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Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting a blog is incredibly easy. You sign up for one of the free blogging platforms, pick a background design, and you’re up and running, right? That works just fine if you’re blogging for your friends and family, but if your goal is to build your business or your personal brand, then you have a different set of objective. These five tips will help you get a professional blog off the ground on the right foot.

1. Research The Market

When you start a business, you research your niche and make sure that you have an original position to take. When you start a blog, you do the same thing. You need to have something new to say to those who are eventually going to follow you, which they can’t find anywhere else. If your selling point is your unique perspective, be prepared for it to take some time to demonstrate that as a value. I’d recommend all newbies to read Jeff Goins post on ins and outs of basics of blogging.

You should be able to articulate the blogs that your customers will also be reading, how they are differentiated from each other, and how your blog will be differentiated from them.

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2. Decide What Your Blog’s Job Is

What is your blog going to do? Just like any other piece of content on the web, it needs to have a clear purpose that informs what you choose to post and share. A blog for a business might decide, for example, to use its blog to answer frequently asked question, share videos and photos of a product and service being used in real time, or create informational posts about the topic at hand.

Ask yourself why you want to start a blog; this is where it all begins. When a blog is being used to build a personal brand, its job is a little more fluid. Usually, you will be presenting an idealized version of yourself to the world. You will use your blog to talk about the things you’re trying to influence. Here is another good post by Ann Smarty that answers the most commonly asked questions and one of the topics is what you want to achieve with blogging.

Someone promoting a lifestyle brand might share their favorite fashion items and stories from the most recent round of designer shows, while someone who is building a career as a life coach might share organizational tips and their favorite planners.

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3. Plan Posts Ahead Of Time

When you’re deciding what your blog’s job is, brainstorm different topics that you want to talk about. Determine how often you want to post. Once a week is considered a bare minimum, and more than once a day generally is overkill.

Once you know how often you’re going to post, start building yourself an editorial calendar. Some blogging tools offer plugins that can help with this, but many people use either a paper or digital calendar. Digital is particularly helpful because you can use the “notes” section of the “event” entry to add links to thinks you want to talk about or images you plan on using.

You can also build drafts of future posts and keep a calendar of what you want to talk about when so you know what to expand on and edit. Here are some good tips from Lory Linn Smith on how to plan and come up with blog topic ideas.

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The important thing here is that you should not get caught without anything to say. By building your blog out instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you’re building good habits that will help you successfully maintain your blog over time.

4. Build Up Content Before You Promote

Creating a new blog is exciting, and you may want to promote it the very second you have anything posted. Resist the temptation. At a bare minimum, you should have a solid About page, any FAQ pages, and four or five posts in place before you start sharing links and encouraging your friends and family to like your page. The WP Millionaire put up a good guide on standard pages all blogs should have.

Why? Because you are competing with everything else on the Internet for your customers’ attention. If you want to make an impact on their awareness, you need to have enough content available for them to look through and understand who you are. A single blog post isn’t enough to make an impression.

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5. Have A Comment Section Or Not?

A comment section used to be an absolute given, but in recent years, many popular blogs have chosen to shut down their comments sections, citing abuse and harassment occurring. While this may not be an issue when you have a handful of followers, as the numbers increase, you will need to consider what best to do. Here is a good post by Fizzle that covers the pros and cons of blog comments by listing two different opinions from popular bloggers.

If you rarely get comments, it may not be a problem at all. If you get many comments, and you see industry relevant conversations occurring in the comments, it may be best to take a careful moderation approach, but let comments exist. If you find that you regularly see abusive comments, and they aren’t adding to the conversation, just shutting off the comments might save you time.

Running a blog can be an excellent way to learn about writing for an audience, developing themes and persuasive essay writing. What tips would you offer to someone starting up their first professional blog?

Featured photo credit: marragem via flickr.com

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Margarita Hakobyan

MBA from the University of Utah

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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