How to Structure Your Blog Piece for Max Impact
Recently at my company, I encouraged several of the engineers on my team to promote the work in their laboratory by submitting articles to a popular cybersecurity blog. The benefit of blogging is simple: you provide useful content to show your audience that you are a trusted source in your industry. Even better if you can piggyback off someone else’s platform as a force multiplier.
Now, there were a few ways to go about this blog piece submission:
Option #1: I could write it. Let an engineer sign off on it. Submit. Done.
Option #2: Let the engineers write it. I’ll then edit and polish that baby to perfection and send it on its merry way to submission. Done.
But then I realized there was option #3: teach the engineers to write, then let them write the blog post before I laid a finger on it. Instead of giving an engineer a fish and feeding him for a day, teach the engineer to fish so he can feed himself for a lifetime.
Yes, this engineer caught a big fish
To assist, I wrote up a sheet of condensed guidance on how to structure a blog. Below are the top 10 tips I included in this handy one-pager:
Know your audience. Tailor your entire piece for a specific audience; speak to them directly. Check: are they leadership, like-minded colleagues, students, etc.? Are they technical or non-technical or a mix? Then, figure out what will be most interesting or helpful from your audiences’ point of view and say it upfront.
Headlines should be short and interesting. Use a compelling, short headline to grab attention. Aim for no more than 10 words or 60 characters (includes spaces). No exclamation points.
First sentence is your hook. Tell readers upfront what’s new and why it matters to them. (Learn more about hooks from my previous article here.)
First paragraph introduces your “hidush.” Hidush is the Hebrew word for a novel interpretation or approach to an ancient text. Don’t regurgitate content that’s readily available on the company website or common knowledge. Instead, aim to start your blog piece with a thought-provoking question you intend to answer, or an innovative premise you intend to prove.
(Author’s note: why did I randomly throw in a Hebrew term from my yeshiva days? Because, well, it was late afternoon, the caffeine had dissipated from my veins, and frankly it was just the first term that came to mind. So, let’s just go with the hidush.)
Avoid throat clearing. Start with the juicy stuff. Share new information and provide only the essential context, as opposed to boring your reader with too much backstory. In other words, after you hook your audience and introduce your premise, you can share a little context or background info if needed, but it should be minimal (1-2 short paragraphs).
Structure for clarity: First paragraph includes your hook and introduction of your premise (or argument). The body of your article should then prove your premise, section by section (use bolded subheadings to delineate). Your last 1-2 paragraphs are your conclusion where you finish proving your premise, close up any loose ends, and include a call to action (CTA). Remember: every single sentence in your entire piece must relate somehow to your “hidush.”
Take ownership. Explain why something matters with authority and expertise. Use strong, proactive language (avoid passive verbs!). Make sure your adjectives are also vivid or specific (e.g. instead of “good threat map,” try “critical threat map” or “comprehensive threat map.”) For blogs, you can use a slightly more colloquial tone that speaks directly to an audience.
Deliver your information in bite size pieces. Use short paragraphs (2-4 sentences each), avoid run-on sentences, and pick words with the least number of syllables.
Create breathing room. Break up the text with subheadings, bullets/numbered lists, and bolded text to create a subconscious space for the reader to take in all this new information.
Bonus points if you can weave in a story. Readers are wired for story, so if you can insert a real-life example to illustrate your premise you are more likely to keep readers reading. (Learn more about effective storytelling tricks for the defense industry here.)
Done with your blog piece and ready to edit? Read my article on the right way to edit your own work here.
Hope this quickie guidance proves helpful for your next blog post. Go knock it out of the park.
* * *
About Jessica Lauren Walton: Jessica is a communications strategist, video producer, and writer in the U.S. defense industry. She has written articles on a range of security and mental health topics and conducted interviews with military leadership, psychologists, journalists, CIA officers, filmmakers, and more. Jessica recently completed her memoir about her experience as an American woman struggling with mental illness while trying to get into Israeli intelligence.
To sign up for the (In)Security Blog newsletter and receive notification of the memoir release, click here.