Why Blogging Best Practices Are BS
Paris Syndrome is a psychological disorder, clinically proven, that, while rare, presents itself in very specific situations: almost unilaterally, it affects Japanese tourists visiting Paris, hence its name (although, occasional cases have been documented in Florence).
In many cases, these tourists report to having either full blown panic attacks or outbursts of pure mania, visual and aural hallucinations as well as a complete sense of disorientation, or an out of body, uncontrollable experience.
Anyone who has seen the “Double Rainbow” video which went viral a few years back (see below) knows, more or less, what an attack of Paris Syndrome entails: more or less a freak out triggered by their inability to grasp, process or internalize their surroundings due to the pure, fantasy like beauty of aesthetically perfect, albeit unfamiliar, surroundings.
The widely held theory behind the triggering of this neurological phenomenon in otherwise mentally stable individuals is that being on the other side of the world, in a culture that’s antithetical to your own, and unable to adjust to an unexpected, completely foreign reality that’s as far away as Tokyo from the Arc De Triomphe.
I myself suffered a slight case my first day in London last week, where I ventured into Westminster Abbey to check off a long standing item on my bucket list – visiting Poet’s Corner. This is like the nerdy Epicenter of the English language, a place where, in the course of a few square feet, you can view the actual tombs of literary luminaries ranging from Chaucer to Milton to the Bronte Sisters. As someone who’s a total writing geek, the sheer density, a chronological crypt dense with the mortal remains of immortal writers who have shaped this craft, and my life (in many regards), left me feeling a little, well, overwhelmed.
Particularly since I knew that the next day, I was going to have to speak about recruitment blogging for the first time (it’s not normally a topic I’d even think to speak on, particularly considering its subjective ambiguity as a medium). Not only that, it was for a crowd that’s far different than, say, the state SHRM crowds there for their strategic credit, or even the cool social media kids who hang out swapping VC fish tales at the blogging conferences I also attend once in a while.
This was a crowd of some of the most notoriously snarky, highly opinionated and brutally direct UK “resourcing” (read: recruiting) professionals who not only presumably hated Yanks (and I meet pretty much every fat American stereotype), but also recruitment blogging – the latter, rightfully so, because there’s not a lot to like in a pretty shitty genre, all things considered.
So, I basically am going from the paragon of the English language in Westminster to the dregs of a basement conference room near where Jack the Ripper reportedly roamed and somehow try to fill 40 minutes with something somewhat substantantitive on a subject both entirely specious and subjective.
And it kind of kicked ass. Here’s a brief recap of come of the most common questions we discussed – or you can check out the Banksy-inspired picture of my presentation since as much as I hate infographics, this one more or less suffices as an easy recap:
1. How Long Should It Be? A blog post is like a resume. While 500 words is a pretty good benchmark, if you have something to say, you should say it in as many or as few words as you need to get your experience and expertise across. Paying attention to word count while writing, however, is a recipe for disaster, as you likely learned in high school English. In this case, size truly doesn’t matter. Style does.
2. How Often Should I Blog? Much like length, the answer is amorphous: when you have something to say. I think a big mistake bloggers make, despite the prevailing sentiment to the contrary, is sacrificing quality for the sake of consistency. The world has enough people out there cranking content to fuel the never satiated social media funnel without you making any sort of meaningful noise. This shouldn’t feel like a job, and while self-imposing deadlines is OK, the easiest way to lose voice is by forcing it when, sometimes, silence is OK – particularly if this isn’t your day job.
3. What Should I Blog About? The easy answer is to pick a topic you want to be associated with, say, online sourcing and social media recruiting. Then, all you really need to do is go to the Hubspot blog post generator, and you’ll have the basic templates for a million meaningless pieces of specious content marketing:
PS: Please write about #1. I will love you forever.
But the hard answer, and the one that dominated the discussion in my session, is a simple one: recruiters rarely, if ever, get away from their reqs. They live their challenges silently, kind of the professional equivalent of an offensive lineman: how well they do their job lies largely in how little they get noticed.
Which is why, I think, blogging has a certain appeal to recruiters. After all, in a world where hiring managers dismiss you, job seekers disdain you and companies devalue you, having a platform to have a voice – your voice – out there in the world is inherently therapeutic and also invigorating. Not every recruiter has something to say, which is cool – but the best ones know that sometimes there’s no other option but to add to the growing canon of talent acquisition tales from the trenches.
Here’s the bottom line: anything you’ll read about blogging says that the topics you should write about are largely determined by things like SEO, which is why numbered lists and how tos are ubiquitous in the world of “thought leadership” for the sake of driving traffic.
But if you write for an algorithim, no matter how much traffic you drive, most of your audience is going to be irrelevant. Sure, you can take the tact of wanting to drive as many eyeballs through SEO as possible, but in a market that’s as competitive as this one for eyeballs and mindshare, chances are you’re better off posting on as many platforms as will publish you to achieve what you’re unlikely to get from Google.
When it comes to topics, programs like HR Marketer’s Insights or really any social media monitoring program like Radian 6 will show you that the topics that play in Peoria in this industry are stuff like healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, compliance and workforce planning.
I don’t know about you, but since my beat – and passion – has always been recruiting, these topics sound a little like a total snooze fest. Plus, Betty in payroll who might happen upon an article via search isn’t my qualified audience – recruiters and talent acquisition professionals, not to mention those who develop products and market to those practitioners – are.
And the one thing that, no matter what your definition is of “who is a recruiter” or “what is sourcing” or any other number of stupid topics that often trend in this cannon of B2B BS, the stories that work follow a simple formula:
They keep it real. And they come clean about the stuff recruiters deal with that they erroneously assume no one else has to experience. We can talk about finding that perfect passive candidate who’s the ultimate culture fit all day, but we’ve all experienced losing that same “top talent” in the process because comp wouldn’t cough up a few extra bucks due to some stupid issue like “internal compression.”
We can talk about candidate experience all day, but the truth is, when you’re balancing 60 reqs and trying to survive in an age of outsourcing and offshoring, you’ve got more important things to worry about than an unqualified applicant’s feelings, idealism be damned.
And we can get as excited as we want about stuff like big data all day, but until we can accurately identify where our candidates are really coming from and how well each one does once they’re on the job, we know that this is just someone trying to sell us some silly service we need a lot less than a few more resources for recruiting the mountain of reqs we’re already working on.
People assume that these seemingly mundane issues aren’t worth talking about, but the truth of the matter is, there’s something intrinsically interesting about showing your expertise simply by showing what you go through every day. Recruiters all over the world share the same challenges, the same triumphs, and above all else, the same professional insecurities and pragmatic personalities required to find the right talent for the right job at the right price.
It’s not the big ideas that make for interesting content – it’s the mundane stuff that’s not limited to some bulleted list or buzzword bingo competition. Because we’re all suffering from the same universal truths as recruiters, as professionals, and as humans. It’s the same intrinsic psychological desire that more or less created the HR movement through Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne experiments: the need to be heard, to be recognized, and above all else, the need to filter work experiences through personal preference.
If all you’re doing is writing for writing’s sake, well, there are a whole lot more interesting genres than recruitment blogging, that’s for damn sure. But there are, in my experience, very few that are as rewarding, have as few barriers for entry, or have a baseline for quality that’s so low – the expectation, ideally, is for edification, so if you can somehow achieve the goal of espousing an emotional reaction, than the readers will come – and the conversations and connections a single quality post can generate, the ideas have a funny way of following, too.