Package Your Big Ideas: 5 Tips on How to Write Good Blog Posts

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Need some help scaling your own private mountain? The Hub’s grand ambition is to boost the capacity and improve the work of all the organizations behind community development initiatives in West Virginia. In other words, we are here to help.

Look, I’m no genius. But I know some people that are. Over the next few months, I’ll be passing along some quick and simple tips of the communications trade that I hope will prove useful to those of you out there wrestling with blog posts, email newsletters, websites, press releases and the like.

So, let’s kick it off. Without further ado, I offer you:

5 Tips: How to write good blog posts.

1. Make it timely.

Think of your blog post like a breaking news story, and it becomes important to get it out to the public in a timely fashion – the day after the event, or well before the deadline, or right after the information has been released (depending on what your time hook may be.)
Whatever your sector or community, your blog has the potential to be the go-to news source. In that sense, you’ll be competing with other information providers (like newspapers, or other organizations.)
Develop a reputation for being the first and the best with relevant breaking content and you’ve not only solidified an audience for your news, you’ve also proven the value of what you do to a whole new crowd.

2. Keep it compact and punchy.

Somewhere in the 400 – 600 word range is about ideal for a blog post. Even then, make sure you get to your point quickly.
Assume that your reader will only read the heading. And then, if you’re lucky, the first couple of paragraphs. Make sure you get the genuine marrow of the news into the heading and the intro paragraph.
Your reader may continue into the rest of your post, but only if the heading and the intro (and the photo – we’ll get to that later) make them believe this is a piece of news that matters.

1. Make it timely.
2. Keep it compact.
3. Lead with a compelling photo.
4. Break up with content.
5. Use your voice. 

3. Lead with a compelling photo.

A nice wide, eye-catching and relevant photo at the top of your post is a great way to quickly draw people into the content.
A sub-tip: Try and crop the image so it’s wider than it is deep (like the photo at the top of this post). It’s great to have the image fill the full width of your blog space. However, you also want it to be quite shallow, as the deeper the photo is, the more people will have to scroll down to get to your blog post.

4. Break up the content.

The human eye is a funny thing, to say nothing of the human brain. We know a lot about the way people in this day and age scan and digest visual content, and it is not by reading in a consistent, linear fashion from top to bottom or left to right.

Your blog post is not an organizational press release, but rather a personal piece that should be written with a style and voice that best represents you and the content.

Keep your content moving. What I mean by that is find a paragraph or section of your content that could stand by itself – information about a meeting, a list or resources, a quote or insight by someone – and carve out its own space within your blog post.
Regardless of what blog platform you use, you should be able to find a “pullquote” feature. This lets you highlight a piece of your blog post and put it in its own space. It’s a great way to break up your content, make it visually a bit more interesting, and draw attention to highlights.

5. Use your voice.

You are an expert, or at least some kind of expert, or at the very least someone with something to say worth listening to! Your blog post is not an organizational press release, but rather a personal piece that should be written with a style and voice that best represents you and the content.
If you’re wonky, be wonky; if you’re shooting from the hip, then develop a voice that is consistent and forthright.
The best blogs include the author’s photo and a little bio, and so are written and read as a personal comment from a position of authority.
If your face and contact information are to appear next to everything you write, what sort of personality do you want your writing to have?

About Jake

 

Beckley Register-Herald: The Power of Local Can-Do Opens Its Doors in Alderson

Local meats at Green Grocer.ALDERSON — All that’s missing are Ike and Corabeth Godsey. The homey feeling of a bygone era that was embodied by the Godseys’ country store on the venerable TV show “The Waltons” has been resurrected in Alderson’s newly expanded Green Grocer store.

The cash register is of a decidedly more recent vintage, and familiar staples like sugar and flour vie for shelf space with 21st century products that are sweetened with agave nectar and boast that they are gluten-free, but the old-fashioned country store appeal shines through.

A project of the Alderson Community Food Hub (ACFH), today’s Green Grocer is an ambitious expansion of a modest co-op that came to fruition thanks to community support and volunteer sweat-equity.

A project of the Alderson Community Food Hub (ACFH), today’s Green Grocer is an ambitious expansion of a modest co-op that came to fruition thanks to community support and volunteer sweat-equity.

“The Food Hub’s board members had this store as a long-range plan for a good while, but when (Gadd’s IGA grocery store) closed, they decided the time was right to go ahead,” explained Green Grocer manager Ann Knott, one of only three paid employees at the compact store at the corner of W.Va. 63 and 12.

The turn-around for the project was quick. Gadd’s closed in November, and volunteers began remodeling the Green Grocer space the first of February. The full-service fresh grocery store opened a little more than a week ago.

