Why write a blog?
Your voice is important! Your views, opinions, and experiences matter. A blog gives you this space – and the opportunity to inspire others.
I write an award-winning blog, and have spent a decade working in NHS comms. I love the power of blogging because it gives anyone the chance to be heard, and to influence change.
Writing a blog is the July challenge for the Transforming Perceptions of Nursing and Midwifery programme. While this post focuses on guidance for people in these professions, there is general advice for anyone so please do read on!
Where do I start?
A good place to start is thinking what you might like to write about. Some ideas include:
- A day in your professional life
- A letter to a newly-qualified nurse or midwife (or a letter to your younger professional self, telling them the benefit of what you know now!)
- A letter to the NHS on its 70th birthday, reflecting on what has changed since it started, and what the future might hold
- A time when you realised just what a huge difference your care had made to a patient
- A letter to a newly-qualified doctor (they are starting in August, so now is a good time!)
- If you're not working on the front line - perhaps you're in management, or research - you could describe your career path to help people learn about the options available in these professions
- Reflections on how things could be done differently
- The portrayal of nurses and midwives in the media (perhaps choose a particular TV programme, or film. You could also look at a positive portrayal versus a not-so-good portrayal)
How do I write?
Sometimes people can be put off writing a blog because they think they can't write. Yes, you can write. I bet you tell people all the time about what you do in your working life. If you think you can't write, think of writing a blog as talking about something with someone, just in written form (and with no interruptions!).
With that in mind, a conversational tone often works well with a blog. Your previous experience of writing might be essays and reports which are very formal. Don’t be afraid to show your personality in your blog post. Let your passion and enthusiasm shine through!
Your blog post will be for a general audience, so try to avoid jargon and acronyms. If you do need to use jargon or acronyms, explain what they are and/or include a graphic, and/or a link to a website that gives more information.
In terms of length, aim for about 800 words in your blog post. If it's much shorter, you won't have explained yourself in adequate detail. If it's much more, you're probably over-explaining yourself, going in to too much detail that will be exhausting for you to write and off-putting for potential readers.
Make good use of paragraphs - a good rule of thumb is to start a new paragraph when you're starting a new idea or point.
Good spelling and grammar is important, as these will help make your post easy-to-read and understand. Spelling is easy to check on a computer. A good way to check your grammar is to keep to short, succinct sentences. Read your sentences aloud to yourself - how does it flow?
Ask a trusted friend, colleague or family member to cast their eyes over what you've written to get their feedback. A fresh pair of eyes is always useful to check for typos, and for a bit of sense-checking (sometimes what we think we've written - whether tone or content - comes across differently to the reader). This post was proof-read by one of my colleagues before it was published. All the greatest journalists and writers will have their work proof-read (and often edited) before publication, so try not to be downhearted if amendments are suggested - it's all part of the learning journey to creating a piece of writing that has real impact.
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Some inspiration from Tanmay Vora about why storytelling is important
How do I publish my blog?
Simple is always best. Taking part in the July blogging challenge needn't mean making a commitment to setting up and maintaining a whole blogging site (though go for it if you would like to!).
You could publish a blog on the website for the trust or organisation you work for. Get in touch with your Communications team; I am sure they would love to hear from you because they are always looking for stories about their staff. Your Comms team will provide lots of support and guidance. They will also be able to ensure that your post doesn't break confidentiality or other professional boundaries. For the same reason, it's wise to refresh your understanding of the Nursing and Midwifery Council professional guidelines. Your blog content is more than likely to be completely fine, but it's better to be safe than sorry!
Another publishing avenue could be a charity. This could be especially relevant if you're a specialist in a particular disease or condition - they will be delighted as it helps them to raise awareness.
Writing a post that is published on a website that is not your own is called a guest post - it's a brilliant way of testing the waters, and getting started.
If you have been bitten by the blogging bug and you would like to set up your own website take a look at Wordpress. It's free to set up and to use, and there's a huge range of easy-to-use templates to get you started. The templates all use click-boxes - you don't need to be able to code.
Promoting your blog
You've written your blog, and published it - how do you get people to read it? If you've published your blog via your trust/organisation/a charity, the chances are they will promote it via their social media and other channels. Don't be shy about promoting it yourself, too.
Twitter is a fantastic place to promote your blog post (if you haven't yet got an account, now is a great time to set one up!).
Some ideas for promoting your blog post on Twitter are:
- When tweeting about your blog post, include more than just the link. It's a good idea to include a short quote from the post, or pose a challenge or question - this will help compel people to read the post, and engage people in debate
- Tag people in your tweet - these could be peers, or people whom you are seeking to influence (remember senior people and people in the public eye are humans too!). Please tag @horizonsnhs @bevmatthews_ @helenbevan @leighakendall - we'd love to see your posts, and will be more than happy to share them!
- Use appropriate hashtags to help your post get noticed (remember #futurenursing / #futuremidwifery too)
- Create a simple graphic to help promote your blog post - tweets that include photos are much more likely to be noticed, and shared. If you are guest posting the organisation or charity is likely to create a graphic to help promote the post. If not (or you could always have a go at doing one anyway) I recommend using Canva. It's free to use and join, with a wealth of images and graphics that are free to use, and loads of templates.
You could also post on your personal Facebook feed, and in any relevant groups you're a member of, as well as on LinkedIn.
Do also take a look at the 10 tips for social media success.
Fighting imposter syndrome
If you are thinking "Surely people won’t want to read my blog post so what's the point?" I can assure you that many others will be having the same doubts. Imposter syndrome is a real thing! There's lots of advice online about how to deal with it - (managing it is a very personal thing) - this post and this post give some useful insights.
A final thought...
Pressing 'publish', or passing your writing for someone else to publish can be scary because you are putting something of yourself out there. When your post has been published, I'd like you to give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for having the courage to write a blog post, and for sharing it with the world.
When your blog post has been published, it's tempting to sit refreshing the stats page or looking at the number of 'likes' you are getting on social media (I might have done that...I'm not telling). Remember that readership is about quality not quantity - getting people to take notice, take action, having real impact, rather than numbers that can be vanity statistics. And the way to find out whether you're having impact is to engage, which is another reason to make sure you promote your post on social media!