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How to Blog, Muppet Show-Style

This guest post is by Marjorie Clayman of Clayman Advertising.

There are a lot of things that shows like Friends didn’t warn teens and twenty-somethings about. For example, you seldom saw, on any episode, scenes where the characters’ bodies randomly decided to become overweight or broken down. Monica and Chandler never said, “Yippee! A Saturday! More time to do work!” They certainly didn’t hint that sitting down to watch The Muppet Show for nostalgia’s sake would inspire a blog post. Life is full of surprises!

A lot of people, just like me, have been revisiting the original Muppet Show, which is available on DVD now. What is most interesting about checking back with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the rest of the muppets is that you discover that the show has an entirely new but equally brilliant meaning when you watch it as an adult. Somehow, Jim Henson was able to create a show that works as well for toddlers as it does for adults.

This kind of nuanced, multi-level storytelling can also convert a good blog into a great one. Here are some ideas on how to blog Muppet Show-style.

Begin on the surface

How did The Muppet Show work for kids? Well, as a kid, how could you not fall in love with the-ultra cute Fozzie Bear and Rowlf the dog? How could you not admire Kermit’s tiny flailing arms and Miss Piggy’s penchant for punching everyone out?

As a blogger, cuteness will probably not work for you unless your target audience is kids. However, what you can concentrate on is the group of people who pass by your blog by chance. They don’t know you, they aren’t connected with you on Twitter or Facebook, but they end up at your blog anyway. How can you entice these people to stick around? You could try:

  • using a conversational tone so that they feel welcome right away
  • using strong images that help emphasize key points in your blogs
  • using a highly legible font and enough spacing so that your blog is easy to read.

Just as adults are not turned off by the cuteness of the muppets (I still melt when I see Kermit’s nephew Robin), your regular readers will not be turned away by efforts like these.

Be conscious of your audience

One of the most masterful aspects of The Muppet Show is that Henson and his team were able to write jokes that were horrible, and then they made fun of their own jokes in their script. The horrible jokes probably are hilarious to kids, and adults appreciate the fact that the writers aren’t huffing and puffing as if they’re sending out the best comedy sketches ever.

When writing a blog, the challenge is not entertaining kids and adults; rather, it is making sure that people familiar and unfamiliar with your subject matter find your blog valuable. How can you accomplish this goal?

  • Use your blog to spark conversation rather than using your blog as a soapbox.
  • Write so that you can invite knowledgeable readers to participate while educating readers unfamiliar with your topic.
  • Invite comments and questions at the end of your post so that everyone feels welcome to contribute to the conversation.

Create variations on a theme

You’ll see a lot of advice about how to pick the mission of your blog. There is no doubt that this is essential. However, you also need to be able to venture into new ways of bringing those objectives into reality while maintaining your readership.

The Muppet Show accomplished this primarily through the guests that they brought on every week. You’d be hard-pressed to find two people more dissimilar than Alice Cooper and Raquel Welch, but both were guests on the show. In both episodes, the show maintained its core integrity—The Muppet Show was still The Muppet Show. How did Henson do that? The infrastructure of the show didn’t change. The main characters didn’t change. Only the details were altered.

How can you do this on your blog?

  • Invite people to guest-post on your site.
  • Stretch the range of topics you write about.
  • If you gravitate towards list posts, try a story instead.

What stays the same is your tonality, your promise of quality, and your voice. But like The Muppet Show, the details can vary.

What do you think?

What other lessons can you learn from watching The Muppet Show? How else can you bring that nuanced storytelling to your blog? I’d love to talk about it with you in the comments.

Marjorie Clayman is Director of Client Development at Clayman Advertising, a full service marketing communications firm located in Akron, OH.

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Comments

  1. Nick Begin says:

    What an interesting way to look at blog writing. Yes, the key is to put out posts that are easily identifiable to faithful as was as new readers.

  2. Jenny Tsai says:

    I think it really helps since I am writing my blog. I think it is hard to stick with my values since sometimes I want to talk about more stuff. But great tips!

    • It is hard to filter yourself sometimes. The trick is to find ways to weave in stuff that you love without having those things be the keys to your post. Definitely a balance act.

      Glad you liked the post!

  3. Karen says:

    Awesome, awesome! I love The Muppet Show and after the reminder that it’s out on DVD I’ve made a note to pick up a copy for myself!

    This post is great without The Muppet Show too. If the surface – the look, mood, design, ease of use – doesn’t flow, you can kiss your readers good bye. I personally need to feel comfortable before reading.

