Blogging seems to have reared its head at work again, with a new centrally supported platform being launched, but it’s one of those weird things that I take for granted and yet I’m amazed at how many folk who surround me can’t imagine why they would or even how they would, start blogging.
I guess it’s because we connect a couple of things in our heads:
- academics need to write a certain way and publish in a certain place otherwise it’s not “real” or respected.
- blogging is not respectable, it’s something people do to talk about cooking and make up, not research.
Well, both of these are kind of right, if you want to be published in an academic journal you have to write to and meet certain standards, but that doesn’t mean you may not also benefit from writing in a different way and publishing somewhere else, like blogging. Afterall, you don’t spend your career only being published on one journal?
Put it this way, not every inspirational thought you have will end up in a journal, you could still share them as blog posts though, rather than let them drop off the face of the earth 🙂
Also, lots of people read blogs, and yes lots of those people work in academia too, so it can also help you reach a wider audience and build stronger networks. You can even blog to talk about journal articles you’ve written, it’s all impact.
How to get started blogging in academia (regardless of your role in academia)
Blogging versus academic writing
Most academic writing involves time, blood, sweat and tears. Blogging is the opposite of that, not that you still shouldn’t take this seriously, after all it’s still your name out there, but, aim to create a more relaxed writing style that’s interesting to both other academics and the general public at large. Use first person, it’s personal and easy to connect to and makes your readers feel like you are speaking directly to them. Letting your personality shine through is a good thing.
I should also point out, another key thing is word count. With a blog post, you should be aiming to keep it short and sweet, about 800 – 1000 words. That can be a real challenge, ask the students currently trying to write 1000 word position pieces, but if you remember this is a conversation between you and your readers about something you find interesting, it might seem more managable.
5 tips to help you write that first blog post
1. How big: the average blog post should be roughly 500-1000 words.
2. First paragraph: the first paragraph is what hooks your readers, make it interesting but also use it to say what that post is about. Often when you share blogs, it’s that first paragraph that people see as a “teaser”.
3. Titles: this is your headline, treat it as such. Keep it short but make it interesting and avoid anything generic. So “Not sure if blogging is your thing? Here’s why it should be…” not “Blogging for academics”.
4. Visual: blogs are a visual medium so include appropriate videos, graphics and photos to help get your point across, but remember you will be responsible for abiding by copyright law on these images.
5. Keep your blog active. You don’t have to produce a post every week, but don’t let your blog sit unloved for months at a time either and if you allow your readers to comment, respond in a timely manner. Remember I said it was a conversation?
My last tip is that if you are struggling to shake off the cloak of academic writing and get into your blogging flow… try writing it on your mobile phone. It’s much harder to write an academic piece with autocorrect ruining things, and it might just switch your brain from work mode into communication guru mode. Try it.