The Beginner’s Guide to Blogging, Part 1 of 10

SHIFT Core Values

Blogging isn’t going out of style any time soon; with the ascent of content marketing, blogging, podcasting and video are on the minds of marketers and PR professionals all the time. In this 10-part Beginner’s Guide to Blogging series, we’re going to explore what makes a blog great and give you some structures and frameworks to help make blogging easier. Take from it what works and leave behind what doesn’t work!

Beginner's Guide to Blogging Series:

The 3L Rule

After you’ve done your research, after you’ve come up with some creatively different ideas of approaching a topic and defined your messaging, you have to create the content. There’s an absurd amount of content out there in the world today. Most of it is awful. Most of it is written by people who can’t tell the difference between bad or good content, so all they do is create bad content. Let’s set down 3 rules for what makes great content, a system I call the “3L rule.”

When you are creating content, it must answer positively to one of three questions:

  • When you are creating content, did it make you laugh? If it did, chances are some other people will find something amusing in it as well.
  • When you are creating content, did you learn something? You are the subject matter experts in your domain. If you didn’t learn something while putting together your content, there’s a good chance that no one else is going to learn anything either.
  • When you are creating content, do you love it? By this, I don’t mean do you like it. I mean, you have gotten complaints from your significant other that you are talking about your content in your sleep, or that it’s all you talk about at the dinner table, your kids are tired of hearing you rave about it – that’s content you love. How many people have written a blog post or email newsletter in the last 30 days by a show of hands? How many of you have absolutely loved one of those pieces of content?

The ideal is to hit all three. However, as the saying and song goes, two out of three ain’t bad, and if you hit at least one, you stand a chance of being noticed. If your content meets none of these three? It’s bad content, and you should either re-imagine it, or leave it behind.

Blog With Your Core Values

How many of us have worked at a company that has corporate core values? Lots of us have, and those values statements are usually corporate jargon about providing shareholder value and great customer service. That won’t help with content creation.

What will help is defining your values in a handful of words. At SHIFT, our core values are creative, connected, dedicated, honorable, smart, positive and ballsy. We have these values everywhere. We have them on mouse pads and index cards, and when any of us are creating content, we have to hit a few of them in every piece of content and violate none of them.

  1. Creative: Does the post say something new, something not yet done? Recycling is wonderful for the environment but not for the blog.
  2. Connected: Does it tie into the bigger picture of what the SHIFT blog (and by extension, our agency) is about? Does it cite reliable external resources and data?
  3. Dedicated: Has effort been put into it above and beyond blogging for the sake of blogging? Does it answer a burning question the author had?
  4. Honorable: Is the post authentic, truthful and correct? (this is non-negotiable, as you would expect)
  5. Positive: Does it take a positive tone even if the topic isn’t necessarily a positive topic? Does it avoid jumping onto a bashing bandwagon?
  6. Smart: Did you truly learn something while writing it? Did we learn something while reading it? Does it solve a problem that our audience actually has?
  7. Ballsy: Does it step outside the comfort zone for the author and the agency and challenge the status quo of what everyone else is blogging about on that topic?

A perfect post is 7/7, but obviously, the world isn’t perfect. Strive to hit 5/7 in any post you write, and more important, never write a blog post that negatively violates any of these values. A post that is super smart but dishonorable is far worse than a post that is reasonably smart and honorable.

If we don’t hit that basic benchmark, we know we’re on the wrong track. We know we’re about to create bad content, and we stop and fix it.

Whatever your corporate core values are, apply them to your blogging efforts so that you’re in alignment with your brand. If your core values aren’t suited for content creation, feel free to use ours!

In the next post in this series, we’ll start to tackle some of the structures and frameworks you can use to create content.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on August 4, 2014 in Blogging, Content Marketing, Marketing, Strategy

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change.

Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim.

He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast.

Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.

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