    Conscious of an audience can sometimes be tricky, but I also find that the old adage “just be yourself” works here. Your audience will find you and be attracted to you if you are yourself. Some people are brash and love a good f-bomb, some are chatty and friendly. Whichever your style, it’s about having a style!

    Great tips here… Thanks for a reminder of a long time favourite show and some great tips to go back and look at my own blog to make sure I’ve done them.

  4. Joan says:

    Love The Muppet Show reference! I’m a big fan of Muppets. I really like how you encourage bloggers to take a conversational tone. The internet is all about interaction and let’s face it, people have short attention spans these days.

    • Well thanks Joan! Glad to see another muppet lover. And I agree. Conversational tone is good not just because it makes you see more…human…but also because it entices people to stick around for a bit. Good point!

  5. YAAAAAAaaaaAAAAY!
    15 seconds to blog post, Ms. Clayman! This is the greatest blog post I think I’ve ever seen. Such wonderful imagery over excellent information! Will be sharing, for sure!

  6. Great post Marjorie,

    Hmm.. how the heck can I match the two up..

    Well, for one, regardless of some of the serious stuff that takes place on a show like the muppet babies, Jim did a great job of keeping a playful theme the entire time.

    I like being playful with people as much as possible. It troubles me when I go out in public and see that 95% of people have lost their ability to freakin have a bit of fun! Smile much? Cmon!

    While there are times to be.. I don’t want to say serious, but I will say firm, there are more times to be playful. I like a blog that fires off my happy circuits.

    • That’s a great point, Ryan. I started really connecting with people on my blog and on Twitter when I decided to let loose a little. Don’t take it all so seriously. I think people appreciate knowing that they don’t have to comment or tweet on eggshells around you :)

  7. Brad says:

    Now if we can only discover a way to write like the Swedish Chief talked and still get laughs and readers!?!?!

    Great ideas! Thanks for some inspiration!

  8. Joseph P. says:

    Hi. I’m Joe. I am a Muppets fan. I have enjoyed the Muppets for more than 30 years.
    Your comment: “Use your blog to spark conversation rather than using your blog as a soapbox.”
    is brilliant. This is a great reminder that we should not take ourselves so seriously that we push our readers away by alienating them.
    Ask questions. Create from questions. Take a chance and answer a question. This kind of brainstorming could lead, and should lead to some interesting and enlightening answers.
    Thank you.
    Sincerely,

    Joseph P.
    Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

  9. As a fellow lover of most things Muppet and a fellow blogger, first I’d like to agree that inspiration can come from anywhere-love that you found a way to use the Muppet show :-).

    I’ve also thought of another lesson and that is even though we all know, especially as adults, the Muppets are made of felt and glue etc. we suspend our disbelief temporarily and think of them pretty much as people! Strange looking people true, but real beings, nonetheless.

    Henson accomplished this using everything from simple facial expression (sometimes eyes only) to letting them express emotion both verbally and physically and by putting them in situations we could all relate to. All of those things let the viewer relate to and enjoy the characters like they would real people/friends/family and that kept them coming back for more.

    What bloggers can learn from that is to make sure you do more than spout info at people. Make sure your spirit shines through your writing. You don’t need to divulge every detail of life (please don’t), but including personal experience, rants, raves, celebrations and sorrows (or the fact that you love drums :-D) allows readers to see and like you as a whole person, not just a “tech blogger or pet expert”.

    Fun post about blogging and thanks for the reminder that it’s been a while since I’ve watched my set of DVDs :-).

    • Am I sensing an Animal fan here?

      This is fabulous comment, and in fact, I’d love to see you build it out into your own post. I’d be honored, in fact.

      You are 100% correct. I recently watched a documentary from 1968 called The Muppets on Puppets. In it, Henson and Frank Oz show how you can do puppet shows with all kinds of puppets. What I found MOST amazing about the whole documentary was that whether they were using just their hands or a little styrofoam cup with a piece of fabric around it, they were able to make those “characters” come alive. It was really mystical, for lack of a better word. You really saw their craft.

      So how can we apply this to our blogs? As you say, let some of your personal magic shine through (without doing what my friend calls “bleeding all over the internet”). Breathe life into your posts. Show people that you are a real person making these words appear on their screens.

      I really like that idea. Thanks for adding it here!

      • You’re welcome! And thanks for the hand off to my blog. I think that’s going to be on my to do list for later today :-). Nice to connect with you!

