I’ve published 768,000 words on my blog, but some of the best posts will never see the light of day.
In this, my 1000th article, I’ll reveal 10 lessons I’ve learned from eight years of blogging.
I’ll share mistakes I’ve made, how I overcome writer’s block, the importance of ethics and why I make up my own rules.
It’s been an incredible adventure to date. Thank you for continuing to read my thoughts and for sharing yours.
I’ll let you into a secret. Of the 1000 articles, I have 41 drafts and 17 in the bin.
That’s 18,337 words that will never see the light of day.
They’re a stream of consciousness from eight years of my life.
Why didn’t they go live?
Some are too personal (including a few rants that were cathartic, but right to keep unpublished).
Others are half-formed ideas, or quotes. I regularly revisit them and publish/delete/keep.
Talking of deleting, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made includes deleting my whole subscriber list a few years back, and not too long ago I accidentally deleted the whole content of my Masterclasses website.
Thankfully my wonderful husband has got me out of many a technical jam over the past eight years while I’ve taught myself, grappled with WordPress and blogged late in to the night. Thank you Jon!
Here are my 10 lessons:
- Give yourself time to evolve
- Find your niche
- Be picky
- Write evergreen content
- Reuse your thoughts
- Overcome writer’s block
- Find content ideas
- Ask for feedback
- Promote your work
- Enjoy it.
Lesson one: Give yourself time to evolve
It takes time to find a style, tone and topic that you are completely at home with. Give yourself time to let that process happen. It’s never too late to stop it and try again with a different approach or idea.
How my blog looks today is dramatically different to when I launched Life through a 2.0 lens in 2009. Yikes!
I was working full-time in-house as a Senior IC Manager in the railway, and studying a post-graduate diploma in Internal Communication Management at Kingston University, London.
I was researching social media’s potential use for internal communication.
I created my blog in 2009 to share interesting information I found, give my views and provide a space to document what I discovered.
Now, in January 2017, its purpose largely remains the same. But hearing from readers and featuring their views as guest posts has been an important evolution.
Tip: It is ok to evolve your style, topics and branding and not have it totally nailed at launch.
I’m constantly experimenting and am excited to say I will be unveiling a brand new website and blog very soon, as my own evolution is ongoing. (Site is now live – it launched in May 2017)
My blog has been called: Life through a 2.0 lens then Diary of an internal communicator, before becoming All Things IC in 2013. It’s also been under various URLs.
I’ve evolved my ideas, style and technique over the years. I’ve dabbled with a YouTube channel and podcasts, launched an app, had a weekly column on Sunday mornings and taught myself how to use websites like Canva to create images for my site.
I’m constantly learning how to blog. I’m working out loud and experimenting.
Style-wise, being aware of having a global readership means I write things like “here in London” or explain British phrasing.
In 2013 I introduced a glossary of internal communication to help readers bust through some of the internal comms jargon.
Stats show my most frequent visitors come from the following countries: UK, US, Australia, Canada and India. There are approximately 170 countries on the list including Uzbekistan, Samoa, Yemen, Cambodia and Naura.
This didn’t just happen, you need to find your style, but be open to ideas and willing to try new things. I blog anywhere and everywhere. More on this later…
Lesson two: Find your niche
Want to write a blog? You need to be consistent and keep creating content.
If you can think of endless ideas for your topic, it’s the right one for you.
If you think you’ve found your topic, write 10 headlines or story ideas. Then 10 more. Then 10 more.
Hard? Easy? You’ll quickly know if you have enough passion for the subject.
Tip: Want to write about a topic but not sure you have enough ideas for your own blog? You could combine writing with someone else, invite guest bloggers to your site or offer to write about it for other people.
Tip: Read, read, read. If you have a feeling for what your niche is, research the market and see who else is writing about a similar topic. Subscribe to blogs, follow the authors and topic on social media and absorb yourself in it.
I specialise in internal communication and now run All Things IC Masterclasses, which are a joy. Bringing professional communicators together to help them learn, solve problems and network is a dream come true.
Lesson three: Be picky
I’ve learnt how to say no. Constantly.
Blogging is personal, but I’m a huge believer that you gain more when you give.