The expansion of the usable space included co-opting a former storage area to provide room for a small cafe, as well as painting all of the walls, installing equipment and constructing a rustic wooden produce stand.

Read the full story at www.register-herald.com

Is This What the Farmers Market of the Future Looks (and moves) Like?

Hula!To celebrate the launch of the West Virginia Physical Activity Network, on Sunday the Bridgeport Farmers Market hosted free yoga and hula hooping classes.

We think that’s awesome. A farmers market may seem like an unusual venue to host physical activity, but when you think about it, adding physical activity to a market makes sense!

Medical experts agree that the keys to a high quality of life are a healthy diet and physical activity. West Virginia has taken great strides to increase access to healthy foods in the past 5 years, and has seen the growth of many community farmers markets.

What if we began to view farmers markets and similar events not just as food-focused, but as gatherings that support a healthy lifestyle overall?

Now it’s time to build on the physical activity side of the equation. Physical activity has benefits beyond controlling your weight. It can help:

  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Reduce risk of some cancers
  • Strengthen bones and muscles
  • Improve mental health and mood
  • Increase chances of living longer

What if we began to view farmers markets and similar events not just as food-focused, but as gatherings that support a healthy lifestyle overall?


Including an opportunity for physical activity at farmers markets may seem like a crazy idea,
but it can:

  • Broaden the appeal of the market – people who might not come for vegetables may come for yoga, Zumba, or hula hooping; once at the market they’re more likely to make a purchase.
  • Give people a reason to spend more time at the market – a shopper who may normally show up and leave in 30 minutes could end up staying for 2 hours.
  • Create a “captive audience” of shoppers – if a family member or friend is waiting for someone to finish a group activity class, they will likely spend that time browsing the market.
  • Make people hungry – after being active people are more likely to be hungry, increasing the chance of purchasing food.
  • Help to build a culture of overall health – diet & exercise all in one place!

There is a growing awareness of the importance of physical activity for a healthy life. The Bridgeport Farmers Market is leading the way in creating a culture of health for West Virginians.

The West Virginia Physical Activity Network is all about sharing great ideas for promoting physical activity in communities across the state. Learn more at www.facebook.com/WVPAN

Hello, Christina!

Tips from The Hub: Ground Rules for Building Your Community

Festival Fridays in Buckhannon.

Each Friday evening in warm weather, a band plays for Buckhannon’s Festival Fridays. Photo by Kate Long

Community improvement doesn’t just happen! And nobody is going to do it for you.

The communities that achieve positive change – communities like Buckhannon, Huntington, Thomas, Grafton, Princeton and others – find that their most important tools are the attitudes and behaviors they bring to the work.

What are some these attitudes and behaviors?

• No negativity
An unrealistically positive attitude is necessary!

• Bring a solution when you bring a concern
You have to be part of the solution in your community – don’t expect someone else to “fix it” for you.

• Be open, inclusive and transparent
Including as many citizens of your community in the decision making process as possible brings more ideas, more energy, and more resources.

When is the best time to plant a tree? 40 years ago. When is the second best time? Today!

• Start locally, now!
Begin with the assets you have, focus on what you can do now, and begin doing it. You might be surprised at how it snowballs.

• Look forward, not back
Some folks think the future for their community is for it to be what it was 50 years ago. Unfortunately, you can’t drive a car by looking in the rearview mirror.

• Be kind, not nice
Being “nice” often results in not addressing real issues. Be honest and direct, but always do so kindly.

• Leave your personal agendas at the door
This is not about you, your organization or your business – it’s about the community. But rest assured – if you are successful at improving your community, chances are you will enhance your business and your life.

• Be patient, be persistent
Improving your community is long, slow work. Some of the communities referred to above have been doing focused community development for five or six years or longer, and they’re quick to admit they still have a long way to go.

When is the best time to plant a tree? 40 years ago. When is the second best time? Today!

Improving your community is similar. As CJ Rylands in Buckhannon likes to say, ”Do what you can, with what you have, where you are, now.” We think that’s terrific advice.

If you are looking to start something good in your community and would like to talk, send me an email. The Hub is here to help.

Kent-Spellman

 

Herald-Dispatch: Support for small biz starting to bear fruit

The conversation is.

Photo by Toril Lavender/Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON – Starting your own business can be a daunting thing. For Charice Lindsey, it took three attempts to get off the ground.

She is now operating her business, Life Seeds LLC, out of Unlimited Future Inc., a local small business incubator that has been in existence since 1997.

