13 ways to get your clients to think like a blogger

Wed, Apr 13, 2011

Blogging, Content Strategy

In the past few weeks, I’ve had numerous conversations with colleagues, partners and in some cases, clients, about blogging and the challenges of keeping a blog up and running.

Most of those conversations come down to one thing: Content.

Do you have enough to say to sustain a blog? Do you have strong enough opinions and takes to cut through the massive sea of clutter that is the open Web these days? And, maybe most importantly, do you know what to look for when it comes to content your customers or audience might be interested in?

That last one is the key point I want to focus on today. So many brands, when they start blogging, think too myopically about blogging. I need to talk about my product or service. I need to talk about my company. I need to talk about what my product or service can do for my customers.

Sure, that’s part of the mix, but in my view, it’s actually a pretty small part.

The much larger portion of your blog’s content should focus on everything AROUND your product or service.

For example, take Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line blog. Here’s a blog that actually rarely talks about Patagonia products. They spend much more time talking about the culture that SURROUNDS people who buy Patagonia products. Rock climbing. Environmental issues. Stories from their customers. These are the topics their customers talk about and are interested in.

Brands will then ask, “If we don’t talk about our products/services, how are are we supposed to sell them?”

Fair question. But remember, we’re talking about your blog content–not a one-page sales letter. Customers look to corporate blogs for information, perspectives, and personality. Not necessarily deals (although there are exceptions–see Punch Pizza’s Posterous blog).

So, as I’ve been through this scenario a number of times now with clients, the bigger question for me as a counselor is: How do I get clients to start thinking like publishers?

Here are 13 ideas to share:

* Don’t be afraid to pull out the laptop (live blogging). Attending an exclusive event solely for senior-level marketers in your niche? It might make sense to bring the laptop and live blog the event. Think: Content your readers can’t get anywhere else.

* Always carry a publishing device. Laptop. Tablet. Smart phone. Whatever the case, never leave your office without one of these devices. You need a way to capture content–video, photos, text. You never know when you might need it.

* Take advantage of your “I’m already there” moments. In many ways, being an effective content publisher means killing two birds with one stone. That means capitalizing on your existing opportunities. Conferences. Customer meet-ups. Community events. Grab content in the spots where you already are.

* Check yourself in the middle of a heated discussion. Conversations that gain steam do so for a reason. People care. Find those inflection points and base posts on those topics. They’re often great conversation starters for your blog.

* Don’t turn off your mind after 5 p.m. Just because you punch the proverbial time clock at 5 p.m. doesn’t mean you stop thinking about blog post opportunities. Blog inspiration often comes at family events. At the movies. Even at church. You never know where you’ll find an idea or metaphor you can relate to your brand’s world.

* Look for opportunities to share the heavy lifting. Remember, you don’t have to be the only voice on your blog. In fact, sharing is highly recommended. Why not bring in a customer from time to time to guest post? What about a key partner? Their perspectives can add depth to your blog content mix. In our world, Jason Falls and Shonali Burke do this exceptionally well by bringing in regular guest bloggers to build community and share different viewpoints.

* Take a contrarian viewpoint. To be honest, I picked this tip up from my friend and colleague, Adam Singer. And, it’s a good one. Take on an industry leader and challenge them on a key point they made that you might not agree with in your own post (here’s a great example where Adam takes on Mashable). Do it constructively. Don’t get personal. But, the resulting discussion can and should lead to above-average traffic and comment streams.

* Tell your story through pictures. Words don’t always need to tell the story. Sometimes it makes sense to let the photos paint the picture. Side benefit: Much less time-consuming.

* Be a reporter. You know those trade show you attend. Why not bring along a small video camera and interview key customers and industry influencers at said event? To do that well, you need to start thinking like a reporter. What questions do you want to ask key customers? Keep it to three or fewer. What would customers who aren’t at the event want to know? Think like a journalist and you will capture that same storytelling perspective reporters and editors excel at.

* Pick a time to blog and stick with it. One of the real keys to keeping up a blog long-term. Pick 1-2 times a week when you’re going to blog and stick with that schedule. Don’t deviate. The moment you let yourself give those times up is the moment you let your blog die.

* Think in lists. Yeah, we all see too many lists on the Web these days. But, there’s a reason for that. They work. In many ways. People LOVE lists. And, they’re great link-building tools. Train yourself to think in terms of lists. If you’re a micro-brewery, maybe it’s the top 10 beer bloggers in your market/region. If you’re a hardware store, maybe it’s the top 13 ways to get your lawn ready for summer. You get the idea.

* Ask yourself: “Would I click on this headline?” With blogging, headlines are everything. You can have the most insightful post in the world, but if your headline isn’t compelling, no one will ever know. That’s the nature of the Web–we’ve bred a legion of “scanners.” So, that headline needs to pop. Would you want to click on your own headline? Ask yourself that question repeatedly and you’ll weed out a lot of junk..

* Share the spotlight–often. Once you’ve built up your blog a bit and you have a number of regular readers, share the stage. Ask readers if they’d like to guest post. Troll your Twitter stream or Facebook page for customers or fans who are particularly enthusiastic and ask them if they’d be interested in sharing their story. The point–by sharing your stage, you’ll cast your net (read: reach of your blog) that much wider.

What did I miss? How do you coach clients to think like publishers?

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7 comments
Chris Koch
Chris Koch

Excellent list, Arik. A major fear of business bloggers in my research is that they fear having to come up with everything themselves. They should invest a day or two building an RSS feed list of news and sources that matter to their target audience and then spend an hour or two a week going through the feed list for ideas and links.

Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic Steroids

do i really want my clients thinking like bloggers ? bloggers dont spend money :-)

Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

How kind of you to call out Waxing UnLyrical, Arik. Thank you. It's true; WUL has benefited immensely from the regular guest bloggers and it's also true that I troll for new GPs all the time, LOL (when are you coming on, btw?).

You've covered pretty much everything I would say, but if I think of something else, I'll be back! Oh, wait - here's one. Just like photo, play with video. Gini Dietrich does this so well with her "Facebook question of the week" videos, and my friend Jill Foster, whose business is speaker coaching and whose passion is video has started doing a lot more vlogs. They don't have to be uber-professional, they can just be fun. It does take some courage to do one, but I think it can add a lot of dimension (yea, yea, I need to start doing 'em, I know...)

Petya N. Georgieva
Petya N. Georgieva

Hi Arik,

That's just an amazingly useful post and I really appreciate it and agree with all the 13 tips you've suggested as they can be very helpful.

Best wishes,
Petya
www.higher-and-higher.com

arikhanson
arikhanson

Yes--great idea, Chris. Establishing a Feedly or Google Reader account is a great way to get clients more immersed in the blogging culture.

Arik Hanson
Arik Hanson

You're right, Gini does do a nice job with video. Good suggestion. I had tried some of that for a bit and got away from it. Might be time to revisit. Thanks for the comment, Shonali!

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