How to write a blog post
I recently ran a workshop on getting started with blogging, to help colleagues across government work in the open and share what I’ve learned. I started in the way I start many things, by asking twitter. So I promised to do a little blog post to share what we talked about…
I wrote this session particularly for Government/ Work Blogs and Personal Blogs — because ‘write about what you know’. But first up, nothing in this space can start without acknowledging the help I’ve had along the way. Huge thanks to all those who gave me thoughts on twitter. Many of you feature in the slides. Fame at last! And a personal big shout out to my Weeknotes gang who keep me writing and have turned into the nicest gang of real-life mates and the ever-inspiring Stefan Czerniawski who is forever in my corner with wise tips and making me feel better (especially that tweet about the typo that you always find straight after hitting publish. I’m so glad it’s not just me).
I started off with a bit context:
- What is a Blog vs a Blog Post
- Risks and How We Mitigate Them (especially for Government People)
- Working In The Open and Why We Do It
- Style — how long, clear english
- ‘What do I write about? What ‘counts’ ?!’
- And (because this always seems to bother people) ‘Where do I write?’
So that leads me nicely to my top ten tips:
1. Read, Read, Read. And honour others when you write
The best way to familiarise yourself with blogs and the answers to all your questions is to absorb. As a general rule, read five to ten times as much as you write
2. Write as you; write in your voice, write about what you know
Don’t try to write as the official voice of the department. Be a human, and the best risk prevention is to write about what you know
3. Ask for help: get someone you respect online to read your draft, ask twitter and buddy up if you’re getting stuck
A problem shared is a problem halved. And a second pair of eyes always helps. Twitter is also a hugely supportive community
4. Keep your audience in mind
Write *for* people, it helps you stay relevant
5. Remember the Civil Service Code.
Integrity, honesty, objectivity, impartiality. You’re still a civil servant online. If you’re in doubt talk about sensitivity or security, about your feelings instead.
“If you wouldn’t have said it off social media, don’t say it now” @pubstrat.
(I told you, he’s good)
6. Share your successes and your failures: don’t gloss
Don’t put on rose tinted glasses; if you want to help others you share what was hard.
7. Read the comments
You don’t have to reply to all of them, but you will learn. And you might find friends!
8. Keep it simple
Don’t write War and Peace. Not least because you’ll never get round to it.
9. Blogs are of the time. Don’t sit on a blog for too long. Write it now. On the train
Ahem. Do as I say, not as I do. Not least because this one is right.
10. It all boils down to JFDI.
So here are some good places to start reading:
https://www.publicstrategist.com/ — everything you could want to know about government, the internet and strategy
https://gilest.org/agile-comms-tips.html — a treasure trove on communicating
https://weeknot.es/what-on-earth-are-weeknotes-a81874c5cef9 — where to get started with weeknotes
I've posted about this before, and this formed my contribution to the Guardian style guide but it bears repeating…megpickard.com
Janet Hughes also did the hard work here and collated a lot of resources and tips into this blog post: https://dfedigital.blog.gov.uk/2018/12/18/where-to-start-if-you-want-to-start-blogging/
How was the workshop? Well, lots of people from across government came, which is great! I originally said I’d run it for some DfE people so I’m glad it was interesting beyond that.
We had some great discussions about how to write engaging blog posts, what its like newly blogging from inside the Civil Service, what different kinds of users need, what to do about pictures (always! but check provenance and either use your own or https://pixabay.com/en/ is good too), and the different ways a blog can help you professionally. And I ran a little exercise — the goal being to focus on quite how easy it is to have a starting thought and put something, even really small, out on a blog.
If you’d like to know more, I’ll be reprising the workshop on 29th January (3pm Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street) — all welcome!