We move from evangelism to evangelist educators

by Lee Hopkins on September 28, 2005 · 21 comments

in Uncategorized

Blog BeginnersA question from Christine points to a new phase for business communicators.

Christine asks how to start blogging.

A simple enough question, one would think; as Nike says, “just do it!”.

But it led me to consider the more fundamental issues behind a deservingly respectful response from me, rather than a churlish “go figure it out for yourself”.

Our role as communicators at the leading edge of this ‘brave new world’ has always been one of evangelism; that role continues and will continue for the foreseeable future (at least the next 18-24 months).

But now we also have to be educators as well as evangelists. Having convinced some to follow our footsteps, we have to teach them how to fish for themselves. This point was alluded to by Neville and Shel in a recent show of FIR.

So it is in this light that I reply to Christine’s question with some ideas and thoughts garnered from my own nine-month experience of the phenomenon of blogging, podcasting and rss (also a good rss resource as is this).

One.
As Donna Papacosta said in her first podcast, before doing anything in life you should consider what you are setting out to achieve. In other words, what is it that you want to communicate and why? Do you have a particular hobby that you are keen to share with others? Are you a practitioner in a particular field that wants to contribute to and develop further your understanding of your craft?

Two.
Lurk, or ‘loiter with intent’ as a police officer might say. Read others’ blogs and get a feel for how they put their blog together. Do they stick to the topic, or do they wander around? If it is a business-focused blog do they only talk about their particular field or do they include personal stuff as well? If so, how does that sit with you? Does it bother you or do you like to read the personal stuff to get a ‘feel’ for the person you are highly unlikely ever to meet face-to-face?

How do you find blogs to loiter around? Follow the links from blogs you already know about. Thus, from me you could follow my links off to people who’s blogs I adore such as Shel Holtz (a reflective, contemplative communicator), or Neville Hobson (bang, bang, bang, out with the posts, touching the very edge of the flame and often waaaay ahead of the rest of us), Allan Jenkins who knows a thing or ten about marcomms (marketing communications) and shares both his knowledge and my sense of humour (for which he is taking tablets) or Kathy Sierra (who shares with me a commitment to passion as the driving force of change and improvement).

There’s Seth Godin who is arguably the smartest thinker in marketing at the moment, and has been for quite a few years, and there’s Doug Johnson who has reignited in me a passion for the handwritten word.

There’s also Paul Graham who doesn’t post often but when he does it is always controversial, headshaking and mind-expanding. There’s Jack Vinson who is a guru of knowledge management, which blogs are a useful tool within. And there’s Nova Spivack‘s off-the-wall look at the world which is equally mind-expanding and life-affirming.

These are just some of the writers/conversationalists that I eagerly await each day as I power up my feed aggregator. Look at their lists and you will find others, perhaps like Donna Papacosta or Heidi Miller or Amy Gahran with whom to connect.

Each of the writers/conversationalists mentioned above link to other conversationalists; follow the links and pretty soon you will have a hundred or more rss feeds in your aggregator and you will have to start painfully weeding them out, categorising them into groups that you ‘must’ read, ‘like to read’ and ‘will get around to reading when I get the time’.

Three.
Pick a platform on which to create your own blog. You could go for a paid hosted service such as typepad or if you have your own server set up your own blog service, using, for example, WordPress (like this blog) . Conduct a search in google for blogging software and you will know doubt find ‘plenty’ of material to consider.

Or you could consider a free service such as blogger or any of the other free blogging services (again, google for ‘free blogs’). My first Better Communication Results blog was on blogger and it was a fantastic way of getting my feet wet.

After a while the limitations of free services began to frustrate me so I moved to hosting my own blog (courtesy of the very kind Ben Hamilton and his company DynamicWebHosting) so I could take advantage of some of the more intricate parts of blogging, such as trackbacks. But such intricacies don’t need to bother you if you are just getting started – better to start and get going than to stress what platform you are going to blog on. You can always change it later on.

