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More on Blogging When Your Industry Isn't Into It

The other day I posted on how to blog when your industry or occupation hasn't embraced the whole social media thing. Today I ran across a great article on 15 Practices to Deepen Human Connection and Engagement Online that I think are a nice complement to some of my previous suggestions. Some of these ideas include:

  • Ask people for advice and favors.  People like to help.  Helping others gives them a sense of autonomy and choice, which is a reward to the brain.
  • Use videos and audios to deepen the connection with your audience, activate the mirror neurons and synchronize the brains.
  • Ask open-ended questions: who, what, when, where, how, why, etc.
  • Host online chats and events where people can talk about a specific topic for a longer stretch of time.
  • Organize a local meetup or tweetup for your online friends to meet in person.

Also, in comments on my previous post, Sarah Stewart asked about facilitation as a blogging strategy, thinking about using a blog to facilitate conversations:

You have listed a number of things you can use a blog does facilitation fit into this picture or is "facilitation" a broad term to decribe all these functions you have listed?

Sarah is currently running a FREE(!)  course on Online Facilitation (that looks fabulous, by the way) so I can see why this is on her mind.

In my opinion,  many of these practices would fall under the facilitation category, although I see that as a somewhat more advanced technique in blogging that requires you to have some level of an audience before you're able to do it. It can also be one of the most fun and rewarding activities you can do with a blog and will certainly help you build a positive brand if you can pull it off. In my experience, it's these kinds of activities that have also led to the best networking and deepest connections.

If you want to go the facilitation route, Sarah's course is actually a good example of using a blog to facilitate learning.  We also did that with the 31 Day Comment Challenge a few years ago. 

One thing I've been thinking about is facilitating other activities/conversations through a blog. On Twitter yesterday, LaDonna Coy shared a blog post she'd written on using The World Cafe Model to have some conversations about sustainability. That has me wondering if it could be adapted as a blog activity.

Another one that would be interesting to try facilitating through a blog discussion (although maybe it's better on a wiki) is this "Breaking the Rules" activity Frank Calberg shared during today's Twitter #lrnchat

Just some additional thoughts. . .

How to Blog When Your Industry or Occupation Isn't Into It

Personalbranding Rosetta Thurman, one of my favorite blogging professionals, posted an excellent post the other day--10 Reasons Why Every Young Professional Should Have a Blog. It was, as always, a thoughtful, compelling post with some great reasons for blogging that she she picked up from her Twitter network.

What surprised me were the responses in the comments section. Several commenters didn't buy into Rosetta's arguments, indicating that they were working in areas where blogging is seen as negative--at best self-indulgent and at worst professional suicide. 

It got me thinking about strategies for blogging when your industry or occupation hasn't embraced blogging. What do you do when all the negative publicity about blogs as narcissistic navel-gazing or platforms for strident criticism have permeated your industry?  How do you blog then? So below, some ideas:

  • Be a "content curator"--Every professional I know complains that they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and resources that are available online. They would love to have someone weed through what's out there and give them a digest of resources and articles to help them get their work done. Try serving this role for your industry or occupation. Set up a Delicious account to bookmark the best stuff you find online and write periodic posts summarizing and linking to what you've found. Stephen Downes does a great job of this (although his commentary can be controversial). So does Rebecca Leaman. Teacher
  •  Be a teacher--Use your blog to show people how to do different things. Try writing "how to's" and tutorials or sharing helpful tips. Beth Kanter does a lot of this and it's helped her build a huge following on and off-line.
  • Be a cheerleader--Everyone likes to be recognized for the positive work they do. Sharing best practices and giving shout-outs to deserving individuals and organizations is another way to use your blog. Beth Kanter does this with case studies.
  • Be a reflective practitioner--I've written before about reflective practice, the process of thinking through how you do your work and reflecting on how to improve and grow your skills. Blogging can be a key part of the process, as Rosetta points out in her post. Not only do we get the benefit of writing out our own thoughts and ideas, by blogging them we open them up to scrutiny and suggestions that can help us learn new ways of thinking and operating. Catherine Lombardozzi's blog is a great example of this approach.
  • Be a connector--Use your blog to expand your network. Contact key people in your industry or profession and ask if you can do a blog interview. Contact people outside of your industry to get their ideas and perspectives. Ask questions on your blog and invite people to respond, serving as a hub for activity and ideas that can help people connect to one another. Rosetta is a good example of a connector with her podcasts and blogging interviews.

