Category Archives for "Blog Writing"

Nov 03

5 Steps to 500 Words – A Simple Blog Formula For Stress Free Writing

By Kevin Anderson | Blog Writing

Does the prospect of writing three blog posts a week stress you out? If it does, you’re not alone. I know that being a committed content marketer is hard enough, but being a productive one can seem impossible.

I’ve had a number of conversations recently with colleagues who have, not for the time, been inspired by the words of Marcus Sheridan. In a recent blog post, Marcus advocates that to be a successful content marketer – you should be producing 2-3 blog posts every week.

One approach I shared with a colleague who was overwhelmed by the prospect of content creation is to focus on producing shorter blog posts of around 500 words. I’ll share with you the blog formula I suggested she trialled.

5 Steps to 500 Words Blog Formula

The Intro (125 Words)

After the title of your post, the first paragraph is the second more important element of your post. You might get away with a weak headline, but if the first paragraph fails to draw in your reader, you can be fairly sure that they’ll not continue reading. The first paragraph is your hook and should between 25-50 words.

The rest of the introduction should be to provide context to the opening paragraph and to lead the reader seamlessly into the body content of your blog post. This gives your introduction a natural and steady flow.

Main Points (300 Words)

For a 500-word blog post, I recommend having 300 words broken down into three main points of 100 words each. This creates a classic win-win situation.

As the writer, you win, because psychologically it’s less intimidating to write three 100 word elements than it is to write 300 words. And more importantly the reader wins as you’ve created a structure that is simple, scannable and easy to read.

The three points could be –

  • 3 Steps to BLANK success.
  • 3 Epic BLANK fails.
  • 3 reasons why BLANK is BLANK.
  • 3 top tips to a perfect BLANK

The Strong Close (75 Words)

In a 500-word blog post, the closing point shouldn’t take the classic writing advice of summarising the points you’ve raised in your post. With short paragraphs, doing so would feel repetitive.

Instead, create a rounded and strong close to your blog post by referring to your introduction. If you can, link your last sentence directly to your opening paragraph.

Depending on the type of content you’re writing and your audience, it’s also a nice to add a touch of personality by adding something inspirational. For example, a simple ‘you can do this’ message can have power.

Is three the magic number?

Everyone is different and for some, three blog posts per week can feel intimidating, especially if you’re an inexperienced blogger. For now, though, don’t get hung up on that. Instead just write one blog post. Take this formula and put it to the test.

My hope is that by breaking your writing into bite-sized chunks you can produce great content, enjoy the process and do so without any stress.

Oct 13

Should You Write A Script for Your Next Presentation?

By Kevin Anderson | All Posts , Blog Writing , Script Writing

Fake a seizure! Fake a seizure! My inner voice screamed at me. Imploring me to do something. To do anything. All I could muster was a feeble fake cough. All my hard work and preparation had been for nothing. I’d written a script. I’d rehearsed it countless times. But now, when it mattered, when it was showtime when the CEO and entire executive team of NCR were my audience – I was dying a humiliating death in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Untitled design (1)

In hindsight, the outcome was to be expected. I was presenting something that I had little knowledge of and decided the best solution was to write a script.

My mistake was thinking I could memorise it.

I couldn’t.

As the 15 strong executive team left the neighbouring demonstration and made their way towards me, my heartbeat quickened, while everything else went into ‘Super Slow-mo.’

Then the music started.

The iconic opening title music from Reservoir Dogs, no less.

Reservoir Dogs

Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown and the gang were pussycats compared to Mr. CEO, Mr. President of Marketing and a collection of expensive suits.

My strategy was simple. Delivering my opening line perfectly would give me confidence. Then the magic would happen. By the laws of association and the power of the human brain, my entire carefully prepared script would magically come alive.

This would be my ‘I have a dream’ moment.

What I didn’t consider is this – what happens if I DIDN’T remember that first line?

I found that out the hard way.

The lesson I took from this is an important one, and it’s never left me.

When it comes to delivering a presentation, a demonstration or any form of public speaking, there are only two options.

  • You can read from a script OR
  • You deliver it off the cuff.

Writing a script, then attempting to memorise it, word for word, simply doesn’t work.

I now mix up my approach. Sometimes I read from a script, and sometimes I just go with the flow. Either way you need to do what makes you the most comfortable version of yourself.

