Writing an Effective Blog Post by Beth Becker & Neal Rauhauser

By at June 2, 2011 | 5:28 pm | Print

Writing an Effective Blog Post by Beth Becker & Neal Rauhauser

As fairly high volume bloggers, with over three hundred DailyKos posts between us, to say nothing of the writing we’ve done for campaigns, we must say that we quickly spot and always cringe when we see the traditional press release format used.

Blog posts have three formal components. You have to write a title and you’ve got about as much space as a Twitter post – around 140 characters. You have to hook the potential reader at the first glance.

The lede at DailyKos is 1,100 characters at most. You’re making a fifteen second elevator pitch with the intent of getting five minutes of a busy internet user’s time, so you’d better have a point and you ought to get right to it. Generally you should use a leading paragraph to position the story, a main paragraph there bears the complete message in a distilled format with the assumption that the post body is going to be skipped, and close the lede with a one liner that teases about what awaits inside.

Blog post bodies are a multifaceted art form.  Press release writers have been known to put two paragraphs in the lede that didn’t make sense without the full post’s context, then repeat the whole thing in the body. These are actually physically painful to read for an experienced blogger.

The principles applied in the lede – namely assuming that you’re dealing with a skimmer rather than a person who is reading for comprehension, are still in effect, but you’ve got much more latitude in addressing them.

Forget all about that three sentence minimum for a paragraph. That structure of two longs and a short seen in the lede still works for the body. Summation sentences standing alone are the right way to keep a skimmer engaged when they find something further down in a post and lack the attention to go back and re-read the entire thing.

Make liberal use of the HTML break tag. Standard press releases are often too dense in terms of the paragraphs themselves and inter-paragraph spacing is key. Provide the skimming reader an entry point that will facilitate them recapturing the flow of the piece if they’re skipping over a lengthy quote or otherwise returning their attention to your work.

If you’ve got a blog post that doesn’t contain a link to some external resource it had better be a first update on a brand new issue. Where one would do a single press release in the traditional media the correct form for the blogosphere is likely an initial release by the campaign, a carefully cultivated follow on by another blogger who has taken a liking to your campaign, and then a second post from the campaign itself.

The purpose to multiple postings is twofold. Some readers are active at one time of day, some at another, and even with backing distribution of the story on Facebook and via Twitter extra exposure is important.

The second, much less commonly recognized reason is that even a small number of comments on an old, well trafficked blog like DailyKos or one of the other national players is a tremendous force for moving things up in Google page rankings. Got a negative story on your opponent? A few artful bloggers can strike swiftly, forever branding them in the first page of Google results. Erasing such work is much more difficult.

The last rule about blogging that we’ll share with you is that it can’t be just about asking for donations.  Today’s blogosphere has grown bored with that approach, in fact, we’d venture to say it’s downright insulted by it.  Engage your audience.  Post a blog then stick around to answer questions and carry on a conversation in the comments.  You’d be surprised where such conversations can lead…yes they can even lead to donations.

Beth Becker and Neal Rauhauser are the principals of Progressive PST, a social media consulting company that specializes in working with Gubernatorial, House and Senate campaigns.  They are also the co-founders of the Blog Workers Industrial Union.

www.progressivepst.com       progressivepst@gmail.com    212 642 2675    

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