8 top tips to make your internal blog POP
The old-faithful blog is a winning comms tool that can serve a multitude of purposes. But before you click ‘publish’, check you’ve ticked off these top tips to get it noticed – and READ.
When blogging first burst onto the internet scene as ‘personal homepages’ or ‘weblogs’ back in the 1990s, no-one could have anticipated just how big a craze it would become.
Once considered a digital personal diary, you’ll now find a blog for every cause, purpose, trend, and hobby imaginable. (Some of the more obscure ones I stumbled upon included one dedicated to pictures of hungover-looking owls; another, ‘Caught Dead in That’ celebrates the weird and wonderful ways in which people memorialize themselves on their tombstones.)
Blogs not only provide us with entertainment and interesting insights and facts: as organizations, they can also help us build and communicate our brand, increase our visibility and web traffic, establish ourselves as thought leaders, provide valuable information, educate our customers and prospects, and much more.
With the introduction of social media and its more ‘bite-sized’ approach to interaction – from the historic 140 Twitter character limit to the 60 second Instagram video cut-off – many feared blogging, as a long-form type of content, was on its way out.
But while a great deal has evolved and changed since the early days of Blogger, many platforms such as Medium, Tumblr and LinkedIn Pulse continue to thrive. The lines between personal and professional blogs may have blurred, but the future for blogging remains bright.
When it comes to capturing the attention of our own employees or colleagues, blogs are a great go-to. However, the internal blog has its own set of unique challenges – so how do you get it right?
Blogging for an internal audience
While the internet is awash with advice and examples for both professional and personal bloggers looking to take their commentary and views to the world wide web, the art of scribing for an internal audience is a little different.
For starters, the purpose and objective of an internal blog is normally very different. You probably aren’t going to be writing to increase your traffic or conversions, to get backlinks or leads. You’re more likely to directly know your audience personally and won’t necessarily be confirmed to a particular niche subject matter.
However, this can also be to the detriment of many internal blogs.
Too often, we see that lack of motivational purpose or direction translate into flat, dry and uninspiring blogs about remaining compliant with industry regulations, or the need to keep the staff kitchen tidy and PLEASE remember to put your cup in the dishwasher when you’re done. Yawn.
If your internal blogs neglect to be interesting in the pursuit of being ‘useful’ or ‘informative’, there’s no point in even firing up your laptop. These may be your colleagues, but they are also – first and foremost – people, and an audience. The same rules about attracting and retaining their attention, as with any blog, still apply.
Before writing any blog, step into the shoes of your would-be reader and ask yourself the question: if I weren’t the author, would I find this compelling, engaging and interesting? Would I read this?
Then, apply these simple tips and ideas to bring it to life.
#1: Get creative (and snappy) with your headline
Which of the following grabs you most?
- Quarterly financial and sales performance figures and analysis for West Coast
- Who’s top of the sales leaderboard this Q? Find out…
We have about 10 seconds to grab the attention of our readers. Pick a headline that teases your audience into wanting to learn more, but also conveys the essence of the information in the blog. Make it punchy, concise, and clear.
#2: Be clear in what you’re trying to achieve
Before putting the proverbial pen to paper, ask yourself: what is it that I want this blog to achieve?
Are you looking to inform your peers about a new initiative? To share your success, or perhaps something that has worked well that you think they should know about? Perhaps you’re asking for help, insights, support for a cause?
Even though this is an internal piece, having a clear ‘call to action’ is still crucial. Frontload it at the beginning of your blog, repeat it in the body, and box off the conclusion by reiterating it again. “I’d like your help to do X, because… If anyone can help with this, it will be greatly appreciated…If you can help at all, please email me.” Repetition works.
#3: Put the most important information first
80% of our attention is spent looking at information ‘above the fold’: that is, at the top of the page before we scroll down. 55% of all page views also tend to get less than 15 seconds of attention.
So, we need to get our point across fast.
Follow your headline with a subtitle that gives a little more away and then get straight to the point with the most newsworthy or critical bits: the who, what, where, why, how.
Next, move into the secondary important details and finally, leave the general background information for the bottom in the fail-safe inverted pyramid. Just 10-20% of people get to this point, so don’t be burying the lead in the fine print. Reserve the slow-building dramas for the movie theater and front-load your blogs.