I died in Las Vegas – So You Don’t Have To

So why am I sharing what might seem like obvious advice?

Yesterday I delivered a presentation coaching session for one of my clients. It’s not a service I offer, but he asked, and I answered.

He’s delivering a 20-minute presentation later in the year and initially, he wanted me to write the script for him. After I’d offered him some tips and advice, he asked if I’d coach him on how to deliver it.

I thought I’d share my process with you.

The Process

Source Material

What came first the blog or the script?

I’d ghostwritten two blog articles related to the event for my client and recommended that we use those as the source material for the script.

A blog post is one of the most personal forms of writing, and I think they can serve as a solid foundation for a script.

But this isn’t a copy and paste job. Writing for the page and writing to be narrated isn’t the same. The blog post gave me the structure, but with the exception of a few key phrases, it was entirely rewritten.

Say it loud and proud

Once I’d completed the first draft of the script, I read it out to check the initial flow. If I tripped up on any phrases or identified elements that sounded robotic, I made a mental note to correct it in the next stage – but I pressed on to establish the initial timings.

Paragraph by Paragraph

Next I read each paragraph out loud, this time though I stopped to correct phrases that didn’t work. If I couldn’t decide on how to fix the issue, I made a note and moved on to the next paragraph.

The Recording Artist

2nd draft crafted, it was time to try a slightly different review process. This time, I’d become a recording artist. I used the ‘Recorder’ app on my iPhone and this time delivered the script as if I was delivering it for real.

A bonus piece of advice – if your kids are on holiday, and you work from home, be prepared for interruptions. “Daddy, I need toilet roll!” can clearly be heard on the first draft!

Reviewing the recording with pen in hand is a great way to identify more areas for improvement.

The Coaching

I recommended to the client that we meet at the venue to have a run through. To help break the ice, I decided to show, rather than tell. I jumped up onto the stage (OK I clambered!) and delivered the presentation.

We discussed some changes and then I offered some fairly rudimentary presentation advice, demonstrating each step as I did.

Next it was his turn.

He did really well.

With each run through, he gained more confidence. I scribbled notes to make further changes to improve the script.

By the final run through he was combining reading from the script with the occasional ad-lib. He took my advice and slowed down his speech and varied the tone – the difference from ‘Take 1’ and ‘Take 4’ was dramatic.

He told me afterwards that it had been a really valuable experience and that he was now far more confident about delivering a powerful presentation.

And of course, I saved my best advice for last.

If things go wrong – just fake a seizure.

Oct 11

Personally Speaking | Injecting your personality into your blog

By Kevin Anderson | All Posts , Blog Writing

The site of a blinking cursor can turn the most mild-mannered person into a blinking curser. Fingers hover over keys. They waggle in mid-air, waiting for inspiration to strike. Nothing happens. Wistfully looking out of the window doesn’t help either. Nor does stroking your chin thoughtfully.

Untitled design

Sound familiar?

Sometimes it’s because you simply don’t know what to say. But sometimes you know EXACTLY what you’d like to say, you just don’t know how to say it in the right way. And by ‘right way’ I mean – YOUR way.

Writing a blog post isn’t easy. Writing one that captures your personality and unique voice is even harder.

I’ve spoken to some people recently who have had some very kind words to say about my blog writing style. The theme that comes through consistently is that they like my mix of mirth and message.

In other words, they enjoy that I write content that helps or informs while at the same time letting my personality come through.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Some of my earlier blog posts were, in hindsight, a bit stuffy. The writing wasn’t terrible, but it lacked something. What was missing was me.

I was deliberately holding myself back. I had created two versions of myself; the online Kev and the off-line Kev. In short, I wasn’t authentic.

The Real Me

Being authentic simply means – being you. It shouldn’t be a task or activity. It’s not a tactic or a strategy. It’s spontaneous. It’s warts and all. It’s ‘take it or leave it’ – this is who I am.

In my case, the real me is an attention seeker who gets the greatest joy from making people laugh. For me, it’s a form of Tourettes. I just can’t help myself. Funny things come into my head all the time, and I get the purest of joys and highest of highs when I share them. The audience might be my kids, my family, my friends or strangers – it doesn’t matter – if I draw out a laugh, or at the least a genuine smile, then I’m happy.

