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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The best blogs tell stories

So I’m helping a friend get a little more social with the marketing of his art. And some of the advice I’ve been giving him is that the best blogs tell stories.

They give you something to follow and care about, not just something to return to. The best blogs aren’t easily replaced by another blog talking about the same thing. They make a stronger connection than that. And they tell you that, by reading this blog, you’re doing something. You’re learning, you’re laughing, you’re getting closer to where you want to be, or closer to someone you want to be like. Or someone you just plain like.

So my artist friend is going to take this approach with his blog. It’s going to be about what they don’t tell you in art school. Namely, how to actually make money. It’s just not something that comes up.

It’s going to follow the story of a man trying to figure out how to make money from art. By reading his blog you’ll be following his story. Oh, and you’ll be learning about what works and what doesn’t if you’re an artist. Or if you’re not, you’ll learn about how you could be one. It tells you that if you read enough of his blog you could quit your shitty day job and take up that artistic endeavour you’ve always dreamed about. It tells you that by reading this blog you’re getting a little bit closer to it everyday.

The No Impact Man blog is the very compelling story of someone trying to do the right thing. And it tells you that, by reading this blog, you’re learning about how you can do the right thing, too. In fact, you’re doing the right thing right now by reading it. You’re a better person than the people that don’t read it.

Chris Brogan’s blog isn’t about marketing, it’s a lifestyle blog. It tells you that by reading about Chris, and by learning from Chris, you’re becoming a little bit more like him. You could be just like him one day if you keep reading his blog every day. If you're a mid-level manager at your company and you read Chris's blog, you're reading it because it tells you that you could do the sort of thing he does where you work.

So what about my blog? What’s the story, what’s the point?

I don’t rightly know. Still working that out. Maybe a 20-something working in a fun but flawed industry trying to make sense of it all? Maybe. I don’t know.


Jeff White (GMail) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff White (GMail) said...

I have a hard time with this on my blog too. Sometimes, I think it's about design. Sometimes I think it's about tech and social media.

More often than not though, the posts that resonate and actually generate a conversation are the ones that tell a story about an experience, even if it's only loosely related to design.

I've also noticed that the stories that contain a whiff of the personal earn more comments and are the things that more people comment to me about in person.

I don't blog anywhere near as often as Chris Brogan, but I've found the same thing with him as you have. The personal stories generate the most interest for me.

Keep doing what you're doing Joel. It's working.

Joel Kelly said...

Glad you liked the post, Jeff! And yeah, totally right. It's even better when the whole blog has some overall story/theme, but yeah, individual posts are definitely improved by incorporating some sort of story/meaning.

EDWARD said...

Joel, I'd like to link to your friend's blog but I didn't see a link to him in your post.

Another Halifax artist is blogging about her work and selling paintings from her blog:

Joel Kelly said...

Hi Edward. His blog isn't up and running yet. Stay tuned :)

new_punishment said...

A good point Joel, I think the sharing of any message relies on good storytelling. As a result, if you have a message to share, make it entertaining or at least engaging to your audience. Makes it far more memorable if the reader can become invested in your story too.

Joel Kelly said...

Exactly, Darrin.

Eden Spodek said...

Joel, you are right on the money with this one. Social media is all about storytelling. Last week I attended Podcasters Across Borders. Despite the name, this conference wasn't about podcasting at all - it was about telling the best stories, real stories from real storytellers. In the end, it doesn't matter if you're using the next shiny object or you know how to make something really cool. If you can't tell a story, it's irrelevant.

Some of the most interesting examples of storytelling at the conference included Jowi Taylor sharing his Six String Nation journal and Connie Crosby introducing us to Shanachies.

Gifted Typist said...

Actually, I think you're talking about good writing.

Whether on a blog, in a magazine or an ad campaign.

You are correct in that you have to engage the audience with something they don't get elsewhere and something that makes them want to come back for more.

Joel Kelly said...

Eden: Thanks for the great info, glad you liked the post!

Gifted Typist: Perhaps you're right, but I think good writing gets lost online too much...

Stuart Foster said...

I'm trying...although the strings that hold my dialogue together are rather weak. I do like to utilize different stories and ideas to just incite conversation. So if I had to pick a story title that's probably what I would go with.

Joel Kelly said...

Yeah, I'm having trouble with that part too, Stuart. It's a fun ride trying to sort it all out that, eh?

Glenmore said...

I think you have to clarify the 'story' in storytelling. Some people may interpret it to mean 'once upon a time' or that it be biographical, but I think what is vital is that posts have a beginning, middle and end.

I think to be successful you have to be genuine and passionate first.

Passionate in that you aren't necessarily focused on collecting readership, just on communicating. Write about something that interests you, otherwise it will be transparent to the reader and easy to quit for the author.

Genuine in that you believe your words, if only for that moment. I used to beat myself up for not blogging 2 or 3 times a week and then I realized I didn't have much to say and if I forced it, it is evident.

I think you can have a good post that contains bullet points and that doesn't reference your personal life, but a good post should contain the basic structure of writing...
...and be short...

Joel Kelly said...

Glen: The best I've been able to articulate "story" I've written in this post:

Basically, I mean something about the blog that makes it more interesting than another blog talking about the exact same subject, with similar information. Something more than just the information imparted.