BloggingThe thing about blogging is that you don't have to adopt a model that's "controversial." If you're worried about expressing ideas or opinions that may be unpopular in your industry, then don't do it. Although there are a lot of bloggers who like to challenge the status quo, that doesn't have to be YOUR model of operating. You can play another role in your niche that builds your brand in a different way.

 It's been my experience that providing great resources to people, showing them ways to do their jobs better and faster, or connecting them to people and ideas they haven't encountered before are all things that most employers look for in an applicant. Even if they aren't "into" blogging, seeing that you use your blog to be a resource for people will generally be viewed as a positive. And if it's not, then maybe you don't want to work for that organization anyway. 

One more thought before I close. One of the benefits of being someone who blogs in an industry where it isn't accepted yet is that you're out there first, becoming a thought leader before the field gets crowded. Although it's tempting to wait to blog until other people are doing it, the downside is that you will have a harder time standing out, which is one of the key things you want to do when you're building your brand. I agree with Rosetta--it's better to jump in. You'll be glad you did.

If you're looking for some ideas on types of blog posts to write, try this wiki. Lots of ideas to get your juices flowing.

If you're looking for a way to get started on blogging for branding, try joining Rosetta's 31 Day Challenge, coming up in August. It will be a great way to get your feet wet and see what we're talking about. 

UPDATE: Here's a follow-up post with additional tips and thoughts.

Photo 1--Stephano Principato

Photo 2--George Eastman House

Photo 3--kpwerker


Virtual Career Fair Lessons Learned: Implementation

In a previous post, I shared some lessons learned in planning for the virtual career fair we piloted in the spring with several Pennsylvania counties. Today I'm going to share some lessons we learned during implementation.

  • Make presentations more interactive and visually interesting--While a few of our presenters had some experience in presenting online, most did not. We ran practice sessions ahead of the actual events, but these were primarily to get presenters comfortable with the technology and the process. While the presenters did a great job with their webinars, they were not always as engaging and interesting as we had hoped. The reality is, presenting for an online audience is very different than presenting in person. Next year, we're going to work more closely with presenters on the actual content of their presentations so that they are more visually engaging and interesting. We will also work with them to include more interactive components, like polling, for a change of pace. 
  • Have more people in a presentation who use a more conversational approach--Ironically, one of our highest-rated webinars was the one where the presenters were the least prepared. Five minutes before the webinar began, they were still discussing who would handle which slides and I could feel my stomach start to churn. Apparently someone else had created the slides and the two guys doing the presentation had never actually looked at them. I was afraid we were going to have a harrowing 45 minutes ahead of us. But when the recording started, these guys proceeded to just talk, reacting to the slides, rather than elaborating on them. I'm always preaching "prepare, prepare, prepare," but on the other hand, if you have smart people who have interesting things to say and there's no step-by-step process they need to review, lack of preparation can work. 
  • Personality is critical!--I hate to say it, but a webinar can make even an interesting presenter sound boring, so if you're going to do an online event, you REALLY need people who can relax and let their personality shine through. We had a couple of great webinars in terms of the content and information that was shared that received somewhat lower ratings because the presenters sounded like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
  • Test EVERYTHING beforehand--Because we'd used Go-to-Webinar for other events, we were pretty confident and comfortable that it would work. However, we didn't count on its bugginess with Macs, so the presentation we thought we'd recorded was not captured. Next time we'll be sure to test before we assume, even when it's a platform we've used before. (I should add that Go-to-Webinar provided me with some great 140-character customer service through Twitter, so I was really pleased with their response, even though we had some issues with the recordings).
  • Free can work--This project was grant-funded and money was tight. We made the decision to see if it was possible to use primarily free or very low-cost tools to put on the virtual event because we also wanted to demonstrate to the cash-strapped agencies and schools we were working with that it's possible to do some pretty cool things without laying out a lot of money for technology. No doubt we could have spent a boatload of money to have more integrated tools and a better "look," but we wanted to see what could happen on a shoe-string budget. As it turns out, quite a lot can be done.

I was actually really pleased with how smoothly things went overall. We'll make some scheduling and content changes for next time, but the virtual concept worked well and demonstrated to a number of naysayers how this kind of thing can work to supplement or replace face-to-face events. This was a big step.

Next time we're looking at incorporating live streaming video and some other elements. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.