Tell me what you didn’t say

16 questions to inspire your business blog

What shall I write about? First ask yourself: what are you blogging for and who are you blogging for?

What are you blogging for?

I’m not really a blogger. I started out life as a publisher and editor and I spent five years scratching a living as a freelance writer in the Nineties and like any writer, I write pretty much every day. I have blogged in my time but never with the level of commitment and persistence and regularity it takes to call myself a blogger.

Last week, the Creative Cumulus networking group in Reading played host to a talk by Melanie Mackie from Scarletta Media Marketing and I went along without any expectation of transforming myself into a blogging phenomenon. In fact, I had no expectations at all — just an open mind, a notebook and pen.

I soon realised that I had never really given much thought to the gaping chasm between my blog content, such as it is, and what people might actually be interested in reading.

One of Melanie’s first questions for us was “What is your blog for?” And my answer would be “not much”. On occasion I’ve been known to share my industry knowledge, experience and perspective, but in the past couple of years my blog posts have mostly consisted of announcing new clients and updating existing customers about changes to services. In other words, now that I think about it, it’s (a) self-promotion and/or (b) of interest only to existing clients. Or, put another way, it’s either self-serving or purely for reference, which is hardly likely to inspire potential visitors.

There’s little point in churning out words for the sake of it. There has to be a reason. And that’s probably why I’m such an irregular blogger — I don’t know what I’m blogging for. So maybe the next question will help…

Who are you blogging for?

I’m always telling clients that “people buy from people”, which is to say that hiding away your human side in business is rarely a good idea. It’s ironic that whilst some small businesses go to great pains to make themselves seem bigger and more resourceful than they really are, huge corporations are trying to convince us that they can deliver the kind of individual customer service you might expect from a small business.

Whether or not you want to share your personal life with the general public is up to you. It’s certainly not an appropriate tactic for every business and not even faintly desirable for many bloggers. But just because you don’t share intimate details about your home life, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reveal a bit about who you are as a person — your career, your ambition, your past, present and future. Those are the things that make you human and, in short, humanity is much attractive than technology or statistics or promises.

The answer to the question “What is your blog for?” is inextricably linked to the question “Who is your blog for?” In some cases that’s going to be existing clients and potential clients. But it might also be your peers. And if the content you’re producing is sufficiently insightful or interesting or entertaining, it might get widely shared, in which case the target audience could become very broad indeed.

But there’s the rub. How exactly do you make a blog insightful, interesting and entertaining?

A game of two halves

Melanie invited us to play a quick blogging workshop game to help us reveal a little of our humanity and gather inspiration for a few entertaining and insightful blog posts.

We split up into pairs and each person was asked to speak for three minutes — without any questions or interruption from the other — about their life, career and business. And after swapping sides, we then had to say one thing that we felt was missing from our partner’s potted autobiography. One thing we’d like to know more about — and that thing would, hopefully, make the subject of an interesting blog post.

I was talking to a film maker, Derek Spicer, and I gathered that he’d been in Canada shooting natural history footage of orca whales. That’s certainly a topic I could stand to hear more about. For his part, Derek found it noteworthy that I was celebrating 16 years in business on that exact day and he supposed that it would be interesting to hear about how my job as a website designer had changed in that time.

16 “one things”

Everyone at the session offered up “one thing” they’d like to know more about their game partner and the result of all this feedback is the following list of 16 pointers that you could ask yourself if you wondering where to begin your next blog post . Some are practical, some personal and they broadly divide into three groups: past, present and future.

The Past

  1. How has your family background influenced your career? For example, did you follow in your parents’ footsteps (and if not, why not)?
  2. When and how did you choose your career?
  3. What other jobs have you had in the past and what provoked you to change?
  4. How has your industry changed since you started your career?

The Present

5. What are you working on at the moment?

6. What and who are the inspirations for your work?

7. How does your work help people?

8. Who are you working with, or for? What types of business? What kinds of people?

9. What are your loyalties? Your code of conduct? Your values?

10. What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?

11. What are the challenges facing your business at the moment?

12. In what ways do your personal interests overlap with your work?

13. What do your customers think of you? What makes them choose to work with you and your business?

The Future

14. What events have you got coming up?

15. What are you trying to achieve in your career?

16. What’s your passion? What drives you forward?

I’m still not sure if I’ll ever describe myself as a blogger, but I know that I could write at least 16 posts in answer to those questions.

For instance, I’d find it very interesting to spend some time pondering, as Derek suggested, the many changes to my industry since I started out in business. And if it’s interesting to me, I suppose it’s just possible someone else out there might be interested, too.

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