Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Advocacy Made Easy: Writing a Blog Post

You may have seen my past posts in my Advocacy Made Easy series. (If you want to see them, type "Advocacy Made Easy" into the search bar of this blog) I'll admit up front that this particular action - writing a blog post - isn't as ready-made for step-by-step instructions as other advocacy actions. It requires creativity, introspection, and a willingness to put your views out into the public that many other actions don't.

I'm still stumbling along in this journey to create compelling posts, but here are a few lessons I've learned that I can share with you about creating blog content.

EPIC Format Still Works
I use the EPIC writing format for writing letters to Congress and letters to the editor. There's nothing wrong with using this tried and true method for a blog post. A blog tends to be more free flowing than a formal letter, so it's okay if you just want to write 6 or 7 haikus about your topic. Nevertheless, for informing readers and asking them to take an action, nothing beats a good EPIC piece of writing. "EPIC" is a handy mnemonic for remembering an order of statements to build your case for an action and engage your reader. Here it is:

Engage: Grab the reader's attention with a question or a startling statement. You could use a surprising statistic or a question. 
Problem: State the problem that you want the reader to address. 
Inform (or Illustrate): Inform the reader of the solution or illustrate how the solution can help. 
Call to Action: CLEARLY state what you want the reader to do. It's best if you can do it in the form of a question that should be answered with a "yes" or a "no."

THINK Before You Post
There are plenty of bloggers making names for themselves by being edgy, negative, or snarky. However, my advice to you, especially if you are just starting out and haven't found your voice yet, is to play it positive. It seems like the online universe trends toward the negative side of things. Isn't there enough name calling and disrespect out there? Why add to it? Remember, once you put something negative and nasty out there, you can't take it back once it starts being shared and re-tweeted.

I found a sign in the hallway at an elementary school and thought that its message is even more applicable to bloggers than school children. It encourages kids to think before they speak and ask themselves about what they are about to say: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

I strive to hold similar standards in my blog posts. I want this blog to be uplifting and inclusive, so I also give consideration to "Who might I be alienating with the way this draft is written?" I know I don't always get it right, but stopping to think before posting helps a great deal.

Use Pictures (your own pictures!)
Pictures are a great way to get someone to click on your blog and hold attention. They don't even have to be award winning photography. Just something to give the brain a break from a solid wall of text. Case in point: In the bullet suggestion above, I could have just listed out the bullet points of the "Think Before You Speak" poster. But it was more interesting looking at the quilt-like bulletin board that a teacher spent a good amount of time putting together, wasn't it? I've taken pictures of legos spilled on my floor and heaps of my own dirty laundry to make my points. The main thing is that you own the pictures you use or credit the person who does own the photo (ideally with his or her permission). You can also purchase stock photos on websites for not much money if you wish. Sometimes if I don't have a good photo, I might simply draw a quick sketch like this one I used on a blog about sadness.

Be Sincere and Find Your Own Voice
Frank Gilbert, English teacher and fellow RESULTS advocate, guides his students in the art of finding their own writing styles. He tells them, (paraphrased) "If anyone ever tells you that they can hear your voice when they read your writing, then you know you have found your genuine writing voice." When I began this blog, my own writing was quite stilted and - frankly - extremely boring. If you don't believe me, you can read my post from 2007 about the Farm Bill. Or - better yet - don't bother unless your having difficulty sleeping and want to be lulled to unconsciousness. Over time, I found that many more people respond to my posts when I write as if I'm writing an email to a friend. Sure, a post should be more strict about grammar (see Weird Al Yankovic's "Word Crimes" if you don't understand why) than your twitter feed. So, be casual while also being correct. Please also accept my apologies for the unintentional typos you may be reading over in this very post. Additionally, when I became more authentic in sharing who I am - a nerdly stay-at-home mom of two - and shared my opinions through that particular perspective, my posts became more interesting to more people.

Like I said, I'm still growing and learning. If you have more pieces of advice for new (or old) bloggers, please share them in the comments. I'd love to hear it!


Paula Kiger said...

You covered so much ground in this post!! I'll post my "top 10 tips for new bloggers" on the FB link where you posted today .... this is a comprehensive list but I will additional concur strongly with "you gotta be you" as in don't think you have to sound like an "expert" re: a cause you support. Your have to sound like a passionate believer. AND .... have a plan/be prepared to respond articulately and even handedly when people disagree, which they will when the topic is one that stirs up emotions. Great list though!! :-)

CCYL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CCYL said...

Thanks, Paula! I loved your suggestions and think everyone should read them. I think "How do I respond to negative, nasty comments?" was something that took a long time for me to learn, so it's worth it for us to share with newbie writers. Sometimes it's best not to respond at all, but if I feel there is a real chance for dialogue, my favorite response is to start with "I can tell by your comment how passionate you are about this issue..." and invite them to take constructive action :)

Unknown said...

Playing it positive. Good advice, Cindy!

Felisa Hilbert said...

Great post Cindy! I love your suggestions and I agree, being passionate and positive is the way to be... I believe is being kind and respectful to other people feelings.

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