As a result I have:
- never accepted payment to blog
- never placed adverts on my blog
- never installed a paywall
- never locked content behind screens that require readers to submit their email.
This probably breaks every cardinal rule of blogging and what every book tells you to do.
However, this works for me and feedback from readers shows it works for you too.
I do have one form of paid content – I introduced job adverts to fund my maternity leave in 2014/15. It was successful in providing me with paid time with my twin sons. Thank you.
I’ve made up the rules.
At £50+VAT per vacancy per week, it’s more cost-effective to advertise on than many other job sites, but feedback shows readers enjoy knowing what jobs are on the market. The associated account @AllthingsICjobs on Twitter is growing.
The Head of Comms for the Department for Exiting the European Union I posted a few weeks back was shared 2.2k times!
Sometimes I place job adverts on my website for free. This is my blog, so is my choice. Reasons are usually if it’s a client, a brand I love, a charity that’s important to me or I have a friend who works there.
I posted the Brexit one for free because I know I have a large network of awesome comms pros, and that role needs all the help it can get!
You never know when kindness pays off.
I chose to advertise the Director of IC role at LEGO last year. It was a job which brought me to a crossroads professionally as on paper it’s my dream role.
However, after careful thought, I realised I love running All Things IC consultancy too much to go back in-house. Even for LEGO! So I didn’t apply.
A few months later, at #thebigyak unconference, a contact of mine approached me to tell me she was about to start working at LEGO. She’d spotted the role on my website and wanted to say thank you.
As a result, I went to visit her last month and had a wonderful time exploring her London office and geeking out about LEGO. (I also earned “cool Aunty” points with my nephews, which are worth their weight in gold).
The only way is ethics
Working ethically and with integrity is important to me and are at the heart of All Things IC consultancy.
It’s why I have a disclosure policy (e.g. if I am provided with a free ticket to an event or conference, I will declare it and write about the event in the way I would as a paying customer. I also disclose the fact I have an Amazon Associates account).
Being picky means saying no.
Companies pitch at me daily because they want their products or services featured on my blog.
I say no 99 per cent of the time. They’ve usually not read my guidelines, researched what topics will resonate or even bothered to find out my name.
Tip: Sending me a message that starts “Dear blogger” does no one any favours and guarantees I will not reply to you.
Tip: If you are a blogger, think about who you want to align your brand with. You can afford to be choosy, even if you think you can’t.
Being picky also means saying yes and creating opportunities
I’ve featured more than 150 guest writers on my blog, the majority are in-house comms pros sharing their fantastic stories.
Thank you to everyone who has written for this site, I’m grateful for your time in helping add to the community of knowledge about internal communication.
People tell me being featured has helped them get jobs, improve their portfolio and demonstrate their commitment to internal communication. It makes me feel proud to hear my blog has played a small part in your success.
Lesson four: Write “evergreen” content
Every day at least 100-200 people read my How to write an internal communication strategy article.
Tip: If you’re looking to increase traffic to your blog, find timeless topics to write about.
I realised that a few years ago, and now add “evergreen” content that doesn’t date. For example my articles on How to carry out internal communication audits, How to measure communication and How to get a job in IC are read regularly.
What could you add to your blog?
Top 10 articles
Some of the most popular posts are a couple of years old, but are still read thousands of times each month:
- Who’s using what for internal social media? 151,797 views. June 2013.
- Defining social business. 147,099 views. May 2013.
- How to write an internal communication strategy. 124,683 views. April 2014.
- How big companies state their visions and mission. 115,261 views. November 2013.
- How internal comms pros use social media. 110,930 views. November 2013.
- How Coca-Cola shared a Coke with its employees. 109,743 views. August 2013.
- How to use Twitter’s new emergency comms tool. 108,510 views. November 2013.
- Top 30 under 30 in internal comms named. 103,395 views. November 2013.
- How TfL is communicating 24 Tube changes internally. 101,184 views. November 2013.
- Research reveals collaboration is king. 85,415 views. September 2013.
Lesson five: Reuse your thoughts
I don’t do this enough! A couple of years ago I started looking at my analytics and seeing what people were searching for, and then highlighting them as #blogarchive Tweets via Twitter @AllthingsIC.
