16 ways to get started with a blog post

Advice on writing a post without trying

This blog is based on an original piece by Christine Cawthorne. Hat tip to you, Christine :)

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

Do you write novels? Screenplays? Maybe you’re currently working on an epic 3,000-verse poem? If so — you don’t need to read this post — go make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a biscuit too.

Still here? Good, then it’s you I want to talk to. If you’re not a professional writer, the idea of writing something that others will read might be uncomfortable for you. It might be that you don’t have time, you don’t know where to start or maybe spelling isn’t your strong point.

No matter — by the end of this post you’ll be able to put together a blog post without even (hardly) trying.

Acknowledge your fears, seek reassurance

Firstly, you need to know that what you write is going to be published. Other people will read it. They might have opinions on it too. Great! This is exactly what you want.

Ands it can feel scary to be in that position. Here’s what to do to feel reassured:

  1. Write the blog post.
  2. Ask a friend or colleague to review it.
  3. Make any changes you want (or not — it’s your post after all).
  4. Check with anyone else who needs to give it the nod for publishing.

Now you’ve sense checked it and had the nod to publish your post. You’re covered. You’re good. You can do this.

What makes a good post?

Your post should be valuable for other people. You can provide that if your post is at least one of the following:

  • useful
  • surprising
  • entertaining
  • educational

Writing about something you did or learned at work ticks at least two of these and is entirely valid. Don’t let that internal voice tell you that ‘everybody knows this already’. I promise you: they don’t. Keep going.

16 ways to get started

Here are 16 easy ways to come up with ideas for something to write about:

  1. People like lists so think along the lines of: 5 ways to *do the thing that you do*
  2. Share something you’ve learned or been working on — things like weeknotes are ideal.
  3. Look in your support queries — what do people ask you about?
  4. What’s the thing you say most often at work? Write a post about what that means.
  5. What do you wish you’d known before you started your current role?
  6. If you could give someone in your role one piece of advice: what would it be?
  7. Help your sector by writing about user research, user need statements and personas your organisation has done.
  8. What do you need help with right now? Describe it and ask.
  9. What’s the vision or mission of your organisation? What does that mean to you?
  10. If you could get a team of people across your sector working together on the same thing — what would that look like?
  11. If money were no object — what would your organisation do with it?
  12. What do you wish your organisation/sector did better? Where do you all get stuck?
  13. Have you used information, assets or learning from another organisation? Tell people about it.
  14. What do you need to know now to get where you want to go?
  15. Interview someone in your organisation or industry about their top lessons/tips they’d like to pass on.
  16. Post your assets, like Trello boards, Notion boards or workspace templates.

Structure your posts like a news article

When writing a blog post, forget everything you learned at school about how to structure an essay. It works the other way round when people are reading online — they want the conclusion as quickly as possible.

People are short on time when they read online and will only scan through content. If the content doesn’t hold their attention, they’ll click away, so give them the best bit first and they’ll be interested enough to keep reading. (I know this sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.)

Pretend you’re a journalist and get the who, what, when and where answered as quickly as possible.

Then move into the why and how.

Craft an attention-grabbing title

Apparently the ‘perfect’ title length is six words. There are two things you should think about when you’re writing your title — the first is that often the title will be seen away from the post itself. Think about people seeing it on social media or in an email. It has to tell them what the content is about so they know whether this is something they want to read about. And secondly, imagine your title as a promise that the post is going to fulfil. For example, if the title asks a question then the post needs to answer that question.

Please, I beg you, don’t try to make your title a pun or somehow funny. It doesn’t help people know what the content is about — and that is the most important thing. Just say what it is.

A few other tips:

  • people like numbers, so list posts do well and putting a number in the title helps people know how much info they’ll get (three top tips is short whereas 50 ways to do something will take longer to get through)
  • be personal — your story is powerful and interesting to others so making this obvious in the title can work really well
  • try putting the most important words at the start of the title, this helps people when they’re scanning search engine results pages
  • be simple and useful by telling people in simple language what they’ll get from the post

As ever, these tips are backed up by research.

Get someone to read it through

Professional writers have other people check their work and you should do it too. There’s no shame in spelling things wrong or missing out a word — it happens all the time when you’re writing. By having someone else read through it — maybe a colleague or a friend — you’ll get a sense of whether the reader understands what you’re trying to say.

There are also some great automatic checkers you can use — try the Hemingway editor, Grammarly or ProWritingAid.

Lastly, you can’t just use a picture you found online so make sure any images you use have either been bought, are royalty-free or owned by you. Try Pexels, Unsplash or Openverse for free, royalty-free images.

We’d love you to write a post on the DDC Medium blog or give writing weeknotes a go.

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Joe Roberson

Joe Roberson

Tech for gooder. Bid writer. Content strategist. Helps charities/startups raise funds, build tech products, then sustain them. Writes useful stuff. More poetry.