Category Archives: writing

Blog Off!

So what happened?!  This blog started (reasonably) well… but then no new posts for well over a year!  :-S I’m not sure I know the exact answer, but it lies somewhere between me, my personality type, the changing nature of my job and the not insignificant emergence of Twitter.  When starting out this workblog, I attempted to set myself some groundrules… and typically I broke them! It was meant to be a trial, and, as with most trials, some things worked but others didn’t.

So, what worked?  First, getting into the habit of reflecting and writing was a positive experience (and one that i’ve continued in a more private space).  However, writing posts needs time, and I soon found that I didn’t have much of that.  This is a common reaction people have when asked to blog, “When do I find the time?”, and despite my attempt to “make time” my experience was that it got eaten into by other tasks deemed to be of a higher priority.  Actually, thinking back, the majority of my posts were written on train journeys, taking advantage of time when travelling around the country. Indeed I find the train a good place to get stuck into more creative work and brainstorming ideas.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of grabbing opportunities for peripheral tasks, or perhaps it’s simply my positive reaction to the changing landscape out the window, i’m not sure. (My back is to the window at my desk in the office, btw. Not an inspiring place to work unfortunately!) And yes, i’m writing this on a return journey from London!

So, what now? Well, i’m keen to return to my workblog and endeavour to post to it again. The good ship Netskills moves on and there is now a general acceptance that personal blogging is an important and positive communication activity and, most importantly, that time can be booked out to write posts. Indeed that leads onto a statement I made recently along the lines of, “I spent so much time typing… but so little actually writing.”  How many people can relate to this?  Alarm bells should be going off for anyone who spends their day suffocating underneath an avalanche of email, not quite getting onto the report, book chapter or blog post that needs writing.  Twitter (which I think is a fabulous communicative tool that’s being used in all sorts of innovative ways!) is also partly to blame…  Very quickly we’ve got used to writing and consuming 140 character tweets.  I ask myself, how many of the 700 odd tweets i’ve written over the last year could have been developed from a quick idea or reaction into a fuller, short blog post?

Know your audience when writing web content

I’ve run our Writing for the Web (WFTW) workshop a number of times over the last few weeks, in Dublin, Edinburgh and Huddersfield. All three were excellent days, each taking its own natural course and ending up completely different to the suggested blueprint in the workbook.

Last week I was at the University of Huddersfield, running a workshop for members of their central marketing department and others responsible for web copy from around the University. Much of the morning was focussed on identifying and understanding the different audiences for the University website as well as for individual schools and services. We had interesting and revealing discussions about the information required by a particular audience, from overseas students to parents to staff, and the best way to communicate directly to them. As with so many tasks, it pays to spend some time planning before actually putting pen to paper (should or shouldn’t that be finger to keyboard?!) – if you know who you’re writing for and why, it sure does focus the mind and make writing that quality web content easier!

I always find I pick up excellent examples and ideas from attendees when running WFTW; it’s that kind of day. At first glance each could be overlooked or thought trivial, but undoubtedly highlight the need to give considered thought to both the target audience and the author’s intention when crafting content for the web.

First, one from someone who attended the workshop in Dublin. A well known low frills airline started off referring to “budget fares” but soon realised this wasn’t appealing to their audience. Obviously their intention is to sell tickets, but for this to be effective the customer needs to be enticed by the benefits to them. They soon made changes and “cheap flights” works so much better.

Second, an example from the Edinburgh workshop I ran for NHS National Services Scotland in November. During the afternoon, we examined the written content on a number of attendees’ sites, including the website for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion service. Again there were more interesting discussions highlighting the importance of considering your audience. For a blood transfusion service, who’s the patient? From the perspective of the donor it’s certainly not them – they’re giving blood to help ‘patients’!