Tag Archives: writing

Slideshare of the Day: 7 Rules for Writing Blog Posts That Get Read and Shared

Slideshareoftheday.001

As a blogger, one of my main goals is gaining readership through meaningful and worthwhile effort. The blogs I love to read provide me with information I cannot find elsewhere or have conceptualized myself but not articulated.  This year, I committed myself to becoming that type of blogger. My first step was and is consistency–from what I’ve observed, blogging consistently at least three times per week not only grows the amount of relevant content I have to offer readers but also helps me continue to grow my skills as a writer. Blogging consistently has also helped me connect with other like minded professionals. So, consistency is important, but, even more important is relevance and attractiveness. Today’s Slideshare, “7 Rules for Writing Blog Posts That Get Read and Shared” created by author and blogger Michael Hyatt includes some excellent tips for determining the audience relevance of your posts and crafting blog posts that attract readership. Check out the full deck below; three tips I will implement in my next posts are: 1. focus on the reader, 2. create a powerful headline, and 3. make your posts easy to share.

1. Focus on the reader

Audience adaptation, relevance, and a focus on WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) are great guides to follow when creating any type of content. In class, we devote weeks to various forms of audience analysis–audience questions, an audience needs map, Nancy Duarte’s audience questions from Resonate, and audience interviews. But, I’ve not done the same type of in-depth audience research in my blog. To be frank, I’ve taken for granted that the subject is what drives readership, but what if my content isn’t tailored to the audience’s who most often draw inspiration from Tweak Your Slides? Hyatt’s advice is to create an audience survey, distribute it among readers, and then write a followup post with insights and observations. Creating this type of survey can help bloggers create content that is user-centered, not writer-centered.

2. Create a powerful headline

I am sure that by now you are familiar with the types of attention grabbing headlines created by sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed. There’s something about these titles that draws the reader in and helps cut through the cacophony of social media feeds. Much of the success of sites like these comes from the genius of founders like Jonah Peretti, who devote years to studying the anatomy of a sticky idea.  BuzzFeed and Upworthy headlines are often the epitome of the Heath brothers’ sticky concept–attention grabbing, jarring, memorable. A blog post title similarly has to break through the noise to manifest as signal. Hyatt suggests three excellent strategies for blog posts titles that stick: first, create a numbered sequence headline (“Five ways to…”); second, create a provocative question headline (“Are you….”); thirdly, create a how to headline, especially since blog readers often want to learn a new facet of your core subject.

3. Make your posts easy to share

Though I tend to rely on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress to spread word of my posts for me, there are several other useful tools out there that can help you help others share your work. Hyatt introduces viewers to several tools, namely AddThis and ShareThis, that can increase shareability (whether it is other sharing your work or others reading more of your work). I particularly like the content recommendation tools available as they not only lead readers to other content related to a specific post but also allow you to link readers to other awesome blogs on the subject.

What are your tips for writing blog posts? Whose blogs are unbeatable for consistent, relevant, worthwhile content?

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Narratives: Why do we tell stories?

I have been working as a teacher and instructional designer for 10 years, and in speaking to a fellow teacher today, I realized that one of the reasons I love teaching so much is because I love creating learning content. I’ve been working on this latest deck for quite a while, I’ll contextualize it with some lessons I use to teach narrative writing and speaking in a classroom. I’ll be revising this and tying it to speech, as storytelling is an integral part of a great presentation.  That segment will feature the lovely work with storytelling done by Nancy Duarte in Resonate, the new textbook for my class, Professional Communication and Presentation. If you are a leader, follower, teacher, student, professional, parent, communicator–which we all are, you must read this book. This time, I’ll focus on narrative writing.

I created this deck to go along with this content. Another behemoth…

What is Narrative Writing?

Think about the conversations you have with your friends, the timelines you see on your Facebook page, the songs your favorite artists write about their lives, the stories your parents and grandparents told you. These are all narratives, personal stories that share a lesson or reflect on an experience with the reader. Some writers create essays that are entirely narratives, but narrative structures are also a great way to organize different kinds of writing and can be an important part of a persuasive message.  So, why do we tell so many stories?

7 Reasons Narratives are Useful and Powerful (Source):

They are real

They are interesting

They are human

They are easy to tell

They are memorable

They move people

They are universal

How to use stories and narrative writing.

  • Make your narrative relevant to the experience and interests of your audience. A narrative should have a point to it that your readers can easily grasp and readily identify with.
  • Every great narrative has both a series of events and a moment of reflection.
  • A good narrative puts information in perspective. It doesn’t replace information.
  • A good story paints a picture. It helps your listeners “see” what you’re saying.  Great stories make abstract ideas concrete.
  • Make something happen in the story. It should happen in a specific time and place. Make the characters in your story sympathetic and real.

Before you create your own narrative essay, we will practice via a few activities to sharpen your narration and storytelling muscles:

It’s all in the Details

Great narratives and stories appeal to our five senses, using concrete language to place the reader within the writer’s experience. Details and specifics engage readers by bringing an experience to life, allowing the reader to become a part of the story. Still not convinced details matter? Does the following sound familiar?

A farm boy with big dreams runs across two robots and an old man. Together they set off on an adventure with a captain and his first mate to save a princess and destroy an evil fortress. After some adventures and challenges, the boy and his companions rescue the princess and save the day.

The preceding is the plot of George Lucas’ Star Wars. Would the story have had as much impact without those details? Without concrete language, the story falls flat and leaves the reader wanting more. These details are often used to create a fuller picture of the narrative’s important themes, places, and people.

So, how do you create a story that’s more than just a series of events? Think about what makes Star Wars exciting, the dynamic between the characters, the beautiful scenery, the plot twists, and challenging situations. All of these create an impacting story. So, use reasons, examples, names, numbers, and senses to help you bring your narrative to life.

Narrative writing also follows certain conventions in terms of structure. There are varied perspectives on what makes a strong narrative structure, from Freytag’s Triangle:

(Source: Paul Gorman)

to Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle

(Source: Nancy Duarte, Duarte Design)

To Ira Glass, This American Story writer and personality. Check out his building blocks of a great story here:

My friend and colleague Jaclyn Sullivan shares this gem from Kurt Vonnegut, who discusses here the shape of stories. Watch Vonnegut make sense of the age old boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl story.

In class, we study and practice this by working on a few activities, including a mini-discussion (my sneaky way of making students take an active role in their learning journeys) and a mini-saga flash story assignment. See them here.

What do you think makes a story great? What narratives–true stories about our experiences–have you read that impacted you?

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