In college, we were tasked with writing a weekly blog that would be worth 10% of our final grade. To be honest, it wasn’t an exercise that I particularly enjoyed at first. The workload for my program was intensive, so my blog fell to the bottom of my priority list. Oftentimes, I felt that my blog writing was rushed and fell flat. Additionally, I wasn’t sure who I was writing for.
I started using a few easy strategies to make my blog more appealing and I ultimately grew to enjoy writing it. A couple of my posts were even published in the online edition of my local newspaper. I think university administrators assigned to writing blog posts can relate to some of my challenges. They have hectic schedules, have the challenge of trying to sound professional and entertaining at the same time, and must write for wide and varying audiences like students, prospective students, their parents, and faculty and staff.
The tools I used to grow my blog can also be used by any university administrator to get more mileage out of their blogs. So here are some tips to help you write punchy blog posts for your university.
Write a Compelling Title
It’s really no surprise that a catchy title is the first thing you need. People, especially students, are busier than ever, and the title of your piece is the difference between a click and read, and a disregard and keep scrolling.
In journalism class, we were taught to keep titles to 8 words or less. This also rings true for blog post titles. The title should be concise, all the while making it crystal clear what your post will be touching on — the truth is that trying to be ambiguous, suspenseful, or too boring just doesn’t cut it.
Use active verbs that give the impression of motion and play around with using alliterations. These techniques make your title more fun to read and leave a bigger impact on your readers.
Once you’ve intrigued them with a catchy title, the next step is to reel them in with a compelling introduction. Like I mentioned earlier, people (especially young people who have grown accustomed to 140 characters or less) are busy and have short attention spans. In order for them to read your entire post and absorb all of your messaging, you’ve gotta hook ‘em right off the bat!
There are several different tactics that you can use to accomplish this. Share a short anecdote that relates to your post. Or ask a stimulating question that you work towards answering in your post. You can also use an interesting or startling statistic related to your topic to capture the reader’s interest.
Another tactic is to start with a famous quote that embodies the spirit of your post. Note: try not to use cliché quotes unless using them in a fresh and original context.
Find Your Voice
Since you’re writing for an educational institution, it’s easy to sound academic or to write a post like an essay. These styles make for a very dry read for your audience. The best way to avoid this is to find your voice and to write with some flavour.
To do so, use everyday language and stay away from jargon. Write in the same way that you would speak to someone. Try to really connect to your reader. You can still sound professional without sounding too boring.
Try throwing in some pop-culture references that your audience will appreciate, especially the students. Make it light and even try some jokes. Even if they’re not all laugh-out-loud funny, most people will appreciate the effort.
Structure your post with headings or numbered items and keep your paragraphs short instead of writing in big blocks. This helps to break up the post and make it more readable. Did I mention that our attention spans are shorter than ever? I did? Oh, right.
Use a Relevant Photo
Include high resolution photos to spruce up your post and when sharing your blog post on social media (yes, you definitely should be doing this). Remember when as a kid you always picked the book with the best pictures? There is tons of data that shows people are way more likely to click, favourite/like, and share a link that includes a photo. Some things never change.
Recruit student volunteers to take pictures for your posts. This helps you engage with your students and get great shots of campus events, student life, speakers, and students or staff you’d like to feature.
Another option is to use stock photos. There are many different websites that have a great library of photos for a low price. For example, Stocksy and Unsplash have a collection of professional, beautiful photography and their libraries are extensive without being expensive. You can find just about any photo on these sites and the costs range from just $0 to $100 depending on the size of the photo.
Consistently writing compelling university blog posts is a challenge, but it can definitely be made easier with these strategies. Experiment with these tools and see how writing punchy blog posts will be more fun for your readers and more fun for you, too!
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