The real me is also brutally honest, open and emotional. I’ve shared a lot of personal ‘stuff’ online. Touchy, feely stories, particularly about my family and the stress related illness that almost broke me.

That’s the real me. The authentic me. The ‘me’ that I need to share in my blog posts.

Find your personality NOT mine

As much as the compliments I’ve received have meant a lot to me (#AttentionSeeker), your writing shouldn’t aim to replicate my style or any other writers style for that matter. You need to find your voice. It means writing ‘filters-off’.

There are a few reasons why people find it hard to let their personality come through in their blog writing.

1. Corporate Social Irresponsibility

They’ve been forced to write bland, uninspiring copy in the form of formal reports & proposals in a corporate environment. Although they have left that World behind them – they suffer a form of writing hangover.

2. School Daze

For some, writing a blog, will be the first time they’ve written anything for public consumption since they left school. For them, the association can be understandably terrifying. They were judged at school. They don’t want to be judged now.

3. They Don’t Think They Have A Personality

Some people genuinely don’t think that they have a personality, or at least, a personality that anyone will like. They hide their real self. They play it safe. They write neutral content because they think that’s what the World wants.

Injecting the real you into your blog writing won’t just make the process more enjoyable, it will make your content sing. Opening up lets people get to know the REAL you. The authentic you. The best version of yourself.

Blog writing is one of the most personal forms of writing their is. There is an intimacy that you don’t get in other forms of writing. Have the confidence to be yourself.

“Easier said than done.” I’m sure some of you are thinking.

Here are three quick tips to get you started.

  • Write Like You Talk

Remember, this isn’t a formal piece of writing it’s a blog. Keep it conversational and write how you talk. Take it a step further by reading it out loud to see how it sounds. Does it flow like a natural conversation or is it clunky. Don’t worry if it’s the latter, it’s easy to fix.

  • Filters Off

The natural reaction is to self-edit as you go. An amusing thought, a play on words or a left-field anecdote doesn’t even get into your first draft. Why? Because you let your logical brain get in the way. You talk yourself out of it. You rationalise. Include everything in your first draft, don’t leave anything out. You can edit later. For now, capture everything.

  • Talk to one person

Having a specific person in mind helps focus your blog writing. It keeps the tone consistent and acts as a roadmap. It might be a friend who would relate to your blog topic, or it could be a specific client who needs help with a specific challenge. Think of it as an open-letter to your ideal reader.

Remember, this isn’t about being a stand-up comedian. It’s about being you.

I’ll leave the final words to a far wiser man than me –

People don’t buy from a website. They buy from people. Let them see who you are.”

Mark Schaefer


 

Personally Speaking
I’ve started writing my first eBook – “Personally Speaking – Finding and Sharing Your Real Blogging Voice.” (Working Title!) I’m also in the process of creating the ‘Personally Speaking Coaching Programme’ for those that would appreciate some 1-1 support from me. If you’re interested in either – leave a comment or get in touch.
Sep 28

Blog Editing – How a New Service Was Born

By Kevin Anderson | All Posts , Blog Editing , Blog Writing

I know that many business owners want to write their own blog posts and online articles, which is something I’ve recommended in a previous blog post. I also know that some lack the confidence or just need the support to get their content to a standard they’re proud of. After discussing the idea with a number of colleagues at The Content Marketing Academy Master Class Group, I’ve decided to launch a Blog Editing Service.

Blog Editing Post

The Blog Editing Service – The Trial Run

I spoke with Pam Laird, owner of the fantastic Fin and Co. hair salon in Carnoustie about editing one of her first blog posts. As well as being a highly respected salon owner, she’s also a fellow believer in the benefits of Content Marketing – and a regularly updated blog will be a central component of her new website.

I offered the first edit for free, but it turned out to be hugely valuable for me. It helped me develop the process and put the theory to test. And of course, it gave me the opportunity to see if it was something I’d enjoy doing.

Pam sent an email with her first draft. It was 604 words in length and was about how to find your ideal hairstyle and stylist. As a first draft, it was really good. It was authentically Pam. Her personality and passion shone through.

So there were two challenges I needed to address – firstly I needed to make sure that I didn’t lose Pam’s voice during the editing process. Secondly – lacking hair that merits a stylist – I needed to familiarise myself with the World of hairdressing!

