About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

Free Content for #Rotary and NFP Use
Please use any posts for Rotary District or club Newsletters. Include the profile at the bottom of each article, Robyn's headshot and a link to this blogsite. Let him know and he'll promote it to his social media followers.

Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Part 4: Writing and Formatting Tips to Increase Blogpost Engagement

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Writing content for blog sites or other online platforms requires a different approach than writing essays, reports or articles for magazines and newspapers. Content that effectively tells engaging stories builds communities requires thought, discipline and crafting.

Some years ago online experts believed that blog posts should never have more than 500 words. They believed that people wouldn't read longer articles. 

That has changed. While short is always good, it must not be at the expense of meaning. 

The general rule of thumb today is to write as much content as you need to tell your story. Editing and common sense will tell you when the story is finished.

A judge in my city writes posts that are 7,000 words long. He has a large following in the legal community who read every word of whatever legal position he is putting forward. 

Know Who You Are Writing For

It helps to know your audience. In the judges case, legal types are vociferous readers who want all the details pertaining to a particular opinion. 

BTRB posts are usually 900 to 1,500 words long. When my word count reaches 1,000, I decide whether the the post should stand alone or be broken into two separate articles. 

In determining length, ask these questions. 
  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What are their expectations?
  3. Do I have enough content to provide meaning?
  4. Is all the content relevant?
  5. Can I break up the content into two or more posts? 
To further complicate the discussion, a series of shorter posts will have greater ranking and SEO value than one long one. However, each story must stand alone. 

Headlines That Scream for Attention
When you write a great post, you want people to read it. Strong headlines demand attention. They show up in search engine searches. Strong headlines are easy to cut and paste into social media feeds. Add a link and you have an instant message ready for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pintrest or emails to promote your post

Taking time to write and rewrite your headline until you get it right will pay dividends. Are there stronger, shorter words? Will flipping the last part of the sentence for the first part strengthen the impact? 

"Brilliant titles motivate readers to check out
the brilliant content you have written. "

All caps makes your tone come across as 
being cranky regardless of what you
are actually trying to say
Never, ever use all-caps in a headline or email subject line. Using all-caps is equivalent of shouting online.

Keep it Positive

Use a positive, engaging tone. That rule applies to all content including serious topics like polio eradication, clean water projects, domestics abuse or addiction recovery. 

This does not mean understating the problem or being shy about writing graphic descriptions that underline the seriousness of an issue. However, keeping a positive tone can be in the form of offering hope or proposing solutions to problems.

In my branding practice, I am periodically hired to do qualitative customer surveys. There are usually a few difficult statistics, comments or indicators that we need to take back to the client. We never present bad news without suggesting ways to take action to address the problem. We offer a way forward.  

Finally, using a $1,000 word when a $100 or even a $10 word will do is to be generally avoided. The general rule is to write at a tenth grade reading level. That does not mean you are dumbing down your content. It has to do with the way people consume online content. 

People Read Posts Differently 

Different formatting is required for online writing because people read websites and blog posts differently then they read magazine or newspaper pages. 

Online content is formatted as a single column that runs the width of your screen rather than broken into two or three columns. Some online read an entire post while others quickly scan it and only read the part they are most interested in.
  1. Sentences should not include more than 10 - 15 words
  2. Paragraphs should be 2-4 sentences as a guide.
  3. Start each paragraph with a strong statement about the main topic
  4. When possible, resist starting sentences with a clause 

'Because of the need, the Rotary Club raised funds for a 
clean water project!' will become 'The Rotary Club raised funds 
for a clean water project because of the need.' 

Break it Up, Baby

Start a new section when you introduce a new idea. Write a catchy headline as a lead-in. Create sections of 2-4 paragraphs. Write sub-headlines that will guide the eye and make it easier to absorb and remember content. Sections divide content into consumable bites.

Most newspapers or magazines don't do this due to space limitations. Articles may fill an entire page without breaks due to the cost of printing. 

The judicious use of space is paramount. For them, it costs money to add an extra page. In fact, you can only add two or four pages or more. In blogging, you simply insert a page break.

Blog Post Blobs and Blurps

I periodically come across posts that have no breaks. They blather on for ever as a blob of information simply plunked on a page. If a post looks like it will be laborious to read, it probably will be.   

Make it Stand Ou

  1. Use bullet points, arrows or numbers to break up information whenever possible. Readers respond to lists. 
  1. The judicious use of white space serves a useful purpose. It highlights key information, draws the eye to it and 'relaxes' the content by making it appear looser. 
  1. Creating a graphic to profile key info will make it pop out. 
  1. Use different text colors and fonts than in the main body copy to grab attention. 
  1. Use relevant photos to increase engagement and information retention. Simply put, they add color and meaning.
  1. Use digits rather than writing numbers out. The rule does not apply when a number starts a sentence. 
  1. Start a paragraph with a question. It stimulates the cognitive process of the reader which results in deeper engagement.  

The End

What do you think? Do you publish a blog? Do you publish a blog for a service club or other not-for-profit? Do you have tips? I want to hear from you. Please comment below.  

Robyn Braley is a brand specialist, professional speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. He has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. He often speaks at Rotary clubs, conferences and leadership development assemblies.

Contact Robyn

Email: robyn@robyntbraley.com   Connect on LinkedIn Follow on Twitter: @rtbraley_rotary 

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