The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

As a communications director, I’ve been asked to provide advice and guidance for professionals interested in starting a blog.  (In my case, these folks are lawyers, who, you might guess, have no shortage of opinions but who also are very cautious about sharing them in a public forum like a blog.)  The first bit of guidance I usually give them is to be ready to make a commitment.  I tell them that while they may have the most exciting and valuable insights to share, they’ll be talking to themselves if they don’t post to their blog on a regular basis.

So, in the interest of walking the walk, herewith is my latest entry, in which I will whine slightly about the discipline necessary to post on a regular basis.  To some extent, this blog is causing a couple of flashbacks to when I was editor of my college newspaper and I had a weekly column to write.  (The editor’s column was something of a tradition at my paper, The Daily Northwestern.  Not sure if that tradition continues.)  I remember sweating it out, late on a Thursday night, long past my deadline, with the news editor’s toes tapping and fingers drumming impatiently.  Invariably, I slogged it out and produced several column inches of somewhat worthwhile copy.  A couple were actually not too bad (and one even garnered an award of some sort), but most were pretty ordinary, with me sharing some thoughts or observations on a particular topic of passing interest.  In a way, it was a blog before blogs even existed — or were even envisioned.  Yes, I’m feeling old.

One thing I did learn from that experience was to be a disciplined observer and occasional note-taker.  In fact, in preparation for this blog, I’ve tried to be a lot more aware of communications issues and topics that might be worthy of comment.  I’ve taken to carrying a notebook around in which I can jot down notes and even draft a post — exactly what I did yesterday morning for this post while riding the train to work in our Chicago office (a shout out of thanks here to John Miller at Braithwaite for the gift of the notebook — send more!).

One other thing I learned (and am still learning) is that you just have to get started (cue the Nike slogan or the “every great journey begins with a first step” quotes).  It’s simple — and simplistic — advice, but as I get older and keep learning more about myself and others, the most basic truths seem to keep coming back to the fore.  No, I’m not going to go all “everything I know I learned in kindergarten” loopy on you here.

But, communicating effectively takes time and commitment and discipline, just like anything else worth doing.  I think many believe they can just phone it in and it will be okay.  Um, no, really not a good idea.  Many people initially jumped into social media and networking with both feet, thinking, “everybody’s doing it, how hard could it be?”  I’ve found it to be plenty hard.  Or, rather, it’s plenty hard to do it right and do it well so that people actually engage you.  There was a concept floating around several years ago about making a website “sticky.”  The ferver over stickiness seems to have died away to a large extent, but the basics behind it remain:  if your social media efforts are interesting or compelling, people will visit and engage, more often than not.  That’s always been the rule for radio, TV, newspapers, magazines and other “old-fashioned” media.  Why would it be any different for social media?

So, here’s to keeping it interesting.  With blogs, I’m learning quickly that it’s definitely easier said than done.

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