This month I was honoured to be interviewed for a new book on blogging available now on Kindle.
Author of ‘Your Blog Voice‘ the fabulous Philippa Davies asked me questions about my blogging for inclusion in the book and she’s kindly allowed me to reproduce my interview here.
For interviews with bloggers of all varieties and for a cracking read on developing you blog presence I heartily recommend you read the book. Inspiring words of wisdom for the price of a pint – you can’t go wrong!
What made you decide to blog?
I feel quite passionately that government needs to include people more in what they do and that social tools can help that. I’ve always had a load of opinions and questions and ideas on the subject busting to get out of my head but I never really knew who to share them with.
When I mentioned to a Twitter friend, Joel Hughes, that I was off to technology and science conference, Opentech, he suggested I blog about it. I hastily set up a Posterous blog and spent about twenty minutes hovering over the publish button wondering if my thoughts would make me the subject of ridicule.
I tweeted it and found that not only did people read it but they were really positive and kind in their reactions to it.
What has it shown you so far?
I don’t post to my blog very often, maybe once a month or even less frequently (although I do regularly write on the work blog). So when I post something I try to make it worthwhile, something insightful or useful.
It’s shown me that other people care as much as I do about the subject, that there is still tonnes left to learn and that I am as good as anyone to make those discoveries. It’s made me feel like being a bit geeky and obsessed on my topic is actually a good thing. That is my USP – the fact that I give a damn.
Self deprecation is a habit I’ve found easier to break on blogs than the offline world. Being formal isn’t my style and in the real world I’ve found that being modest or having a joke interferes with some people’s ability to engage with my work. Writing a blog post gives me a place to get my ideas down and make serious points. I feel seriously public sector communication needs to change and the blog is my place to store case studies and arguments for that.
Can you define the benefits to you and your organization?
Early in my career somebody referred to me as ‘the girl that writes spiel’. That stuck with me, that feeling that people saw me as having little to contribute and limited skills. When I started blogging I got a massive confidence boost from a more understanding community of people interested in the same things as me.
I found my voice without having to breeze into a room and command attention. I know now that I can helpfully contribute to my profession and society and I don’t need to produce academic studies to be part of shaping practice.
Now I get invited to speak at all sorts of events all over the UK – I thought public speaking was my major weakness but it seems that caring, my USP, gets a great reaction. I never pretended to be polished and nobody seems to mind that I’m not a slick dude.
I now I feel my career can go in all sorts of directions.
The organisation has benefited as I blog – I got comfortable doing it for me and then started doing it for the council. We’re building relationships, getting constructive feedback on our work and giving a human voice to the council. Also, talking about work has allowed me to championing innovation from our trailblazers who might not have been noticed, like Dan Davies, one of our youth workers who uses Facebook in fantastic ways to engage. The council I work for is open to trying new ideas and to doing better things – my blog demonstrates that.
What would you say to anyone starting out to blog?
I’d say get your signposts in place – without Twitter I don’t think anyone would read my blog. You need to find a good way for people to find your blog.
It’s a bit of a cliché but I’d advise people not to sound like someone else. So, if you’re a formal kind of person and you try to get down with the kids, it’s never going to work. And if your style is casual, a load of jargon and third person stuff will be awful.
If yours is not a video or photo blog, don’t agonise over every sentence – you’re not writing poetry, you’re trying to get your point across. Aiming for perfection may often stop you writing anything at all.
Great advice, Helen!
I remember why I started blogging 4-5 years ago. As I was learning about social media and its potential impact on government – use cases, white papers, new sites being stood up by agencies – I blogged as a way to capture and share what I was learning. I figured,”Hey, I am doing all this work to find these examples. Why don’t I take a little extra time and make it public so that others can get to the same information faster?” Today I blog for the same reason…but these days I am finding that it’s less about sharing answers that I’ve found and more about asking questions to the extract the answers from the crowd…then allowing that to inform and direct my research and learning to the edges and corners people are not yet exploring fully.
Thanks again for sharing.
Thanks for the advice. I am a little late on the game but I just started blogging not too long ago. I like what you said at the end “don’t agonise over every sentence-you’re not writing poetry.” The blogs I enjoy reading the less formal posts. A person’s personality really comes to light and makes the post more enjoyable to read. After the first couple blog posts I sent out, I too hovered over the publish button. I thought the same things. thought the same things, should I post this? WIll this even make sense? But like you said-you’re not writing poetry or the next best seller, it’s a blog post.
Thanks for sharing your experiences Andrew and Vanessa. What I’ve learned from feedback since posting this is that there are nearly as many reasons for why people blog as there are blogs! And that lots of people who blog are pretty fabulous. Fascinating stuff!