7 Graces Project co-director Nancy Goodyear talks about how every blogger has an unspoken contract with their audience, and how they should be mindful when they decide to change it.
The theme of my articles is often blogging from the perspective of our readers. Today’s article is no exception. In this article, I want to talk about the contract that exists between you and your audience – right from the minute you post your first blog.
All too often (and I know I’m as guilty of this as the next person), many of us decide to keep a blog as a way of staying in touch with our audience. At first, we are enthused by the idea, and we try to get into a regular blogging routine (and if you are a regular visitor to this blog you will undoubtedly have read something or other by Lynn Serafinn banging on about how important blogging is to our marketing efforts). So, we put some time and effort into promoting our blog, we build our audience, we post a handful of times – maybe more.
But then, we start to get busy. Our focus shifts or we lose focus altogether. ‘Life’ just gets in the way for one reason or another and our blogging routine fall by the wayside. After all it’s not really a priority in our business, is it?
But what you might not realise is that, in promoting your blog and seeking an audience for it, you have set up an expectation – or ‘contract’ – albeit a tacit one. Either explicitly or just through what and when you post, your audience comes to expect certain things from your blog, such as:
- How often you post and on which days
- The subjects you will write about
- The ‘tone’ of your posts (funny, educational or instructional, inspirational, etc.)
- The format you use (written blogs, video, audio)
- The rhythm of your posts, e.g. a reflective piece on Mondays and a technical piece on Fridays, or even having no regular rhythm at all other than your whim
All of these things tell your audience what they can expect from your blog. And, if they like the ‘contract’ you have created with them, they will keep coming back for more and will become your loyal followers. If it doesn’t suit them, they will move on and find something that’s more up their alley. Simple!
But hold on a second – it’s not quite that simple! This is a contract we’re talking about (albeit a tacit and informal one). As the blogger, you are the active partner and have a responsibility to fulfil the promise you made to your readers (the re-active partners). And if you fail to maintain your side of the bargain? Well, you could well lose your readers; they might just stop dropping round altogether.
So what can you do to make sure that doesn’t happen? Well, first of all you need to lay out what it is that you offer right from the very beginning. You don’t need to state it explicitly; people will get used to the rhythm of your blogs. But it certainly helps to spell it out for yourself. Here’s an example of what we, at the 7 Graces of Marketing blog, understand to be our side of the ‘contract’ with our readers:
- We write about the 7 Graces model of ethical marketing.
- We post a combination of technical ‘how-to’ pieces and reflective pieces about ethical marketing and business and how the 7 Graces apply to life and business.
- We currently post on Tuesdays and Fridays (but we’re actually going to be increasing our frequency and changing our posting days in February).
- Our aim is to get you thinking and to generate dialogue, so we ask (as your side of the contract) that you share your thoughts and comments with us.
So that’s our side of the contract. You are fulfilling your side of the contract right now by reading this article (thank you for that).
What if I want to change the contract?
There are several reasons why you might choose to change this contract (and this list is by no means exhaustive):
- You feel inspired by something that doesn’t fit your usual content, tone or rhythm and you really want to share it.
- Something comes up that is relevant but time sensitive – such as a news story you want to comment on – so you can’t afford to postpone it as the moment will have passed by then and it will no longer be relevant.
- Your business is moving in a different direction and you need to refine or amend your message or tone.
- You want to expand your business, and thus you need to increase the number and/or diversify your contributing authors.
Of course, there is no reason why you shouldn’t change the contract. It’s your blog after all! But you do need to tell your readers what you plan to do. You can do this simply by practising the Grace of Transparency. Start your post with a brief explanation that shows that you are making these changes intentionally, and lets people know what they can expect – kind of an amendment to the original contract that tells them not only that you haven’t lost your mind, but also that you really do know what you are doing. Here are some examples:
- ‘Although it is Techie Tuesday, I want to share with you something that really pissed me off over the weekend! It’s relevant because of xyz. Normal service will resume next time.’
