This week, instead of enjoying a trip to Seattle, I’m sitting in the UK with some free time in my diary (although not as much as I hoped, as people have moved quickly to fill it!). The result is that I can get around to some of those “I really want to do it but don’t have the time” blogging jobs.
And so, welcome to my take on a “Good Blogging Guide” – something I’ve talked about at various events and conferences, but now, at long last, I’ve got the time to write it down, rather than just talk about it. This was prompted by the MirandaMod workshop on Friday, where we discussed blogging all afternoon and late into the evening, and it helped me to focus on those nuggets of knowledge that might help others.
If you are blogging, or interested in blogging, about your school’s experiences, then here’s my Good Blogging Guide, Chapter One – Blogging for an Audience
When I sit down to blog, I am always trying to write for a specific audience – it’s not about me, it’s about you. I know it may not always seem like that, but the goal for me is to write something that is relevant to the audience I am writing for. This may seem a bit odd – you’re probably thinking “Surely everybody does that don’t they?”, but the reality is that many people blog because they have something to say, and they don’t mind who listens.
But this blog isn’t about me, it’s actually about Microsoft and UK schools, so I’m writing to a specific group of people. Although it makes it easier for me to decide whether something is, or isn’t, relevant for the blog, it also makes it more difficult to write, because each time I’m thinking about how I make something relevant (or more relevant) for the audience.
Enough of the abstract, let me give you an example. Here’s the audience I think about when I sit down to write now:
The UK Schools blog target audience
- Staff working in, or advising, schools in the UK
- Have an interest in ICT, or it’s in their job role
- Probably don’t teach, but will interact with people who do
- Relatively innovative, and like to try new things
- Responsible for making or implementing IT strategy decisions in their schools
- Interested in what other schools are doing
I know, for example, that if I’m going to talk about teaching with ICT, it will be in reference to your colleagues, not you (eg I’ll write “Here’s an idea your colleagues might like…” rather than “Here’s something to try on your whiteboard”)
As a side note, why am I writing a Good Blogging Guide for this audience? It’s because more and more of the people who read this blog write their own, or want to, so that they can share what’s going on in their school and share their ICT thoughts. And from my point of view, if you’re doing that with Microsoft technology (as you’re likely to if you read this blog), then I’m happy to share!
But there’s actually more to it than that – because the description above is very generic. It could describe lots of people and roles. So I’ve tried to refine it a little further, and describe some of the characteristics of the specific person I’m writing for:
- I write for a network manager in a secondary school
- He’s male, in his 40’s – but 70% of his colleagues are female
- He is a full-time ICT person
- He has a IT technician who does stuff
- He understands ICT better than anybody who works in his school
- He’s not a teacher, but he likes to help the teachers in his school
- He has a view about the strategic direction of ICT in his school – and he needs the head to give him enough budget to do it
- In the summer, while the rest of the teachers are on holiday, he has his busiest month
- He gets advice from his local authority and Becta, but not often
- He makes buying decisions based on what he reads online, based on what other schools tell him, and based on his fondness for innovation
- He reads The Register, EduGeek, the TES ICT supplement and ICT in Education.
- He knows what an RSS reader is
- He’s responsible for all of the school’s ICT – office and classroom
- His school has over 1,000 pupils and 250 computers.
- He’s worried that at some point his local authority will take over the school’s ICT system as part of the rebuilding programme, and he will be TUPE’d to a company. He’ll lose control of ICT in his school, and all the good work he’s done will be demolished. So he gets involved with his local authority’s events.
- He’s probably developed a bit of software or advice that other local schools use.
Apols if this description looks sexist – it’s because I tried to focus in on a single description of a person, not a type of person, and in 95% of cases, the person is male!
Why “Audience” is key to good blogging
The reason that this first ‘chapter’ is about Audience is because I think it is a key to effective blogging. It means that you can hope to continue to attract new readers, by writing about things that are relevant to them, and avoiding other things. It doesn’t mean that other people won’t find your blog interesting, and you will get readers and subscribers from all over the place. But if you stay focused on an audience, you can avoid annoying the very people you want to serve.
It also helps to guide you with your writing style. For example, if you’re writing for classroom teachers, you may want to avoid being too technical. If you’re writing for parents, then you’d want to avoid too much educational jargon. As I’m writing for a UK-wide audience, I try not to refer to “Key Stages” too much, because that isn’t relevant for Scotland.
And if, like me, you write for multiple blogs, it can help you to avoid obvious mistakes.
As a team, we’ve also used it to spot gaps in our audience. So last year we started a Teachers blog too, which is written to be helpful to teachers who want to integrate ICT into their teaching more.
Here’s an exercise for you:
- Can you describe the person who would most enjoy your blog, and get most value from it?
- Are there times when what you write isn’t right for them? (That’s okay, as long as there’s enough balance)
- If you defined your audience more clearly, do you think there are other things you could also write about that you haven’t already?
That’s Part One done – Part Two tomorrow is “Writing with an objective”