Beginner’s Guide to Blogging 4/10: The Lilypad

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!


The Lilypad

The Lilypad is a blog post framework named after how frogs jump from lilypad to lilypad in a pond. I first learned this particular storytelling structure from Tamsen Webster of Oratium, and adapted it to blogging.


In the beginning of the lilypad, you set the stage. This can be the positioning of a problem, a question, a thought – anything that creates a starting context for your readers. Once you’ve started the journey, write out a transition for the most natural question that’s likely to come to mind to your readers, which bridges into the next lilypad.

As with real lilypads on ponds, each pad can only be a certain “distance” from the next one without losing your readers. Having written transitions between the lilypads allows your readers to make the intellectual jumps, rather than abrupt topic changes or perspectives.

Finish off the lilypad with a satisfying conclusion that echoes the problem you started out with.


Let’s say you sell roasted coffee, as an example for a lilypad post:

Context-setter: Nothing quite beats starting your day with a brewed cup of coffee from freshly roasted beans. There’s just something magical about the aroma when you open your roast and smell the coffee, a savory and earthy scent that promises energy, vitality, and happiness.

Lilypad 1: What is it about freshly roasted coffee that makes us feel this way? Part of it may be memory and association – we know from experience how coffee makes us feel. Part of it is also chemical; when coffee is roasted, it unlocks hundreds of different volatile organic compounds that deepen our sensory experience. The catch with coffee is that those volatile organic compounds break down very quickly.

Lilypad 2: You might ask yourself, just how quickly can they break down? The answer can be disheartening: freshly-roasted, freshly-ground coffee loses its aromatic powers in just a few days, even under the best-stored conditions. The compounds, many of which are oils, either evaporate or turn rancid.

Lilypad 3: So how do you preserve the wonderful coffee experience for as long as possible? First, never grind beans until you absolutely need them. Grind them at the last minute so that the flavor inside the bean isn’t exposed to air. Second, buy the freshest beans possible. Coffee beans that are freshly roasted often have a sheen on them from some of the oils expressed in the roasting process. If you’re looking at beans that are dull and matte in their appearance, they’ve not been roasted in the last few days. Third, buy only as much as you need in the next month, and store them in an airtight container, not the bag they ship in. Finally, store your coffee beans in a cool, dry place. A freezer isn’t a good choice because the moment you open the beans, they will condense moisture out of the air onto their surface and accelerate the aging process. Better to put them in an airtight container in a basement or at the back of a closet.

Conclusion: If you follow all the right steps with your coffee beans, you’ll wake up every morning to that magical cup of coffee that makes every day a great one.

If the lilypad did its job, you should be wanting a cup of coffee right now.

Use Cases

The lilypad structure works best for any kind of storytelling or journey, especially if there isn’t always an overarching logical focus. Compare this to the Kennedy or the Franklin where there’s an explicit sales pitch built into the structure. The lilypad leads your readers on a journey that can wander through different sub-topics and focus points without losing readers, as long as your transitions are strong and sound.

In the next post, we’ll look at wagon wheels and how we can blog with them.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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