  10. Interesting article, but how should i motivate or persuade someone like you to guest post on my blog? :), i mean its new no body want to do that, so how should i new blogger like me approach the whole make-it-big thing?

    • Well, look at how Jim Henson got all of those folks to guest host his show. He probably did a little bit of promotion to them, he went to people he knew in the industry and said, “Hey, I need some help,” and he explained what the show was all about. If it resonated with folks, they came!

      So, what do you need to do? As a new blogger you need to make sure that you have established your objectives and your voice. What kind of show are you?

      Then, you need to start going out and building relationships with people – not just so they come to guest post on your blog, but just because that’s the right thing to do. I ended up doing and getting my first guest posts because the topic came up in Blogchat and I said, “Hey, I’ve never been asked to do a guest post!” People I had been talking to for a few months contacted me and said, “You’re always welcome here.” Once I guest posted for them, I thanked them by saying, “And hey, you’re always welcome to write a post for me!”

      That’s just one way to go about it, but the key is relationships.

      I hope that helps!

  11. Marjorie,

    I love the fresh approach you bring to blogging by using the Muppet Show!

    Well done!

    Krizia

  12. Suzanne Vara says:

    Margie

    I love the way you tie these two together and the creativity from the muppets and blogging. Blogs/authors are unlimited in how they can expand upon their blog while still catering to their audience. Jim Hensen was able to bring in talent that adapted to the culture of the muppets as it not only increased the popularity of the show, it also enhanced the careers of the actors. In blogging, the audience visits and continues to visit for the consistency of the articles and the others that comment and share the blog. The audience adapts to the culture of the blog while when it is a highly commented blog, builds a mini community within the blog.

    In marketing the creativity is endless and as you have shown here, we adapt and build.

  13. Nick says:

    This post really hit home with me because I always encourage feedback on my posts. I really liked how you used the Muppet Show to illustrate how to encourage people to leave a comment and participate! Great article.

  14. I don’t know know about Muppet Show but the article was convincing & fresh. Agree with you and liked “Write so that you can invite knowledgeable readers to participate while educating readers unfamiliar with your topic”

  15. Beth Wilson says:

    Hi Marjorie,

    Isn’t it great how our lessons come to us in various formats and venues? I was never a big Muppets fan (I think I was growing up before their prime) but I am interested in checking them out as an adult.

    I have some experience in training communities in speaking out for education around drug and alcohol abuse/addiction. One of the tools I’ve used in the past is Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who.” It’s a great lesson about collaboration and teamwork.

    Thanks for your insights!

    Best,
    Beth
    B Here Today

    • Thanks, Beth.

      We’re all still kids inside, right? The lessons that worked on us when we were kids just seem to get more profound and meaningful as we get older.

      Or they teach us about blogging.

      Who knew? :)

      Sounds like you’re doing GREAT work!

  16. John Sherry says:

    I think you’d be a blogging muppet if you take yourself and your blog too seriously. Take the Fozzie Bear approach and have a positive attitude, a smile on your face (which transfers to your words), and be a sharer not a moaner. Encourage others to keep coming back like being a guest on the show. Wocka, wocka, wocka makes a rocka, rocka, rocka, blogger. Love the post Marjorie, brings back so many memories. All together now, “It’s time to play the music, it’s time to lights the lights…..

  17. Lea Sadler says:

    What stands out to me — and what I would consider a big aspect of comparison between a blog and the Muppet Show — is that both could be (should be?) FUN. OK, this may be less true with certain kinds of blogs — but the vast majority of our readers like to DO things . . . they like to interact with a website. Videos, shopping, photos, filmstrips, polls, comments . . . etc.

    • I don’t think there’s any problem with that statement. There are ways to bring in your readers without being overly goofy, overly controversial, or overly unprofessional. Look at how shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers taught kids while the kids were having huge amounts of fun! Adults want to have fun too :)

  18. barbara says:

    Excellent post! My blogging experience has been very trial and error, but I believe I’ve always been willing to mix it up. No one likes being talked at instead of to. I’ve had mixed results with asking questions to encourage comments, but if it applies I do it. You’re so right about Henson’s ability to remain true to his core fans and still share an inside joke with the visitor. Something to aspire to.
    Thanks!

    • Thanks, Barbara. I think everyone in Social Media learns via trial and error – there really isn’t a way to learn it any other way. You have to make sure you try and enjoy the trip, which is sounds like you are doing.

