Last week I led a blogging 101 training session for physicians and other healthcare professionals who blog for the Hospital Leader blog of the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM). It was a great experience. (Special shout out to Brendon Shank and Meghan Mallouk of SHM.) The bloggers ranged in experience with some having blogged for several years while others were relatively new to blogging. I thought I’d share some of the blogging tips I shared within that session. One of the first things I spoke about was the “blogging mindset” that eventually develops, if given a chance. From my perspective, a new blogger can tell that he or she has achieved the blogging mindset if blogging begins to fit within the context or flow of his or her life. To be successful, especially for a physician blogger, blogging should not be a hassle. As the physician travels through the work day, he or she should get to the point where certain things (journal articles or a patient experience, for example) trigger an idea for a blog post. Eventually, throughout the week, the physician blogger will note various things that are blog post worthy. It might be a news story on NPR that he or she hears in the car. Or it might be news of an upcoming conference that seems particularly interesting and relevant. Making note of those things – rather than sitting down and brainstorming (forcing) topics for future blog posts – that is the blogging mindset. This approach allows your blog posts to be more spontaneous and in the moment, requiring less planning and labor.
Here are some of the quick tips I shared with the group from the Society of Hospital Medicine:
- Be truthful – Not only should you always strive to tell the truth, but you should also be true to yourself.
- Be interesting – The world doesn’t need yet another blogger droning on. What’s interesting about your perspective? What will others find interesting about you and your blog? One key is to write about things that interest you. Your interest will show through in your writing.
- Find your voice – This is essential. Blogging, especially for business people and medical professionals who are not used to writing in such an informal manner, can be a struggle. What is your voice going to be as a blogger? Often it is the voice that makes you interesting.
- Be patient with yourself – While you are working to find your voice, be patient with yourself. It can take time to find your voice and certainly it takes time to develop a blogging mindset. So be patient with yourself. Keep moving forward. And don’t get discouraged.
- Balancing the fear of writing too little with the fear of writing too much (both can be sins) – Blog posts should vary in length depending on the subject you are addressing. Sometimes you’ll want to write a very short post that directs your readers to an article, video or blog posts. I call those “redirect” posts. These can be one paragraph in length, and that is perfectly acceptable. You’ve done your job by providing a resource to your readers. At other times, hopefully not too frequently, you’ll want to write a rant or manifesto. Those tend to be longer. My suggestion is to use subheads to break up the copy and try embedding images/graphics to add interest. In general, I feel that a good blog post will average four paragraphs. Please know, not every blog post needs to be a major literary work; 300 to 400 words is optimum.
- Have a point – This is a really common challenge that many bloggers face: they leave their readers asking “So What?” Before writing that next blog post, ask yourself why you plan to write about this particular topic? Are you providing a new perspective? Sharing a valuable resource? What’s the point? What’s the hook?
- Write with conviction – Don’t be afraid to take a stand and express a perspective. Having conviction will make you interesting.
- Write when you have something to say – The best blog posts are often written in the moment!
- Short sentences are best – Say no more.
- Avoid using deceptively cute headlines – Ultimately, your blog post has to deliver on the promise of the headline. Avoid creating false expectations with clever headlines that mislead the reader. These are busy people and they won’t be fooled a second time.
- Prepare for rainy days – I like to keep a running list of blog post ideas. I use the “notes” App on my iPhone. This helps when I hit a dry spell and just can’t find inspiration for that next blog post. And believe me, it happens.
- Be generous – Generosity is a major theme in my blogging life and my overall professional life. I seek to share good content that may be of value to other healthcare marketers and communicators. When you’re writing blog posts, be sure to link to sources that your readers may find to be of value. It is okay to send readers away from your blog to an original source. Have courage. They’ll appreciate the information and will be back.
There you have it. A list of tips for healthcare professionals who blog – or may aspire to blog. What did I leave off the list?