A lot of people who I suggest would benefit from blogging ask a common question:
How should I write a post?
They’re not wondering about the “ass-in-the-chair part” but rather, the post structure. Often it’s accompanied by a “what should I write about?” feeling, implied in which is why would anyone really care about what I have to say?
The truth is, we all communicate all the time. Sometimes repetitively so (especially in presales). Not every post has to be earth shatteringly insightful. Or brilliantly written.
I haven’t been writing much, though I have been drafting a lot. This morning I published a post about authentication security after sitting on it for about three weeks. This is pretty typical. Let me share my own thought process about the post so that maybe you have another vector into getting a post from brain to bits.
My post was about the value of a company a friend of mine started and how what they’re doing can apply to problems security officers have. It is neither shatteringly insightful or brilliantly written, but it is done and published. It’s reasonably readable (more on this later) and just a few hours after writing has a couple of hundred views between my own blog, LinkedIn, and Facebook.Are you in #presales, and trying to figure out what to write about publicly to grow your #blogging chops? Read this: Click To Tweet
This particular post started in a favorite way… I was reading a news story and I had something to add. This particular post was about some government employee watching porn on a government network and as a result being exposed to malware (and more).
Wouldn’t you think that security officers have solved the porn-on-work-network problem already? It’s an obvious one. I share thoughts about how governance could be improved with Cymatic’s offering.
Cymatic uniquely streams browser interactions for application of AI/ML against a user authentication attempt rather than only during the post/get… which means they can also capture activity from before the authentication session starts to understand more about the security context in which the authentication is happening. In plain English, if you’ve got a vulnerable browser session because you’ve been viewing porn or are on a compromised network when you then try to login Cymatic will detect it, and can step-up (or block) authentication without impacting performance (and while giving security officers visibility into their user’s vulnerabilities).
So what I’ve done is applied a unique approach to solving a problem to a story that’s important enough as to be newsworthy. I’m making a technology offering relevant.
But I didn’t know the story I wanted to tell. That’s why I sat on it for a few weeks.
Then, last night Jason told me he was on TV… and that was a bit of a compelling event. Let’s get some SEO traffic to his TV interview. So I put my ass in the chair.
Make it personal
People have short attention spans. Tell them up-front what you’re going to tell them. After that, I find it helpful to ease into the post with a personal story or an example that more easily connects the reader to the writing than just jumping into a topic would be.
One of the things that smart people often forget is that not everyone is as smart at what you are… and that sometimes less experienced people are interested in explaining what you know to people that sign checks so that their projects can move forward.
Using metaphor and/or examples is a great way to explain exactly what you’re talking about. Think of it as customer experience for your reader — you’re expressing your solution in terms they are familiar with, instead of making them learn your language.
Notice in the post that I share a story about traveling to Israel and how airline security differed noticeably from American airlines. The way Israeli security viewed my security posture was in context… and when the context was not usual they probed a little deeper. The only thing that was off was that three of us were traveling and we fit into two different profiles. Whereas usually friends from the same background have similar characteristics, we did not. So they asked more. No harm done, and we certainly understood. Just like your users will if you involve them in your security process.
I’m an avid reader, so I’m always collecting stories. In the post I link to four or five different stories, and a product that CA has that does similar things as a way to add more value to the reader and be less about me and my point of view. It also helps with SEO.
Put your view in the context of the public conversation and it’s likely to come off as less self-interest driven.Put your point-of-view (or company's solution) in the context of the public conversation and it’s likely to come off as less self-interest driven. #Blogging #ThoughtLeadership Click To Tweet
Don’t be boring
Most corporate marketing is dry and inauthentic. The point of blogging is that you can be engaging and connect authentically.
Use lists. Use bold. Highlight the points you think are most important, even if (as in my case) they’re not fully formed. You can always come back and write more.
Encourage sharing… I love the wordpress plugin Better Click to Tweet (and have paid for the premium version because I think it’s important to support developers).
How long did it take?
When I shared it with Jason, his first question was “don’t tell me you wrote that in 30 minutes?”
It was 90 minutes of focused ass-in-chair typing, even though I’d been thinking about what to write for a few weeks. That’s a lot of time (as things go). I could have worked on it longer, but I had to go, and wanted to finish.
I’m sure the grammar’s off. I wouldn’t be surprised if a typo slipped through.
I hit publish long before I would have liked to. Maybe I’ll change it, maybe I’ll write another post clarifying some points.
They key point is that if you’re in presales (or sales or marketing) you’ve probably written stuff like this 100x in emails to other people… and it might take you less time because you’re just got to generalize the one-off language to a more generic post that flows for a reader without the context you have.
The truth is, I could have written much less and kept it focused on the genesis news story and it would have been just fine. As it is, it rambles a little because I am just working my brain through the topic unsure of exactly what resonates (if anything).
What’s not great about this post?
It is all over the place. I start talking about preventing porn on enterprise networks, but then talk about user awareness, real-time security analytics, and in-flow security remediation… but I don’t really explain all those things, why they’re important, and how they apply to this situation.
If I were really “good” I might have a page/post for each of those three key points and have linked to them. That would help SEO and also help readers get deeper into each of those really important topic areas.
I talk about the porn story, but don’t tell readers what the agency could have done differently with Cymatic in place to prevent / govern users’ porn viewing behavior (and the resulting vulnerabilities).
Instead I give an example/demo that impressed me… but one that doesn’t necessarily apply to the porn situation. The porn situation is about inherited vulnerabilities and using those in context of authentication… the example that I used was rather biometric signatures to improve authentication (with a side point of security analytics).
I didn’t find an attractive image. I reused one I’ve used before because I was out of time.
I didn’t optimize for SEO. I use the premium version of Yoast to help with that, but still didn’t make the time to do so.
I think the flow could be improved.
That said, I hit post and got some good feedback. I also broke a writing dry-spell. So all-in definitely one for the win column.
One last point
If you want the reader to do something, ask them. It’s best if you do so more than once. I want people to check out Cymatic’s offering, so at the end of the post I encourage them to do so (I also did at the beginning).
You may have a white paper or webinar that you can promote. Or, another post you want them to read. Ask them. Marketing calls this a call-to-action… you should just think of it as relationship-building. I believe that someone who made it all the way through my post would benefit from checking out Cymatic. So I tell them how.
What have a missed? Let people know in the comments below.