This guest post is by Bill Zipp of billzipponbusiness.com/.
It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world!
You write something on your blog that goes viral. Likes explode, comments go crazy, tweets multiply, and open rates are off the charts.
That’s what’s great about blogging.
So when the dust settles and the warm feelings of success fade, you ask yourself, “How did this happen?” and, perhaps more importantly, “How can it happen again?”
Here are the usual answers to those questions:
- The article had an amazing headline.
- After the headline, there was a killer introduction.
- Your content was both original and compelling.
- Subheadings powerfully drew people into the post.
- You told great stories that kept readers engaged.
- Your call to action was irresistible.
And all of these things are important. They’re essential to our craft.
But I believe they are secondary to consistent blogging success. Consistent blogging success has at its very core this one thing: voice.
Everything else, as important as it is, flows from there.
When you find your blogging voice…
When you find your blogging voice, even posts with generic headlines get read without fail.
When you find your blogging voice, you build a community of readers who devour every word you write.
When you find your blogging voice, your community grows exponentially as more and more readers become raving fans.
And when you find your blogging voice, you unleash a source of passion that keeps you writing incredible content day after day, year after year.
What is a blogging voice?
Blogging voice is the intersection of two lines: your personal experience and people’s pressing needs.
If all you talk about in your blog is personal experience and never address the pressing needs of people, you’re really not blogging. You’re journaling.
Nothing wrong with journaling. I’ve kept a journal for years.
And I have friends who’ve gone on a trip or trained for a marathon and journaled about that experience on a blog. But the clear intent was to keep a circle of family and friends informed on their life developments, not to lay a platform upon which to build a business.
Conversely, if all you do is address people’s needs apart from your personal experience, you join the ranks of thousands on the internet selling stuff they never actually use themselves.
Sadly, I’ve bought a product or two from people like this. Halfway into a “revolutionary” training program, I’ve gotten the sinking feeling that I’ve been had. Not only is the material not original from the author, but it doesn’t work. Or it doesn’t work any more, and this person has moved on to other things (and I can move on too, for an additional $2,995).
So these two lines must intersect.
We learned all about this in high school geometry: a point on a plane is created when two line segments cross. And because they are your two line segments, and nobody else’s, that point is a unique place in the blogging universe.
So let’s add one more phrase to our definition: blogging voice is the intersection of your personal experience and people’s pressing needs that creates your unique contribution to online content.
How do you find your blogging voice?
There’s a two-step process for drawing these intersecting lines.
The first step involves one’s self—what I call looking in the mirror. The second step involves looking outside one’s self, through the window into the marketplace.
First, look in the mirror
This is, of course, the first law of great writing: write what you know. Unfortunately, like the pauper who dies in a freezing apartment with thousands of dollars stuffed in his mattress, we tend to ignore what we know. We don’t appreciate its true value.
Ask yourself these important questions:
- What issues burn in your heart?
- What challenges have you overcome?
- What mistakes have you made?
- What answers have you found that no one else is writing about?
- What gets your attention in a way where you lose all sense of time?
If you’re like me, the two most difficult questions in that list have to do with the challenges you’ve faced and the mistakes you’ve made. Who wants to remember that stuff?
But that’s the stuff that voice is made of: real, authentic, genuine personal experience.
This kind of experience is not found on the mountaintop, but in the valley. It doesn’t take shape in the light, but in the darkness. It’s forged in adversity.
I love to cook. In my cooking I use various herbs and spices. Next to the oven sits a mortar and pestle. Before I put many of these enhancements into a dish, I first crush them in my mortar and pestle. That’s when their true flavor emerges and transforms an ordinary dish into something exceptional.
The same is true in finding your blogging voice. Where you’ve been crushed in life is where the greatest potential exists for you to help others.
Then look out the window
The second intersecting line in finding your blogging voice is uncovering the pressing needs of people. It involves looking out the window and seeing a match in the marketplace for the personal experience you possess.
Again, ask yourself these important questions:
- Who needs what you have to say the most?
- Where do these people live, work, worship, and play?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What gives them their deepest joy?
- What are their biggest challenges?
I once accepted the position of General Manager at a radio station that was dead last in ratings for its market.
