Let’s Talk About Blog Slump

Rachel Lovinger   January 29, 2014
Huh? Just blogging. Did we doze off for a second? Photo by Jonas Löwgren

Opps! Where does the time go? It seems like just a moment ago I was promising part 2 of an article would be “coming soon.” I blinked, and 3 months had passed. There were even three thoughtful and interesting responses to that piece that we hadn’t gotten around to approving! Rather than just make a bunch of excuses, we thought we’d turn our content strategy lens on ourselves and talk about why it’s difficult to keep a blog like this going, and what could be done about it.

But let’s start with some excuses. Er, reasons.

1. We’re a pretty vocal group.

As a community we’ve been talking online, in print, and at conferences. A lot has been said, and we love it. But we also want to make sure that we’re adding something new and different to the conversation. As content strategists we value thoughtful communication and we want to talk when we know that we have something to say, and we know why we’re saying it.

2. Content Strategists are busy.

With all that talking, we’ve done a pretty good job of announcing our arrival on the scene. And now we’re in demand. So we’re digging in and getting to work. This was what we were hoping for! But it leaves less time for doing things like writing blog posts.

3. When we do talk about something, we have a lot to say.

When we started this blog, we thought it would be easy to do short pieces. But once you get us started on a topic we’re passionate about, we have to put all our thoughts out there. Instead of 300-400 words, our posts tend to be 800-1000 words or more. This isn’t inherently a problem, but it may seem more daunting for busy people who want to contribute.

So, what can we do about it? What does it take to keep a blog going? We decided to ask some friends-of-S/G (the ones who have been keeping their or their company’s blogs going pretty steadily) to share some advice. Here’s the wisdom that they shared with us.

 

Find something interesting to write about

The most critical part of keeping a blog going is having something to say. Here are some of the places our friends find inspiration:

Nicole FentonSwell Content:
“I read a lot of books and articles from other disciplines. I take notes and highlight passages that interest me. I keep a log of things I might want to write about, or pull into my writing practice, such as design thinking or ways of seeing new problems. I also listen for questions or recurring issues my clients need help understanding.”

Georgy CohenMeet Content:
“I think one thing that helps with Meet Content is being attentive to our community – through our Higher Ed Web Content LinkedIn group, Twitter, and other online watering holes. But I also pay attention outside of the immediate higher education industry to trends and innovations in other fields, particularly online journalism, which I can then bring back to the higher ed context.”

Rahel Anne Bailie, Intentional Design:
“When I find a topic that I don’t think anyone is explaining well, I figure I will fill that gap. If I’m not on the money, so be it. At least it will spark some conversation. And that conversation can turn into another blog post. When I write something and people start discussing it, I’m encouraged. It’s a cycle. For the Summer of DITA series of posts, I had joined a summer writing challenge led each year by a writer friend of mine. That gave me a commitment – like Weight Watchers – so I figured out a different aspect for each post as I went along.”

Colleen Jones, Content Science:
“Feed off of questions from clients, stakeholders, or other people who are interested but “new” to content strategy. These questions often shed light on a newbie’s point of view and sometimes force us to question our assumptions. And, if you answered the questions in some form, then you probably have a start on your post. (Content reuse in action!)”

Ian Alexander, EAT Agency:
“I try to make it as personal as I can. The practice of UX/CS contains these zen-koan-like life lessons that cross over from home to work and back again. Kids Play with Rocks All the Time – was inspired by my sons playing on the front porch – 10 balls were available but they were drawn to throwing rocks. So instead of forcing them to play with the balls I turned it into a lesson about what rocks can do – early hammer, start fire, build houses, etc.”

 

Don’t go it alone

It’s a lot easier if you’re not trying to do it all yourself. Here on Scatter/Gather, we’re happy to have contributions from the content strategists in all Razorfish offices. And we love to bring in the thoughts of our colleagues in the industry. Here are some of our friends’ tips on how you can get help from others:

Kate Kiefer LeeMailChimp:
“Get lots of people around the office involved and invested in the blog, give them guidelines, and help them become confident writers. When you’re in a slow period, there will be plenty of people you can tap on the shoulder to write about their work.”

Colleen JonesContent Science:
“Talk to interesting people about their experience, success, or useful perspective on content strategy. We often turn the conversation into an interview that we publish on our blog.”

Georgy CohenMeet Content:
“If there is a shared area of concern or challenge, that may be a great opportunity to pull together people we know have smart things to say on the topic.”

Speaking of getting help from others, we noticed that a lot of content strategy blogs that had previously been entering a slump were reenergized this winter by a fun experiment from @blogsecretsanta. People signed up via twitter, were assigned a secret santa at random, and then each person wrote an anonymous post for someone else’s content strategy blog. You can read all the resulting posts (and maybe find some new blogs to follow) on Secret Santa’s 2013 blogroll.

 

Go easy on yourself

If there’s one thing we realized from looking around at our colleagues’ blogs, it’s that everyone goes through a slump. Sometimes it lasts a few months, sometimes it’s years. So, if you go a little longer than usual without a post, don’t be too hard on yourself. Here’s what our peers had to say about setting reasonable goals:

Rahel Anne BailieIntentional Design:
“Part of what I did was to set my bar lower. If I set a once-every-two-months schedule, I’m not as stressed as I’d be on a bi-weekly schedule.”

Colleen JonesContent Science:
“Find a balance between being chained to a schedule and having absolutely nothing planned. We aim to publish a post every week, but we will not force a post if it isn’t ready. And conversely, if we publish a planned post and then have some news to share, we’ll post twice in one week. Also, our editorial calendar tends to be high-level and focused on topics and themes. It gives us direction without making us feel burdened.”

There’s a lot of great, practical advice. Now we’re going to go work on some more posts.

One Response

  1. Good advice here about looking for gaps, and making connections outside of our immediate discipline.

    A few months ago I started a new blog devoted to content strategy called Story Needle: storyneedle.com My goal is to focus on areas I feel are important but maybe not getting discussed with as much depth as I’d like to see. Some topics I’ve been writing about include personalization, the content experience, and how to apply content strategy to “big content” – really large scale content operations.

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