How to coach your summer intern to write killer blog posts

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson

Life could be so much better with an intern, right?

Yeah, you know full-well the challenges of making an internship work. But you have a plan. You’ve found an intern who is a perfect fit to write posts for your company blog. Things look promising.

She has solid writing skills. Good communication skills. Can think on her feet. She’s able to work under her own direction and execute on tasks. Not only that, she shows great initiative and has lots of ideas for creating content. In short, she’s brimming with enthusiasm and potential.

You’re in clover, baby.

Or so you thought. That first writing assignment comes back to you. And wow, it needs a lot of revision before you could ever hit publish. A trace of doubt punches you in the face:

  • Did I misjudge this person’s ability?
  • What did I miss in communicating our marketing objectives?
  • Will I have to spend all summer doing heavy duty editing?

Don’t panic just yet! This is exactly where I found myself with a client recently.

It was a simple oversight. We had focused all our attention on developing the content strategy. We’d defined the target audience and the messages. We’d determined which online channels to be in. But when it came time to hand off an assignment to our intern, the plan overlooked one thing.

She needed more guidance for writing on the Web.

That’s not your intern’s fault. And it’s not yours either. They don’t learn this in a classroom. But to get the most out of your summer intern, you’ll have to show her the ropes. Help is here.

Getting the best from your intern blogger
Writing a good blog post requires a different set of skills. There are formatting and writing mechanics you need to follow if you want people to actually read your brilliant content. The good news is you can teach them to your intern. Here are some of the guidelines we created to do that.

Grab attention with the headline
Volumes have been written on techniques and formulas for writing great headlines. But the most important thing to remember is that your headline is a promise of value to the reader. Three powerful headline appeals you can teach your blogging team are:

  • Self-interest
    It signals the article will deliver a compelling benefit to the reader
  • News
    It signals the article tells a story that has immediate relevance
  • Curiosity
    It signals the article will answer a question in the mind of the reader (who, what, why, how)

Open with a bang
People will skim a page for 8-15 seconds to decide if they want to read the whole post. There are two things your opening paragraph must do to make sure they decide in your favor.

  • Get to the main point quickly. Let them know where you are taking them in the very first sentence.
  • Keep it short. A short opening paragraph makes it easier for the reader to commit. A big block of text works like a stop sign for people scanning your page.

Write for scanning
This is one of the most overlooked and critical success factors for engaging readers on your blog. Empathize with the reader’s desire to scan information on the Web. When you do, you will win their heart – and eyeballs. Here are the ways to make blog content more scanning-enabled:

  • Make sure you have only one idea in a paragraph.
  • Keep paragraph length to five lines or less. Vary the length of paragraphs to emphasize white space.
  • Look for ways to break up blocks of copy with sub headlines and bulleted lists. White space is as important as the words on the page.
  • Limit sentence length to 14 words maximum. Vary the length of sentences within the paragraph to give the reader a comfortable rhythm to follow. If you have a long sentence, follow it up with a short one.
  • Use transition statements to lead the reader from one paragraph to the next. Sometimes these can be short, one-sentence paragraphs that connect the flow of ideas.

These simple guidelines can create a win-win for you and your intern. They help you coach her to produce the blog content you need much quicker. They will help her develop real-world writing skills. Most important, they could help you avoid that punch in the face that could knock out your blogging plans this summer.

What is in your coaching plan for intern bloggers? Let us know by leaving a comment below or reaching out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

About John Gregory Olson

John creates and implements marketing strategies that help clients attract and retain profitable customers. He has more than twenty years of experience working with Fortune 500, small and midsized companies in the Manufacturing, Information Publishing, Healthcare and Nonprofit industries. Visit his blog for more insights on integrated digital marketing strategies to increase your brand awareness, your customer base and your sales. You can also connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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