For managers and executives, tremendous value can be created by leveraging digital publishing tools to share perspectives on their area of expertise. Brett Fairbank, recipient of LinkedIn’s ‘Most Prolific Blogger Award’, offers his insights on digital publishing.
I’m not a professional writer or blogger. But I am passionate about my job, and I enjoy researching the latest trends and technologies that could disrupt the industries that I work in. It is from these perspectives that I build my points of view when writing blog posts for digital platforms.
Broadcasting your point of view is essentially what LinkedIn’s publishing platform, alongside other longer-form content platforms such as Medium, Facebook and WordPress make possible. And by sharing your written thoughts on a large scale digital service, conversations can be easily started with connected networks of like-minded professionals in similar fields.
There are other reasons to enter the exciting world of digital publishing, too:
- Signalling stakeholders
Sharing a unique perspective on an issue can initiate new relationships without the need for direct solicitation. By reading a well-thought out blog post, a manager or recruiter, can become more interested in the author’s skills and experiences than reading their resume would have. When conducted at scale, this ‘loads the dice’ for the author, significantly improving their future opportunities.
- Practising the art of storytelling
Expressing a point of view and ‘workshopping’ it with others is an exercise that both challenges and provides invaluable perspective. Think of it like an extended elevator pitch to thousands of people.
- Story amplification
With user-bases now numbering in the millions, digital content is never created in a vacuum. Any blog post has the opportunity to be widely shared and amplified among the platform’s network, reducing the need for extensive marketing and syndication efforts.
- The fun of it
It’s great getting replies from readers, whether positive or constructive. Either way, the feedback is a sign of engagement from an audience.
Blogging to improve
In marketing and communications, many companies can often over-emphasise social media engagement, with modest receptions to branded content often construed as a failure. But the simple truth is, many people would rather engage with other people. A 2012 Nielson study found that 92% of respondents trusted ‘earned media’ – such as personal recommendations or word of mouth – above all other forms of advertising. The end result is that content written by a person with only 1,000 LinkedIn connections can generate as much (or more) engagement than a brand with ten times that figure.
Companies are catching onto this. Employees are now often provided with social media-ready quotes and passages for circulation around a particular communications campaign, event or product launch. This way, the staff get to sell the message.
Another advantage of staff-based communications is the opportunity to be far bolder in perspective. Content utilising a brand’s voice must often go through a range of departments – marketing, product, legal, risk, etc – before reaching the consumer. This risks the original idea becoming watered down.
While it may seem like this entrusting of brand communications to personal staff comes with increased risks, much of this is mitigated by the digital publishing platform itself. A platform such as LinkedIn, for example, facilitates the development of personal brands. Because anything you publish becomes associated with your brand, it encourages professionalism and judgement. For LinkedIn, this is a clever form of user-generated self-regulation.
Here are my practical tips for publishing to digital platforms:
Note down all future content ideas
Most digital platforms have a ‘draft article’ feature, which is an effective way of keeping an online journal of new ideas. If an interesting subject comes to mind when conversing with a friend or colleague, your idea and any key points can be quickly noted in a draft article, to be built out at a later time.
Remain clear and focussed on the topic
It’s easy to start off with one idea and explore multiple different avenues and sub-topics. Resist this urge, and save these other ideas for follow-up articles down the track. Remember: many online audiences – particularly LinkedIn – skew towards the sales, marketing, technology and recruitment industries. Topics that target these industries therefore will have a higher chance of getting featured.
Write with the audience in mind
Most digital publishing platforms feature curated, user-subscribe-able sections that group trending articles according to specific themes. To improve content reach, it helps to understand the intended target audience and the sections they likely subscribe to. Many platforms such as LinkedIn also feature insight and analytics tools that unlock the ability to track if content is reaching the right audience.
Headlines are important
In many cases it’s the only part of an article a potential reader will see. Seize this opportunity: to make them click, make it count.
Use a powerful and relevant image
The old adage of a picture telling a thousand words remains true, especially in the increasingly visually oriented digital space. A compelling image also communicates to the audience what the article is about. Don’t publish an article without one, and try to include some rich content (images, animations or video) throughout the rest of the article.
Don’t worry too much about publication time
There have been many studies into the best time to publish digital content. Ultimately however, no study will match personal experimentation. The best time for the East Coast of the United States will not necessarily be the best time for the East Coast of Australia – even if time differences are accounted for. Personally, I consume most of my content on my morning commute, so I aim to target this audience: time-poor individuals who want to read something topical.
Engage with people that comment
Last but most importantly, respect the audience that has taken the time to read your article and provide feedback or a different point of view. Try to resist people who have commented simply to get a rise out of you – unfortunately they exist everywhere.
The journey into digital publishing can be challenging. Some articles will do well, while others will only reach a small portion of the intended audience. It’s hard to gauge which content will outperform the others. Most frustratingly, what you think is your best work may well go unnoticed.
But that shouldn’t detract from the extremely rewarding aspect of publishing. I often get questions from people who are hesitant over the quality or completeness of their writing. My advice is always the same: hit the ‘publish’ button!
Try to ignore any doubts. Your writing will probably never be perfect and it’s not supposed to be. The point is to start a conversation with an audience and it’s easier for readers to engage in content that hasn’t turned every stone in an argument. Let your readers turn the stones through comments and feedback.