Back in my undergraduate days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on a Friday night you’d walk with hand-wringing dread past a certain bar called The Red Shed on State Street. Happy drunk fellas sat on their stools holding up huge posters rating your looks from 1 to 10. In an instant, you felt like either a cactus or an orchid. (I rated a 9, but never mind about that). It was a crude and non-specific evaluation system, purely subjective, based on unknown, far-ranging criteria. When I think about it, we as blog readers employ a similar snap-judgment before committing to a landing page.
These days, as a blog writer, the stakes are higher than they were walking past The Red Shed. How our readers evaluate us matters, as it drives their engagement. Are you maximizing that split-second you have their attention, sustaining that attention with a well-written blog? What on earth does a well-written blog look like?!
A great blog has several components, and while it’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is still a measurable standard present in great writing. I’ve developed a rubric to increase the odds that when I have my reader’s attention, they hold up that 10 poster, not the one marked 0. Your blogging committee who screens your blogs may modify it according to company values and priorities:
1) Is it Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Emotional and told in Stories (note the acronym, SUCCES)? This criteria, from Making it Stick, by Dan and Chip Heath, seems to be the current standard for good blogging on the web. No wonder. When I think about my favorite bloggers—Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau, for example, their blogs capture all these qualities.
2) Does this blog answer a question? I hope this blog answers, how do you evaluate a blog? I hope my blog on chutzpah answered, how do you find your chutzpah? By answering a question, you provide value.
3) How well does the blog provide value for its ideal reader, on a scale from 1 to 10? The blogger needs to have an ideal reader in mind for each blog she writes. This one is for bloggers and their committees who might be mystified by providing feedback. When my screeners answer the question, “how much value does this provide its ideal reader” with a 5 rating, it gives me the opportunity to revise, and strengthen the value of the piece.
4) How well does it read, from 1 to 10? Where does your interest fade? If screeners don’t finish reading something you wrote, this is excellent feedback! The most effective way to add punch to a piece of writing is to set it aside for awhile and forget about it, and re-visit with fresh eyes. Refer back to the SUCCES formula in #1 above to restore energy to the piece.
5) What parts work well and succeed, even if the overall blog doesn’t “hit the mark?” Be sure to keep your bloggers motivated by identifying what works well in a blog, even when the tone or overall effect doesn’t convey your company’s mission. Like that parenting adage says, “catch them being good” and you reinforce that good behavior. It’s the same with writing and particularly novice bloggers. It takes guts to put your opinions out there, so be sure to reward their efforts.
This rubric provides a specific tool for giving feedback on something you’ve created. If you know in advance what areas fall short in a blog, you can improve it. As my boss Dave says, “you improve the things you measure.”