Both my husband and I work in PR. He works with global companies with huge budgets and highly qualified marketing teams. I work with small businesses and solopreneurs who aren't marketers.
Jargon and terminology makes sense in the context of my husband's work. He is talking to other communications professionals.
I, on the other hand, am talking to people like you who run book shops or B&Bs or children's swim classes. You know about books, letting rooms and getting nervous kids into a pool.
You may not know what the terms owned vs earned media mean. Why should you? You don't spend your days reading blogs and magazines on the latest communication trends. If you have the time to read trade magazines at all, you'll be reading about your industry, not the PR industry.
You know you need to promote your business. You know there is this 'social media thing' and you want to 'get into the local paper' and you've been told you need 'a blog'. But where to start? Just this week I was asked: 'but what are you meant to write about on a blog and why do I need one?' And I've been mulling that over. Because the answer is different for each company.
So when I saw this free ebook on The Business of Blogging by Stephen Waddington, I thought, perhaps I could share that with you small businesses and solopreneurs who need help understanding this blogging thing.
It's a reasonably quick read, a series of blog posts from communications experts. Feel free to read it. But I realised that for the most part, my kind of clients - people like you - aren't going to invest the time to read it. It's too much to take in. It's like eating an entire chocolate cake when all you wanted was a small sliver. There is too much communication about communication. But there are a few very important points I have extracted, which I'd love you small businesses and solopreneurs to take heed of.
Here is my translated version on why you need to blog:
Blogging is the foundation for all your other online marketing
From the ebook: 'Blogging is even more ideal now that content and brand publishing has become the price of entry for even the most basic of digital marketing efforts.' Lee Odden @leeodden
My translation: You only get 140 characters on Twitter, a few sentences on Facebook, a picture on Pinterest or Instagram. With a blog, you don't have to wait for a website to run an article about you or pay for an exorbitant ad. A blog allows you to publish your own thoughts and advice directly to your customers and prospects, those people circling your business trying to make up their minds. A blog gives you something to share on social media outlets, builds up your profile as an expert and helps you build up a relationship with your customers. It shouldn't be an after thought. It should be your thoughts shared.
Blogging helps keep your thinking fresh
From the ebook: 'Why do I blog? Because I can flesh out an idea far easier online than in practice. I can capture or share. It’s changed how I think, how I work and I’m finding doors opening that the blog has led me to.' Dan Slee, The Dan Slee Blog
From the ebook: 'The sense of having an audience, however small, keeps me thinking about new research peripheral to the work that I do from day to day; this keeps me fresh. Mat Morrison of the Magic Bean Lab
My translation: When you work on your own or with a very small team, it's easy to let your thinking get stale, your creativity stifled. You fight the everyday fires but can stop thinking about what's going on in the world of your customer. By writing a blog, it forces you to think about what you want to say. And once you start examining what you want to say, you start to discover potential problems and possible solutions. The comments and connections you make with customers via your blog broadens your thinking beyond your office walls. It's not just a way of communicating, it becomes a regular time out to examine your thinking and strategy. (Writing this blog post has got me thinking that perhaps I need to create a Blogging Basics package....)
Blogging can boost your sales
From the ebook: 'The blog has hugely surpassed our own expectations in all areas. It now underpins our social media activity, our email and search strategy, and more than a million stories are read on it every month. It also generates a very healthy profit for our business.' Chris Lake, econsultancy
My translation: for every blog that makes money, there will be thousands that don't. BUT, if you view your blog as a way of really connecting with your customers, giving them something of value, talking in their language and not just selling, selling, selling, they will be far more likely to buy. You don't have to have millions reading your blog. You just have to have the people that are interested in what you have to say - and potentially buying from you - reading your blog.
Blogging is easy if you treat it as a conversation
'Forget about SEO, audience targets, thought leadership, key word placements and other marketing-related stuff that makes most blogs that start out with those manufactured things in mind utterly sterile. Instead, concentrate entirely on what you want to say and say it - naturally, informally, as if you're in a conversation with just one or two people.' Neville Hobson @jangles
My translation: Stop overthinking blogging. Just start writing. Get your thoughts down. Be real. Talk to your customers as though they were there in language they'd understand. And it will flow.
I'd love to hear from you about your thoughts on blogging. Do you do it? Does it work for you? Do you battle to come up with content? Do you find it hard to get words down? Are you unsure of what tone of voice to use? Is it the mechanics / techy bits that trouble you? I have been blogging on a personal blog since 2008 - first on blogger, then wordpress, then self-hosted. I'm happy to chat about how you can use blogging to better serve your small business. Just get in touch or leave a comment below.
P.S. One of the best way of getting people to look at your blog, is to leave comments on their blog including your URL.