      Thanks for your comment!

  19. Marilyn says:

    Enjoyed reading your insights here, but am afraid I may not be able to get the Muppet Show theme song out of my head for days. And maybe that’s a good thing!

  20. Cassie Lang says:

    What a brilliant post! I am a relatively new blogger, this will really help me so thank you! :)

  21. Nora says:

    Dear Margie, Thanks for the post. Sorry, I couldn’t resist:

    (To The tune of ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’)

    It’s not easy starting blogs,
    having to spend each day busy building links,
    when it could be
    so much nicer,
    being a secretary, or accountant or cube creature
    or something much more ‘responsible’ like that.

    It’s not easy starting blogs,
    you tend to blend in with all the other bloggers,
    and people tend to pass you over,
    because you’re not standing out like flashy spammers in the blogosphere,
    or stars in the blog-rolls.

    But blogs are a great way to communicate,
    and blogs can be cool and friendly-like,
    and blogs can be big, like an ocean,
    or important, like a mountain,
    or tall like a tree.

    When a blogger is all that you want to be,
    it may make you wonder why,
    but why wonder ‘why?’,
    Wonder
    ‘I’m a blogger’
    and I’m gonna do fine,
    it’s beautiful,
    and I think
    it’s what I want to be.

  22. Tamara says:

    I love the guest blogger idea. I plan to have a my first guest blogger next week. I also need to incorporate more conversation/dialogue on my blog. I definitely think conversation is key especially since I blog about desserts and dessert education.

  23. Ozio Media says:

    What a great and interesting analogy you posted. A great way to get new and faithful readers to stay interested in your blog is to make it as interactive as possible. Always keep track of the comments and reply to them as often as possible. Also, bring up two sides of a “hot button” issue and let your readers voice their opinions, pros and cons about each. This is a great way to get conversation flowing.

  24. barb g says:

    Sounds like a fine and dnady plan. I also like the muppets.

  25. Allen Walker says:

    Interesting and insightful blog post. Thanks for sharing. :) There’s something to be learned from all successes, and shows like this have often done extensive research into the stickiness factor, so there’s a lot to learn.

  26. Kris Cannon says:

    This is brilliant. So simple, I love it. I was glad to see that I had already done some of the things you talked about and it DEFINITELY gave me some ideas. For real, i am a 45 year old housewife with 2 toddlers. My “content”, is not Jon & Kate plus 8. I read other blogs for how sweet and simple and creative people are and I am drawn to that. I appreciate the advice for “don’t get preachy”, there are topics I want to address and that is good advice to follow. Thanks for keeping it simple! If you visit my blog, send me an email with your thoughts…the networking thing is so tricky, I don’t know where half the comment content goes! Thanks!

  27. Parin says:

    Nice Post! Love the last part: “Create variations on a theme”

    I think that’s forgotten sometimes. You get so used to, and so “set”, on a particular style of writing or format, that you don’t want to deviate from it because 1) Your readers are expecting it 2) You’re too comfortable with it :).

    I think it’s a good idea to have a mix of posts where you write about your experience, someone else’s experience, share a video interview, a TEDTalk, etc. Everyone has their own preference, but I think if you want to keep people engaged, it’s always good to have a good mix of text/video/photos.

    Also like you’re point about “You’d be hard-pressed to find two people more dissimilar than Alice Cooper and Raquel Welch”. It’s so true! One thing I find with my blog, is that I can talk about anyone from a professional athlete like Michael Jordan to author JK Rowling to Musician Steve Vai.

    I think it’s important to keep an open mind and understand that just because someone isn’t in your particular “industry” or “genre”, you might still have some similarities.

    Great Tips! Time to share this with others on Twitter! ;)

    Thanks!
    Parin

  28. Liked this post Marjorie.

    I’d add (and you pretty much hinted at this with the comedy) is to make your writing simple so anyone can understand it. Some people like to get fancy and write crazy prose, trying to be Shakespeare. But few actually understand what Shakespeare says.

    Make your writing and ideas accessible to all.

    On a different note, can you write an article about what we can learn from blues clues?

  29. Agree with Brandon. K.I.S.S. principle still applies.

  30. I just wanted to comment on your blog. I am just getting into blogging I guess learning how. And yours helps alot. Now I just need the courage to put my thoughts to text. But keep it simple.

  31. P.S. My favorite characters where those two guys in the balcony always made me laugh. Just a little side note.