Over the past year I’ve been meeting with a business coach who has been helping me to look at my blogging as a business rather than just a job. One of the things that has become evident to me is that good sustainable businesses don’t usually just happen by accident.
Instead they take planning, strategy and intentionality.
So as part of our 31 days to building a better blog series I thought it would be wise to start by talking about some big picture issues. Whilst these first few posts may not be as practical as some that will follow in the coming weeks – I believe that thinking through the issues that they contain could be the difference between a good and a great blog.
I know that for some this type of talk will be frustrating – words like mission, vision, values and strategy are not where you’re at – but humor me please. You see I believe that if you get these things right you’ll find many of the other tips that I share later in this series to be much more powerful as you’ll be able to use them in much more focused and effective ways.
Over the next few posts I’m going to lead you through a strategic plan process that a friend of mine gave me to think through another (non blogging) project that I’m working on – I think it’s highly relevant for ProBlogging and hope you find it helpful.
In each post I’m going to give us a little homework, a few questions to ask that hopefully will help you to think through the issues at hand. Feel free to answer them in private or to even think out loud in comments after each post.
As I post each post in this mini series within the larger 31 days to a better blog I’ll post links to them here as a central place to see the whole process.
I hope you enjoy.
Mission13 years ago when I started studying my Marketing degree the focus of many of my first year lectures was ‘Mission Statements’. I remember writing mission statement after statement – to the point where I started to dream about them. It was obvious that my lecturers through they were a pretty important starting place for any good business venture.
Whilst perhaps ‘mission statements’ are not quite as much of a buzz phrase as they were in the early 1990s I still see asking questions around mission as a worthwhile task – especially when it comes to blogging.
Some blogging ‘missions’ might include:
- ‘I blog to make a living’
- ‘I blog for recreational purposes – to help me relax’
- ‘I blog as part of my plan for world domination’
- ‘I blog to keep a record of the life and times of me’
- ‘I blog because I want to help others’
- ‘I blog to because I’m lonely and want to connect with others’
- ‘I blog to pick up cute girls/guys’
- ‘I blog because it’s fun’
- ‘I blog because I want to build profile – I want to be known’
One person’s blogging mission will be differnt from anothers – there is really no right or wrong here – behind each blogger there is some sort of mission whether it’s deep, shallow, silly, smart, selfish or altruistic. The task now is to name yours.
To identify these missions is very helpful because knowing why we blog then helps us to work out how we should blog to best reach our mission.
So what is your mission? Why do you blog?
This is not a question about measurable goals or strategies and your answer probably shouldn’t be too blog specific yet (ie don’t write one for each of your blogs if you have more than one) – rather get at your motivations and big picture hopes for your blogging.
ValuesHaving thought about our mission (or why we blog) it’s time now to turn our attention to the values that we have that help to shape how we’ll achieve our overall mission.
There are many means to an end and many ways of achieving a mission. For instance if your mission is to make a living from blogging you could do so in many different ways ranging from blogs that rip off the content of others, to blogs that are purely original in content, to blogs that explore topics of purely a ‘family nature’ to blogs that are quite explicit and ‘adult’ in their nature etc.
These decisions come out of our values as a blogger.
So what are the values that shape your blogging behavior? What are the boundaries that you’d be not willing to cross? What are the topics you’d be not willing to blog about? How will you treat those around you (other bloggers, your readers, suppliers of information etc)? Take a few minutes to write a list of the values that you want to shape your blogging. These might include things like:
- I value the work of others and when I build upon it I acknowledge them
- I don’t blog about anything sexually explicit, gambling, drugs or concerning Harry Potter
- I create an environment where everyone can have their say without fear of censorship
- I respect the privacy of others in my blogging and don’t reveal private conversations or contact details
- I only publish fact and will state if I’m speculating
- If I make a mistake I publicly acknowledge this and correct it
- I will always make it clear if I’m benefiting from something that I write
- I value people and will not blog about them in degrading ways
Perhaps it would be appropriate to write up a set of values like these as a public blogging value statement of manifesto to promote the type of blog/s you’re keeping and to give your readers permission to keep you accountable to what you’re on about.
With your mission and values in place you’ll be ready for the next stages of actually mapping out how you’re going to move forward in your blogging.
