[The latest in our series of Q&A discussions on successful writing in the business realm with recipients of JD Supra's 2016 Readers' Choice award:]
Charles Sartain loves music. Louisiana and blues music to be exact. Once, a while back, when he wrote an exceptionally long blog post he decided to break it up with some musical interludes. Since then the former DJ has included a song (pertaining directly or indirectly to the subject at hand) with every blog post. “I figure someone out there likes a little break in their day to listen to a tune,” he says. Sartain also says there have been some surprises when he introduced blogging into his writing life. Lawyers have a bad habit of using too many words, he says, but practicing the clarity and efficiency that’s essential to blog writing has ended up improving his legal writing.
How did you get started writing the 'Energy and the Law' blog?
Initially, I never wanted to do it. I thought it would be a lot of work and I didn’t think I’d get any satisfaction out of it. I thought it would be a burden for me every week. But one day, three or four years ago, I wrote my first a blog post and liked it.
How have your expectations for the blog changed over time?
My hope was a blog would attract paying clients. I don’t think I can point to a particular paying client that I attribute to the blog but it does establish a writer’s legitimacy. If you write on a topic well then people are inclined to believe that you know what you’re talking about. and it establishes a presence by staying in front of people on a weekly basis.
What is the value in writing?
There’s a certain satisfaction that one gets from writing a blog entry that’s both helpful and informative, an intrinsic satisfaction. I enjoy writing and trying to make my blog entertaining—or as entertaining as you can make a law blog be.
Because of my blog, the firm and I have a presence in the energy community that we would not otherwise have...
There’s also get a commercial satisfaction—that my firm and I come to the attention of others. Because of my blog, the firm and I have a presence in the energy community that we would not otherwise have. The blog informs people and people like to be informed about what’s important in their business.
And then there’s the value of practice and honing your skill. In a blog post 300-500 words you have to make your point clearly and efficiently. By learning to do that in a blog you become a better brief writer because one of the elements of persuasion is to make that point clearly and efficiently. If I have a blog and I have 600 words I go back through it and jettison components that don’t matter very much—that in the end aren’t really very important for the reader to understand what I’m trying to convey. That kind of discipline helps in brief writing. It also helps in communicating with clients.
What specific takeaways can you give readers who are learning blog writing?
Don’t bury the lede. Readers will decide within the first few minutes whether or not they will continue to read it. If you make it too long they won’t read it.
And then you have to make your blog regular enough that they expect it each week. If readers expect it and it’s not there, they don’t like it.
[Charles is a shareholder at Gray Reed and author and editor of the Energy & Law blog. He was recognized as a top author in the Energy category of JD Supra's 2016 Readers Choice awards. Follow his latest writings here.]