Hang up your hang ups and get blogging

Blog Questions and AnswersMore and more businesses have recognised the power of blogging as a means to create fresh and unique content as well as giving their businesses a personality and a voice among the all-important online community. And, sure enough, there are increasing numbers of car dealers who are now blogging but, they are a fairly rare breed.

Having worked with and for automotive retailers for several years, I have a number of theories for the reasons why the majority of car dealers are not blogging. Here are 10 likely to be the most common but are also, very handily, relatively easy to address which means, dear colleagues, hang up the hang ups and get blogging.

1) Fear Factor
The problem – You haven’t even made it to the starter’s block and are trapped by that old devil – fear of the unknown.
The solution – The more times you blog, the less of an unknown entity it becomes, it is just a case of doing it. To get started, keep a notebook or just a folder on your laptop or PC and add in topics as and when they occur to you and links to information. When you first start writing, just content yourself with the thought that it won’t be an established blog so you can practice and publish without worrying too much about who’s reading it and what they think. As the blog becomes more established, your writing will have become more accomplished.

2) Nothing to write about
The problem – You are convinced you have very little to say or what you do say will be of little interest or has been said plenty of times in the past.
The solution – If there’s one surety about automotive retailers is that it’s full of well-informed and highly opinionated people, it’s just a question of converting your views into a readable and accessible format. Google the subject you wish to write about to gleam an understanding of what others are saying about the topic, present different sides of the argument and where necessary back up your facts and figures with reliable sources. Don’t fall into the trap of simply blogging about your latest company news, services or products – keep these for your news pages. If it works to integrate your company’s latest news into your blog, by all means do so but if it looks remotely like a plug, remove it – no one wants to read about how amazing your products and services are, that’s a job for your website, give readers advice and information and make your blogs thought-provoking.

3) Tone of voice
The problem – Should you adopt a formal voice or should you be more personal? Should you write in the first or third person? Should the tone of voice you adopt be consistent or should it change depending on subject matter?
The solution – Inevitably, the tone of voice is both subjective and dependent on your business and subject matter. A financial advisor, for example, discussing the possibility of the Bank of England interest rate rise, will need to be authoritative and well-informed but a social media specialist highlighting the latest celebrity Twitter gaffes can be much more tongue-in-cheek. In general, business blogs would do well to adopt the middle road, being both intelligent and insightful whilst injecting some humour and the personal touch. After all, you may not be pushing your products and services but you are crafting your company’s personality and you want to present yourself, your colleagues and your company as people with whom readers will want to do business.

4) Sounding stupid
The problem – You spend hours creating the perfect post but resist the impulse to publish for fear some of your facts are wrong, you have misinterpreted some information or your view is so last year and the rest of the world has moved on. Instead of being viewed as an opinion leader, you could end up looking completely stupid.
The solution – Whilst you may think it’s obvious, the solution is not to not publish at all. Chances are you know your subject and your industry, you would feel quite confident explaining your topic to your mates down the pub, in which case, you are more than capable of putting it in writing. A quick Google will soon tell you if your views are completely out of kilter. Ask someone else to read it first, they will soon spot anything remotely ridiculous and flag anything which doesn’t make sense.

5) Reluctant to have an opinion
The problem – We are now living in an age where covering our behinds has never been so important or undertaken so extensively. Putting your opinion ‘out there’ flies in the face of most corporate policies and many would-be bloggers may feel as though highlighting a particular opinion could be tantamount to career suicide.
The solution – As a rule of thumb, if you would not be prepared to state your opinion face-to-face, then don’t write it, chances are you will upset someone. But, generally speaking, as long as you present different sides of an issue before stating your opinion, your blog incorporates facts and reliable sources and your views would not see you locked up, you will be fine. Even if you find your boss holds a different opinion, as long as yours doesn’t undermine the company, there should be nothing to fear. After all, who wants to employ a ‘yes’ man or woman?!

6) Reluctant to give readers advice
The problem – Fear that your advice may come back to bite you may leave you reluctant to recommend a particular course of action in your blog.
The solution – Make sure your blog covers all bases and explores a myriad of ways a problem or issue can be tackled. Back your position with solid information and even case studies to illustrate why you hold certain views or why you would recommend a particular course of action. Remember your blog should be light, accessible, easy to read but contain valuable information, it isn’t supposed to be an in-depth recommendation on which hard and fast business decisions are made, presumably, that’s what your business can offer should one of your readers decides to make contact.

7) Inability to write
The problem – You can talk about your industry or subject area until the cows come home but attempt to put it down on paper, so to speak, and words fail you.
The solution – If you find it particularly difficult to articulate your thoughts, insights and words of wisdom into readable prose, find someone in your company who can not only write but can conduct a good interview and is able to elicit the right information to outline your stance in a blog that bears your name. In effect, your very own ghost writer.

8) Grammar not up to scratch
The problem – As a child of the state system particularly those of us schooled in the 70s and 80s, grammar wasn’t formally taught and you don’t want your clients, potential customers, colleagues or the boss to think you’re a complete numpty because you don’t know the difference between ‘knowing your s*** and knowing you’re s***’, to coin a phrase.
The solution – Either find yourself a grammar guru to double check your ramblings or buy yourself a copy of Lynne Truss’ ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ – having that rampaging, dinner-eating, pistol-packing panda at the ready is sure to keep your grammar on the straight and narrow.

9) Sales pitch
The problem – The boss (or worse – you) thinks the company’s blog exists to promote your products and services.
The solution – If your reader wants a sales pitch, they would invite you to their offices for you to wow them with the business your offering, don’t fall into the trap of using your blog to highlight your company’s ‘innovative’ ‘industry-first’ or ‘pioneering’ product. You are building an online community with whom you want to engage, you want to hold their interest and provide them with information worth knowing and encourage them to think outside the box. Using your blog as a means to promote your products will just turn people off, they don’t want to read a load of sales puff, they want information, opinion and facts and possibly a bit of entertainment. Leave the sales pitch for the one-to-one.

10) Time/lack of resource
The problem – There’s always something more pressing which needs your urgent attention so the blog is never written.
The solution – Make the time. Put it in your diary, blank out a few hours and just write it. Alternatively: outsource!

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