It started as a mistake.
I was looking for the bathroom at a rock-themed nightclub in Central London. I pushed absent mindedly through the wrong door and found myself in a band’s backstage room. It was something straight out of Almost Famous- guys with long hair and sunglasses laid out everywhere, a few girls in the corner, and a table full of alcohol. Everyone looked my way as I entered. “Are you guys a band?” I enquired. “Yeah, we’re The Doors” came the reply, and the room erupted in laughter. (Note: they were a Doors cover band). I said “Cool, I love the doors” (I didn’t really love The Doors). They offered me a drink and I got chatting to the blonde sitting by the drinks table. She told me she was an editor of a national newspaper, and asked me if I wanted to write for her. I told her I’d never thought about writing but everyone in my primary school thought I’d be a journalist when I was older (which was true). Two weeks later I was reviewing Lost Prophets at Brixton Academy, and I got to see them for free! And so begun my music writing career. In that period of my life I watched showgirls whip each other with Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese, got shouted at by Linsey Lohan, hanging out with My Chemical Romance (picture above is with MCR singer Gerard Way) and drank champagne with Groove Armada as they came offstage at a music festival in Finland. It was awesome.
My big break arrived after about 18 months of writing: I managed to get a work experience slot at legendary rock publication Kerrang! I opened mail, picked competition winners, filled excels, then worked up the courage to ask for an audition to write for them. I put everything I had into the assignments and turned in my best writing and…they turned me down. I didn’t quite know what to do next. I carried on writing about bands but couldn’t quite make that jump to being a writer. I reviewed a major music festival for a national newspaper and got some unexpected feedback from the festival promoter, via my editor: Tell that writer we will never let him review our festival again. (I mentioned how bad the sound was on one of the stages, unaware that review tickets were not there to criticise such things).
I did other things with my life for a few years, but when Planet Ivy was born in 2012, my experience with Kerrang! accidentally touched on a problem a lot of young people had: It was really hard to make the jump from “wanting to be a writer” and being a writer. In return for their articles, Planet Ivy would train and improve writers, and give them a platform bigger than any beginner writer’s blog to be seen on. Many of the Planet Ivy writers progressed to being full-time writers at pretty much every publication you can think of. We had a meetup and one of our former writers turned up in a tie. We were like “wtf dude?” and he told us he was now at The Daily Telegraph, which makes even the writers dress formally. He was beaming from an article he had written for them that got over 5 million page views in a single day. We were becoming that bridge that writers travelled on their journey to success.
After Planet Ivy hit a million visitors a month, content remained a key thread in my life, from second content site Screen Robot, to the creation of my content marketing agency, Magnific, right through to the content I oversee on social media which brings traffic to the clients I work with.
So with that in mind, I’m going to do an experiment in transparency in 2016. I’m going to start blogging (here on vincentdignan.com, and on other sites) and record each month how I did, including my stats where possible, something which others who want to blog may find useful. Also, I give talks on content marketing, so I figure I better practice what I preach. I only have one goal: to write and publish 52 articles in 2016. I don’t have any traffic or social share goals in mind, but will be tracking on this blog how I get on, not least so that anyone reading this will have a loose template they can follow if they want to blog, and are unsure of where to start/how to get traffic to their site. Below is my analytics for my personal website (vincentdignan.com, the one you’re…on right now). I’ve never pushed my personal website in any way, so as you’ll see, visitors are basically non-existent:
The top post is my application for a new job (I’m hiring, spread the word!). My “blog” received a paltry 62 visits, and the “top article” received a comical 25 page views in the last month. So we can take it as red that I’m basically starting from zero. If anyone reading this wants to start this journey and start blogging with me hit me up in the comments and let’s go on this journey together!
I’ll go into more detail in the next post on my methods, but here’s a ten-part loose plan of my first month you can follow if you want to start a blogging journey too:
- Come up with 25 titles that sound juicy.
- Store them in a Trello file
- Find time to pick out the best ones and write them up. Many writers like to do this first thing in the morning but I find after 10pm is the right time for me.
- Think about your audience, i.e. they need to get value from every post you write. It doesn’t always have to be “actionable tips for improving Instagram”, but make it good (If you can’t make it good, make it entertaining and people might not notice). As ever, don’t be business guy, and remember the golden rule of writing: Never write something that someone else has said before.
- Start writing. Aim to guest blog (in my case, I’ll hit up people from my personal connections) but if not post it on your own blog. There are a multitude of reasons why this is a good idea.
- Have a buffer of articles ready. I feel like I’m cheating on my 2016 journey by revealing I have six articles written already, but it’s a great strategy. You can also send these titles to people you want to guest blog for, and be like: “Any of these take your fancy?”. Way stronger then “Can I blog for you?”. Everyone you’re talking to will want to know “Will this article get clicks? The only thing that matters.
- If you’re feeling self-conscious or afraid you can’t do it, remember the following:
– It only really takes 30 minutes to write a blog post (You can afford the time)
– You only get better by writing lots
– If you write one amazing blog post and four stinkers, people only remember the good one, and will say you have a great blog once you’ve written that one great article
- So now you have the article. Getting traffic/distribution of articles is a problem no-one has really solved yet, but here’s what I’ll be doing this month:
– Creating a medium account, and posting to LinkedIn, Facebook etc. In 2015 you have to go where the eyeballs are, so be on as many platforms as possible.
– Setting up timed tweets and Facebook posts every time I finish an article to run for the entire month (i.e. releasing the same article multiple times)
– Sending links to articles to influential people, and at new people who follow me, rather than typing out “Thanks for following me” 100 million times until my fingers bleed
- Putting articles in my email newsletter. I’m not selling anything so I’m going to try just putting entire articles in the body of the email to save people having to click to read it. This will mean less traffic, but is a better user experience for the reader (in my opinion).
- There isn’t a number ten, but I wanted a round number.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions about any of the above let me know in the comments.