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.

Blogging Lesson : You must be an expert

What you can learn about blogging by watching Season 7 Episode #1 of The Next Food Network Star :

Blogging Lesson : You must be an expert

In the first episode of The Next Food Network Star – contestants were asked to perform a 3 minute promo for the show they hoped to have on Food Network if they win.  Here’s a clip from the episode in case you missed it:

Howie entered this competition as a radio personality who decided to “pretend” he could cook.  He openly acknowledged that he wasn’t a “food guy” but he was a successful local radio personality and wanted to make the leap from radio star to Food Network Star.

Howie was the first to be eliminated – despite the fact that he was probably the most “camera ready” of the bunch.  Why?  Because without any food “expertise” – Food Network Viewers would have quickly seen through Howie’s charming facade and changed the channel.

Howie didn’t love food – Howie didn’t know food.  Howie’s only relationship with food was eating on a daily basis and that wasn’t good enough to get past the first cuts on the show.

Your Blogging Lesson From the First Episode: Blog About Something You Know

There’s something about blogging that “reveals” a lot about the person writing the blog post.  This is why it is CRITICAL for you – the blogger – to be an expert on the subject about which you’re blogging.  Don’t try to blog about a subject like food just because you want to be a blogging star.   Instead – choose a subject you know and know well.  If you don’t – your lack of expertise will become quickly become apparent to your readers.

There’s a level of “transparency” in blogging which is very similar to the “transparency” of being a Food Network Star.  A successful blogger – like a Food Network Star – must possess a certain level of expertise.  Without this expertise –   your audience just like the Food Network Audience – will quickly “see through” your mask.

Take for example the recent college graduate who decide to begin blogging about business.  There’s nothing wrong with our young blogger writing about his journey through the world of business.  However, our young blogger is in DEEP trouble if he chooses to write about “making money blogging” if in fact he’s never earned a single cent from his blog.  The internet is littered with just such bloggers – who recommend hosting services they’ve never used just to earn a commission and who spew the thoughts of others instead of their own.

There’s something about blogging which unknowingly reveals the expertise of the author.  If you want to blog about starting a business – it’s fine to write about your personal journey.  The problem arises when you try to write about issues outside of your experience.

It’s really quite simple.  If you’ve never hired an employee – don’t create a blog post about how to hire great employees.   If your business has grown to the point of hiring a new employee – then blog about that process – and let readers come along for the ride as you interview, screen and eventually make the job offer.

Your blogging lesson is blog about something you know.  If you don’t know – but are learning – that’s a fine premise for a blog –  as long as you’re open about it.

You must know more about your chosen topic than your readers do.  Howie didn’t posses a level of expertise that would surpass the average Food Network viewer so he was eliminated.

Blogging Lesson: Expertise is an essential ingredient you need to make your blog successful.

How to Write a Blog Post – Formatting Considerations

How to Write a Blog PostYou’ve put a lot into writing your blog posts. You’ve chosen a blog topic about which you’re passionate.  You’ve carefully researched and chosen exactly the right audience grabbing words to create a blog post title that is as attractive to the search engines as it is the human readers of your blog.

You’ve put your best writing first – creating a powerful opening line to pull readers into the blog post you’ve written.  You’ve chosen an image which not only draws the reader’s eye into the blog post but also helps to provide visual “glue” for your blog posts.

However, even with all of these considerations behind you – there’s still the all important issue of formatting your blog posts to consider.

It’s important to know that the human eye reacts differently to content presented on a computer screen as opposed to content presented on a written page.

Keep in mind as you write your blog post the four rules of formatting your blog post:

  1. Blog visitors tend to scan rather than read.
  2. White space is your friend when it comes to formatting blog posts.
  3. Use bold print to draw their eye to important words.
  4. You can also draw a reader’s eye by using images as well.

When you’re writing a blog post – formatting is an important consideration.  While 300 words can be a comfortable paragraph on the written page – it’s way too many words to present in a single blog paragraph.

Since blog visitors tend to scan rather than read every single word, by breaking your content up into easily consumed “bite sized chunks” – you’ll find visitors will find it easier to “consume” the blog post you’ve worked so hard to write.

As a result, some blog post paragraphs may one be a single sentence in length.

It’s also important to note that bullets are very important in the formatting of your blog post.  Notice above how I’ve used bullets to distinguish the four “rules” of  blog post format.  It’s much easier to read that information than to read it all contained within a single paragraph, such as:

Keep in mind as you write your blog post the four rules of formatting your blog post.  #1 Blog visitors tend to scan rather than read.  #2 White space is your friend when it comes to formatting blog posts. #3 Use bold print to draw their eye to important words. #4 You can also draw a reader’s eye by using images as well.

White space is a REALLY good thing when it comes to blog posts.  While you may have written a lot of great content – if you pack it too tightly within the blog post page – you’ll find you lose readers.

Another good way to direct the human eye is by using headers to segment your blog post.  If a blog post gets longer than 300 words, it’s best to use H3 tags to create a visual “break” for the reader’s eye.

Because the post Creating Comment Friendly Posts, is longer than 300 words, I use bold type to “break up” the three steps to create comment friendly posts.  As a reader, you can scan and pick up the three tips without reading every word in between.

Finally, use images to draw your reader’s eye to important elements within your blog post.  If you’re going to insert an image within your post – make sure you do so next to content that you want to highlight.  Oh, and since Western readers read from left to right, be sure to place photos to the left hand side of your blog post.  If you place a photo on the right hand side of a blog post – you’ll find it attracts the eye and “breaks” the scanning sequence.

Writing great blog post content and presenting it in a reader friendly fashion is essential to blogging success.