Blog basics: how to write a blog

When you first start writing blogs it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to get yourself started.

Who’s your audience? Be as specific as possible. What issues have they got? How can you help them?

What are you going to put in the blog?

  • Tips around your business?
  • Answers to frequently asked questions?
  • A success story about someone you’ve helped?
  • Personal stories eg why you got interested in doing what you’re doing?
  • Lists: Do you have one you can share?

What tone are you going to use? A supportive, encouraging, friendly and open one tends to work best eg:

  •  invite feedback
  • promote a conversation/discussion
  • engage others in talking about your area of expertise
  • offer to answer their questions online
  • have a clear ask at the end for feedback and
  • canvass people’s opinion

It’s probably best to avoid shouting out your opinions, being closed so that people feel scared to share and being overly-controlling.

Why bother with blogs? They help people understand what you do; raise your expert status; add value to your brand (as they can be put on other social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter); and they heighten your online presence (search engines love blogs).

A big thank you to

for helping me understand what I’ve shared with you today.

“It’s not just about money”

Charities can get a lot out of going to local, face-to-face (F2F) business networking events; and yet – it seems to me – that very few do so on a regular basis.

Let’s look at the benefits:

  • Raising awareness of what your charity does.
  • Building a stronger profile in your local community.
  • Promoting your brand to people who are interested to know more.
  • Expanding your volunteer base so that your charity can keep running its services.
  • Increasing fund-raising, sales leads.

Some advice for budding charity business networkers*

  • Don’t think about it as just money – sponsorship means more than money.
  • Ask for practical support: volunteer marshalls on a sponsored walk eg
  • Believe that people want an opportunity to get to know the charity well (what it does, who and how it helps people).
  • View it as a chance to build lasting, sustainable relationships – not just a one-off event.
  • Go with some specific stories up your sleeve about how businesses can benefit by working with you eg how it has helped in team building.

And a few tips from me:

  • Be open, optimistic and supportive: How can you help the person you’re talking to? Building relationships takes time. Perhaps there’s an issue that you can resolve together?
  • Set your objectives. What do you want to achieve? Be as specific, measurable and realistic as possible eg share 3 human stories (some people call them case studies) about the benefit of your services/products? give out 6 business cards; ask 5 people to visit your website?
  • Be prepared: Have the answers to the following questions along with a stash of business cards: what you do; who you work with, what service and products your charity offers, and how it helps people.

 Finally, two actions to set the ball rolling: 

  • Choose your event. Find out what F2F business networking events are happening in your local area. Some like Business Biscotti and First Friday – in my local area of Reading, Berkshire – are free. Others charge. Be careful.
  • Double-check when they’re on: normally early mornings or late afternoons. Timings can be a barrier for some – but this shouldn’t put you off – it’s worth it!

I’d love to hear from any charities about the things that have worked for you n F2F business networking. Please do write a comment.

* Thanks to Jacqui Dunne of Business Biscotti and Juliette Smith of the Athena Network for their expert advice.

What’s in an elevator pitch?

Professional blog

People sometimes ask me what an elevator pitch is. My understanding is that it’s a way of letting people know what you can do for them in about 30 seconds – the time you’d have if you were sharing an elevator/lift with them.

My experience in public affairs is that you’re lucky if you have 30 seconds with – say – a key business leader at a public event to exchange ideas about how you could work together.

So, here’s the challenge:  you’re in a lift with Lord Alan Sugar, you introduce your business/organisation, he doesn’t know about it, and you have  just 15 seconds left to talk to just three of the five  key elevator pitch points – which three would you pick?

  • Who you work with
  • What the problem is you’re helping to solve
  • What service and products you offer
  • What difference you’re making
  • What the benefits are

I don’t think there’s a right answer to this  -but I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

Social impact markets: will it ever happen?

What do you think? Is it possible to develop a new market – what some people call a social impact market – where the pro-profit, non-profit, and government sectors work together to make social innovation (social good/positive social change) happen?

Here’s some pointers to frame thinking:

  • Roles: How would roles have to change in each of the sectors?
  • Mindsets: How would each sector have to change its thinking?
  • Dialogue: How could a dialogue for collaborative cross-sector working at the local, single issue level be promoted?
  • Metrics/measures: How could we capture volunteer input/in kind contributions; and continuous improvement?

I’d be glad of any thoughts you may have to start this debate rolling.

Visual story telling/creating a miracle

Some claim that you can raise your organisation’s profile by building a visual story with some emotional punch to it.

They say that visual stories work because they grab your attention (especially if the story’s original, simple and shows the impact on one person’s life); and engage you (by getting you emotionally involved in their cause).

The visual story technique was used by a team of students from Centre for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to promote Embrace, a sustainable social enterprise that helps save small babies from hypothermia by giving them high-spec, portable sleeping blankets. Or as the visual story puts it: “Created a miracle to keep small babies warm.”

I’d be glad to know if the video of Ananya’s story engages you; and why it did or didn’t?