#4: Use formatting to follow the ‘F’ shape
The F-shape pattern is still the most predominant way of scanning a page, shown by heatmapping and page analysis tools:
This means we tend to read left to right at the top, scroll down on the left and maybe read across a few more times. 69% of our time is spent viewing the left half of the page, compared to 31% on the right.
Use it to your advantage. Play with formatting including bulletpoints, subheadings and highlighting to draw the reader to your key information.
Chunk content into smaller paragraphs and keep sentences short for impact. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to include white space (especially on the right). It helps draw your readers’ eye to what’s important.
#5: Be yourself
It’s a mantra we repeat a lot when it comes to internal comms. However, for blogs it’s particularly important. BE YOURSELF.
This means cutting the corporate jargon and talking in your blog as an actual person, talking to other people: not as a nameless corporation.
This isn’t a report or a strategy document. It’s an informal type of content. Try and speak in a friendly, personable tone. Use the active voice and don’t be afraid to inject your own personality into it.
Remember, even if you are talking about something departmental or industry-specific, your audience is your entire organization: and not everyone will have the same level of understanding. Explain things in laymen’s terms where possible.
#6: Tell the story
Storytelling seems to be the buzzword of the moment in marketing and comms, but it’s actually the oldest trick in the book.
Bringing an idea, piece of feedback or even a policy to life in the context of its wider story is one of the most powerful ways to engage readers with your blog.
Which is better: telling your colleagues, “our department exceeded their targets to make this our most successful quarter to date”… or telling everyone the story of how those individuals in that department went the extra mile to smash their goals?
Bring in your shared experiences. We are all, by nature, interested in things that relate to or impact us directly. By relaying the inside jokes or telling the tales from the shopfloor that others can recognize or are a part of, you’re far more likely to get those likes and shares up.
#7: Mix it up
As much as blogging celebrates the written word, we’re innately visual creatures.
Mix up your content and break up chunks of text by using images, video, gifs, visuals and graphics in your blog. A good rough guide is to break up every 300-400 words, depending on the length of your blog.
Research also shows that 91% of readers will read image captions: so, label up those images that can support or add value to your written content.
If there are some really important points you want to hammer home, you may want to consider pulling them out as a quote or even converting them into an image: a one-liner on a colored background is surprisingly effective at capturing attention.
#8: Check it
Although I’m the first to champion a more informal tone to an internal blog, there’s no excuse for letting standards slip. This is, after all, a professional blog: to be shared with colleagues, employees, possibly read by middle management or even your senior leaders.
So, check it.
Proofread it, sanity-check it, ensure it aligns with your culture and internal standards. Make sure the images are the right ones and aren’t appearing in odd places or at a thumbnail ratio too small to be seen.
And one from personal experience – check people’s names. When including your colleagues in an internal blog, there’s no faster route to offending someone than mistaking them for someone else or – as I somehow managed – spelling their name four different ways in the space of 500 words.
Internal blogging works (when we get it right, that is.)
One of my favorite examples of this comes from the global financial services provider, Travelex.
With a huge frontline staff dispersed around the globe and often isolated in bureaus in airports, supermarkets or on the high street (75% of employees were retail staff, with just 25% office-based), Travelex had a huge challenge with staff engagement. Turnover was high, morale was low. Creating a common culture was an impossible task.
In 2017, Travelex launched its new intranet, The Lounge: and with it, the use of blogs.
These started as a tool for purely corporate communication, but the trend quickly caught on. Soon, grass-roots employees across the organization were adopting the platform to share ideas, experiences, random facts and more, as Global Intranet Manager Tricia Scott explains:
“Everyone, from senior executives through to bureau workers, has a chance to get support and share their stories with a wider audience.
“We have staff blogging about things that go way beyond their day jobs. People are supporting each other through illnesses, divorces, and other challenges – and these are people from all over the world who may never have met each other face to face. They’re also sharing positive stories and experiences, which is helping us to embed a common culture.”
The year after The Lounge was launched, Travelex awarded Blog of the Year to a sales consultant who got over 400 likes after posting a personal blog titled, ‘How Travelex put me back together again’ on the site. The intranet continues to average 11 blogs a day.
If that’s not a testament to the power and potential of blogging within an organization, I don’t know what is.