Are you stumped about blog topics…

A few days ago I got a note from a client of mine (through my popular Business Blogging course, actually) asking me to review his weblog. Problem was, there was only one posting on it! I sent him back a note suggesting that he needed to add more content before I could offer any useful advice, and received in return this fascinating email message:
“Hi Dave, sorry for the long reply… yes I only have one post on my blog so far… Ok interesting… so I have to post more blogs; 12 more on the same subject; wouldn’t that just be redundant? I ‘m not sure … new to all this blogging”
For those of you that have been blogging for a while now, you’re probably shaking your head and muttering “darn n00b” under your breath, but this is actually quite a common question for people who are just dipping their toe into the world of business blogging: what do I write about?
So let’s talk about that for a few minutes…

First off, and this is a pretty big idea, you need to:

Write about what your customers are interested in reading

This is a world apart from traditional marketing and PR, isn’t it? It’s not about YOU, and it’s most certainly not about your product or service. It’s about the pain that people experience and, sporadically, the relief you offer through your commercial enterprise.
For example, if I wanted to sell my services as a photographer, I wouldn’t write about the services I offer, I would write about my experiences as a photographer, things I liked or disliked about a wedding I shot the previous week, how I screen customers and the questions I think they need to ask all the photographers they’re evaluating for their event, my thoughts on a new camera from Nikon or Canon, why I don’t sell negatives, and much more.
The idea is that a business blog is not an extension of your product push, but rather a way to establish yourself as an industry participant. If I’m selling photographic services, I want to write about the big world of photography and position myself as an expert and customer advocate in that world. I want to invite people who might never be customers to engage in a dialog about the many topics related to my service or product.
By contrast, how interesting would a blog on “why I’m a great photographer” be to read? I bet you’d never come back and you certainly wouldn’t subscribe to the feed, would you? I sure wouldn’t: I don’t want anyone to sell me anything, I want them to explain to me the benefits of their service or product and educate me on the nuances of that particular market so I can make my own intelligent decision.
And so my answer to the chap who sent in that email is that if he can’t think of at least a hundred different topics to write about related to his market, business, or customers, while still staying focused and professional, then maybe he needs to rethink what he’s doing.
We could even make this a parlor game (um, Parlor Game 2.0, perhaps): You name a job or profession and I’ll tell you at least 10 great articles you could write to help establish you as the guru or expert or go-to person in that field.
Trash collector? Easy. Write about the things you find in garbage cans, write about recycling, write about whether rich people have better / different garbage to poor people, write about how people interact with low-respect professionals, write about unions, write about life for the common man, the blue collar worker.
Tax auditor? Again, that’s easy. Write about how audits work, write about amusing audit stories, write about audits that have resulted in money being paid to the citizen, write about life in a big bureaucracy, write about government work, about the IRS, write about why you feel it’s important people pay taxes fairly, write about your favorite loopholes.
Freelance book editor? Tons of interesting things to write about, and you’re surrounded by the dreams and, often, detritus of people’s lives and greatest aspirations. What great manuscripts have you worked on? What famous authors aren’t actually very good writers? What makes a good book, what makes a good writer? How is language evolving and what do you think we should do about it?
And on and on. Really, if you don’t have enough passion, enthusiasm and energy to come up with a dozen great topics, ongoing topics that you can re-address time and again, that are related to your profession then maybe you’re in the wrong profession.

4 comments on “Are you stumped about blog topics…

  1. I know this is only about a small part of your post, but I must ask a question, do you call each entry a “blog” or a “post”?
    I ask because I’m not new to the blogosphere, and I’ve always considered a blog to be a website that consists of posts (not each post that makes a website). Now I’m not trying to be a word nazi here, but the newcomer said, “Ok interesting… so I have to post more blogs; 12 more on the same subject.” I’ve noticed traditional media outlets (like TV shows) use the term “blog” in the same way. Does that not confuse newcomers?

  2. You’re spot on, Jonathan. Common usage is definitely that a “blog” is comprised of “articles” or “entries”. Calling each entry a blog is an inappropriate usage by the questioner.

  3. Very interesting perspective; I was just thinking of blogging as a way to communicate what our company offers. This makes a lot of sense; As far as our actual services do you think that the use of this blogsphere is the right angle in conjunciton with the nuance blogs of our industry? thankyou for your perspective.

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