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Teach Blogging to Students

University Of Blogging

Blogging is a required professional skill

I got the idea for this post from a great article in a U.S. lawyer blog, and I will use some of the same quotes:

If there is a single skill that I wish law schools would focus on, it should be blogging. I know I’m biased – I’m a blogger myself – but the discipline of writing regularly combined with the urgency of getting timely posts to press – has improved my legal writing immensely. Incorporating blogging into legal education  is moronically easy.  Professors could assign students to blog about the daily lecture, relevant topics (e.g., students could blog about bankruptcy law). Doesn’t have to be every day; maybe 3-4 posts per class per semester. Blogging would also get students comfortable with blogging software which is another key skill since they could offer to blog for practicing lawyers and help build up content.

That is from an Open Letter To Law Schools by Washington lawyer Carolyn Elefant.

Should students learn blogging?

It got me thinking on two levels. One, it’s an original idea by Ms Elefant, and that’s rare enough to get my attention. Two, and this is applicable to all professions, I wondered  (yet again) what the hell are tertiary students learning nowadays? Not the ones learning a trade, presumably they study the means to ply that trade, but the ones who study law, finance, commerce, accounting – the service professions that involve graduates in the day to day affairs of real people. Obviously this is less an issue for those many graduates who enter larger firms and (perhaps) are far less exposed to the real world needs of real world clients. But what of the smaller firms who hire out of university?

And I have a personal interest in this. My son is at Monash University undertaking combined degrees in Engineering and Science, and my daughter will hopefully enter university following a gap year during which she will learn (in the real world!) how to be a volunteer youth leader. So I have some first hand knowledge of this, at least from an Australian perspective. It’s an irony that many of these tertiary students, who will one day enter service industries, are symbiotically tied to their personal technology but have little idea how to express themselves in longer form writing.

Ms Elefant again:

The importance of blogging isn’t limited to writing blogs. Students gain insight from reading (blogs). In fact, I’m not even suggesting that lawyers stick to law related blogs. I track the future of lawyer and trends …not at law sites but rather places like TechCrunch which are months ahead of anything that makes its way down to legal. What’s important is to keep current and engaged.

The future for professionals is already here

Look, everything has changed. We’re all in danger of being left behind. I’m convinced that social media is entrenched as a tool for professionals, and all too soon will be part of the set of expectations every client brings to the marketplace. For mature professionals and smaller firms who ignore this warning there is still a future, but in the end, when the dust settles in a globalised and commoditised world, the winners will be those who made the shift before their hands were forced.

What better time to start than in the very institutions in which we train to take our places in the real world?

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Should Professionals Get A Blog – Yes, No, Maybe?

The bad news about blogs for professionals

Here’s the bad news – you need a blog. I know this is not what you want to hear, and as a fellow professional, I also understand that you don’t have the time (or indeed the interest). You’re right. So let me qualify that a little – if you want to develop a content marketing strategy then you need a blog.

Which begs the question, do you need a content marketing strategy? Yes, if you want to have a real online presence. You will be told by all and sundry web designers and social media consultants that every professional must have a significant online presence to succeed in the “modem world”. But it’s not true.

Let’s say you are a professional in a high wealth boutique area (lawyers love to use this term “boutique” to describe their firms, as though it conveys something exclusive and exotic). You give advice to high income individuals about planning their retirement, or you deal mostly with the investment of assets in self managed superannuation funds of significant value. In that case you don’t need a content marketing strategy. What you need is a website – and a directory listing in Yellow Pages, and probably a membership in a professional association and a Linkedin profile to assist with networking. In other words, you are not trawling for clients – your demographic is small and clients generally find you through discrete word of mouth. Fine.

And now the good news about blogs for professionals

If you fall into the previous category well and good, but then you are part of the vast minority of Australian professionals. Now let me speak to the vast majority of us. Here’s what a blog will do for you:

It will generate traffic to your site and make Google happy, which is something we all want. Even if you do not seek a high rank in search engines (e.g. Google) it is still important to offer fresh materials for readers, otherwise you will have a moribund “static” website. Again, if that suits your purposes, well and good, but for most professionals (especially smaller suburban firms) you want an ongoing means to broadcast your expertise.

More good news – it’s not that hard to write a blog, all it takes is a little learning, and we have done that for you in one of our MatureMedia Guides on getting started with a blog. If you use WordPress (and I do and I recommend it highly) then a lot of time will be saved by using appropriate WordPress plugins. These are little pieces of software that add functionality to WordPress – for instance, I use the SEO Yoast plugin to help search engine optimisation (it’s free).

Look, don’t sell yourself short. Do you have a secret vision of grabbing your laptop (tablet or whatever) and heading down to your favourite café to write a blog? Would that gladden your heart? Then do it. You might find it opens up a creative part of your professional life you had not previously considered.

Where to start

If you want a lot of ideas about building a blog, then you might want to check out our MatureMedia Guides on these topics. Or just get in touch for a chat (free) or ask a question.

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Tell Your Clients A Story

Tell clients a story

What is your story?

Do you want to adopt a content marketing campaign that will knock the socks off the competition? Then look to a communication strategy that has been paying dividends since you were born. Really, because what I suggest is that you turn back to your youth and tell a story, just like the ones your parents read whilst you sat eagerly on your bed, straining to hear every word. You loved these stories because they had a beginning, a middle and an end. There were heroes and villains. It had a narrative. It made sense. I know you think this is not a business strategy, but it’s exactly the best way to explain who you are, what you do, and what you can do for your clients.