VisionHaving answered questions about why we blog (mission) and setting some boundaries for our behavior in doing so Values) it’s now time to be a little more concrete in our big picture thinking. Where are you headed with your blogging? More specifically:
We’re now narrowing down the mission that we have into some more measurable and specific things to aim for in the long term. Don’t get too specific (we’ll get there) but make it concrete.
For example – your mission might be to make a living from blogging but your vision for three years time might be to be a full time blogger that need not do any other work.
Make your objective/s (don’t come up with too many) big enough to be inspiring but realistic enough to be achievable. They should probably come out of or at least relate to your mission.
Take some time to plot some longer term objectives for your blogging.
GoalsFor each objective that you’ve mentioned you now should be breaking things down into smaller achievable goals. Perhaps this strategic plan is a little pedantic here and adds too many steps (hence I’ve added Vision and Goals together) but the basics of what we’re doing with goal setting is breaking down the big picture into smaller achievable parts.
In setting goals you might like to ask:
In a sense we’re breaking down our objectives into bite sized parts that can be ticked off one at a time as they are reached as stepping stones to a larger vision.
IssuesIf we want to design a strategy to help us reach our goals we need to identify the areas in which we need to work. At this point in the strategic plan we take time to break down the task of blogging into activities or issues that we face.
- finding content
- writing content
- blog design
- marketing and publicity
- administration (monitoring comments, processing cheques, book keeping)
- finding and managing advertisers
- managing other authors
- search engine optimization
In identifying these issues or activities you define areas that you’ll need to consider some strategy in.
Present PositionHaving identified each activity that you need to engage in to be successful in achieving your objectives and goals you now do a little analysis of how you’re currently performing in each activity. The question you want to answer with each are is:
Whilst it may not be pleasant to acknowledge current short fallings it’s vitally important as your blog will only ever go as far as your weakest area allows you to.
Future DirectionNow you’ve described the current reality you again should look in to the future in each of the activities that you’ve identified and ask yourself:
In a sense you’re again setting mini goals, breaking down your overall ‘vision’ into specific areas of your blogging.
Go through each of the activities that you’ve identified already and come up with some future direction. Be specific enough in each one that you can measure your success in each area. Don’t write how you’ll achieve this direction yet (that comes next) – rather try to paint a picture of the future in each of the areas of your blogging.
Below you’ll see a table that illustrates how each of the above three steps might look if you put them into some sort of spread sheet. Of course I’ve completely oversimplified the process here in order to illustrate the point. Each ‘issue’ is likely to have a multifaceted description of the present position and may in fact have a number of ‘future directions’ for each.
StrategyYou’ve analyzed your current position and have looked into the future to how you want your blog to be in each of the activities of your blogging – now you basically need to compare one with the other. How does your current reality and future vision compare? Do they match up? If they do you’re either a brilliant blogger, you’re lying or you’re not aiming high enough.
For most of us the current reality doesn’t match what we want to achieve.
You might find that some of your activities are doing well and don’t need too much changing – but the reality will be that we can all improve in all areas – and that in some areas more than others we might need a complete overhaul if we want to really achieve something. Make a list of the changes you need to make.
Once again I’ve included a diagram that hopefully illustrates how this might look (in a very over simplified form).
Action PlanWe’ve reached the last step of the strategic plan and now we finally get to a time of planning (and doing) some action.
In each of the ‘activities’ break down your strategy into achievable tasks. You might like to break it down into some sort of a timeline.
- what will you do in the next month?
- what will you do in the next 3 months?
- what will you do in the next 6 months?
- what will you do in the next 12 months?
Some might be ongoing tasks like:
- ‘post 10 posts per day every day for the next month’
- ’start 1 new blog every month until October’
- ‘add 3 new affiliate links to my blog every day this month’
- ‘write 1 press release to promote my blog each month’
- ‘apply for Adsense program and integrate into blog’
- ‘get to know blogger X’
- ‘do survey of my readers to find out who they are’
- ‘write a series of posts on
You’ll see once again below that I’ve filled in (in a very simplified way) how some of the strategic plan might build as you add your action plan. In reality each ‘issue’ could have multiple strategies – each of which could have multiple actions assigned to them. By this point you should be left with a larger list of ‘things to do’ that you need to prioritise for and then begin to work through. Once again these actions should be broken down into small enough parts so as not to overwhelm you. Make them measurable and achievable so you can begin to tick them off and create some momentum to your blogging.