Look at what you’ve published in the past, can you update the content to be a fresh article and get benefit from all the thinking you’ve already done?
I’ve published three iterations of my how to write an internal communication strategy article. Each one gets its own swathe of traffic.
For the past three years I’ve published the All Things IC Countdown to Christmas series. I top and tail 24 articles I’ve published from guest writers that year, and produce a month of articles to point readers towards stories they may have missed.
Tip: Consider LinkedIn. I now cross-post with LinkedIn, using their writing platform to highlight what’s on my blog. It draws in new readers and reaches a different group of people.
Lesson six: Overcome writer’s block
If you are stuck in a blogging rut, don’t give up.
Some days I can’t write. And that’s ok. Some weeks I can’t write. And that’s ok.
I had some awful months last year for personal reasons, and lost my blogging mojo while I battled with other issues.
If writer’s block happens to you, give yourself time to step away, get some fresh air, read other blogs and come back to it when you feel ready. It’s also ok to walk away permanently.
I’ve never said I will publish X posts per week. Because my blog is written first and foremost for me (sorry!), I write as and when the mood takes me.
That’s probably not what any book you buy on blogging would say. However, I think it’s far better to write authentically, from the heart and when you feel compelled to.
If you prioritise quantity of articles over their quality, your readers will not stay.
Lesson seven: Find content ideas
Looking for inspiration? I’m a visual thinker, so find spending time trawling through Pinterest an invigorating thing to do. It sparks my creativity and helps generate ideas.
I have a number of secret (locked) boards on Pinterest. My thinking one is called my swipe file. It’s packed with a seemingly random collection of images, quotes, articles and colourful objects.
I pin images, quotes, screen grabs and cartoons. (I blogged a few years ago about using Pinterest for internal communication).
It’s the first place I go to when I’m asked to give a keynote speech or conference session, as they are things that have inspired me and made me think.
If you’ve ever watched me speak somewhere or worked with me, you’ll have seen some of the contents of that board.
A Tweet, video, advert or thought can spark a blog post. A press release rarely does.
I frequently mind-map and write notes in my phone or on paper with blog post ideas. I’ve been known to text myself with something I’ve not wanted to forget…
Lesson eight: Ask for feedback
Until a few years ago I didn’t describe myself as a blogger. Now I’m proud to say I am one, because it means I’m able to translate thoughts into content people identify and interact with.
That’s one of the roles of internal communication after all! So it’s a badge I wear with pride.
I’m honoured to have received awards for my blog over the years, including being named in Europe’s Best Blogs by Communication Director Magazine, being Highly Commended at the UK Blog Awards 2014, shortlisted for Best Business Blog at the UK Social Media Awards 2014 and I was recognised by Econsultancy as one of the Top UK Female Bloggers.
If you want to learn about blogging, see the National Blog Awards website for ideas, previous winners and a whole community.
I am my biggest critic and find entering awards useful to constantly improve what I do. Having your work judged and receiving constructive criticism is helpful.
Ask friends, colleagues and family to read your work. Get honest feedback and use it to help you improve.
Lesson nine: Promote your work
This sounds so obvious, but because my blog has always been personal, I often need to remind myself to promote what I’ve written!
So if you are writing, remember to share it. Choose what works for you, whether that’s pinning the images to Pinterest, Tweeting, sharing on Facebook or via Linkedin.
Tip: There are countless ways to promote your work. The intention should be for others to find it, enjoy it and comment back.
Lesson 10: Enjoy it
No one is forcing you to blog. If they are, it will show in your work.
Blogging is my creative freedom.
I’ve written posts while feeding my children, sat on a beach, in a hospital bed and in the back of cabs.
I will never abide by conventions (500 words a post anyone? Whoops, am at 2196 on this one already).
The day I stop enjoying blogging is the day I will stop blogging.
Thank you for stopping by today, whether you’re a regular or brand new reader. You’re very welcome and I hope to see you again.
Here’s to the next 1000 posts. I promise to keep making up the rules.
P.s. Want to learn about internal communication? Sign up to an All Things IC Masterclass. These are one-day courses in London.
Post author: Rachel Miller.
First published on the All Things IC blog 19 January 2017.