Blogging Lesson: Find your voice

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #5 of The Next Food Network Star.

Blogging Lesson:  Find your voice to connect with your audience

In this episode – Guy Fieri schools the contestants on the fine art of interviewing cooks and restaurant owners for his popular show “Diners, Drive ins and Dives”.   For the elimination challenge – contestants are informed that their cooking demonstrations will the be the live entertainment during a 4th of July celebration.

Vic really shined during this challenge… he donned a pink wig and really put on a show.  With his shaved head and heavily inked, bulging biceps -Vic’s presentation was definitely unexpected. However, at the end of his presentation – he gave an invitation to the audience to come to his booth so he could get to know members of the audience better. It was a heart felt invitation – which could have come across as phony or fake if he really didn’t mean it.

Here’s Bob Tushman’s take on this week’s challenge.

Vic genuinely wants to get to know his audience and that’s an essential element of success for any blogger. If you don’t know your audience – you can’t know what they want from you!

Of course, Justin D was eliminated this week – because he failed to learn from the 2nd episode’s second elimination – you have to be focused.

Justin D has spent the entire competition trying to “find” himself. He went from hip hop guy to southern fried home boy and everywhere in between. The time to experiment with different characters and persona was BEFORE the competition began.

One of the great things about blogging is you don’t have to arrive at your blog “camera ready”. Unlike the Next Food Network Star – you can take some time to experiment and “find your voice”. However, don’t expect your blog to find an audience until you’ve found your voice. As Bob Tushman said of Justin D – when he watched him jump from character to character – he was confused and as a result – he mentally “checked out”.

Justin D hadn’t found his voice – but Vic was well on his way to finding his. Vic’s invitation for the audience to come and introduce themselves to him helps Vic in future episodes to “find his voice”. In Episode #5 – he’s still “Vic Vegas” – but as he gets to know his audience – he changes his voice to reflect what his audience wants to hear from him.

Additional Blogging Lesson: Once you’ve found your voice, get to know your audience – learn why they’re at your blog so you can give them exactly what they want.

Blogging Lesson: Presentation is everything

What you can learn about blogging by watching Season 7 Episode #4 of The Next Food Network Star:

Blogging Lesson: Presentation is everything

The challenge for this episode was to feed the cast and crew of a television show.  The finalists were put into teams and had to make a presentation to a panel of judges and celebrity guests.

Despite the fact that Justin B has the communication skills needed to be the Next Food Network Star – and the expertise necessary to be the Next Food Network Star – he didn’t possess the presentation skills needed to become the Next Food Network Star.

Presentation is everything – whether it’s cooking or blogging.  If your blog is sporting a poor presentation – then your readership will suffer.

The theme you choose for your blog is almost as important as the content you post upon your blog.  The theme determines the presentation of your blog’s content – and if you’re not careful, you could find yourself the next Justin B of the blog universe – someone with the smarts, the skills and the talent to be a blogging star who lacks a professional presentation.

However, the theme you choose for your blog must do more than just impress the human visitors to your blog – it also must impress the mindless robots which crawl and index the web as well.

In the end – you need to achieve the perfect “balance” – between design and function, all playing their assigned role with the relentless beat of the drum of the search engines playing in the background.

This is where The Thesis Theme for WordPress comes in.  Thesis is a blog theme – but it’s it’s not just a blog theme.  It’s much, more than just that.

Thesis is a foundation – a blank slate if you will- for your blog.  I have many clients who have chosen to keep the “minimalistic” look of a plain and undressed Thesis theme.  However, at a moment’s notice – with just a few changes to a few files within a folder inside of Thesis – I can quickly and easily change the look of their blog.

Creating a new ‘look’ for Thesis requires considerable coding skills – and not everyone wants to hire a professional to create a new look for Thesis – which brings us to the latest and greatest “fad” in WordPress blogging – thesis skins!

Thanks to thesis skins – there’s no reason to use a poorly coded theme for your site to create the look you want for your blog.

In the end, Justin B was eliminated because he sounded like a bored waiter instead of a passionate, knowledgeable chef.   If your blog is more than a few dozen posts old – make sure it’s not making a “bored” presentation of your great content with an ugly theme as well.