- ‘I know that we are midway through a series of articles on the Fairtrade movement and the 7 Graces but, did you hear the news today about……this is what I think about that! We will return to Fairtrade next time.’
- ‘The focus of my business is changing. To reflect this, I will no longer be blogging about Fairtrade. From now on, I will be focussing my blogs on the more specific topic of chocolate instead.’
You could even say something like:
- ‘I know that Wednesdays are normally reserved for posts about how we can apply the 7 Graces to our relationships but, after last week’s article about superheroes was such a success I thought I would try a small experiment over the next month and explore what superheroes can teach us about the 7 Graces. If it’s a success, then I might consider changing the Wednesday focus permanently. Let me know what you think. ‘
As you can see, it’s all a matter of Transparency.
A Guaranteed Way to LOSE Readers
Humans are creatures of habit and don’t like change. We like to be told what we can expect; we like to know about changes before they happen. Instinctively, if something we are familiar with changes with no warning or explanation, we feel unsettled and maybe even let down.
Let’s look at a couple of blogging examples:
- Imagine you normally write inspiring, thought-provoking pieces that end with a gentle Call to Action and a mention of the services or products you offer. Now imagine how your loyal readers would feel if you suddenly start writing really hyped-up posts with loads of superlatives and some serious hard sell! Personally, I would be completely turned off, disappointed and angry – and I’d never come back. I would certainly never trust you enough to hire you or buy from you.
- Imagine you normally give people loads of technical information about how to use social media in your blog and then one day, from nowhere, you post a major political rant. Imagine a loyal reader, who has learned to trust the good, no-nonsense advice and information you give, coming to your blog looking for information on how to use the latest social media platform. What are they going to do with your political rant? It’s not what they’re looking for; they’re looking for something really specific and they have come to rely upon you for that information. They might forgive you once, but if it happens too often they will simply start looking elsewhere for what they need.
These two examples could prove difficult for your audience to swallow because they are completely different from what they have come to expect. Any kind of change in your tone or content creates a shift in the contract you have with your readers, and you need to be aware that such changes will, inevitably, end up losing you some readers along the way.
So please, stay aware of your side of the contract. And if you feel the urge to shake things up or go off on a tangent, make sure that you do so consciously. If it’s a conscious choice, you can warn your readers, explain yourself and redefine your side of the contract. Then your audience can decide whether or not they want to stay.
And if it’s not a conscious choice – well, you might find yourself scratching your head wondering why you are suddenly losing your audience.
Upcoming Changes to Our 7 Graces ‘Contract’
While we’re on the subject of changing blogging contracts, here’s a change that’s coming up on the 7 Graces that I alluded to earlier on in this article. We are keen to increase the frequency of our blog posts and to get a wider range of voices represented in the articles we post. To this end, we will be posting 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) instead of our current 2 days a week (Tuesday, Friday). The new Wednesday slot will be reserved for guest bloggers who have graduated from one or both of our 7 Graces courses (Foundations and Applications of Ethical Marketing).
Also, while Lynn Serafinn has been the primary author on this site for some time now, she’s keen for me (as co-director of the 7 Graces Project CIC) to blog more regularly. So, you should be hearing from me about twice a month.
So… see you again next time.
17th January 2014
Nancy V Goodyear is business mentor & life coach who loves to help social entrepreneurs and small business owners get focused and organised. With a BA (Hons) in Learning Disability Nursing, she has extensive professional experience working in health & social care within the non-profit sector. She is fluent in French, having lived in France for some time, and is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute and the Co-Active Leadership programme. Nancy is also Co-Director of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a non-profit social enterprise that provides training and mentorship in ethical marketing to independent business owners, social entrepreneurs and change-making corporates. She works closely with 7 Graces Founder Lynn Serafinn to develop training and consultancy packages for business owners seeking to build and develop their marketing platform ethically. Her over-riding aim in all her work is to help others reconnect to who they and to their business. http://nancyvgoodyear.com
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)