Written for the LCinPP conference, March 13-15, 2020, and only for conference attendees. Unlike every other blog post I’ve ever written please do NOT share this without my express written permission!
Biggest mistake #3: writing a blog post like you write a research paper
Which of these two examples is easier to read?
Imagine, please, that something is wrong with you (I’m sure this isn’t the case- you are a special snowflake and perfect in every way, but indulge me here). Either you are in pain or you are ill. You’ve been suffering for a week or two or a month or two, and have read every link on the first page of Google about how to fix your problem, but nothing helps. So you make an appointment with your doctor. When you get to the appointment, the doctor sits with you and figures out what’s wrong by using their clinical knowledge and vast experience. And poof, they fix your problem. You walk out of the office miraculously cured, pain-free, feeling like a new person, ready to take on the world.
Imagine, please, that something is wrong with you (I’m sure this isn’t the case- you are a special snowflake and perfect in every way, but indulge me here).
Either you are in pain or you are ill. You’ve been suffering for a week or two or a month or two, and have read every link on the first page of Google about how to fix your problem, but nothing helps.
So you make an appointment with your doctor.
When you get to the appointment, the doctor sits with you and figures out what’s wrong by using their clinical knowledge and vast experience. And poof, they fix your problem.
You walk out of the office miraculously cured, pain-free, feeling like a new person, ready to take on the world.
other top tips for blog post structure
- Subheadings make it easier to skim through a blog piece to see if it’s covering the topic you’re looking for. Readers often scroll all the way down, reading only the subheadings, then pop back up to the top to read if they decide it’s helpful information.
- Numbered list posts are very popular (yes, there’s a reason this presentation is a list!)
- White space is easy on the eyes. Most of our target audience is reading on cell phones; 16 point font is a good text size that works for most users.
- Make sure you link words and phrases in your blog to other pages on your site. This is called internal linking and it helps Google decide which pages on your site are the most important.
Biggest mistake #2: using your most professional voice (and not sounding like yourself)
Which of these two examples is easier to read?
When a mother voices concern over making enough milk, the first question that she’s asked is often “how many wet and dirty diapers a day?” The AAP recommends that a breastfeeding newborn should have 3-5 wet diapers and 3-4 dirty diapers per day by 3-5 days of age. However researchers Cohen, Dewey and Heinig studied the elimination patterns of 242 breastfeeding newborns and found that this recommendation alone would label 41% of the babies in their study (who were feeding well and gaining appropriately) as not getting enough milk (2008, p. 33). This can greatly affect maternal confidence and can lead to unnecessary formula supplementation and maternal stress. These diaper counts were indeed helpful in identifying 25 of the 28 babies who were breastfeeding inadequately- but with such a large number of babies gaining appropriately despite “low” diaper counts, it is important for newborns to be examined by medical professionals at 3 to 5 days of age to assess their weight gain or loss and general health.
If you’re worried about how much milk you’re making, you’ve probably been told to count poopy diapers. What we’re usually looking for is around 3-4 poops a day by the time your baby is five days old.
But poopy diapers don’t tell the whole story- because researchers found that diaper counts can sometimes make a baby look like they’re not getting enough. Why?
Well, it is true that most babies who aren’t getting enough milk won’t be doing the 3-4 poops a day by day 5, but 1/3 of babies who aren’t pooping that much are actually doing just fine and getting plenty to eat.
So definitely keep an eye on the diaper counts- but they don’t tell the whole story. Make sure your baby is weighed by a professional around day 5 to confirm you’re on the right track!
other top tips for blogging in your own voice
- Read it out loud. Does it sound like you? If not, change it. If you trip over words or phrases your readers will too.
- Use phrases and terms you use in real life. Are you high energy? Use exclamation points! Sarcastic? Let it roll!
- If the post doesn’t sound like you, well… it could be written by anybody. Blog readers want to hear from a real person and not a textbook.
- The more readers like you, or the more they feel like you’re a real human being that they would get along with, the more they’ll pay attention to what you’re saying.
Biggest mistake #1: not knowing why you're writing the post- and who (whom?) you're writing it for
your next 15 blog topics - make a list of:
- The top 5 questions you are asked by families
- The top 5 “sayings” that come out of your mouth at almost every consult
- The top 5 things you feel like you specialize in, or are best at helping families with
Then, for each topic, decide who you are writing the post for. Parents? Moms specifically? Pediatricians? Aunties? Grandfathers? Doulas? Other lactation professionals?
Are you looking to teach a grandma why their son-in-law won’t put their newborn to sleep on its belly?
Do you want to teach two moms how to co-nurse their baby?
Are you explaining to other lactation consultants how to write a blog post that people will want to read?
other top tips for refining why and who
- If you have a topic on your list that you’re absolutely sick of talking about, either find a new angle to approach it from or just skip it. If you’re not enjoying writing the post it will show in the final product.
- You may want to have an actual person in mind as your audience- could be a former client, a friend, an IBCLC, whoever.
- Identify your audience within the first paragraph or two of your piece. It keeps your message clear and helps readers to know who you’re speaking to right away.
- Don’t be ashamed to test drive your blog post by having friends and co-workers read it before you birth it into the world!
... thank you for coming to my Ed Talk.
The BLACK IBCLCS MATTER shirt I was wearing, along with the Tricky Nipple Pay My Bills shirt many wore and many OTHER amazing shirts are the creation of conference attendees Nichelle Clark and Courtney Lomax Polk and can be purchased at https://www.bonfire.com/store/boobtees/
Blogging is a topic that tends to divide people. Either you really love the idea of it or it makes you roll your eyes or panic. That’s okay! You do not HAVE to blog. I’m not going to tell you that all lactation consultants have to blog for their business. You don’t want to do it? Don’t! Easy!
