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Think Like a Reporter for Better Blog Posts

Many Raleigh/Triangle small business owners tell me they have trouble writing blog posts because they don’t know what to write. I understand. Even writers sometimes feel the frustration of a blank page, rudely staring back.

I wrote last week about how some are paralyzed by fearof writing the wrong thing, or something dumb that no one will read. But often so-called “writer’s block” is a symptom of not having enough information.

Reporters must come up with news story ideas every single day. The best stories — whether news or blog posts — are partly about the writing, but more often about good reporting.

Next time you’re stuck, put on your reporter’s fedora and use these tips to come up with some blog post ideas.

Start with news value. Reporters have seven news values by which they judge whether something is newsworthy. Let’s apply those to your business:

  1. Impact: The number of people affected by something. Is something happening in your business or industry that affects a large number of people? What is happening in your company or industry that affects a large number of your customers?
    Examples: Your spa is offering a special this month. Or, your website design firm wants to talk about how Google is changing SEO and how that affects your clients.
  2. Timeliness: Is something new or recent that you can share about your business?
    Examples: New products coming in, new hires, new certifications for employees.
  3. Prominence: Is the CEO of your company doing something? If you run a small business, you may not have a CEO, but what are your leaders doing lately that’s interesting?
    Examples: Your team is raising money for a good cause, or your CEO has just joined a new nonprofit board.
  4. Proximity: What’s going on in your community? Generally this refers to geography, but for a small business owner, this might also mean the community of people who care about your product or service.
    Example: Road construction will occur on the same street as your business, affecting where your customers can park. Or, new home construction is now up, affecting both buyers and sellers in your area.
  5. Bizarreness: What’s going on that’s out of the ordinary?
    Example: This depends on what is “ordinary” for your business life, but could be anything from a strange thing happening outside your door to a strange news item that happened to someone else in your industry.
  6. Conflict: As a business owner, you might not want to share internal conflicts with the world. But can you weigh in on conflicts out there affecting your clients or customers? Can you offer insight?
    Example: Money is something that causes conflict with many couples. As a financial adviser, what tips can you offer?
  7. Currency: Is the topic something people care about? Is it “worth” anything?
    Example: That hilarious dog video got a zillion likes on Facebook even those it lacks news value. But it was interesting. I don’t suggest you post dog videos to your blog (unless you’re a groomer, maybe), but what’s interesting? What images or interesting tidbits can you post that people will want to read and share?
Me at Bristol Motor Speedway, during my days as a reporter for the Bristol newspaper.

Next, ask some questions.
Depending on the size of your business, you may not need to ask anyone but yourself. You may have heard of the 5Ws and one H reporters use: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Use those answers to to add detail to your post.

Who – Who is involved in the story? You, your boss, your employee?
What – What happened?
Where – Where did this interesting/newsworthy thing take place? At the office, outside? Somewhere else?
Why – Why did this happen? Why do I (the reader) care?
How – How did this happen? How does it affect me?

Finally, think of art.
Art helps get people’s attention. Whether you take a picture of something going on in your office or community, or borrow one (with proper credit) from Flickr Creative Commons, try to include an image with each post.

Once you get in the habit of thinking like a reporter, you’ll find stories everywhere for your business blog.

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