“Everyone’s post said the exact same thing.”
“Who’s the leader? Everyone looks like a follower.”
“I haven’t been reading blogs lately because they’ve seemed so, I don’t know, boring.”
These are comments paraphrased from a recent discussion about sponsored posts. I don’t think there’s one of us who wants those criticisms leveled about our work. But it can be tricky to balance meeting the requirements of a contest starter kit with being authentic. Or, for a non-sponsored post, covering a topic that you’ve seen done a million times in your own way.
But it doesn’t have to be!
Here is a four-step process to approach your work in a way that follows the “rules” of blogging while staying true to yourself and your audience:
You can also think of this as taking notes, but the gist is this: Capture stream-of-consciousness ideas about the topic, product, or service without censoring yourself. Creating in WordPress adds a layer of pressure because you can visualize your audience reading the words you write. Take these notes elsewhere. I like pen and paper, but a doc works just as well. Put down everything, and don’t edit for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Without trying to edit as you go, you’re more likely to capture your honest, authentic voice. The goal here is to get your unfiltered ideas down. Then you can write.
Write from your notes.
Using those notes, draft your post against the content starter kit, if you have one, or with your reader in mind. Make sure you hit on all the key points while incorporating those ideas from the note-taking phase. Sure, your open-ended notes might not make sense by themselves. But type them up, reorganize, add some transition words, and a huge chunk of your post is finished… in your own, authentic words.
TIP: I like to circle or highlight words in my notes that I want to be sure I use. For instance, if I’m writing a review of a cat tree, and I jotted a phrase like “flipping relieved to have an alternative to beige carpeting,” I want to mark that phrase to make sure I capture that in my post.
I can’t emphasize this point enough: Edit your work out loud. I mean that literally. Read your post aloud. If you feel strange about it, make sure your pet’s in the room so you can feel like someone’s listening. This is the single most effective tactic that any writer can incorporate into his or her routine. You will hear your words spoken in your voice, so it will be glaringly apparent if your words don’t sound like you. A bonus aside is that you catch a ton of typos and errors this way, but the big thing is nailing down your authenticity. At the end of your reading session, ask yourself: Would I have spoken like that in a conversation with a friend? If the answer is no, back to the keyboard! No matter what the topic, sponsored or not, your post needs to sound like you to remain authentic!
Throw out the rules! (Well, within reason.)
It’s easy to get caught up in the “rules” of blogging. Do you have the right keyword density? Is your alt text correct on your images? Do you have an appropriately-sized image for every social channel? Is your Yaost plugin flashing green for readability?
Whew! It’s a lot. Here’s the thing: If you write from a place of trying to tick every one of those boxes, you will. But your post might be pretty boring or seem (because it is) formulaic. Or all the posts on the same topic start to look and sound the same. Instead, write in your authentic voice. Adjust the few things in your post that you need to in order to meet the requirements, but stay true to you.
Sure, your post will stand out from the crowd of box-tickers, but… that’s what you want, right?
How do you stay true to yourself and to your voice? What questions can we answer about writing authentic blog posts? Have you tried this approach and, if so, how did it go over?
Maggie Marton serves as the BlogPaws senior editor. When not hiking with her two pit mixes, Emmett and Cooper, or playing with Newt the Cat, Maggie writes about them (and the pet industry) at ohmydogblog.com and maggiemarton.com.