“I’ve been thinking about my business for eight to 10 years,” Lindsey said. “Every time I started, I stopped. It was too much. The third time, everything was much easier. It’s just an awesome feeling to walk through the door and know it’s your business and the sky is the limit.”

Since its inception, Unlimited Future has helped launch more than 150 small businesses in the Tri-State, creating more than 300 jobs.

Lindsey is the newest occupant at Unlimited Future. Since its inception, the incubator has helped launch more than 150 small businesses in the Tri-State, creating more than 300 jobs in the process.

It currently houses about seven businesses and has room for more, said executive director Gail Patton.

On Tuesday morning, Unlimited Future’s conference room was the setting for a roundtable discussion among business leaders and elected officials set up by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams on the importance of small-business development and having access to all the agencies that can help those businesses start up.

Read the full story at www.herald-dispatch.com

The Atlantic: Imagining a Post-Coal Appalachia

As you may know it.

Photo by Alana Semuels/The Atlantic

WHITESBURG, Ky.—For a long time, coal dominated this remote region of rolling hilltops and muddy roads near the Tennessee and Virginia borders. But when the nation started to move away from coal-fired power plants, and giant companies pulled up stakes and closed down mines, shedding 7,000 jobs in just three years, the people left too. Some went to western Kentucky for mining jobs there, others headed to Lexington or Louisville. Nearly every county in eastern Kentucky lost jobs between 2000 and 2010.

People in the region are still looking for what is going to replace coal and government funding. Many say that any lasting, successful economic program is going to have to be home grown.

Even before the mines started closing, children who grew up in Appalachia were often told to get out if they wanted to succeed. One-third of the region lives in poverty. In one eastern Kentucky county in 2009, government benefits accounted for more than half of the county’s personal income.

People in the region are still looking for what is going to replace coal and government funding. That doesn’t mean a car factory or a different type of mining: Few people here want to see coal replaced by another extractive economy, allowing outsiders to get wealthy off the sweat of local workers.

Many of the people returning to the region say that any lasting, successful economic program is going to have to be home grown.

“How do we move forward as a region? The way that we do that is from within the region,” says Ethan Hamblin, who, at 23, is one of the many young residents who has made a commitment to staying in the area. “It’s not seeking outside funding, it’s getting the people on the ground working together across county lines, across state lines, and thinking about how we do that work together.”

Full story at www.theatlantic.com

In Whitesville, the past close by but citizens turned squarely toward new future

Pride.“The last time I was here in Whitesville was for the dedication of the memorial,” the young journalist told me.

As a reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail, in 2010 and 2011 Zack Harold spent a lot of time back in his home community covering the aftermath of the Upper Big Branch Mine accident. He’s a Boone County boy himself, went to Sherman High School, as did many from Whitesville.

In that dark season five years ago, Zack retuned to the people and places he had grown up with, listened to their grief, and wrestled with words for the paper that would adequately capture the loss, anger and confusion.

A moment of rejuvenation and reinvention, a chance to make headlines on their own terms.

Zack Harold is now managing editor of West Virginia Focus magazine, and in 2015 there’s a new story bringing him back to Whitesville. The name of the initiative is Turn This Town Around, and for the people here it is a moment of rejuvenation and reinvention, a chance to make headlines on their own terms.

Although every community that has been selected to participate in Turn This Town Around is excited by the opportunity, nowhere have we seen the level of community buy-in, passion and commitment that we are now seeing in Whitesville.

At their first public Turn This Town Around meeting, 143 people showed up – more than a quarter of the entire population. They have already begun fundraising, prioritizing projects, gathering recruits. The can-do spirit of Turn This Town Around Whitesville was initially embodied in a small group of local leaders, but it has now spread to well and truly energize the entire community.

Like a town whose high school football team has made it to state, messages of inspiration and encouragement decorate Farmers Daughters.shop windows and business. Above the main street they have hoisted a giant yellow banner: “Welcome to Whitesville. Official Turn This Town Around Community.”

Though one could easily assume the obvious narrative that the town’s current optimism and strength was borne from the tragedy of five years ago, I think that’s a convenient characterization that misses the real heart of the town. And the people of Whitesville themselves certainly do not dwell on that wellspring.

Enough has been written and said about the devastation wrought on the community in 2010 without having to credit that low moment as the catalyst for everything positive that follows. The people of Whitesville honor and remember their past, but are firmly focused now on reinvention.

What has really impressed me about the people of Whitesville is not just their energy and enthusiasm, but their wholehearted acceptance of the fact that there is no one waiting in the wings – no government agency, no magic foundation or corporation – to rescue their community. That responsibility rests with them.

