9 Tips for a First Time Blogger

Over the last couple of weeks I have had a few students ask me for advice about setting up a blog for the first time. As a guy who has been blogging for the last 5 years in various shapes and forms this is the advice I would give those treading the waters of the blogosphere for the first time.

I have only written 9 tips so that people can freely commented and add their own suggestions.

1. Don’t start a blog because you have to

Teachers or Lecturers may try persuading you to blog alongside the course. Only maintain a blog if you want to though. Blogging is all about passion.

2. Blogging is about writing

Blogging isn’t about promotion but instead writing. Unless you are a good writer then I would recommend you to avoid the blogosphere. However, if you have the desire to improve your writing style then a blog is perfect for you. When I started blogging in 2005 my writing style was terrible but now my spelling grammar has improved immensely. I find reading a variety of writing styles compliments your own. My influences are all fairly similar in nature; Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Clarkson, George Orwell and Richard Dawkins.

3. Blogs aren’t just written

In this rich media age blogs can include images, podcasts and video. A blog is ultimately for sharing content. Don’t just stick to medium, push your blog to the multimedia limits!

4. Search for a focus

Why do you want to set up a blog? This blog has been set up to run alongside my public relations course whilst I study at University. The focus is therefore leaning towards the aspects which are relevant to my degree. You will also see that at times I have written posts of a personal ‘student life’ perspective. Ultimately your blog should be a form of expression towards your passions. Having a main focus will generally increase your blog’s readership.

5. Don’t focus on the readers

Don’t care about how many people will read your blog. Just care who might be reading your blog. If I began blogging worrying about readership levels then I would have never continued. When you write a blog, think this, “Would I put this post up on a billboard?” Remember that if you write anything harmful you may negatively come across to your readers.

6. Choose your service

I run my blog on hired server space with a personalised domain name. If you want to learn how to do this then leave a comment and I’ll write a short step-by-step post. It is easy.

Otherwise there are a range of free options to start your blogging career. Check out WordPress, TypePad, Squarespace, Blogger and Windows Live Spaces.

7. Frequency and length

This is a battle I am still fighting. How often should one post and how long should posts be? I tend to limit myself to 800 words maximum. The largest post I have written was 3000 words but I doubt many people made it to the end! My advice for frequency would be at least 1 post per fortnight. If gaps between posts become too long then readers get bored. If you have to push yourself to blog because you can’t be bothered then perhaps blogging isn’t for you.

8. Network yourself

Promotion of yourself is a secondary inevitable outcome from maintaining a blog. I have had a multitude of companies ask for advice from me, have networked with a great many people and all because people searched the internet and found my blog. If you are a student wanting to make your way in the world then being the author of a blog is probably the most powerful form of promotion you can do.

9. Promote your blog posts

There are many different ways to promote your blog posts. Try these methods for starters:

–          Set up a Twitter Account

–          Use NetworkedBlogs on Facebook

–          Join StumbleUpon and Reddit

–          Include your blog’s address in your email’s footer

There are too many services to list. I did write a post about blog promotion a little while ago though which can be found here.

Big Blue Chip

microsoft_logo_qjpreviewth_2Those of you who follow my Twitter feed will know that over the last couple of weeks I have mentioned interviews and inevitably tweeted a string of grumbles that comes from travelling into a busy city, London.

One of the companies I had an interview with was Microsoft. At 7:15pm last Wednesday I got an unexpected call from a lady at Microsoft informing me that I had managed to get the job.

I have to admit that my reaction on the phone was at first quite hesitant. Shocked! The bad phone signal my end didn’t help. I know that the phone call from Microsoft in the first place should give me a clue if I had got the job or not. In my head I have always seen a phone call as an acceptance and an email as rejection. I know that those forms of contact are not always generally true but that was the way I saw it. Having said that I would hate to have got my hopes up and felt crushing disappointment. Whatever the response I was happy to have heard from Microsoft as it took a weight of my mind.

To submit your CV, complete an online mathematics test, pass through a 45 minute phone interview, then be invited to an assessment day with other candidates and then get the job. These are stepping stones few are able to all tread and I consider myself lucky to have done so.

I’m not entirely sure where the term ‘blue chip company’ comes from. I can only assume that ‘blue chip’ comes from a game of Poker where the blue chip usually holds the highest value. Nevertheless, for my internship next year I never imagined to be working for a ‘blue chip’, possibly the biggest blue chip of all, Microsoft.

Microsoft has decided to select me for a Marketing job. The contract will take a few days to come through but I am literally over the moon.

Little known to Microsoft, when I received their phone call I immediately had to contact another very large, brilliant, company and decline their offer for an interview. So pleased with how everything has worked out and I wish others in my class the best of success as some of them continue searching.

