Blogging is one of the highest ROI tactics that founders can employ to accelerate growth across the company: revenue or users, employees, and investors.
It’s often times not obvious how blogging can create value until you’ve been doing it for a while though. I’ve published over 250 blog posts over the last 40 months, and I’ve probably written and discarded an additional 25–50 posts. I could have never recognized the value of what’s below until I had done it. Hopefully you’ll take up blogging more actively.
- I first started blogging January 1, 2013. Going into 2013, I knew that I wanted to start a health IT company, though at the time I didn’t know what that company would be. I was 22 at the time, and knew that I would never be able to raise capital, recruit employees, or sell customers in the health IT space unless the world could feel comfortable I that I understood health IT. So I made a new year’s resolution for 2013 to blog 3x / week for the year. I wrote 156 blog posts in 2013. I can directly attribute my blog posts to $300K of the $1M of seed financing I raised, including the first $100K check investment from an angel. I can directly attribute my blog posts to landing what would become Pristine’s first customer, UC Irvine. And within 4 months of blogging, I landed a role at the most respected blog in the health IT ecosystem — histalk.com. That indirectly drove hundreds of thousands in additional revenue because it made both Pristine and I credible.
- One of the key tenets of leadership is defining and communicating the company’s vision to the team. Clearer, more concise writing obviously lends itself towards communicating the company’s vision more clearly. Moreover…
- Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, ranks the ability to clearly communicate as the single most important skill he looks for in executives. Executives judge everyone they work with based on their communication skills. It’s nearly impossible to sell executives expensive solutions if you can’t write. Before an executive writes you a $100K+ check, she will likely read many of your emails and hear you speak and present. She will judge you based on all your communications. If your business model doesn’t involve selling $100K+ solutions, think again. VCs write checks that are 1–2 orders of magnitude larger. VCs are also generally 1–2 orders of magnitude more sophisticated than your customers. They will scrutinize your ability to communicate because they know that as CEO, as you scale, communication becomes the only thing you’ll do.
- Writing will expedite the interviewing process for non-developers. Use your content as a filter in the interview process. Has the candidate read your last 3–5 blog posts? Can she discuss them? Does she have any opinions of her own? If not, you can reject the candidate in seconds or minutes. At Pristine, I was famous (infamous?) for dozens of 5-minute sales interviews. If they hadn’t Googled me, stumbled into my blog, and read a few posts, I knew they would never pursue customers with enough rigor to be any good. The top quintile of sales reps never go into job interviews without looking up who they’re going to be interviewing with. This filter can be used for all non-developer candidates.
- When speaking off the cuff, people generally use 2–3x the number of words necessary to describe an idea. Writing forces you to be crisp and clear. As your writing improves through practice, your ability to communicate concisely will naturally translate into your real-time speech, helping you speak more succinctly. It’s hard to believe at first, but you’ll recognize the difference after 6 months.
- Combining the two prior points, the stronger your writing ability, the more quickly and effectively you’ll be able to judge others. If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and if writing helps you think and communicate more clearly and simply, then communicating clearly makes you more sophisticated, and more able to judge others’ sophistication.
- Define and control your online identity. You never know when a publication will name drop you or your company in a less-than-flattering capacity. When you’re Tony Fadell, you can handle some negative press. But when you’re not a celebrity, it’s far more challenging to recover from bad press. You can’t compete with TechCrunch on SEO, but you can clearly define your voice so that when TechCrunch writes something you don’t like, your stakeholders can judge you for who you really are, and not what a TechCrunch reporter threw together in a few hours of research. You don’t want your first blog post to be a response to a TechCrunch article. Furthermore…
- Build your brand. Everyone likes doing business and hanging out with known entities. So make yourself a known entity. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt and Danielle Morrill of Mattermark built themselves into recognizable brands as they launched their respective companies. As a known entity, you’ll be able to get almost any meeting you want. Furthermore, by establishing your brand, candidates and employees will learn how to interact with you, what you like, and how you think. This will reap dividends in perpetuity.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that you should write more. This naturally begs the question “How do I improve my writing ability?” The answer is simple: practice! My early blog posts were garbage. The only way to get better is to practice. Writing three blog posts per week accelerated the process for me. You don’t need to commit to three per week, but try committing to one or two weekly.
It will be hard. You may be too embarrassed to publish your work. As Mark Suster of UpFront Ventures says, “publish or perish.” Get it out there. Iterate. The best form accountability is public accountability, even if no one reads your blog (fun fact: I had about 20 unique readers in my first 3 months). In 2–3 months, no one will remember the bad content because they’ll see how good you’ve become. If you need help with motivation and enforcement, usestickk.com. I used it successfully to enforce my three posts per week rule in 2013.
Practicing writing is hard. I didn’t do it alone. There were quite a few people who helped me along the way. You may not have someone who you trust to help with your writing. So I’ll make a promise to the world: if you commit to writing at least one blog post per week, I’ll commit to helping you refine and improve each and every post, privately. Just email me if you’re interested.