Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Building An Authentic Voice

More great stuff from Michelle Golden -- Diving into the Blogosphere? Where to Begin.

Not that she needs it, but let me backup Michelle on one of her points - voice really is that important. When it comes to blogging, nothing will sink a blog faster than lacking a genuine and authentic voice.

Last October I posted on how some law firm blogs are simply re-purposed newsletter content. The important distinction was, once again, voice. Functionally, blog software is classed as a CMS product, not much more than an easy publishing tool. It doesn't have to be used for, or called, a blog.

It's interesting to note eight years have passed since Cluetrain was first published, and the lessons Michelle is teaching are finally being heard in the legal industry. If you haven't read Cluetrain, it's worth the time. At the very least skim the 95 theses at the bottom of the homepage. See #14:
Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
Take out 'corporations' and put in lawyers, law firms, or legal academics - it still holds true. Lawyers have no problem talking to clients in a candid or frank way, but keyboard-enabled and they're back writing law review. So I ask, how much legalese or jargon do you see on Rob Hyndman's blog? Rob's not publishing, he's talking, and building a mountain of relationships in the process.

And finally, how does one create an authentic voice, and still maintain a professional presence? Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
  1. Writing in the third person exclusively doesn't connect with people. Blogs should include some first person narrative.
  2. You must have an opinion to offer. Anyone can relay the latest headline. If you're going to recommend a source, tell me why.
  3. Watch the mix between jargon and communication. It's ok to be 'wordy' when needed, but don't be afraid to break things down to a simpler scale.
  4. Communicate regularly, and lower your threshold to publication. Blog posts don't have to be exhaustive works.
  5. Be passionate about your topic. No one will care if you don't care, and worse from a marketing standpoint, no one will link in.
  6. Niche your perspective. Think about what makes your opinion (somewhat) unique, and try to keep it in the mix.
  7. Weigh the benefit of selectively adding a human touch. Dennis Kennedy likes Springsteen. Do you care? Maybe not, but his readers appreciate the insight that he's not chained to his desk 24/7.
  8. Provide context no one else can. Identify the issue or trend *all* of your readers are talking about, but no one ever writes about. [hint... Reporters may be trolling, and just might need a quotable source. ]
  9. Blogs are a community that require participation, law blogs included. Read, comment, link, argue, praise and help. Participation is required to get full value.
  10. You can be an authority and not come off as a jerk. Can the sales pitch, mix in your personality, and add a little self-deprecating humour. It works.



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