Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blogs: a writer’s store window

Notes for the National Writers Union, DC Chapter
Thursday, October 26
Alice Marshall
Presto Vivace, Inc.

I am Alice Marshall, founder of Presto Vivace, Inc., a PR firm specializing in small and medium size technology firms. My blog is called Presto Vivace Blog.

I am not much of a believer in presentation software, so I will just speak from my notes.

How many here have their own blogs?
How many here read blogs?
How many here are doubtful about the whole proposition?

The Internet and social software (blogs, wikis, podcasting, YouTube, etc.) will change our society as profoundly as the Gutenberg press changed Europe. Nobody knows where this is all going. This presentation is not about blogging, the meaning of it all, it is simply about how writers can use their blogs as a showcase for their work and a loss leader for their marketing.

I started blogging because I thought it would be fun. If you don’t think you would enjoy it, you probably would not be a good blogger. Since my clients are local technology companies my blog focuses on the local technology scene.

Your blog is a free sample of your writing. By reading your blog potential clients and employers will get a sense of your work and how you would write for them. So a professional blog should focus on your field.

Choose you subject and stay focused.
A narrow focus will help you to build and audience by attracting readers in that field.

Presto Vivace Blog averages 100 hits a day. I have 95 subscribers on Bloglines RSS feeder and another six on Feedburner. Most RSS readers do not publish subscriber numbers for blogs, so I have no way to know how many readers I have. Blogging software makes it possible to limit the amount of your post available to RSS readers. I strongly advise you not to do this. Almost all your regular readers will never visit your blog. They won’t subscribe to feeds that cut off posts.

Joshua Micah Marshall’s blog, Talking Points Memo, started as a loss leader. He wanted a place for opinion columns and stories he could not sell to editors. It just blossomed into an online news organization. He was early to market, I don’t think it is likely anyone could duplicate his business model.

Ideally your blog should be part of your corporate website. Otherwise you should incorporate your or your company’s name into the blog URL. For example, it would have been better had I chosen That way, it would have reinforced the brand both with readers and search engines. I originally called it Technoflak blog because the humor of it appealed to me. Blogs should not be too serious. Readers like light hearted blogs.

Your sidebar will tell your readers what sort of blog you are writing. Most sidebars consist of the other blogs the writer recommends or news publications they like. My sidebar starts with professional and trade associations that are likely to appeal to my clientele.

Your sidebar should not be your reading list, either blog or news organization, but reading matter directly related to your blog. You want to keep a professional image, I don’t recommend Fark or The Onion.

Don’t confuse the world with people who care about your personal life (unless you are striving to be the next Erma Bombeck). Keep your subject matter professional. It’s OK to publish the occasional picture of your pet or mention a movie you saw. Just keep in mind why your reader reads your blog. I try to inform my readers about things that would help them make money. That is why I publish Call for Participation for conferences and related information.

Push as Well as Pull
Cultivate relationships with other bloggers in your field. The best way to get inbound links (according to Technorati I have 49 links from 33 blogs, it used to be twice that) is to link to other blogs in your or related fields. High traffic blogs are unlikely to reciprocate your link, but lower traffic blogs are likely to appreciate inbound links. It is no longer considered good taste to ask for link exchanges, although that was common in 2004.

I created a blogdigger group of local tech blogs as a way of cultivating a relationship with the local tech community. Constantin Basturea became a leader in the PR community by creating the blogdigger PR list and the NewPR wiki. More recently he created CrispyPR New, which is a kind of social tagging site.

Use Blogging Software Meant for Professionals Right from the Start
Don’t make my mistake. Don’t use Blogger. Use Six Apart’s Typepad or Moveable Type software, or WordPress, or software that has categories and tagging. By incorporating tags (those little symbols you see at the end of posts) . These tools make it easier for readers to search your blog and more likely that it will be tagged in social software sites like and Digg.

Post regularly and carefully
Regular posts (ideally daily) will encourage readers to regularly check your blog. Remember that this is your showcase. Think before you press the publish button.

Pay a copy editor for long pieces.
Occasional I write long pieces. For these posts I pay a copy editor. A second pair of eyes is very useful, especially if your grammar is a tad uncertain.

Original Content Makes for Well-Read Posts
One to the things I do with my blog is write account of the meetings I attend. Links to these posts can then be sent to members of the group, or even posted on their discussion list. It is way of building your audience in a way that builds your relationship with a community. Do not spam links to your posts. Carefully select your recipients. When I did an interview the Fred Thomas of MHz Networks, I sent the link out to the DC Pubs Yahoo discussion list. I assumed, correctly, that many on the list would be interested.

I wrote a series of accounts of meetings of the Federal XML Work Group which I sent to many federal contractors I know.

These are examples of how individual posts can be used as a substitute for direct mail. I wrote a post about my view of strategic PR and sent it around. It was linked on Bulldog Reporter’s BlogRun feature. Posts with original content are the most likely to be linked by other blogs.

Blogs are A marketing tool, not THE marketing tool
Blogs offer a way to showcase your work. They offer a way for readers to get to know you before they hire you. They are a useful tool and I recommend them.

Related reading
What's Next Blog's Successful Bloggers Interviews: Alice Marshall on How to Use a Blog to Get Clients
How to pitch bloggers

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