#AddMe Conference Photos

For those who were there on the evening you would have seen Tim Hamilton rushing about with a camera. Here are the photos from the #AddMe Conference.

I have also written a 1000 piece about the conference in Behind the Spin magazine which can be found here.

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An Evening with Andrew Pierce

The conservative candidate for Cheltenham, Mark Coote, was kind enough to invite me out as his guest to a talk by the journalist Andrew Pierce (Go on Andrew, join Twitter!).

Described as a “fearless writer” by the Guardian, Andrew’s career has seen him step from the Gloucestershire Echo, to The Telegraph and now to The Daily Mail. A somewhat questioned move since Jan Moir’s heavily bigoted article last year and Andrew’s status as Fleet Street’s highest profile gay columnist. Meeting Andrew for me was unbelievable, surreal and wetted my appetite for success such as his.

Finding the Church had been a matter of iPhone over mind as I saw myself as a GPS dot navigating my way to the Church where the talk was taking place. You won’t often find me in a Church and on arrival I was surprised to be greeted immediately by name.

Apparently I was one of the youngest people in the room and this soon became very clear. I tend not to have any difficulty spending time with elder people, as long as they don’t presume a ‘higher class’. Not all wisdom comes with age. The only time I got disgruntled was when a lady commented that I looked like I was 15 years old. Clearly this still can’t be the case, I thought smoking was meant to age the skin?

Andrew Pierce has a warm presence but a defiant character which is often revealed in his writings. As he spoke people attentively nodded along, chuckled at the jokes and a couple were taking notes. What he was saying was deeply imbedded in the current political situation in Britain. He spoke with wit and anecdotal stories about a world inside Westminster.

Although I understand politics I find it very difficult to follow a single party. I will vote but my voting will be done on the basis of ideas. Namely the ideas I see as plausible but it is inevitable that no matter which party I vote for there will be ideas not supported by me. Political parties are simply a mixture of ideas and once elected anything could happen. The manifesto is the guideline and methods of achievement must be found to support each clause. At least that is how I view the government.

Andrew Pierce was very interesting but I was more concerned with the journalism side of his career. He might be a political commentator but his job is as a journalist. Whilst speaking with him he commented that he regularly gets sent press releases, more accurately described as propaganda in some cases.

Over the last couple of months it has become increasingly clear to me that I have learnt about Public Relations from a singular point of view. If our work is to be with the press then students should have a better understanding of their job. This can partially be done in the classroom but better achieved through work experience.

Throughout the evening I had one thought in my mind; journalism sounds fun.

Fair enough, it is a busy job but I would hope any job would be busy. I can’t really explain how enticing the feeling of ‘fun’ is to me. Journalism could be a real possibility. Perhaps a backwards step from Public Relations, after all, lots of journalists are now moving into Public Relations.

Could Journalism be the career path designed for me? In many ways that question is irrelevant in my stage of education. With a sandwich year coming up soon I am required to find a Public Relations job. I already know I enjoy Public Relations and so my year out will be something to look forward to. A period of time to continue achieving, learn the ways of the corporate Public Relations world and hopefully earn some money to fund my 4th year. All I need to do is keep working, get my degree and then make some big decisions.

Who knows what could happen? All I know is that I am thankful to Mark Coote for inviting me along to the evening, Andrew Pierce for being so charming and that journalism is a career path I am definitely interested in. Yet again – how safe is the journalism industry and publishing?

Happy Birthday Blog!

This blog has been running for over 12 months and has been the most successful project I have done on the internet. To have ownership over a website that receives more than 40,000 visits over the course of a year is an honour. It is only you, the reader, who I have to thank. So thank you for visiting this blog and making my life in the digital world wondrous and worthwhile.

However it does feel like an age since I last wrote on here. Each task completed and event attended over the last few weeks deserves an article of its own. I have learnt so much and met so many great people.

I have also been very lucky. My name has been in the Gloucestershire Echo, The Citizen, BBC Gloucestershire, Business Week and The Guardian. BBC Radio Gloucestershire even did a 10 minute interview with me about social media.

The largest task I set myself to do was to arrange a social media conference for Cheltenham. The #AddMe Conference happened last week, around 60 people turned up and judging by the feedback must have had a good time. In my eyes the conference would have been worthwhile even if a couple of people found it useful. Before not too long I will be writing a 600 word article on the conference for Space Newspaper which will be available on this blog with accompanying pictures.

Of course, the main reason I am in Cheltenham is to study towards my PR degree. Despite all these extra antics of mine my grades have remained higher than last year’s. So to put this synopsis adequately, everything is going very well. Now that the work has calmed down I will have much more time to focus what I enjoy doing best, writing.