So you think you can blog… Yet when you produce content, it fails to deliver any kind of meaningful results. Your blogging efforts are floundering. You’re staring at a blank screen not knowing where or how to start. Wasn’t this supposed to be easy?
I’ve written a lot of blogs, most of them in support of B2B objectives. While some are penned in my named, the majority have been ghost-written for executives. This blog offers guidance on how to structure your approach to blogging. While it is complimentary, this differs from “how to structure a blog post”.
Over time, I’ve created a sort of templatized checklist that helps focus the work effort. Read on and learn how to blog like a pro so that you can start capitalizing on the social media era.
I use the checklist to develop draft ideas which I then plot into an editorial calendar. It can be challenging to complete the template in one sitting. However, I find it pays to take the time to document, refine and return until I have a solid bone structure that will form the basis for the information, compelling resources and creative. Once completed and as appropriate, the template also serves as the vehicle to socialize with other coworkers.
If you hit at least the majority of the items listed below, you should be on your way to producing more compelling content. Let’s start be going through each of the 15 headings and then we’ll show them in the template form. The key to the approach is to…
work your way through the checklist before you start writing the blog.
The companion reference to this blog is a visual SlideShare with template and case study example.
1. Blog Thesis
This is a brief statement where you state a point of view on a given subject. This is not the title of the blog. Rather it’s an outline of the argument or concept you’ll be sketching in the blog. By completing the following sentence, you’ll have a starting point for your blog thesis.
“This blog is about …”
You may find yourself returning to this statement as you fill in the detail of the blog post. It may also help you later on as you edit and prune your text. If there are too many ideas to cover in a single post, you’re better off creating a blog series. You can then cross-reference the blogs for greater reach.
2. Identify 3-5 Key Objectives
In this section, list the goals for the blog.
“I want to …”
- Establish the author as a subject matter expert?
- Provide value to the reader by way of a gated asset.
- Acquire net-new contacts in a given target segment?
- Increase web traffic to a specific product page or microsite?
- Drive traffic to a press release announcing a new product?
- Boost registration for a virtual or in-person event?
- Increase the company’s credibility with a set of key influencers?
Clearly identifying your audience makes all the difference when you’re creating content.
“This blog is targeted at …”
You can have a primary and secondary audience for the blog. The key is to be clear about the persona for which the blog is to be written. That way you’ll adopt the right tone and approach to appeal to these constituents.
“Dare to think Like a Customer” is a SlideShare that visually shows how to think about your target audience and its needs and preferences. It also illustrates the point that one pound of learning takes ten pounds of common sense to apply it!
4. Roles & Responsibilities
If you want to avoid an Abbott & Costello “Who’s on First, What’s on Second?”
Who will be the published author? Is the writer someone other than the published author? Who’s on the review team? What’s the approval chain for the blog?
5. Target Publication Date
Do you have a hard date (product launch or event), soft date (thought leadership) or a crisis (yikes!)?
6. Is the Blog Post Associated with an Industry Event or Incident?
List the following: name, context, #tags and URLs (internal / external).
When it comes to crisis communications, it’s no longer a question of if but when … and it’s best to plan on a sunny day. “13 tips for preparing for a crisis” is an excellent document that helps you prepare for and stay ahead of a communications crisis. It’s available for download via Ragan’s PR Daily.
7. Outline Content that Bolsters the Blog
References add credibility to your arguments. List internal and external reference materials and anchor links for sourcing. This could include: research, articles, statistics, blogs, videos, quotes, tweets, infographics, screenshots, images, etc.
Is the blog dependent on the completion of an internal asset?
8. Social Tags
Are there existing keywords for your topic? What type are they – industry, trending, and/or branded? Are you proposing new ones? List them all, later you’ll pare this down to the optimal set.
The companion reference to this blog is a visual SlideShare with template and case study example.
Not as easy as it seems? Learn how to blog like a pro in the age of social media. Blog includes a visual SlideShare with template and case study.
9. What is the Call-to-Action (CTA)?
This is linked to your overall objectives and measurements for success. List the primary and secondary CTAs. These could include: contact us, follow us, view / share / download our whitepaper, register for a webinar, view a product page, listen to our podcast, schedule a demo, buy now, etc.
Can you track and measure each call-to-action?
10. Image Creative
This refers to one or more images to be used as blog header and across social channels. If part of an event, does it have special branding? Is the creative sized to the specifications of each social platform?