The Blog Editing Process

Step 1

I read through the blog post three times to make sure I understood the meaning and establish a feel for Pam’s tone of voice.

Step 2

I copied the content and pasted it into my writing software of choice. (iA Writer).

Step 3

I reviewed the ordering of the paragraphs to check the flow of the piece. For Pam’s post, the structure worked well.

Step 4

I rewrote each paragraph immediately underneath Pam’s version so that I could clearly illustrate the changes that I had made. (Pam’s original paragraphs were coloured BLUE with my edited version being written in plain text.)

Step 5

I copied the final version without Pam’s paragraphs and created a new page in the document that had my completed version. This way Pam has two versions – one that showed the changes in relation to the original content she created and one that was easier to read on its own.

Step 6

I re-read the final piece and made a couple of alterations before I put it through Grammarly (Online Proofreading App).

Step 7

On reading it one last time, I had a moment of inspiration and added a ’Top Tip’ to the article that I thought would add value to the piece.

Step 8

I saved as a Word document and a PDF and sent to Pam.


The process took me 41 minutes to complete. What surprised me, was just how much I enjoyed it. I love to write and had no idea if I’d feel the same way about editing. But I absolutely did.

My editing process isn’t about merely correcting spelling or grammar errors – it’s about adding value. I get a huge amount of pleasure taking a raw material and turning it into something better. Ironically a similar feeling I know Pam gets when she transforms someone’s hair.

Pam’s Perspective

So did Pam like the final edit? She can say it better than I can! (And no… I didn’t edit this!)

“My initial reaction was one of total relief. Relief that Kevin had taken what had been written and turned it into something of value to our clients keeping our own voice throughout.

Having the security that Kevin is editing our blogs before they go public gives me the confidence to write for our audience. The fear of people reading and thinking “what’s that all about” is now gone thanks to Kevin.”

And yes – Pam has become my first paying blog editing client as a result of this little experiment.

The Service

This blog is more about the process than promoting the service. A sales page will be worked on over the course of the week, but for now here is the pricing that I have set, again following discussions with my Content Marketing Academy colleagues. A one-off edit costs £35 while a prepaid voucher for 6 edited blog posts costs £150 or £25 per blog. The blogs can be up to 750 words. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the pricing. Leave a comment or email Kevin at squaretreemarketing.co.uk

Although I wrote quite extensively about my experience at the Content Marketing Academy Conference, I’m delighted that I continue to benefit from the generous community that Chris has created. Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

Sep 22

5 Reasons Why You Should Write A Blog For Your Business

By Kevin Anderson | All Posts , Blog Writing , Content Writing

I wanted to share with you my 5 top Reasons Why You Should Write A Blog For your business. It’s a subject that’s come up in conversation with a number of clients – so here’s what I’ve shared with them.

Personality

A blog gives you the opportunity to show a different side to your business. It can be the platform that introduces you and your team on a more personal level. It’s a great way of humanising your website content. And although it’s a cliche – people buy from people.

Visibility

Google likes blogs. If you have a website with static content that never changes, then the little Google Robots won’t pop by as often as they should. Each blog you post reminds Google, and your audience that you still exist. Remember though – you’re writing content for real humans.

Trust

A consistently written blog, shared with a relevant and engaged audience is the key to building relationships online. And one blog post at a time, that growing relationship will eventually be a trusting one. And trust, is the most powerful asset your business can have.

Authority

Your blog can be the strongest positioning tool for you and your business. It can share your expertise, experience and knowledge. Each blog post yiur write gives you the opportunity to teach something new and connect with your audience.

Leads

If all this sounds a little bit fluffy or touchy feely then you’ll be glad to know that a blog can become a stone cold lead generator for your business . Sharing valuable free content in a blog post and then directing your readers to a free ebook or White paper is a hugely successful lead generating strategy.

That’s my top 5 reasons why you should write a blog for your business –

  • Personality
  • Visibility
  • Trust
  • Authority
  • Leads

What’s your top 5. Leave a comment or tweet me @kevanderson with #WhyIBlog

 


If you’re looking for more inspiration on why you should blog, here are 3 sites that I think will help.

  1. 19 Reasons why you should be writing a blog.
  2. The Benefits of Blogging for business.
  3. 10 Reasons you should be blogging.