Four.
Contribute to the conversation. Go to these people’s blogs and, as you have done with me, add a comment.

It doesn’t matter whether what you say is earth-shatteringly profound or just agreeing with what someone said (or, indeed, disagreeing). Just remember the golden rules of online communication: don’t SHOUT AT PEOPLE (type in all caps); don’t swear at people; don’t call people names; don’t hide behind ‘anonymous’ – use your name and a link to your own blog.

You will notice that, by having links off to all of the wonderful writers above, I am contributing to the global conversation. I don’t have to comment individually on their blog, I can instead publish a post on my blog and link to theirs. Eventually, because we are nearly all of us egotists {smile} and search the main search engines — technorati, blogpulse, talkdigger and google amongst many — for links to us, these writers will find that you have talked about them and will quite possibly come and find you.

If they like what they see they may even link back to you in one of their posts.

Five.
Measure your conversational ability. This is not very hard to do at all. Wander over to Feedburner and set yourself up with an account. Use the feedburner feed you create (they walk you through the process) as your subscription link for your webfeed/rss feed and you will be able to track how many people subscribe to your blog. It’s free.

If you want to take it a little further, wander over to StatCounter and set up a free account with them. Make some simple decisions and copy the code into your template. That way you can see how many visit each day, and from where. The more you enter into the global conversation, the more people will come to converse with and learn from you.

Six.
Never stop learning. The universe of blogging, podcasting and rss is a rapidly-evolving one. New technologies and tools come by at the speed of light, so you need to stay connected. Sure, you can go on holiday, take a month off and pick up where you left off, but be aware that any longer break will mean a bit of extra homework to play ‘catch up’.

Seven.
Read this fantastic paper by Stephen Downes which says all I have just said but better. James Torio has written an outstanding paper for people who have a basic understanding of blogs, but hunger to know more. It’s called Blogs: A Global Conversation (pdf). In particular, Torio looks at how blogs have impacted business and communication. He includes some proprietary research as well. And Seth Godin, the man with no hair, has a fantastic ebook he’s (again) giving away free. Download it from here. And for the creative use of podcasts, might I suggest Kevin Dugan‘s post.

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  • http://allanjenkins.typepad.com/ Allan Jenkins

    I should just shut down my blog and move here. Christine, what Lee said.

  • http://allanjenkins.typepad.com Allan Jenkins

    I should just shut down my blog and move here. Christine, what Lee said.

  • http://trafcom.com/ donna papacosta

    Excellent, Lee. I’ll be sending a link to your post to all of my not-yet-blogging colleagues.
    Thanks for the mentions too ;-))

  • http://trafcom.com donna papacosta

    Excellent, Lee. I’ll be sending a link to your post to all of my not-yet-blogging colleagues.
    Thanks for the mentions too ;-))

  • http://fabadger.blogspot.com/ Dan Hill

    Lee, very comprehensive and right on the money. I hadn’t heard of Jack Vinson until reading this post. Thanks for the introduction to yet another great blogger.

  • http://fabadger.blogspot.com Dan Hill

    Lee, very comprehensive and right on the money. I hadn’t heard of Jack Vinson until reading this post. Thanks for the introduction to yet another great blogger.

  • http://blog.danyork.com/ Dan York

    Excellent post, Lee. Definitely something I will pass along to others. Thanks for writing it so well!

    Dan

  • http://blog.danyork.com Dan York

    Excellent post, Lee. Definitely something I will pass along to others. Thanks for writing it so well!

    Dan

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  • http://youngie.prblogs.org/ Paull Young

    Lee, I’ve only just come across this post and I think it’s an excellent introductory piece.

    I’ll certainly be referencing it in the future. Great advice, and a great blog.

  • http://youngie.prblogs.org Paull Young

    Lee, I’ve only just come across this post and I think it’s an excellent introductory piece.

    I’ll certainly be referencing it in the future. Great advice, and a great blog.

  • Lee

    Thanks Paull,

    Much appreciated!

  • Lee

    Thanks Paull,

    Much appreciated!

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