11. New Companion Asset?
Readers feast on more than words – think eye candy. Are you engaging with a photo / chart / diagram, multi-media tool, slideshare, infographic or video? Is it a mobile responsive design and social enabled? Is the asset gated? If gated, is the form mobile responsive?
12. Blog Title
You want to invest a lot of time to get this right because it’s the golden ticket to your content. It won’t matter if the blog post is phenomenal if its headline fails to attract readers to it.
Do this last, once the blog is complete.
Use a headline analyzer.
I wrote 23 headlines for this post, eventually coming up with “How to blog like a pro in a mobile and social world” which scored 79 in the coschedule analyzer. Of the headlines that scored well, these can be repurposed in social text.
My experience has been that coworkers have strong opinions about the blog title and that a title-by-committee approach leads to a less than desirable result. When you get into the review cycle for the blog, it will be useful to share the headline analysis with the reviewers.
How to Write Killer Blog Headlines – The Ultimate Guide (via B2C Community) and 25 Scientifically Proven Ways To Write Better Headlines For Your Blog (via CoSchedule) are two excellent resources.
13. Promotion Strategy
Content is not the same as content marketing. If you’ve progressed through “plan, produce, and publish”, you are now at the “promote” stage. The promotion plan needs to be ready to go live at time of publication or shortly thereafter.
Compose the social media copy and determine the social cadence. Identify the channels that are most relevant to your target audience and best showcases your content.
Write out social headlines and précis text for each social channel. You can repurpose some of the blog headlines that scored well but were not selected as the blog title.
- Include relevant #tags
- Generate tracking links (tied to objectives and CTAs)
- Is this effort organic and/or paid?
- Set timing and cadence, pre-program and monitor (do AB testing)
You can leverage a tool like the Social Message Optimizer to create powerful social messages that convert.
SEO optimized and paid search? Would someone type your headline into Google?
Do you have a plan to communicate with key external influencers and internal advocates? (email, newsletter)
Can the content reach be extended (e.g. as a LinkedIn article)?
Evergreen your content if you can.
Is the content worthy of media placement or an exclusive?
Source: Blogging Statistics and Trends: The 2017 Survey of 1000+ Bloggers via Orbit Media Studios
Do you have a plan for comment moderation across all channels? Do responses require approval before posting? Where are comments posted – directly or as a redirect to a central response? Provide responses in a timely manner.
15. Tracking and Insights
What do the metrics tell you? Can you do better? Is there a follow-up?
How do you compare with industry peers? You might focus on insights and how your collective share of voice (on specific themes and topics) benchmarks against competitors.
The top three goals for SMB social media marketing programs are brand awareness (74%), website traffic (53%), and lead generation (41%). via Simply Measured
The metrics must report on the objectives and stated CTAs for the blog post. Metrics can range from website and blog traffic, vanity metrics (friends, followers, likes, impressions) and CTA-specific outcomes (webinar registration, asset download, net-new-name, click-through-rate on paid social and/or paid search) etc.
Be sure to capture insights and observations as these will help shape your future storytelling.
A footnote on the disciplines of digital leadership.
In a large company, it’s likely that you’ll be using some form of agency model. The team might include project managers who manage content structure, project workflow and assignments; UX architects who create content structure and manage templates; writers and editors who write, discuss content and update workflow status; reviewers who comment and update workflow status; developers who export content and file library; and social media specialists who program and manage the social workflow. It might also include outside agency resources. It’s important to be clear on roles and responsibilities. A large company approach is very different from a small company approach. I’ve experienced both, and also in a startup setting and as a solopreneur where I play all of these roles.
- Don’t start with a blank canvass; take the time to sketch out a plan.
- Write the blog for your target audience.
- Set clear objectives and identify main CTAs.
- Work as hard on the blog title as you do on the content. Use a headline analyzer.
- Content is not the same as content marketing; have a detailed promotion plan aligned to your target audience.
- Learn from metrics and findings.
If you hit the majority of the checklist items, you should be well on your way to blogging like a pro and capitalizing on the social media era.
If you require tips on how to structure a blog post, you can find them here.
What is a Blog Post? – The Perfect Structure [blog post includes a visual template] via FirstSiteGuide
Adopt the winning perspective, think like a customer [blog post includes a visual SlideShare] via cafelina blog
Blogging Statistics and Trends: The 2017 Survey of 1000+ Bloggers via Orbit Media Studios
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