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Top Journalism Techniques for Smart Bloggers

This guest post is by Matthew Brennan of Matthewlbrennan.com.

Stop for a second and consider this blog post opening:

“Matt rose from his unpadded chair, and stopped to scratch his head and stare at the empty document on his computer. He tiptoed through his pitch-black apartment at 2 a.m., careful not to step on the sleeping cat.

“He opened the refrigerator, stared into the bright light, and settled on making a ham and cheese sandwich, even though he wanted turkey. As he arranged the lunchmeat over the bread, inspiration struck. Once he returned to the computer, food in hand, he began clinking away on the keyboard, knocking the words out.

“Matt defeated another case of writer’s block…”

How to make your readers invest in your work

It’s time for small business bloggers to reconsider how they package their blog posts. Search results always turn up several (or more!) posts on the same subject. Providing a new twist will help yours to stand out.

Journalists can teach bloggers something when it comes to enticing a reader. A good journalist is always considering how to make their story stand out. They’re regularly competing with their counterparts from different newspapers, but also with the journalists who wrote the stories that surround theirs.

They crave the attention of a reader. They act on it by capitalizing on the human element.

Journalists are master storytellers

They implement a little-known writing secret: people want to read about people. Journalists know that readers want a little action with their morning coffee.

So, when you sit down to write a “list” blog, why not give us those tips with a little action? My initial example could easily be summed up in a short sentence on a list blog:

“To defeat writer’s block: Get up and move around. When you walk away from the computer inspiration can strike.”

Sure, this might be helpful, but seeing it in action creates a stronger mental image. I guarantee your competition will likely not write about the creative inspiration stirred up while fixing a ham and cheese sandwich at 2 a.m.

A personal story shows that your tip or trick works. It shows the frustrations that come with writer’s block, and the corresponding action to battle it.

Zoom in, zoom out

Journalists give us a close-up image. Think of it like a magnifying glass on somebody performing an action. Once they have a reader hooked, they pull the magnifying glass back to give us a view of the big picture.

Say, for example, you own a health club. Instead of just dully writing about the three best exercises for flatter abs, maybe you begin the blog writing about your workout, or the workout of one of the trainers.

If it’s working for the poster child of the physically fit, readers will be more interested when you pull the magnifying glass back to establish the bigger picture.

Try these techniques yourself

Bloggers could benefit a great deal from a dose of personal storytelling. It creates a stronger investment from your reader. The greater the investment, the better the chance they will complete your call to action.

Go ahead, pick up the New York TimesWall Street Journal, or the USA Today. There’s a great deal you can take away from the high quality of writing these publications offer.

Don’t be afraid to go tell a personal story! What are some of the better examples that have worked for you in the past? Tell us in the comments.

Matthew Brennan is a freelance journalist and copywriter, telling stories in the Chicago area. He blogs and runs his copywriting business at Matthewlbrennan.com.

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Comments

  1. Well, it’s true that it is very difficult to come up with an idea of what to write for, we may sometimes end up loosing ideas and I think coming up with personal story telling writing style is one of the best option one could try to come up with a good and interesting write up.

  2. rahul says:

    techniques provided are good as well as easy to understand…thanks for sharing

  3. Joan says:

    Good post! Almost all of my blog posts are about my personal stories and how I save money and share my stories with others. I figure we all need to be careful with our spending with groceries, gas and basically everything going up in price! Check out my blog!

  4. Ravi says:

    Awesome Explained and liked the point Zoom in and Zoom out. Totally agree with you that Journalists are master storytellers and they know very well how to engage readers and attract with Headlines. Loved This post

  5. Matt Brennan says:

    Thanks Ravi!

  6. I totally agree… too often blogs are sterile. Getting people to look at things from your perspective often means you have have to show them from their perspective, and getting them to reposition so you can help them engage with your ideas and content.

  7. marty says:

    I find this kind of true.When I first started blogging I had to rely heavily on my writing skills.I always think its important to a take a minute a walk away for a bit and regroup .I spent all morning at my computer thinking of what to write and nothing came to me until I was riding the bus. I never thought about the zoom in, zoom out thing I should try that

  8. Kim Schure says:

    Great article. I often use these technique in advertising and for business blogs. Maybe it’s because of my journalism background. ;)

    • Matt Brennan says:

      I’ve got the journalism background, too Kim. I find it helps quite a bit. Journalists are very experienced with how to draw readers into a story!

  9. Yusof Ihsan says:

    Great post. I’d suggest blogger to put in some internal monologue, and make it on first person point of view. It’s a great tool to relate with readers’ experience – from problem to solution to result.
    It goes back to universally what a good content should be (subjective though) – useful and unique (or any term of choice you prefer, it’s the same), like Darren said. Personal story is a VERY strong ingredient in creating uniqueness.
    I haven’t done much of that yet, just working on my blog architecture and writing some evergreen posts. But I’m running A Year of Short Stories Marathon in my blog. Imagine what I’m going to do in the future.

    Matt, it’s really interesting to know how it relates with journalism. Any post of yours or your choice that tells an insightful story on journalism? I don’t mind if it’s long, as long as it’s a good story. It might be helpful to me. My studio is all about storytelling, writing, and art. *reconstructing*

    Thanks!

    • Matt Brennan says:

      Thanks Yusof. I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for, but there are several great journalism narrative storytellers out there. Two of my favorites are Alex Kotlowitz and John Krakauer. The Poynter Institute and the Columbia Journalism Review also do a lot to cover the industry, if that’s what you’re looking for. Hope that helps.

  10. sadek says:

    Thanks a lot Ravi for this great interactive post!

  11. MayPeng says:

    Sometimes I feel lost. There are so many things to cover but yet so little time available. I hope by reading your inspirational thoughts and idea, I’ll know where I’m heading. Cheers

  12. Matthew…this is a good dose of reality check. As bloggers, we get caught up in our own minutia and we need to step back and view what we are doing from a different angle. Story telling is a great line and all of us can do that at least infrequently to break up the monotony or as one commentator put it…”the sterility”.

  13. Agreed! I’m all for story telling. My blogging experience actually helped me get a journalism job. But my background is in creative writing, so I’m always thinking about story and flow.

  14. The focus , as i observed is always in the headlines, first and the last paragraph of an article. Also more than journalists, inspiration can be taken from the traditional and old cheesy posters and news with cheesy headlines!
    Keep blogging!

  15. Colin says:

    Nice tips. Thanks for writing this Matthew.

  16. Hey,

    I’m very pleased to find this great post. I need to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!!

    Regards,
    Jenifer Taylor

  17. sangeeta says:

    Hi Michael,
    This is well writtten and vivid…has inspired me… a lazy writer to write….dunnno how to go about it…have been writing for a newspaper and magazines in Bangalore, India for years….