Blogging Lesson: Keep the positive front and center

What you can learn about blogging by watching Season 7 Episode #3 of The Next Food Network Star:

Blogging Lesson: Keep the positive front and center

The challenge for this episode was to first use chocolate to create a dinner dish – and then to create a memorable dessert.

Alicia runs her own bakery – so she definitely has the expertise needed to be a Food Network Star.    Alicia also has the communication skills needed to be the Next Food Network Star.  However the pressure of the competition caused Alicia to crumble – and the reason she crumbled was she kept focusing on the negative – not the positive.

There’s something about human beings that attracts us to the negative.  However, it’s a short term attraction – and isn’t a good long term strategy to employ for your blog.

Recently – a client contacted me about her blog.  She was monitoring the traffic her blog posts were receiving and I was happy to hear that she was paying attention to which blog posts were “connecting” with her readers.

However, she was slightly concerned about one of her most popular posts – one in which she wrote a scathing report about a company she had decided not to take on as a client.  While she never named names in the blog post, blogging is very transparent and anyone in her industry knew exactly who she was writing about in her blog post. As a result – the blog post was getting a lot of attention and she wondered whether to keep the post up or not.

I shared a basic rule of blogging with her:

Negative blog posts always seem to get more “attention” than positive ones.

This blogging rule is only the key to “short term success”.  In the short run- a negative “gossipy” kind of blog post can definitely generate a lot of “buzz” – particularly when you’re a business owner blogging in an industry that hasn’t embraced “blogging” – yet. However, when it comes to creating a blog with long term “staying” power – keeping the positive front and center is the key to long term success.

In my client’s case – it boiled down to a matter of answering the question

“What is the purpose of your blog?”

In her case, her purpose was not to “out” assholes in her industry but rather she was blogging as a way to build trust with prospective clients.

It was then up to her to decide whether this scathing blog post would create trust with prospective clients.

Defining the purpose of your blog is critical to your blog’s success.  Often, keeping the positive “front  and center” is the best way to build a loyal audience.

Blogging Lesson: You have to be focused

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #2 of The Next Food Network Star from the 2nd elimination

Blogging Lesson#2 : You have to be focused.

After Juba’s elimination, the next phase of the competition was to prepare a meal for a panel of Food Network stars. It’s this challenge that leads to the elimination of Katy Clark.

On the show, Katy is identified as a “fitness and lifestyle coach” – however – in her biography on the Food Network Site – it reads “This energetic mother of three runs a food and fitness company.”  Meanwhile on her website, she offers the following array of services:

  • Chef Instructor
  • Fitness Expert
  • Catering
  • Motivational Speaker

When the judges speak to her about needing to be “focused” – she responds that “she can’t be pinned in” to cooking day in and day out.

Your Blogging Lesson from the Secpmd Elimination of the 2nd Episode: You’ve got to pick and passion and stay focused.

Katy is not alone in nurturing a wide array of seemingly “unconnected” passions.  Many high achieving people have a wide array of interests.  If you’re nurturing a wide variety of passions – rest assure that this diversity will be an asset to your blog.  Your varied interests and activities will add much needed “spice” to your blog posts.  The key is to weave these passions and activities into a single cohesive thread – created with your great blog name in mind.

For example, let’s take a fictional blogger who is a master chef who also loves to snorkel in the coast waters near his home.  He’s named his blog “The Adventurous Chef”

This fictional blogger may start with a strong focus.  He creates a category called “seafood recipes” and begins creating blog posts about the amazing selection of fresh seafood available and how to properly prepare it.

After only a few blog posts – our blogger plans a trip to the Bahamas to go snorkeling.  Suddenly – he’s not writing about seafood but rather begins blogging about snorkeling.  He blogs about his desire to find the right equipment to capture his underwater adventures.  This series of posts are followed by posts chronicling his adventure.  His latest posts feature some amazing underwater camera work including a video of the chef’s close encounter with what appears to be a Great White Shark.

Unfortunately for our blogger – such a dramatic leap in subject matter will not only confuse the human readers of his blog –  it will confuse the mindless robots which index and categorize the web.

