We hope you’re excited about our blog platform, but you might be wondering where to start. There are lots of ways to write a blog, but we want to give you a little guidance to help you get your first blog published.
Blogging on Essex Blogs
Our blog platform is for everyone, staff and students, so there’ll be lots of reasons to write a blog. You might want to discuss a new piece of research, to highlight a project you’re leading or to share an experience which could help others.
Essex Blogs is really flexible and designed to serve multiple purposes and audiences. Your content can also be embedded on other pages on our site, you can promote it on social media, email links to colleagues or highlight it in newsletters.
One you’ve written it we’ll work with you to get it ready for the website and publish it. Email us for more advice.
What is a blog?
You’ll find lots of definitions of blogs, but this is our view: blogs are online articles which look at subjects in a more personal, informal and conversational way.
We’re grouping blog articles around authors, categories and tags. This means an individual or team can develop a one-off blog article or a series of articles.
This particular blog draws on a Better Blogging presentation developed by our Centre for Public Engagement. There might be more of a research focus in my comments, but the lessons are relevant to everyone. Email me for the presentation.
Things to remember
Be conversational and show us your personality. Imagine you’re having a chat with a friend and make sure you use language everyone will understand. When you have to use technical language always explain what the term means.
What’s the big idea?
You still need to decide what your key message is – personally I like to think about a blog solving a problem for the reader. So, my key message here is that you can write a blog right now and I can give you advice to do that. One big idea is perfect for a blog. Don’t forget you can always write another blog about another big idea.
Before starting, think about your audience – imagine who will read your blog, what interests them and what information will help them.
Also think about what you want the reader to take away. This may be one key message or three but drill down your thoughts in advance.
Academics will have lots of different reasons for blogging. You might want to focus on a particular field of research; to tell the story of your project or research group; or to provide advice on techniques or tools. Your approach can also change over time.
Take a look at this Research Whisperer article for inspiration.
How long should it be?
If you’re talking to a friend you usually try to avoid going on and on. It’s the same with blogs.
A good rule of thumb is 500-600 words, so your reader feels you’re giving them enough of an insight into an issue without taking up too much of their time.
There are many brilliant writers at the University and everyone has their own style. My advice is to keep sentences sharp and short with about three sentences to each paragraph.
If you think you can keep your reader’s attention beyond 600 words, go for it, but give people a reason to keep reading.
You don’t need to include references, but it’s great to link to books, papers, further analysis, useful articles or services. This helps your reader find out more and they might bookmark your blog as a resource in the future.
Tell a story
This isn’t a formal academic article so you can bring in colour, personal detail and explain your perspective.
Describe your own experiences in the field or the individuals directly impacted by your work.
For example, you decide to write a blog reflecting on the key findings of a new journal article. Why not talk about what inspired you to look at this, how you feel about the conclusion or an experience during the research.
Another example, students keep asking you where to find writing skills advice. Why not tell people about the kind of questions you get asked, give them key tips and offer links to additional support.
Real practical examples are a great way to help readers connect with your work and understand its impact or see why you understand issues which are important to them.
If you’re not sure about something, admit it. You can even ask your readers for their feedback. Your blog can be the start of a conversation which might help your research, identify service improvements or just gather feedback.
Don’t be scared
Just start writing. You’ll soon discover what works and what doesn’t. The Communications Team and the Web Team are available to give you help and feedback.
Need a little more help
Some people don’t know where to start so I put together a quick run down of ways to get started on a blog.
Inspiration is all around you
There are already loads of blogs on Essex Blogs to inspire you and you can also search for ideas on other blogs. These are my favourites:
Let me know your views
The response to Essex Blogs has been amazing and we want to provide you with the best possible support. Email me if there are ideas you want to share, advice you want added or if you have feedback.