I have a few friends who are in the nonprofit job market. I suggested they start a blog to keep up their writing skills and share their point of view. I always use James’ blog, Citizen Polity as an example of building your reputation through blogging. They had a few questions for James and he has generously allowed me to share his thoughts on blogging.
As far as what niche to fill – it’s your perspective that fills the niche, not necessarily the subject matter. You should look to do a blog if you feel like your perspective is “missing” from whatever issue you tackle – and it is.
The blog has helped lend credibility when I say I’m an expert in my field. I certainly could have already said that with my resume, but having had the blog for a year now (oh my, can’t believe it’s been a year), that provides an excellent track record. Also, by forcing you to write weekly, it forces you to keep up to date on developments in the field – something that DEFINITELY helps when you’re in a job interview. It’s happened where I was interviewing and said “Oh, I wrote about that issues two weeks ago…”
As far as your personal brand goes, take a look at my company’s web site, Do Well Do Good, and the blog. I chose the design for the blog because I thought it was a fun and more engaging look. When I was building my company’s web site, I designed it that way to look more refined, but also urban and “hip” (which I now realize by using the word hip, it makes me un-hip J ). But as part of my company’s branding, I created a philosophy page which I think does a better job spelling out who I am than the look and feel. Finally, I know exactly what you mean about struggling with finding your voice. My advice – don’t worry about it. You’ve already outlined an excellent foundation (if not a fully fleshed out “map”) – just write and you’ll find your “voice” shortly!
When I launched my blog, its mission was cast very broadly – more of a sociological point of view (how are people trying to change the world through “institutions” such as companies / foundations, etc. How are people trying to change these institutions from within?) It just happens that I write on cause-marketing, sustainability, and (corporate) philanthropy. This gives me some leeway to write about other things off-focus. But for the most part, I’ve been sticking to those issues. It’s also given me flexibility in having other writers join in.
That’s another thing to consider, see if there’s a blog that you really like and can ask to join. For example, I got a blogging gig with the Forbes.com CSR blog and am able to basically syndicate my posts there. I just emailed them and asked if I could write for them. It doesn’t pay, but it gives me a MUCH bigger audience than just going at it alone. Some bloggers would welcome other authors as the more posts there are, the more active the blog looks.
The blog has helped me network – when I first started it, I reached out to people I admired to interview them. This is much more fun than reaching out to people asking for help with the job search. Eventually, I started to fancy myself as a pseudo-journalist and interviewed people to talk about a specific issue (see my interview with Rowan Jacobsen on bees, and the one that follows on Haagen-Dazs. Also Geoff Watts from Intellegentsia about Fair Trade / Direct Trade coffee
Tomorrow in Part 2: James offers some of his successful blogging tips.