Thursday, October 22, 2009

weekly writing coach: behind the scenes

Janet Kuntz (@IM4Ward on Twitter) asked about how much time I spend planning and updating this blog. It's a question similar to others posed to me in the past couple of weeks, along the lines of "Where do you find the time?" and "How can you do that on top of your regular work?" Let me attempt to answer those questions that apply to all kinds of writing, by the way, and perhaps inspire some of the great could-be-bloggers I know to post more frequently. Here goes:
  • How do you find the time? I don't find time, I plan time--and take advantage of some skills and services for which I'm grateful. I'm a former magazine writer and editor who can write and type fast and short, particularly when I have an idea in mind and resources or links at the ready. I organize my RSS feeds--that is, reading material from the websites and blogs I follow--in Google Reader, which has a wonderful search feature that lets me find anything I've already read. I've also learned I can do a post under all sorts of circumstances, and even from email, using Posterous. All those tools let me tuck a blog post into a crowded day. I've also begun to use a freelance writer to contribute a specific series of posts on a research-intensive topic on The Eloquent Woman blog...but only on that one topic.
  • How do you decide what to include? I planned my blogs' content and focus before launching them, so everyday choices also are focused. It's as essential to know what you won't write about as what you will write about, in my experience. While I write about social media trends for communicators, for example, I don't try to do real-time coverage of new applications or services--too many other great blogs, like Mashable, do that. To get on the blog, it has to fit in my areas of focus.
  • So what do you cover on each blog? The conceit behind the don't get caught news & info blog reflects the work I do as a communications consultant: communications strategies, training and content/message development. That includes big-picture strategy, like rebooting your communications operation for a social-media world, as well as media-training and speaker-training tips, and advice on writing and developing messages. I also cover what I'm doing or speaking about; what I've done for clients; and case studies and good examples. If I'm doing it right, it reads like a private memo for communications directors/managers about what they should know right now. The Eloquent Woman blog covers ideas, inspiration and information on women and public speaking--while the tips can work for men and women, there's a specific focus on issues women face. I like the mix of practical solutions, role models to follow from past and present, and good data and reporting. For that blog, the reader may be a beginner speaker or one trying to brush up her skills--and she should find it a ready-reference she can use before, during or after a talk.
  • What percentage of time do you spend planning and updating your blog? The amount of time varies widely from week to week (as you'll notice if you are a close reader). If I've been smart and brainstormed a set of ideas ahead of time, the planning takes no time at all in any given week--I just write. Overall, I probably spend the equivalent of a day a week on both blogs, but spread over the course of the week in small spurts. Once a quarter, I sit down and check my plan and assumptions to see if they're still working, and edit older posts so there are links to new ones on related topics. The quarterly review for each blog takes at least a day. At that point, I update my grid of story ideas, so it's available when I have no new material. On a day-to-day basis, my best time-saver is that I think about blog posts while I'm doing other things instead of staring at a blank blogging interface. So when I sit down to write, I'm ready to write.
  • How often do you post? This, too, varies widely. I don't, for example, post just to post--I want to be sure I have appropriate material. At the same time, if there's a lot of news that fits my readership or a major event (planned or not) relevant to my blog, I want to cover it in a timely way. In an average week, I aim for roughly 5 posts on this blog. I'm blogging with more frequency on The Eloquent Woman, my blog on women and public speaking, in part because I'm running a weekly series of online coaching sessions right now.
  • How can you do that on top of your regular work? This is my regular work: Offering advice and ideas to existing clients, and marketing my skills and services to prospective clients. Blogs can let you show what you know, if you plan them right. It's not at all unusual for me to get a call from a new client who's been all over my blog and website first, getting a sense of what I can do. I acknowledge that with posts like "what to ask the media trainer." Most of my business comes from referrals and from people who've found my blogs, or met me on Twitter or Facebook, or seen me speak. (All of which help drive traffic to the blog.) If this weren't my regular work, I still think I could spend a profitable hour a day, five days a week, on my blog to get it started. Start with what you can manage. It gets easier the more you post.
  • Where do you get your ideas? Here's a writing coach post on that topic. One advantage of having a blog that's active: My readers give me lots of ideas these days, and I'm inviting more and more of them to give me guest posts or participate in tests or projects. My very favorite readers are the ones who point me to leads I might have missed, and who've read the blog so closely that they know precisely my angle on a topic--they're priceless to me. When people ask questions, I often turn the question into a blog post, just as I did in this case; you learn quickly not to waste material. I read widely in my topic areas, and am always looking for good examples to share when I hear a speaker, talk to a client or meet someone new. What do you want to see on my blogs? Please tell me in the comments!
Janet, I hope that answered your question (and all the others). Anyone thinking about writing a blog should check out two fantastic blogs on the topic: ProBlogger, which has a wonderful 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series that will walk you through the process, and Remarkablogger, with inspiring content ideas to get you going.

1 comment:

IM4WARD said...

Thank you Denise for such a comprehensive response to my question. When I posed it, I certainly wasn't expecting this response!

Once again a great post - relevant, informative and applicable. I will be using this post to respond to questions I receive about the impact on people's time if blogging were to be introduced in my organization. It's all in the perspective:)

Thanks again, Janet Kuntz