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How I Offended Former Australian Cricket Captain Allan Border… and Why that Makes me a Better Blogger Today

A Guest Post by Pamela Wilson from WriteSmart.

When I was a second-year cadet journalist on an Australian newspaper, my chief-of-staff gave me a coveted assignment. ‘I need you to interview Australian cricket captain Allan Border for a story about daylight savings,’ he said.
 
I grabbed my pen and notebook (both sporting L-plates) and reached for the phone, but in my heart I knew the esteemed Allan Border would never speak to a cub reporter about daylight savings.
 
I made a few phone calls anyway and discovered he was playing in the Sheffield Match in South Australia at the time. I was convinced now; there was no way he was going to interrupt a cricket match to talk to me.
 
Like a dog with a month-old bone, however, I called the Adelaide Oval and was put through to a young guy in the change-rooms. ‘Sure, you can talk to Allan. Here he comes now, he’s just finished batting,’ he said.
 
Picking myself up off the floor and stifling a swear word I promised my Grade 10 teacher I would never repeat, I racked my brain for what to say. You see, I had been so convinced I wouldn’t get to speak to Allan Border that I hadn’t done a scrap of research, nor prepared a single question.
 
Had I done the research I would have known that he was 3-1/2 years into what would be a four-year Test century drought for him, and I would never, ever, ever have said what I said next. (In my defence, though, I could never have known he had literally, 30 seconds prior to taking my call, got out for a duck.)
 
Before I had time to collect my thoughts he was on the other end of the phone, ‘Hello, Allan speaking.’ My brain went numb. I said the first thing that came to my mind. “Ummmmm, how’s your batting going?”
 
The silence was spine-chilling. Finally he said, “Are you taking the p&%* out of me?” So, I had committed an atrocious faux pas and had offended the esteemed Allan Border. But he was so gracious and, in the end, I got the page three lead anyway.
 
But in that moment when one of the world’s greatest all-time cricketers swore at me, I resolved to change my work ethic and my attitude. (But let’s face it, I don’t regret it; it gave me a darn good story that I intend to repeat to anyone who’ll listen until my dying day.)
 
From that one exchange I learned the true value of preparation and planning. These days, as a writer and very eager blogger, I strictly follow the formula touted in the popular business mantra, The Five Ps. There are a number of versions of this mantra, but I like the one that says Preparation, Planning and Practice = Perfect Performance. (I also chuck in a sixth p – passion.)
 
We cannot hope to succeed in any new venture that we attempt if we are don’t plan, prepare and put in the effort to practice our new-found skills. When I first started the WriteSmart blog I was very tempted to just begin scratching away at my computer keyboard on some half-baked post idea. But Allan Border’s dismayed question popped into my head and I took a step back. I began searching respected blog sites; I read for hours about the keys to writing compelling blog content; and I trawled through successful blogs to see how those authors did it.
 
I had been a journalist for 18 years, but I wrote for newspapers, magazines and online news sites. Blogs were a whole new genre with a completely new readership. So I munched on a slice of humble pie and sought the advice and experience of those who had helped blogging evolve into a respected genre all of its own.
 
To that end, these are the top P tips I employ in my endeavours as a blogger:
 

1. Prepare

If you are new to blogging, don’t start sprinting until you have learned how to crawl, toddle and walk-without-falling-down first. Learn all that you can about how to blog well by those who are doing it successfully. You will save yourself a lot of time and, ultimately, create a better quality product from the outset. With respect to writing posts, research the topic if you are not already an expert. Google, go to a library, interview the experts.

2. Plan

Who are you blogging for? Who is your target audience? What sort of posts do you intend to write? If you don’t plan, you may soon discover there is no central theme connecting your posts. Without a central theme, your posts may be relevant to your readers only some of the time. You want your posts to be relevant to your readers all of the time so that they don’t tune out.

