January 26, 2017 by Kathryn Kuttis
To make your writing better you need to write more. This is what I tell students in my advanced writing lab at the School of Journalism and Communication.
Blogging is a great way to practice writing on a regular basis. I ask public relations students to blog twice week to build their strategic communication muscles and get them used to writing more frequently.
A good blog post is not like writing a text or an email. It’s focused on a clear topic and relies on research (usually in the form of links) to provide knowledge that is useful or relevant to a specific audience.
Students can use their blogging assignment to build their digital footprint, create an expertise platform and establish industry connections. While students won’t build much of a following in just eight weeks, their blog posts will create a digital record that shows how they think and where they find news and information.
According to Chad Brooks, a senior writer at Business Insider, “The number of hiring managers using social media to investigate job candidates has grown immensely over the past 10 years.” A blog can demonstrate writing skills and show how you approach content creation. Even just a few well-written blog posts can help a potential employer get to know a student during the hiring process.
As far back as 2012, I started to notice articles (like this one from Fast Company) that say blogging is dead. While the blogging community is far from dead, it is shifting. In this article from the Harvard Business Review, author Alexandra Samuel explains why blogs are old fashioned compared to LinkedIn and Medium.
Either way the ability to create content for a specific audience is a powerful communication tool. Here five tips for writing a blog:
Tip #1: Give yourself time to conduct research and consider your topic. Use links to bring other sources of information into your post.
Tip #2: Use direct simple language rather than overly complex sentences that try to “sound” authoritative. Shorter sentences usually have a greater impact.
Tip #3: Rely on industry news and current headlines for inspiration. You need to keep posts relevant to grab and maintain reader interest.
Tip #4: Avoid emotional language and too many personal observations. Be useful to your reader as a curator of information. Be informative rather than informal.
Tip #5: Always include an image (preferably your own) and a headline that connects with your audience.
Each week students will post one blog that is a response to a blog kernel (from industry news and headlines) and one of their own choice. Oh and before we get started, you might want to print out Austin Kleon’s Life of a Project and hang it near your workspace. It’s a reassuring visual that offers a sanity check at every stage of the writing process.
For students in my class, here are your kernels for this week. Use any kernel you like even if it’s not the one most closely related to your topic. Also you are welcome to respond to the discussion questions or not. Feel free to pursue your own line of inquiry.
Reaction in Creswell: Fire Two Administrators (Register Guard) How did the school and administrators respond to the incident? What are the issues related to personal technology for public figures. Who else is quoted in the story?
#OscarsSoWhite’s April Reign: Films are more black this year, ‘not more diverse’(LA Times) Has the Academy responded to hashtag campaigns? Does social media reshape cultural norms? How are celebrities and organizations supporting or rejecting the Academy’s reaction?
Free beauty products, other perks mean this PR firm only employs women (NYPost) What are influencers? Why is it important to understand your audiences? How do company’s use PR to connect customers with beauty products?
How AI Will Impact PR (Adweek) How did optimized news feeds leave readers shocked by the 2016 election? How could AI impact PR this year?
Bill Simmons Instagrams his anti-ESPN Starbucks cup (Cnet) How have social media platforms changed the way brands communicate? Do you think Bill Simmons said his name was “ESPN Sucks”
U2 Expand Joshua Tree Tour After Astronomical Ticket Sales (Paste) How does U2’s manager support messaging for their target audience? What is the communications approach for this tour? How are they promoting the tour on social media?
Politics of the front row: PR powerhouse reveals the rules of fashion show seating (Independent) How does PR play a role in a runway show? Who’s in the audience? How are the establishment rules shifting?
Lawsuit in U.S. says Coca-Cola downplays risks of sugary drinks (Reuters) How do nonprofits raise awareness for social issues? Is a nonprofit a more credible source of information than a corporation or government agencies?
Airbnb is on a mission to handle your entire holiday with Trips (Wired) What are the key messages used to explain Trips? How do they reflect current cultural sentiment?
Athlete-Turned-Trucker Works To Improve Truckers’ Health (NPR) How does his campaign connected with audiences? What is he doing for the industry? How are they supporting him?
U.S. government scientists go ‘rogue’ in defiance of Trump (Reuters) Social media is changing institutions and the way democracy works. How are new communication channels altering the traditional media landscape in government?
Facebook Stories puts a Snapchat clone above the News Feed (TechCrunch) Is visual story telling taking over social media? Who’s using stories and what are they sharing?