If you ever thought about starting an education blog, this post is for you! Earlier this month I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a blogging seminar hosted by the Bellwether Education Partners. I re-learned so much about writing, and it's my pleasure to share a few of the many takeaways from the seminar with you. Blog on!
1. Headlines are Golden: As a blogger, your currency is in clicks, and your headline is your billboard advertisement. What good is a superbly written, intellectually stimulating post if no one reads it? Make your headlines clear, concise, in the active voice, and as "sexy" as possible. There are a million different blogs, so bland or confusing titles will most likely get passed by. Bonus Tip: Don't "click troll" by making a sensational title to draw people in but not deliver in the post. Tricking readers is no way to build a following.
2. Avoid Politically Correct Euphemisms: I got a professional critique of "I'm Overweight: An Authentic Assessment," a post I thought was good but got very few page views. Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller thought my writing was great, but told me to call a spade a spade: My title should have been "I Am Fat: An Authentic Assessment." Doing so would have compelled more people to click on my piece about how teachers can work to curb childhood obesity. A little self-deprecation is worth it to spread such an important message. (But for the record, I am voluptuous, not fat!).
3. Use Listicles: This blog is a listicle; I am listing the key takeaways from my blogging seminar. Magazines in the check out aisle have mastered listicles: "7 Ways to Make Him Love You Forever" or "6 Days to Rock-hard Abs." Try to keep your list short.
4. Unleash the Power of Narrative: Storytelling predates writing and is one of the most powerful tools in blogging. You can captivate readers with a good story that they will remember for years. But the blogger must craft them carefully. Keep the stories short, but vivid, poignant. Take this a six-word narrative from Ernest Hemingway: "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn."
5. Lead with a Strong Lede: The lede is the first paragraph or so of your blog and its quality determines if a reader will read to the very end. Writing the lede is the hardest part, but once you've done it the piece will practically write itself. In other words, a good lede leads to good writing. Bonus Tip: Read your lede aloud to a friend. It will help your writing immediately! The point is not to get feedback but for you to notice what is working and not working. Sorry, it just doesn't work if you do it alone.
6. Post Daily: Don't do this if you are a teacher! You will become a bad teacher if you are blogging every day! I blog every Wednesday, and even that's difficult to manage at times. But if you are not in the classroom and want to take your blog to the next level, post daily. Sometimes even posting a quote or a picture will do. Bonus Tip: Use social media to get your blog out there. Facebook and Twitter are the minimum requirement.
7. Use Visuals: MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein loves charts. He advised us to post pictures, photos, graphics, charts and any other visual that will support the content in your post. Readers appreciate it. (This is an area I'm working on.)
8. Write from the Heart: I didn't learn this tip at the blogging seminar. It's what I live by. Your blog will exist in the blogosphere forever, so it had better be coming from the heart or it might haunt you for the rest of your life. And when in doubt, take that tidbit of information out until you are sure. Be authentic and true to what you believe in. Make your blog an extension of you. Bonus Tip: Your ideal size is 750 words or less.
Special thanks to all the blogging seminar presenters: Andy Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education and TIME "School of Thought" columnist; Carl Cannon, editor of RealClearPolitics; Matt Lewis, senior contributor for The Daily Caller, Sommer Mathis, editor of The Atlantic Cities; Ezra Klein, editor of The Washington Post's Wonkblog and an MSNBC and Bloomberg contributor; Jennifer Nedeau, associate director of public relations of Time Inc. News Group; Megan Carpentier, executive editor of The Raw Story; and Rachael Brown, an associate with Bellwether Education Partners and the person who planned the blogging seminar.