There was a clear reason why, as well. In the morning the station aired talk, mid-morning they played music, then live call-in shows, then some music, then more talk in the evening, with the occasional infomercial thrown in for good measure. No one knew what was going to air next, so they tuned out completely.
One of the first things we did as a management team is define our target listener. We gave that listener a name, Kelly, and put pictures of her and her family all around the studio. As a staff we became obsessed with answering this question, “What does Kelly care about?”
Not infomercials! We dropped them immediately.
But we also asked that question about one of the most basic radio programming elements: the weather. We came to believe that Kelly really didn’t care about raw data related to the weather, but rather how that data affected her life.
So when our jocks gave the weather, they didn’t thoughtlessly repeat the temperature and the forecast. They talked about how Kelly’s kids should dress in the morning for their wait at the bus stop, or the fact that she may need to put her car in the garage that night because the first freeze was on the way.
That’s what Kelly cared about.
Within a year we had moved into third place in the ratings, and in two years we were competing for first place in our demographic with a country music station that had dominated the market for decades.
Why you need Kelly
Most bloggers suffer from the same malady as that radio station.
They write about one thing one day. Another thing the next day. And a totally different topic the third. And people stop reading, because they don’t know what the blog is about.
Finding your blogging voice involves knowing exactly who you’re writing to and what they really care about. Creating a persona, like we did for Kelly, is a powerful way to focus your writing. Put a picture up of that person next to your computer monitor and talk to that person as if he or she were in the room sitting right next to you.
A blog persona will also help answer questions related to writing style. As in what stories to tell, whether you use swear words or not, or how much personal information to reveal in your blog. Simply ask yourself, “Is that what I would say if this person were sitting in the room right next to me?”
This isn’t easy work, and it shouldn’t be.
Take time to answer the ten questions above and talk with others about your answers. Write a first, second, and third draft. Then a fourth. When you do, you’ve begun to find your blogging voice.
But really, what difference does all this stuff this make?
Your voice can change the world
Finding your blogging voice is no mere exercise in artistic integrity or a way to finally quit your day job.
Your voice can change the world.
There are single mothers who need the inspiration you provide to get them through another impossible day.
There are struggling entrepreneurs, ready to give up on their life’s dream, who need the ideas you possess so the doors of their business stay open.
There are people with a dreaded diagnosis—cancer—who need the alternative treatments you know all about so they live long enough to attend their daughter’s wedding.
There are bored business men and women who need to be challenged to forgo their big bonus and another Caribbean cruise and do something that makes a difference in people’s lives.
You are the one with the words in your heart that can make these amazing things happen. And more.
In the words of Seth Godin in Tribes, “We need you to lead us.”
Go start a fire!
I have very few memories of growing up as a kid, but one is vividly etched in my mind. It was Christmas Eve and I was four years old. We were gathered in the basement of our church singing Christmas carols by candlelight.
For some inexplicable reason, I was given a candle and a carol book.
From the moment the wick was lit on that candle, I could think of nothing else than this: what would happen if the candle in my left hand touched the carol book in my right hand?
I pondered this dilemma throughout the service.
As festivities came to a close, I realized I would lose my opportunity to answer that question. It was somewhere during the singing of Silent Night that I found out. When the candle in my left hand touched the carol book in my right hand, the dry paper burst into flames.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and threw the flaming mess on the floor. My mom screamed as well, probably more in embarrassment than fear, and my dad jumped from his seat and stomped on the blaze in the middle of the room until it went out.
When we got home, I received the spanking of my life.
This is how you start a fire, and this is what delivers consistent blogging success. Take the flame that flickers in your soul and put it in contact with the real needs of real people. The blaze that burns will be your blog, alight with likes and tweets, comments and subscribers.
So go start a fire! There are people out there who desperately need what you have to say. These people will read everything you write and pass it on to others who’ll do the same. If, and only if, you find your blogging voice and stay true to that voice post after post after post.
And that’s the shocking truth.
Speaker, coach, and consultant, Bill Zipp helps busy leaders do what matters most in business and in life. He also helps other consultants build a thriving, successful practice. To learn more about Bill’s work visit: http://billzipponbusiness.com/consultants.