At Nexight Group, blogs are an important way for us to demonstrate our expertise and provide readers with insight into the people who make our company successful. We’ve gotten cold calls from prospective clients based on blog posts and heard from job applicants that our posts show we have smart employees and an enjoyable office environment.
As a communications specialist at Nexight, I help edit posts before they go up on our website. Part of this is to make sure they are engaging and present information clearly and concisely, similar to what I did as a journalist. The most effective posts have common elements captured in these five steps:
- Make sure you have an angle that answers this question: “So what?” While a topic may be interesting, it may not always resonate with your audience. Make sure your blog has a clear purpose. This helps you identify your target audience and narrow the scope of a post. You should have a clear idea of why your audience should care about this subject and why you are writing about it now.
- Write a well-crafted lead. In journalism, the first paragraph of an article is called the “lead.” This paragraph should be used to draw readers into your post.For news stories focusing on recent events, the lead often gives a quick summary of the event and helps readers understand the post’s focus.
A lead in a blog post by Nexight’s CEO, Jack Eisenhauer, did just that: “Last week, utilities from across the nation gathered in Charlotte, NC, to answer a fundamental question: Did the 5-year, $9 billion cost-shared investment in 132 smart grid projects make a discernible difference in modernizing the electric grid and improving reliability?”
Leads with less of a current events focus can use a variety of creative methods to draw in readers. These can include interesting quotes and anecdotes, and should entice your audience to keep going. A well-crafted lead by Nexight’s Lindsay Kishter pulled readers into her post on active shooter drills: “Live-action active shooter drills are unparalleled training tools for emergency responders to work through the stress of an incident in real time and identify obstacles. Live drills can also be highly effective in preparing companies and employees—if they’re not too overcome by fear to know they are being trained.”
- Get to the point. For journalists, the “nut graph”—the paragraph after the lead—explains exactly why the story is important, and is especially necessary for posts that start out with a more anecdotal or unusual lead. Without a good nut graph, readers are left guessing about the focus of the article, and may lose interest. By the third paragraph, readers should have a clear understanding of what the article is about and know what ground the rest of the story will cover.
- Wrap it up. Make sure you give as much focus to the end of a post as you did to the beginning. Your final paragraph should leave readers with a sense of closure. This makes your post seem thought through and complete. One of the simplest ways to do this is to refer back to the beginning of your post.
For example, Nexight’s Jared Kosters started a post on the state of the manufacturing workforce like this: “Our nation’s manufacturing workforce needs to close what’s typically called the ‘skills gap.’ The gap identifies a discrepancy between skills needed in the manufacturing industry and what’s available in the workforce, and it’s a threat to our global competitiveness.”
He ended it by referring back to this concept: “The manufacturing workforce skills gap must be tackled if we want to maintain global competitiveness. The next 10 years of IMI development represent a new era of preparing our workforce with skillsets that match the needs of manufacturing employers across the country.”
- Include a picture. Social media statistics show that posts with a picture get more engagement. If you can’t create original art for the post, Flickr and Wikimedia Commons offer options for Creative Commons graphics that you can legally use. Businesses should make sure that Creative Commons pictures are also allowed for commercial use.
It takes practice to craft effective blog posts. However, keeping these five steps in mind will help ensure that you are writing relevant and thoughtful articles that will keep your readers coming back for more.