3. Practice

Write, write, write. It is no secret that with practice, everyone’s skills improve. As a blogger, your main tool (yes, besides YouTube) is your ability to succinctly string words together to form engaging, creative, funny, informative sentences. So, start writing, keep writing, practice writing.

Passion

If you take to the computer like a kid takes to brussel sprouts, something has to change. You need to inject into your blogging whatever it is that you do love. Perhaps you have started a blog that centres on a topic you don’t particularly like. If so, don’t chuck it in, just change it to something that will excite and engage you. Consider changing the look of your blog to a design that is more appealing to you. Set some goals you can aim for as motivators. You have got to enjoy what you are doing. If you don’t, think about ways to change it so you do.
 
So, when you next sit down to write your blog think ‘Preparation, Planning, Practice and Passion = Perfect Performance’. If you do, you greatly reduce the risk of world-class sportsmen uttering obscenities at you.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. For me practice has helped most — the more I blog, the better I get.

    And adding that Passion P — you took the word right out of my mouth. Passion ties right in with something I read once, and to paraphrase — “when you are giving your very best, people can’t get enough.”

  2. This is good advice, although sometimes its necessary to do a bit of trial and error before you get things right. Planning is very important. Some days I write everything on paper first then go back later and edit it just to make sure what I’m saying doesnt sound like BS.

  3. What bout the other p – p&%* ?

    The ability to adapt to new surroundings and learn new skills is valuable in nearly every aspect of life.

    Until about 18 months ago, I had never even visited a blog. I thought they were just personal pages where people talked about what they ate for breakfast. Wow, did I learn how wrong I was.

    Last fall, I made the jump from blog reader to blogger, and embarked on yet another journey of learning (particularly in the first few months, as my blog morphed from a one man operation into it’s current form with an entire staff of writers.

    I definitely had a lot of the passion, and spent a lot of effort on the other Ps, as well.

  4. Suhail says:

    Good job mate!

  5. Wayne Farley says:

    Great story! We learn (I hope) from our experiences which makes us better at what we do. I try to do as much research as possible before I start a new blog post. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Wonderful story about your “unprepared” interview! Your P’s are so, so true – for so many things in life.

    Although I’m always pleasantly surprised when a post just rolls out without much work, those posts that have required me to do background work, plan carefully what I want to say, and practice (by rewriting several times) almost always turn out to be the most personally satisfying – and often most useful.

    Great advice! Thanks.

  7. Dan Smith says:

    Oh, this is good! I interviewed the developer of Ubuntu Christian Edition a few weeks ago and, while he was gracious, I’m sure I offended him at least once, and maybe more times than that. So I wish I had read this before, but like you, I’m grateful for learning these very important lessons!

  8. Kulbir Saini says:

    I have been blogging for almost four years now and I must say there is a lot of learn from experiences before you can produce real quality content.

  9. Tanya Birch says:

    I like that post. I totally agree. One of the most important things you can do to better you blog and your writing is making sure that you have all the skills and the information that you need to do a good job.

    More than once I had come across some blogs and blog posts that seemed to be interesting, only to discover that the blogger was not quite prepared and you can actually feel how he was trying to figure out what he had to use while writing.

    On the other hand, make sure you have enough information, and then just let it go. Sometimes we get so stuck on the research mode that we lose our nerve for an actual action. I personally had this experience when I started to compare my own writing ability to other better bloggers, I just felt bad and delayed my work. Sometimes you have to keep on going despite feeling bad and uprepared.

  10. Tim Smith says:

    Great Post! The ones that I’ve worked on the most are preparing and practice. In school, I never liked researching or writing but now, that’s what I do for work. Researching different topics helps a lot when you’re talking about a subject that is fairly new to you. Readers know when when you’re making it up as you go.

    Writing is an art form. It takes practice for your writing to be appealing and at the same time, informative. I’ve always been a great talker; I talk a lot. However, that doesn’t mean that your writing is good. It takes practice to be able to communicate or express feelings by means of words.

    Thanks for the great article!

