Public Writing for a Public Audience

Why should we be interested in blogging? Isn’t it just a fad? Isn’t blogging mostly for fun, for letting us know about the best pasta recipes from Ree Drumond, the Pioneer Woman, or making your own furniture, just like Ana White teaches us on her blog? Isn’t it best to use blogs to show off our travels, similar to Pam from Nerd’s Eye View?

But wait! Didn’t these bloggers have to work very hard and do a lot of research to make their blogs successful? It isn’t just a fad, is it now? Sure, blogging started as a personal diary in the 1990s, with Justin Hall being credited as one of the first bloggers/diarists whose personal life–explained in his online autobiography–became the focus of his online blog. Personal blogs, however, soon were joined by political blogs, how-to blogs, and news blogs. Now, blogs are seen as much more than diaries and personal journals; they have become essential to distributing new information quickly. Bloggers know that they can create relevant content for their readers and that they can create positive interactions with their readers. Readers and writers use blogs–and other social media–to learn something of interest, to become better informed, to form a community, to share music, videos, or stories, and also to network and create a job portfolio so important in 21st century job searches.

Blogging, and being part of the social media network, is not only important for personal gain. A study of more than 2,000 hiring managers and human research professionals conducted on behalf of Careerbuilder showed that a solid online presence can sway future employees to hire a job seeker, with 65% of companies checking online  to “see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally.” They were especially interested in online content that provided the following:

  • Good feel for candidate’s personality – 58 percent
  • Conveyed a professional image –55 percent
  • Background information supported professional qualifications – 54 percent
  • Well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests – 51 percent
  • Great communication skills – 49 percent
  • Candidate was creative – 44 percent
  • Other people posted great references about the candidate – 34 percent (Careerbuilder, 2012)

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We use blogs in some of our classes in the Rhetoric and Writing program at Northern Arizona University to make sure that students get exposed to a diverse spectrum of writing opportunities. This way, students can build their online portfolio, show their professionalism, and underscore their communication skills. Danielle, whose blog from a 2013 class addresses the importance of educational transformation, shows us that blog writing requires us to expand our writing skills, and to “stretch” ourselves, taking on a writing voice that appeals to a public audience. Sure, the professor will still read your blog, but she is no longer the only or most important reader. Instead in your blog entries you can show your expertise to your current boss, or to a future employer. You can also show your expertise to your colleagues, to your family, and to members of your community. And, you can  create collaborative communities to garner ideas and promote action.

Good blog writing requires us to understand the purpose of writing, making sure that we know whether we want to inform our readers, encourage our readers to act, or teach our readers specific processes. Bloggers who have developed these skills are highly successful, just like The Pioneer Woman, Ana White, and Pam from Nerd’s Eye View.

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Of course, there are more steps to being a successful blogger. Among the many suggestions for writing good blog entries, Demian Farnworth’s “11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs” are a great place to start. He tells us:

  • Craft a magnetic headline
  • Open with a bang
  • Use persuasive words
  • Write damn good sentences
  • Insert killer bullet points
  • Create exquisite subheads
  • Tell a seductive story
  • Keep attention with internal cliffhangers
  • Choose an arresting style
  • Close in style
  • Be authentic (Farnworth)

Farnworth’s exploration of each of these points can help all new and seasoned blog writers get started with a bang. But he didn’t mention one very important step: researching the topic that you intent to write about. How would you be able to “tell a seductive story” if you don’t know what’s already been written, what approach others have taken, and who can support your ideas? In other words, you need to have done your research to show that you actually have a story to tell. Nicholas Tart

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in “Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Blog Post”  is very clear about the importance of research. Not only does he tell us that he spends an hour researching a topic that he intends to write about, but he also tells us why research is important. And, if you’d like to get a general idea about time commitment, his post outlines how much time he spends on each step in the process of writing a successful blog, concluding with editing and accessorizing, which, according to Tart, takes about one hour of his blog-creating time.

For the Rhetoric and Writing program, public writing means to prepare students for the many social media opportunities that can help you perform your current jobs better and stand out when you are looking for future jobs. It also means that we are excited to create an opportunity for writing and for interactive feedback that traditional writing assignments can’t create. And it means that we encourage everybody to participate in the conversations, helping us to make knowledge by sharing insightful comments with our blog writers, encouraging interactions that show professionalism and critical thinking. Blog writing is no longer just a fad, a trend, or a craze. Instead, it has become a means to show your professionalism, your communication skills, and your willingness to engage with a diverse readership. Let us explore the possibilities!

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2 thoughts on “Public Writing for a Public Audience”

  1. Hi Dr. Gruber,

    I’m commenting on this post as a student from 519 (even though I’m taking both classes). Thanks for the insight on why blogs are important in our professional communities. I am now convinced that they are more than a fad, and I’m curious if my English 105 students read blogs or if it’s something that only “adults” do when looking for a recipe or how to build a raised bed out of used pallets (these are two main reasons I read blogs).

    I had a blog for a few years, and your explanation of what makes a blog work has helped me understand why I got so bored with the project. The premise of my blog was to tell stories about living out of a van and working seasonally as an outdoor guide/educator. My biggest mistake was that I didn’t think at all about the community. I was fresh out of college at the time and didn’t think twice about my audience. I saw it as a space to post my essays and that’s it! It would have been so much more interesting if I’d tried to connect with the other outdoor educators and guides I was working with at the time. And, essay form doesn’t really work for a blog post, as the excerpts from Farnworth and Tart show. The form, it seems, needs to be less formal and way more engaging.

    Like

  2. Dr. Gruber,
    I took ENG 503 previously and I really wanted to say I LOVE what you have done with the organization of the blog component of the course. I think it is so much more accessible to have everyone’s post in one place instead of 17 links to 17 different blogs, some on Blogger, some on WordPress, etc. I also think that making posts this way is less overwhelming for students, especially some that are just being introduced to social media/ blogging.

    Like

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