Alarming fact of the day: I've been blogging on a daily, and now weekly basis, since I started this blog in 2008, and before that since I started blogging in 1998. I recently realized that means I've spent all of my adult life with the question “what should I post about next?” floating around in the back of my mind.
When you have a strong direction for your blog you can answer this question with systems that capture your ideas. You can pop open Google Docs or Evernote and you're ready to go! But if you're still wondering “what is my blog about?” then figuring out what to post becomes a very sticky part of your life.
Finding your voice as a blogger is even harder when you're constantly told to find a blog niche and hold onto it for dear life.
Again – great advice! But for business owners who are struggling to feel comfortable with starting a conversation around their work, or for bloggers still finding their voice it creates pressure and anxiety.
Pressure and anxiety are fine if you're racing to a nuclear fallout bunker in the event of the apocalypse (in which case, please stop reading this post and focus on your escape) but they actively shut down the part of our brain where creative breakthroughs and higher decision-making happens.
Finding your blog niche shouldn't feel like sealing yourself in a fallout bunker! (Tweet it)
If finding your niche feels limiting, discover your brand values instead.
Please don't let the word “brand” scare you off because this isn't just for brands. Anyone who blogs can apply this to their work. I've used this technique myself for years, I spoke about it at a blogging conference last year, and I'm going to start work with coaching clients on it soon too.
What I see over and over is that we take our own perspective for granted.
And that makes sense! Our opinions, our fascinations, and biases colour everything that we see. They're such a core part of how we see the world that it's hard for us to see them. But if you become aware of them, even a little, you can make your blogging life easier.
And before you ask if is just another way to find a niche, and not really a different thing? Yes, you can describe it that way, but I've found that it's more intuitive, open-ended way to get there that's worked better for me.
This is the three pronged approach I use to keep a consistent writing voice and message, without feeling trapped:
Your Blog subject
+ Your values
= Your Brand Values and Post Topics
Let's break it down:
1. Your Blog's General Subject
This is simple – it's what you write about! Your blog might be about fashion, cooking, your lifestyle, being an author, life coaching, photography, business, fitness, or underwater basket weaving. Keep it short and simple, and ask yourself “What are you helping with?” if you're not clear.
For example, mine is business, marketing and websites.
2. Rediscover Your Values
Go back and look at the posts that you've written over the past months, or look at the favourite post's you've written. Re-read them closely and list a theme for each of them, but go deeper than an overall topic.
- What do I naturally draw attention to in my writing? What underlying principles do I come back to no matter what I write about?
If you naturally look for errors and out-of-place details? Analysis could be a value for you.
Do you always look on the bright side? Encouragement and possibility could be important to you.
Are you always trying to step up your quality and make things better? Craftsmanship might be an important value.
More ideas for values are: craftsmanship, perseverance, precision, emotion, relationships, independence, rebellion, discovery, adventure, empathy, kindness, self care, prestige, equality, resilience, humour, creativity, ease, sensuality, invention, leadership, community, trust, mystery. Invent your own!
Consider what you feel strongly about personally, and politically. List out any values that jump out to you and again, try not to edit.
Are there any words that repeat themselves, or are there themes in the words you listed? What common ground starts to appear? Circle the ones that feel most important, and cut the list to 3 – 5 that feel most true to you. This might take an hour or a week, there's no wrong way to do it.
For example, some of mine are adventure, resilience, humour, organization, simplicity, empowerment, a DIY spirit, perseverance, self care and ease.
3. Combine your blog subject with your values
Now let's combine your values with your blog's subject to create your brand values. These create a framework for you to blog about a topic you love, from the unique perspective that's tied to the core of who you are, which makes writing from an authentic place much easier.
- How can you bring these values to bear on what you're helping people with? (i.e. your blog subject)
- Have you described who you're helping, what you're helping them with, and what the desired outcome is?
For example, two of my brand values are:
- Helping women in their first five years of online business learn blogging and business skills that they can leverage to make more money and build engagement with their communities.
- Helping women set brave, meaningful goals that are in line with their integrity and the deepest core of who they want to live.
Limit yourself to three to five brand values, and make sure you save these somewhere safe. This will be part of your blog's unique recipe, for consistent on topic writing that your audience will love – with a lot of breathing room.
4. Brainstorm post topics for each of your brand values.
List potential posts topics, ideas for a new series or column, or post names that correspond to your brand values. If the post doesn't fit with a specific perspective, challenge yourself to adjust it so it does fit one – or save it somewhere for now, and see if a natural opportunity to adjust it comes up.
For example, for my brand value:
“Help women set brave, meaningful goals that are in line with their integrity and the deepest core of who they want to live.”
Post ideas might be:
– Interviews with creative women with all kinds of lives
– Goal setting strategies and tactics
Remember, there are no wrong answers. Use the formula you come up with and rotate between the categories when you're writing your posts.
Remember, the part of any plan that makes it worth your time is taking action! As soon as you have post ideas, jump into writing that blog for a few months and then take a step back and see how you like the results. How did it work? How did it feel? Keep revisiting them over time, refine and adjust it.
Finding your writing voice and your niche is a long-term project, but if you keep refining it as you go, you'll end up with a niche that feels spacious and true to you instead of limiting.