  11. Bryant Smith says:

    The preparation stage is certainly the most neglected, it’s easy to spot when people are just writing to write. In my opinion, a blog with ten solid entries is better than a blog with 100 hastily written entries. Actually take a moment to reflect what you want to get out there, and in a way that people will actually enjoy reading. Also, don’t just write on a topic because all the other bloggers are doing it, actually carve your own niche of what interests you – it will come across in your writing, and in the end will help build a loyal readership.

    Great post, much appreciated!

  12. teratips says:

    hi, thanks for these tips
    http://teratips.com

  13. Salman says:

    Interesting post i really enjoyed reading it.

  14. Jenn Elton says:

    Great story! Thanks for all of the great advice.

  15. Ms. Freeman says:

    Very well said, sometimes it takes a large slice of humble pie or a swift kick in the butt to put ones best foot forward. I plan to follow the ’6′ Ps and make a go at blogging and hopefully score a little revenue along the way.

    Thanks for the great tips

  16. Sean says:

    Preparation is the most important of these. In anything that we do being physically or (worse!) mentally unprepared will only deliver sub par performance – no matter the planning or the practice that you do.

  17. Amit Mehta says:

    Excellent post. The Ps apply to niche marketing, as well. The number one reason most people fail is that they do not adequately prepare, and research their niche.

    Actually, the number one reason is lack of focus. But that’s a whole different rant entirely.

  18. Great post! Great story! Great lesson!

    I really enjoyed reading this post and hearing about that horrible blunder. We all make horrible mistakes, but most people seldom take the time to learn from. You’ve done that and you’ve shared the lesson with us. Thanks for taking the time to tell us all about it.

  19. “but in my heart I knew the esteemed Allan Border would never speak to a cub reporter about daylight savings.” that was a great one :D.

  20. Andi Putra says:

    Funny and inspirational. That is one great experience, Pamela. And P + P + P + P= PP is a great formula. Thanks for sharing. Great article.

  21. digitalboy says:

    Very good post and something to take to heart. I started my blog 2 years ago with pretty much no knowledge of how a blog worked and no idea who or if anyone would ever read me. Needless to say, it was a long time before I got a handle on things, and it’s only recently that I’m starting to truly understand how successful blogging works. I definitely think stuff like planning and preparation have been huge stepping stones for me.

  22. I have just read all the ABOVE responses/comments and not One of them has made any reference to the former Aussie Cricket Captain. To say he was a legend of the Game is an understatement.

    Pamela, I think your Guest Post has fallen on deaf ears! The readership of Problogger.net would mainly be anything but Australian. So I feel the story of you interviewing Allan Border has missed the mark…or rather, has been wasted on an audience that is not familiar with Cricket (the other Game they play in heaven!!!!)

    I gotta say that it made me laugh when you asked the faux pas question “So how’s your batting going?” You must have felt like a real dill.

  23. Whenever I start a thing I go for basic information and basic factors which are going to effect this. Certainly planning is important and with that you should keep writing whatever come to your mind … at the end of the day just go through what you write and pick the important points and arrange them according to priority.

    I give three to five days for planning and from the first day I start writing … at the end of the 5th day I cover everything from top to bottom …

    And after that my aggressive work starts.

  24. That’s hilarious. Maybe you could call Ricky Ponting and ask him how the ashes are going.

  25. BloggerDaily says:

    Got to apply all the Ps!

    Sometimes we have to offend and attract others to see. That’s how some people got popularity.

  26. Thanks for the useful article and the hilarious story. I always try to be as prepared as possible for any situation – unexpectedly good or unexpectedly bad.

  27. Eranda says:

    Being a cricket lover, this would be one of my favorite post from problogger.

  28. Pat Mullaly says:

    Thanks for the great story and for the “P” list. I agree. Thanks for the added passion as well.