Instead of taking a dramatic leap – our chef blogger needs to either find a way to weave his adventures into his blog’s topic – or start another blog about his snorkeling adventures.

With the blog name “The Adventurous Chef” – one would assume that tales of his “adventures” should be a part of his blog posts – and they should be!  However, while the information about his latest adventure is truly worthy of sharing with his audience – he must be careful in how he shares it. Simply creating a new set of blog posts – especially in a new blog – can spell disaster for his blog’s “focus”.

Instead of creating blog posts about snorkeling equipment and the finer points of shooting underwater video – our chef needs to keep his focus on the FOOD aspect of his blog.  The amazing shark video he shot should be used to draw attention to his post on shark fin soup.   Whether he decides to share a recipe in that post – or share his alarm at the environmental price of such a dish – he would still be staying “on topic” as far as his blog is concerned.

It’s not unusual to have a wide array of interests – but it’s important to remain true to the focus of your blog – a focus you decided upon when you named your blog.

In Katy’s case – she was auditioning for the Food Network.  The Food Network’s focus is very defined – it’s focused on FOOD.  It’s in the network’s name – and it’s a recurring theme in the shows they air.  (Unllike MTV which rarely offers the “music videos” promised in it’s name.)

When it comes to cooking – there’s the “main ingredient” and then there are the “additions” like herbs and spices – not to mention preparation – which results in a palate pleasing dish.  Katy just needed to focus on her passion for FOOD and to allow the other passions in her life act as “spice” to her passion for food.

Blogging Lesson: Focus is an essential ingredient to make your blog successful.  Learn to weave your other passions and activities into your blog’s theme so it is unique but remains focused.

Blogging Lesson: You have to be a skilled communicator

What you can learn about blogging by watching Season 7 Episode #2 of The Next Food Network Star

Blogging Lesson #1 : You have to be a skilled communicator

The second episode of Season 7 began with an unusual twist.  During this episode two contestants were eliminated from the challenge.  The first elimination occurred after the on air camera challenge where the contestants had to prepare a pizza which represented their unique point of view and they then had 30 seconds to present this pizza to the judges.

Juba was surprised when he was eliminated – especially when other competitors seemed to be doing “worse” than he was.  What he couldn’t see – but the judges could – was how PAINFULLY uncomfortable Juba was while on camera.

In person – Juba is a charming, good looking, highly skilled chef.  His friends and family all encouraged him to audition for the show – and his audition tape won him a spot among the original 16 competitors.  However, when the camera began rolling – Juba became a basket case.

Juba  – unlike Howie- had the expertise needed to be a Food Network Star – but he didn’t have the camera presence.

Here’s Bob Tuschman, general manager/SVP of Food Network, explaining why Juba was eliminated:

Your Blogging Lesson from the First Elimination of the 2nd Episode: It’s not enough to be an expert with passion- you have to be able to communicate your expertise well.

It’s not enough to be charming – it’s not enough to be good looking – you have to be able to effectove;u communicate your expertise if you want to become a successful blogger.

Communication is a skill – and even if you are born with a natural TALENT it still takes work to develop the skill of communicating.

In a landmark study – K Anders Ericcson is the Conradi Eminent Scholar of Psychology Professor of Psychology at Florida State University published the results of a study in the Harvard Business Review about what makes an “expert”.  The study (PDF file – opens in a new window) begins with this excerpt:

New research shows that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill.

The study goes on to say:

Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born.

Here’s the sad fact for Juba – while he possesses the expertise about food to become a Food Network Star – he had not devoted the time and energy into “practicing” being on camera.  That lack of practice lead to his early elimination.

There’s bad news and good news hidden within this blogging lesson   

The bad news contained within this blogging lesson is that no one is BORN a “blogger”  It’s almost certain that you won’t launch your blog and become an instant success.  Even if you are a gifted communicator and/or a gifted writer – the skill of blogging is one which is earned through practice.

The good news within this blogging lesson is again – that no one is BORN a blogger.  You become a blogger by blogging – and it’s only through blogging that you’ll become a better blogger.

Blogging Lesson: Expertise is not enough to become a successful blogging.  You must be able to communicate effectively.  Fortunately, this is a skill which can be developed through practice.