During my visits to Whitesville this year I have witnessed more than once the profound insight from a citizen that “it doesn’t matter what caused the coal industry to go the way it did. It’s happening, and that’s the reality we have to work with.”

If there was ever a place that probably had a right to feel sorry for itself – to bemoan tragedy and circumstance – it was Whitesville. But you get the feeling they are ready to move on, to roll up the sleeves and starting building the foundations of a new future.

It is our great honor to help them do so.

Kent-Spellman

Charleston Gazette: Time now for WV to invest in ‘young talent infrastructure’

the lens of young talent

By Natalie Roper – Executive Director, Generation West Virginia

Our young people are leaving the state in droves. According to a Payscale.com study, 72 percent of WVU graduates leave the state within five years of graduating. That’s almost three out of every four graduates we are losing to other states, three out of four innovative minds, passionate community members and taxpaying citizens who are solving other states’ complex problems and sustaining other states’ tax bases.

In making decisions about where to live and work, young professionals look at far more than a job. In the age of the internet where people can work from anywhere, our generation chooses to work in great places to live.

Despite the publicized session priority to pass laws that make our state a place where more of our youth can live and work, the Legislature’s votes prioritized outdated infrastructure that does not attract, and even repels, the next generation of employers and employees.

Twenty-first-century businesses and professionals do not choose states that function on business models that worked 50 years ago.

Infrastructure that attracts young talent is one that invests in the highest internet speeds, supports innovation and entrepreneurship, and values diversity and equality. These qualities not only attract top businesses, but also an eager workforce. In making decisions about where to live and work, young professionals look at far more than a job. In the age of the internet where people can work from anywhere, our generation chooses to work in great places to live.

Read the full story at www.wvgazette.com

Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Hatfield-McCoy Trails Visitors Center key to economic revitalization

The business of trails in WV.

Photo by DiamondBack Truck Covers/FlickrCC

When it comes to economic development and tourism-related growth, three recent announcements are of particular importance to the future of Mercer County.

First was the confirmation last week from Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority Executive Director Jeff Lusk that more than $400,000 in funding has been secured for a long-planned visitors center for Mercer County.

Construction is expected to begin later this year on the new Hatfield-McCoy Trails Visitors Center. Lusk said it will be located somewhere in the Bramwell, Bluewell or Montcalm areas.

The authority sold 36,000 permits last year with 81 percent of those riders being non West Virginia residents. 

The new visitors center is being strategically located off of U.S. Route 52 in Mercer County in order to reach those out-of-town ATV riders who are traveling to the region from the Interstate 77 and Interstate 81 corridors. The visitors center is another welcomed addition to the already robust Pocahontas Trail system near Bramwell, and will also benefit the Indian Ridge Trail system in neighboring McDowell County.

Lusk said once a site is identified, construction should begin in four to six months.The Hatfield-McCoy Trail, already a proven economic development and tourism engine for southern West Virginia, continues to grow. Lusk says the authority sold 36,000 permits last year with 81 percent of those riders being non West Virginia residents. This is now the 14th consecutive year that the number of visitors to the trail system has grown.

Read the full story: www.bdtonline.com

 

The scourge of abandoned buildings: Help arrives for West Virginia’s communities

New future for abandoned buildings

Photo by Mark Plummer/FlickrCC

Nine communities in West Virginia will receive expert help addressing the issue of abandoned and dilapidated buildings in their main streets, business districts and neighborhoods courtesy of the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University.

The communities of Moundsville, Parsons, Hamlin, Thomas, Whitesville, Terra Alta, Glenville, Charleston (West Side Main Street) and Morgantown will receive technical assistance grants, valued at $10,000 each, providing technical assistance and expertise to identify, research, and prioritize their abandoned buildings and create redevelopment plans to turn problem properties into community resources.

“Everyone will have a voice at the table because everyone is being impacted by these abandoned and dilapidated properties.”

The grants are part of the Brownfield Assistance Center’s BAD (Brownfields, Abandoned, Dilapidated) Buildings Program.

According to Luke Elser, BAD Buildings Program Manager at WVU, each community will now examine a variety of potential solutions and determine which ones will actually work in their setting.

“All of the work will be done in collaboration between local elected officials and community volunteers – everyone will have a voice at the table because everyone is being impacted by these abandoned and dilapidated properties,” Elser says.

Funding for the BAD Buildings Program is being provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation through the West Virginia University Foundation.

For more information about the BAD Buildings Program or the Northern WV Brownfield Assistance Center, visit www.wvbrownfields.org, or contact Luke Elser, 
Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, 
304-293-6990, luke.elser@mail.wvu.edu.