Online PR Principles: How Not to Write a Blog Entry

There are literally thousands of resources that teach how to write blogs, but the ones actually that tell you what not to do are relatively rare. This is probably because teaching has a (good) tendency to focus on the positive – as a matter of fact, my partner often tells me that effective teaching is two thirds reward and one third criticism, or else the ones you try to teach will forget what they did right.

It’s hard to do things the right way, which is my partner’s way. Obviously, I am more inclined to criticize because I am used to learning from constructive critique. I know that many people (including myself) get their feelings hurt when criticized, but a lesson learned the hard way is a lesson we never forget.

BbloggingLobbying the one who errs is not part of my philosophy. I do tolerate common errors, the little accidents that happen to all of us: misspellings, some small grammatical errors, etc. I do not however tolerate errors that are potentially harmful for other brands (like here); pretending to be something you are not; talking about things at superlative because everyone else does it; and so on.

This introduction was necessary because in the following discussion I will be terribly blunt, and I will link to some blog entries that will serve as examples to prove the next points. Just that we set the record straight: I am not perfect either and many times I made the same mistakes. But understand that if you do some or all of the following, nobody will be interested in what you have to say, you will alienate your readers and potential customers and the list could go on.

  • The first rule of blogging is: do not make it all about yourself. Not even on a corporate blog. It’s bad karma!This blog entry from KidZui for example is shameless self promotion disguised as a “we care about you because we are parents too” blog entry. The author gives some “tips” to help parents keep their children busy. But after every set of three tips, the author never fails to emphasize: “KidZui has tons of kid-friendly …” or “KidZui Homework Helper is for kids kindergarten through eighth grade and comes with paid Membership.” Is it clear for you too that the blog entry is actually promoting KidZui and that the “tips” are just the “clever” excuse to make parents opt for a paid membership?
  • Don’t write about things you obviously know nothing about. It’s hard to find an example to illustrate this. I have encountered this type of blog entry repeatedly, but never saved a link. I guess it is easy to understand why: all articles written about people who do not understand the things they are writing about lack quality. Fortunately I recall an example, because I wrote about it at Everything PR:The New York Times recently labeled SEO “A Future in Directing Online Traffic”. The days when SEO alone was enough to direct traffic are long gone, so obviously the author of the above cited article does not understand search and SEO very well.
  • Do not steal other people’s ideas without giving due credit. This has happened to all of us: scrapers are any publisher’s nightmare, but they are not the only ones. I cannot give a link for this particular point, but if you have the habit to find your inspiration on other blogs (you know, when you fight that “writer’s block” by taking topic ideas from other blogs in your niche), just have the common decency to say: I recently read an article that inspired me to write this dissertation… or something like that.
  • Do not make it hard or impossible for people to comment on your blog entries, no matter how big you are. Seth Godin for example, an idol for many, is never open to dialogue. He rants and rants about everything marketing under the sun, but he never encourages responses on his own site. This is somehow a smart technique: responses will be given on other sites, with links back at the original post. Is Seth using this as an SEO technique or is he simply a self important guru figure?

Well, these “do not” advice tid-bits mark the beginning of a new topic at Everything PR News: Online Public Relations Principles. I think this publication is the right place for such a discussion, given the niche it is trying to cover, therefore I appeal to you to take some time and share your thoughts about this issue in the comments below. What other “don’ts” can you think of, and, in your experience, which are the most condemnable mistakes encountered on business blogs?