Create a Blog: Two Heads are Better Than One

Posted By on December 9, 2013

Just get it down and we’ll work with it.
Maxwell Perkins

Business people in our classes don’t just want to know how to create a blog—they want to know how to blog fast. Time is short. Writing something worth reading can be a long process.

Our advice to writers is to multiply by two.

Don’t go solo. At Two Pens we believe using two heads rather than one is more efficient and effective.

two sculptural heads by Patty Warashina

Two heads are better than one in blogging. Emily Warn and Cynthia Hartwig share editing duties on the Two Pens blog because it makes our content better and more distinctive. Sculptural heads shown are by Seattle artist, Patti Warashina, from the Bellevue Art Museum retrospective of her work. Photo copyright 2013 Cynthia Hartwig; shot at BAM’s kiddie play wall of Warashina cut-outs.

When Emily finishes a first draft of a blog post, I review it and suggest edits. We go back and forth until it’s got the Two Pens’ zing. When I’m on deck, Emily does the same for me.

For example, last week Emily drafted her her popular case history on 37 Signals “Signal vs. Noise” blog in a white-hot rush of inspiration. She shipped me her draft and I put on my editor’s hat (I try not to get it mixed up with my dunce cap) and reviewed the post slowly and thoughtfully. My job at this point was to ask questions, identify soft or mushy thinking, poke holes in arguments where Emily’s big brain got ahead of her pen, and mark language that needed to be more clear or simplified.

Originally Emily wrote an opening paragraph that took the post flying an odd direction with a metaphor about Superman.

Compare these two paragraphs.

Ask yourself which one leads the reader more quickly to the idea that having your staff create a blog can work beautifully?

    1. Imagine Clark Kent ripping off his business suit and walking out of the phone booth wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a tatt on his bicep. In social media, superheroes are approachable, hip and smart—the opposite of hard-selling, marketing types in pinstripes. To do businesses online you need both types–one to engage people, the other to bring in the bucks. That means you need a virtual phone booth. Here’s one example of a company who knows how to switch costumes to build a presence and sell products online.

    2. Imagine Clark Kent ripping off his business suit and walking out of the phone booth wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a tatt on his bicep. Hip, approachable smarties are the superheroes of social media. They work at your front desk or test software in a cubicle in the back or are out planning a company event. Put the right ones to work on your business blog and your social media presence will come to life—the life of your company’s. Here’s how one company is building its business through a home-grown blog.

If you guessed #2 as a better first paragraph, you knew my reaction to paragraph #1. I wrote to Emily, “This is a long winded way to get into the post. It’s clever but I am questioning if you want to be more direct and to the point? Why don’t you just focus on why you should have your staff blog?”

Headline Help: Simple and Straightforward Trumps Cleverness

In addition to asking Emily to rejigger her all-important first paragraph (which should always hook the reader), I also weighed in on Emily’s “clever” headline ideas. Use your judgment and decide which one of the choices below served our business audience better.

    1. Why You Should Have Your Staff Blog
    2. How to Start a Blog – Ask Your Receptionist to Blog
    3. How to Start a Business Blog – Act Like Clark Kent

Headline #3 is blind. It might intrigue you. And it might not.

Headline #2 is fun and engaging and as our regular readers know, Two Pens loves wordplay and humor. But the “ask your receptionist to blog” head takes readers in a direction Two Pens really doesn’t want to go. I thought the reader might think we were advocating that businesses should save money on professional writer fees by asking low-paid and untrained receptionists to blog. Two Pens hourly content strategy and blogging rates are expensive (and worth it!) so, that’s a bad idea for Two Pens marketing.

Headline #1 is truly the best headline of these three because it is not oblique. It leads the reader directly to our main point. Signal vs. Noise, the blog created by the staff of 37 Signals, part of the company who makes BaseCamp, is written by its hip, smart, and opinionated employees and it has grown to over 100,000 subscribers because its content is terrific.

Every blog will be better with a strong editor.

The editor’s job is to be the advocate for the reader. It’s too easy for a writer to get caught up in the complexities of subject matter and to lose sight of your audience without one.

In Emily’s former job as Managing Editor of Microsoft Office blogs, she reviewed every post published for all 13 Office products. She dealt with multiple writers, and a wide range of products from Excel to Word to SharePoint, and she made sure that each post served readers first, and writers second.

If you’re individual blogger without a staff, get creative. Find an editorial partner who can play devil’s advocate for your reader. I have several friends who trade their editing expertise for graphic design services or photographic help. Look for someone who needs what you sell and see if you can negotiate a trade.

Just Because You Wrote It, Doesn’t Mean It was Touched by Genius

We writers are an egotistical lot. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because something came directly out of your pen, it was touched by the muse.

Maxwell Perkins, often referred to as “editor of genius” because of his work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, helped make The Great Gatsby one of America’s finest novels.

In other words, don’t think of those red pen marks as persnickety and painful. Think of them as necessary to perfection.

Cynthia Hartwig