But if you’re curious about it, or you’ve meant to start blogging and you just hit a wall because it feels like too big of a task, I get it.
One of the biggest reasons to blog for a small local business like one of ours is that it increases traffic to our website (even if it’s not local traffic) and the more traffic we get, the higher Google places our site in the search results.
For this reason, even if you never write ANYTHING that is specific to your local area, having good blog posts as part of your actual site will increase your web traffic and lead to more consults.
Yes, I get people who book visits with me because they’ve read one of my blog posts. Let me give you a really recent example. I had an Instagram influencer from Boston who read one of my posts because she was googling and looking for breastfeeding advice. She booked me for a home visit, then about a year later I got a bunch of bookings all at once that mentioned her. She’d written her own blog post about her baby and our visit, and so a bunch of other folks booked me… and then told THEIR friends… and when I reached out to the influencer she told me she’s pregnant again. Even just one person reading your post can snowball into multiple referrals.
Lots of LCs do blog, which is awesome. But blogging is NOT like other types of writing you’ve done in school and as an adult. But just like someone was talking to me about in lunch line yesterday- blogging isn’t the same as writing an article or a handout. There are three huge mistakes that I see all the time- and if you avoid these mistakes your posts will be better than 90% of what’s out there already straight out of the gate.
Biggest mistake #3) writing a blog post like you’re writing a research paper
When people read blogs, it’s not the same as curling up with a book or pouring over a journal article. Any idea how long most people spend reading a blog post?
And almost half of those people don’t READ the blog post- they skim it.
Have you ever heard of TL;DR? Have you ever skipped reading an article, or a blog post, or even a Facebook post because it was a giant wall of text and your brain decided it wasn’t worth the effort?
People read blog posts because they have question and they think you’ve got the answer. Simple as that. They don’t want to be lectured to.
So how do you make your blog less like an article and more… bloggy?
You’ll want to break your paragraphs up so that each one is only a couple sentences. This feels WEIRD AND WRONG when you do it because it’s completely different than how you were taught to write in high school, but it’s imperative.
You can actually WRITE the post however you want, but before you hit publish, you need to break all those paragraphs into bite size chunks.
You’ll also want lots of subtitles and subheadings, which also feels weird. But if someone is skimming they tend to read only the subheadings and then decide whether the content looks like it might help them. Without subheadings they don’t feel like they know where things are going and they often click away.
The most popular blog posts tend to be numbered lists. There’s a reason this talk is a top 3 list…
Biggest mistake #2) Not sounding like yourself
Your clients, your friends, your family… they like you for YOU. They like your personality, they like the way you form your sentences, and they like to feel included in conversations with you.
They like that you say “that’s a wicked good latch” or… whatever it is people who don’t live in Boston say. They want to hear you and they want to HEAR YOU when they read your words.
Have you ever “known” someone online and then thought “ oh she’s exactly like I expected” or “wow he’s NOTHING like I expected”?
If you write a blog post in your most professional, intelligent tone of voice it’s very likely that you’ll sound like a robot. Unless that’s honestly how you write! In that case, you do exactly that.
When people read blog posts they are looking for a conversational tone. They see a blog post as someone having a CHAT with them, not someone teaching a class. So even the most well researched, educational blog posts from experts in the field aren’t going to be read or shared if it feels like a lecture.
So how do you switch your writing to a conversational tone when you’re used to writing like an article? It’s easier than you think.
Write what you want to say in the post and then read it out loud. The way you wrote the piece- is it the same way you’d SAY these things? No? Change it.
Don’t be stiff. Use terms you use in real life. If you do a lot of upspeak with an excited tone of voice, use exclamation points. Sarcastic? Use sarcasm!
If the post doesn’t sound like you it could have been written by anybody. And blog readers read posts because they want to learn things FROM A REAL PERSON or else they’d pick up a text book.
The more they like you, or the more they feel like you’re a real human being that they would get along with, the more they’ll pay attention to what you’re saying.
Biggest mistake #1) Not knowing WHY or FOR WHOM you’re writing the post
Honestly, I think this is the one that trips up lactation professionals the most and it keeps so many of us from moving from wanting to blog to actually blogging.
People stress out a lot about picking blog post topics. I used to, too. Is it overdone? Do I have something new to say about this? Why bother adding one more post about skin-to-skin to the internet?
It doesn’t matter if a million people have written about this already. YOU haven’t and the way YOU explain things is different. YOUR VOICE may just make this post the most popular post on skin to skin ever available.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should ever read a post and decide “I’m going to write the same post but I’m going to change some words around and make it my own.” We are not going to plagiarize.
But it DOES mean that if you’ve got an idea for a blog post but you’ve already read 30 blogs on the subject, that does NOT mean you shouldn’t write about that same topic.
If you’ve already got some ideas of what you want to talk about great! But if you don’t, how do you pick topics?
Make a list of the top 5 questions you are asked by families.
Make a list of the top 5 “sayings” that come out of your mouth almost every time you meet a family.
Make a list of the top 5 things you feel like you do “best” with families.
There you go… your first 15 blog topics done!
When you decide to write a blog post you take a lot of time coming up with a topic… but almost as important is knowing who your AUDIENCE is.
A blog post about nipple shields written for other lactation professionals is going to be very different in tone and content than one written for a family who is just home from the birth with their first baby and were given a shield but have no idea why they need it or even how to put it on properly.
Before you write a single word you need to know who you’re writing the post TO. It will affect every single thing you say!
It may help you to pick a specific person in your head to write the blog post to. Is it a recent client? A local pediatrician? Another lactation professional you know?
When you write the first couple of paragraphs of your post, make it clear WHO you are talking to. “Parents ask me all the time…” or “Lactation professionals have lots of questions about…”. Make it obvious straight out the gate WHO you’re talking to!
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