We all love stories – we love a narrative. Why? It’s hard to believe, but we are pretty much the same people as our ancestors in the African Savannah 130,000 years ago gazing at the fire. Same brain size as we have now. And what were they doing as they stared at that fire? They were telling stories. The delight we have in stories, and the ability to explain otherwise complicated issues by using stories, is hardwired into our brains.

Stories connect with clients

Stories connect your clients with your topic on a personal level – the right story creates empathy. The right story can help prospective clients identify with your firm, not in the cynical manner of advertising, but because you have taken the trouble to reach out and explain yourself in a way your competitors cannot replicate. Either they don’t know how, or more likely they believe it’s not “professional”. While they are elucidating the minutiae of self managed superannuation funds, you have made the same point by telling the story about one of your clients who used a self managed superannuation fund to take their dream trip around Australia in a vintage American Airstream caravan. How did they achieve this? By taking your excellent advice, that’s how.

The heart of plain English content marketing is its authenticity. That’s why consumers have now become, and will become increasingly so,  conditioned to reject the conventions of overt marketing. This is good news for professionals who can tell a story. When online, consumers adopt a different psyche than their passive radio or television counterparts, and instead identify with the “social” aspect of the media, which is unmistakably interactive compared to earlier technologies. For mature professionals, who well understand the value of effective communication, this is an opportunity to leverage already honed skills.

Stories help professionals

We love stories that have a message, and that message can certainly be commercial in nature. When she was little, my daughter used to write stories, wonderfully written, but they were just events followed by more events. One day I said to her, “in a story something has to happen and that’s why the word ‘suddenly’ is such a great word”. Off she went and returned a few hours later holding her newest creation. In this story she enjoyed a walk, bought an ice cream, went to the park, played sport, then headed home. On the way home there were people in the street and SUDDENLY they turned into aliens. She had accomplished the one thing we want to achieve with any story, even in a business website, because now I was hooked. I wanted to know what happened next.

We thrive on rich imagery – words are always better when they create an image.  If you are a lawyer describing a will, don’t assume your readers have in mind the same document you do. Instead of describing a will as a “document that deals with your estate”, try to give it some colour. “Why do you need a will? Your family are grieving, they are confused and anxious about the future. The last thing they need is to have those anxieties exacerbated by your failure to take care of their needs. Yes, you may be dead, but one of your legacies can be to take care of their needs even when you are not there to make your presence felt in a physical sense.”

Remember, intellectual understanding is overrated. Believe me, you will explain most professional concepts a lot better with metaphors and analogies than any jargon that you believe, wrongly, demonstrates your professional expertise.

Where to start

If you want a lot of ideas about building content  then check out our fee eBook on the introduction to content marketing, or just get in touch for a chat (free) or ask a question.

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photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin


Professionals Need A Blog

What is a blog?

Think a website that is updated with new articles (blogs or posts) on a regular basis. They are arranged last article first (i.e. reverse chorological order). That’s it, really. For a full explanation of blogging for professionals check out our MatureMedia Guide Blogs For Professionals.

A blog is a special type of website that can exist on its own (with a unique URL) or as part of a more diverse “hub” website. A blog is a “push” mechanism for easy syndication of content across the social media universe. Think of it as the gatekeeper, an indispensable distributor of your content that acts like a feeder road. The content can be generated with a few easily learnt techniques and built on readily available platforms (WordPress is highly recommended). There is also a plentiful supply of design professionals to build the platform for you.

I’m too old to need a blog

What’s your business profile? Are you a mature professional? Working in a suburban firm? Do you work in accounting, law, superannuation, insurance or finance? If so, you rely on word of mouth, and on the internet word of mouth spreads at light speed. Blogs are a natural fit for mature professionals because you have substantial relationship skills.

Think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to foster better relationships with clients; drive more business from them; get recommendations and word of mouth ; referrals; something to send prospective clients? All of the above? Then yes, you do need a blog.

Google loves blogs for professionals

A blog is an important part of your content  marketing strategy. Google has made it quite clear that the generation of high quality content is the main determinant of search rankings. No, it’s not the only one (in fact there are about 200 variants that figure in the Google algorithm), but it is significant. Google loves fresh content . Google loves original content . Back in 2011, Google made it clear that it’s (then) recent update was designed to achieve the highest quality possible written content. Google now rewards sites that update their content  and penalises sites that do not change their content.

Many professionals have an unfortunate belief (or have been misinformed) that to succeed in the online world they must master search engine optimisation. This is playing into a myth that will achieve nothing more than procrastination. Professionals who want to succeed online need to build content Then build more content. Then build some more. That means FAQ, a biography that reads as a narrative and not a mere recitation of a CV and much more. But mainly it means a blog, because that builds content over time that will enhance your reputation and search engine rankings. Blogging platforms (like the one that supports this blog WordPress) are designed to make it easy to create new content . You really need very little technical ability – minimal practice will get you there is no time.

Google also loves consistency – that means your readers can expect a blog post at regular intervals. And when that post is written and posted the Googlebot, which is Google’s web crawling bot (also known as “spiders”), comes along and detects new and updated content  and that improves your search engine rankings. According to Darren Rowse of Problogger, “the more you update your blog the more often Search Engines will send their crawlers to your site to index it. This will mean your new articles could appear in the index within days or even hours rather than weeks.”

Where to start

If you want a lot of ideas about building a blog  then check out our fee eBook on blogs for professionals, or just get in touch for a chat (free) or ask a question.

photo credit: Kris Olin via photopin cc


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