  29. There is always very interesting stories about successful peoples.
    I want to mention here that it is not difficult to become a Problogger. but we must always learn from our seniors like Problogger.
    From this article i got one idea that the only secret is to look around and watch every successful man that what he is doing.
    And then we have to choose our own style.
    Because every successful man or women has there own style and there own way.
    The only thing which is unique in problogger is, that Problogger actually give us some thing very important and helpful.
    I just want to say thank you to ProBlogger for there contribution with newbes.
    Thank you so much for this great article.
    (Sory for my bad English)

  30. fas says:

    I love the planning & practice = perfect performance, that is really motivating.

    However should not you have thrown a bit of respect towards Mr. Border.

  31. Paul Hassing says:

    Nice story, Pamela! Killer headline. I’m not into cricket, so you did very well to get me in. With regards and respect, P. :)

  32. Great advice about the 3 Ps!

  33. If you want to be a better blogger, don’t just sit down next to the computer and blogging all the time. A pro blogger must live his life, by doing anything beside blogging. A people who blogging all the time is not a pro blogger, but a freak blogger.

  34. preparing is the most consuming time for me, it’s very difficult to find a niche keywords and then develop it, thanks to keyword tools services, helping me to solve my problems

  35. Thanks for all the great comments so far! I am glad so many of you have laughed and revelled in my humiliation :) …. I laugh every time I think of it, and it happened 17 years ago.
    It seems most of you agree preparation is the key for success in blogging – in anything really – so I am pleased the post has ‘hit the mark’, if not wicket.
    cheers,
    Pam

  36. brigid says:

    absolutely!!!
    As a brand new blogger I have absolutely NO experience in this field. But Since I have 30 yrs in the health industry I thought I would be flying easy by giving advice and info.
    Not a chance…..
    I have been researching, condensing and learning heaps of new things along the way, also experimenting with different styles of writing.
    Its a wonderful learning experience
    And it was a really fun post to read, thanks for the laugh

  37. Rita says:

    It’s good to do research and have questions prepared.

    Another tip is to be aware when you interview really famous people, they may not be willing to give you much time.

    When I worked as a reporter for The Anchorage Times, I interviewed Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. At that time, I was doing interviews that lasted about 40 minutes to one hour.

    She acted irritated that I kept asking questions. I took notes on the computer and had pages and pages of notes, most of which I didn’t use.

    I wonder if I can find the notes? It would make interesting blog posts.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  38. Rajendra says:

    Its really true that practice ,passion all are necessary parameters for success not in blogging world but also in real life success.
    I am passionate to acheive my blogging goal by any mean in my blog clickblogging.blogspot.com.

  39. Dean Saliba says:

    I’ve made many a faux pas while interviewing wrestlers in the past. It is something you have to go through as a young journalist. lol

  40. Jacob Stoops says:

    Funny story. It’s a good tie in to the helpful planning tips you detailed. Sometimes we dive right into things without thinking of the consequences of things we should have researched, which can lead to problems in the middle of whatever we’re doing. One of the keys to success is first having, then executing a detailed plan.

  41. The timing for this article could not have been better as I was working out a strategy to promote by website pighunt.in to a very niche audience in my hometown through our blog.

    This article gave me the push towards starting on the right foot. I will implement the 4 Ps and work towards reaching out to my audience in the right manner.

  42. rajput says:

    Planning is about an act of formulating a program for a definite course of action.After you plan something, the next step for your to do is to have the adequate knowledge and passion for working as per your planning.

    to be a better blogger- plan and act today, don’t live in past or in future, because the past has gone and the future has not arrived : so live in present. Have a great day

  43. keyboards says:

    Interesting that border has come out and had a go at pointing – how many series did Ab’s teams win in india during his reign? Additionally may be a bit rich calling punter selfish – surely he and steve waugh have had more resulted tests then border did – sure they had warne and mcgrath at there disposal but you’ve got to ask yourself how many times AB batted on a bit to long to not force a result – lets not forget that for a bloke who usually batted at 5 or 6 to once be the highest run scorer in the games history to me suggests he may have put himself first occasionally as well