been slowly getting my act together, and your post – and the great comments – is a great help to push me into this new world. It reinforces that there is so much to gain and share in this space; it’s not just you pushing stuff out there.
Because I’m a business owner and a PR chick, I get a lot of value from your content. Thank you, and keep it coming!
We PR chicks have to stay together, right? I’m so glad this helped; I’ll be waiting for more from you. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jen!
Great post, right on every point.
I’m one of those on again off again bloggers. So I appreciate your post even more. It gives me permission to take a break…albeit maybe not as long as I did.
Your point about blogging making one a better writer is spot on since the more we write, the sharper our skills will become.
Thanks for always putting the thoughts in many of our minds down on “paper” for us all to share.
Mary, I’m on and off blogger too (I’ve managed to average a post a week, give or take). I think NOT forcing myself into too rigid a schedule allows more creative freedom, maybe write fewer but more interesting content. Though it does make me respect prolific bloggers even more, the folks who can consistently crank out the good stuff, as Shonali mentioned. FWIW.
You’re more “on” than “off,” though, Davina. So this raises an interesting question (at least to me): I agree with you about flexibility allowing for more creativity, and that’s one of the reasons I like being my own boss so much. I still remember about 9 years ago, when I was feeling extremely “blocked” at work. So I decided to completely overhaul the arrangement of my cube (I mean, seriously, who rearranges a “cube”?!) and clean it out. My boss, bless his soul, came up and helped me move my tables around! I spent the better part of a day doing that, but once it was done, felt so much better.
The question is: how flexible is too flexible? If we allow ourselves to give in completely to writing/not writing as and when we feel like it, do we unwittingly create a similar block for ourselves? I found that happening with me, especially after I would not write for a while, and then write a post that got a lot of comments or was shared a lot. I found myself going, whoa, how am I supposed to do that again?! And I’d almost terrorize myself into not writing for a while. The discipline of sticking to a regular schedule is helping me a lot; certainly not every post is a humdinger, but sometimes even simple ones (like this one) resonate with people, and then they release more of the creative juices.
Just thinking out aloud…
Good out loud thinking, Shonali and you have me wondering what my next post will be. Hmm..
Structure and discipline can certainly help and I try to “schedule” or commit to a post a week, give or take. It does keep me on my toes but I also like that I can adapt or change things. Sometimes I can “cheat” and do a summary post (list other posts on a particular topic); sometimes a current event will prompt a new post (read: rant) or encourage me to take something out of draft mode. For example, my post on the Gap logo thing.. most of it was an old draft that I updated, made it relevant. I’m much “better” writing when I really have something to say, as opposed to just posting because I haven’t blogged in a while. Plus I have “real” work to do too ;-)
I think what you did with the Gap post was brilliant. That’s the kind of thing that I’m trying to do – not necessarily write entire posts, but at least jot down some notes, thoughts, etc., when I can. And then polish and finish them as I can/when something pertinent comes up.
What is this thing called “real work,” by the way? :p
Thank YOU, Mary! I think everyone has to find their own rhythm when it comes to blogging, just like anything else. And it takes time for those of us who are new. The thing I’ve come to realize, though, is that setting some kind of schedule for one’s self really helps, even if it’s once a month, once in two weeks, whatever. Seriously, try that Editorial Calendar plugin. It will really change your life.
Can I print this out and frame it?
Even though I’ve been blogging “professionally” for quite some time, these are fantastic reminders on why I started and why I feel it’s important to keep doing it.
For me, the writing experience is critical. It’s much better than finger push-ups (Perfect Strangers reference!). We are, in many ways, professional writers. Allowing ourselves to write outside of the releases or pitches we craft gives us an outlet to experiment, practice and perfect. (Or as you said, almost perfect!)
Writing 3-6 blog posts a week combined, for my site, PRBreakfastClub, my company’s site and a top secret project I’m working on has made me a better writer in my “day job.”
And there is really no going back now!
Mike, go for it – that would be a first!
Now I want to know about your top secret project. Hmm…
Great post Shonali! I really enjoyed listening to all of you on PRapalooza. It’s great to get advice and hear experiences of others, especially with the expertise that you, Gini, and Danny have. I completely agree with your post. I was so worried that I wouldn’t have anything insightful enough to blog about but all in all once I got past that, blogging has taught me a lot. I recommend blogging to anyone and everyone. Although I am still finding my voice in the blogging world and I still struggle, it has become easier and I have a huge appreciation for all those daily bloggers out there that I hope to one day join!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the palooza, Rachael – it was a ton of fun.
I know what it’s like to still struggle with your voice; I think many of us face the same challenge. That’s where the practice and discipline of writing – or creating content, if you will – on a regular basis really helps, IMHO.
Great list Shonali. To expand on all of these, blogging makes me a better communicator. This goes for my clients and my own solo PR practice. By blogging I crystallize and shape my thoughts on public relations and social media, and have a way to share all of those ideas with potential clients.
I love the connections made, though I’d not call them “unexpected” as building relationships is one of my key goals for blogging and social media. The unexpected are the intangible rewards beyond ROI, that these networks are so supportive and helpful.
I’m building a network and community AND learning new tricks that make me a better professional, makes my time well spent. For example, had an college classmate catch a blog post I shared on LinkedIn, recommended it to a PR association and voila, I got a speaking gig. One of my own “social media success stories” I’ve been meaning to blog about.. someday. ;-)
That is a really, really good point, Davina.
Yes, I too focus on building relationships, though to me that’s such a core component of not just public relations but business and “people relations” in general, that I tend to think of it as part of the territory, as it were. I genuinely enjoy meeting new people and finding out about them; so for me it’s not a “strategy,” it’s just what I do… if that makes sense? Even though I haven’t met you IRL yet, I suspect you are the same. I think people can immediately tell those who are trying to meet others for the prime purpose of selling to them as soon as possible, as opposed to those who understand they need to get to know them first; I know I can spot them a mile off, and I tend to avoid the type.
Please do share your own success story soon. I don’t think we do that often enough.
Shonali, I do like meeting people too and can also spot the sales pitches. On the flip side, when I attend a networking event, I’m pretty open about why I’m there: to meet, engage and hopefully make good contacts. The strategy I mentioned was more about the networking component, that it is work: Twitter, blogging, replying to everyone, etc. If I wasn’t getting something back, which I am — great friends, community, knowledge — it’d be harder for me to commit the time and effort. Plus if a tree falls in the woods but no one hears it… that blog post may be the best ever ;-) but if no one reads it .. So the strategy to build relationships and a readership is important.
Very true, Davina, about the “work” part. See… this is another example of how smart you are. :)
Thank you so much for this post! I’ve tended to view blogging as something I HAD to do, but after reading your post I realized how beneficial it truly is!
You’re most welcome, Megan, I’m glad it helped!
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