Thursday, 23 January 2014

How to blog - top ten tips from the Women in Journalism panel


The other evening I was honoured to be asked to sit on a Women in Journalism panel discussing blogging. We had a sell-out house and about 30 on the waiting list for tickets - so it's a hot topic with journalists and it was great to see that it wasn't all youngsters either, journalists who have been working for years also wanted to hear all about blogging. The session was all held together by journalist and author, Nina Bell. She does writing workshops, consultancy and her brilliant 'how to blog' is on Write to Promote - please follow her on @WriteToPromote. You can check out her novels at Nina Bell and follow @ninabellbooks. And it that wasn't enough she has a brilliant blog, The Middle Sized Garden.

I have got the most pertinent points (written by our host) from the discussion here and some really good stuff came out of the session so here you go!

TOP TIPS from WomeninJournalism’s ‘TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG?’ seminar

Six panellists, all with very different blogging backgrounds and approaches, and around 50 members of WiJ discussed how blogging can benefit journalists at Wiggin LLP’s Met Building.  They were:

* Political blogger Susie Boniface/‘Fleet Street Fox’ ( .

* Cross digital media expert, Debbie Djordjevic of Hand-Picked Media ( who specialises in social media campaigns.

* Family food blogger and YouTuber Claire Macdonald

* Writing and author blogger Joanna Penn (

* Editor of the Mumsnet Bloggers network Kate Williams (

* Blogging coach and garden blogger, Alexandra Campbell ( and

1)      Blogs are like journalism – you need to target your audience, go for a niche, and pitch to your reader as if you were pitching to an editor.

2)      Blogging is 10% creativity and 90% hard work – you can’t just write a great blog and hope people will find it. You have to find your ‘tribe’, actively market your blog on social media and engage with people who read it.

3)      Be generous. It’s about promoting other people, and they’ll promote you back. ‘I do a Skype interview about someone else’s work, put it on YouTube, turn it into a podcast and blog about it. Usually they’ll then promote it on their networks too – and everybody benefits’ says Joanna Penn. Use ‘linkies’ (have a list of other blogs you can recommend on your site, and they will reciprocate).

4)      Don’t give up the day job: Advertising only brings between 95 pence and £15 per thousand hits. Google Adsense is a programme that can pick up £60-£100 a month, if you’ve got enough readers. You can also earn money by sponsorship or affliliate links (if a reader clicks through to an affiliate company, such as Amazon, from your blog, you’ll earn a percentage of what they spend), but it’s difficult to earn enough to live off.

5)      But blogging is a great shop-window for your other work:  63% of pro-bloggers earn less than £2 a day but your blog showcases your consultancy, coaching and freelance work, and can get you book deals. ‘Because my blog is news-related, I’m often asked to write pieces based on my blog-posts,’ says Susie Boniface. Claire Macdonald has two book deals off her blog.

6)      Do give up the day job…’I did my blog part-time for three years, then gave up my job with consultants Accenture. But you have to be very professional about your approach. Set up your blog with proper SEO (Search Engine Optimisation or making it easy for search engines to find you), says Joanna Penn.

7)      Headlines are your secret weapons. You need to create a great headline to get people to want to read your blog, and you need to tweet good headlines, too. Images are very important too, especially on lifestyle blogs.

8)      Think about what your blog looks like, and include ‘calls to action’. These include ‘follow me on…’ ‘contact me…’ ‘read more…’

9)      The current best social media for marketing blogs is Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (Claire Macdonald has 32,000 followers on Google+), Pinterest for visually-orientated blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn, but you should also learn about Snapchat, as it’s growing fast among the young, and Instagram, the photo-sharing site which can also direct people to your blog.

10)  Let your personality and passion shine through, and remember that it’s a very egalitarian world. Traditional print media is usually written in the 3rd person, while blogging is generally in the first person. It needs personality, not just information. You need to engage with people, not just put your blog out there for them to read, as if it were a newspaper. People have a more intimate relationship with blogs, and comment far more than on print media. You should reply to them.

11)   Your bonus tip: You can get free and paid-for blog templates from Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr and other companies, but the free ones have restrictions on what you can do with them. They’re not ‘yours’, and the company could take your blog down if they wanted to. If you buy your own blog name (eg rather than www.myfabblog.blogspot/wordpress etc) then you can take advertising, transfer it to another host and do what you want with it. It also looks more professional. The panel disagreed as to whether Blogger or Wordpress was a better choice – Wordpress is currently the market leader, but Blogger may be easier to use.

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST: Don’t worry about spammers and trolls – unless they’re pointing a gun at your head - which Susie Boniface has actually experienced. The panel suggested that this was much more likely in the world of political blogging than in the lifestyle sectors of gardens, beauty and interiors.

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