The Art of Blogging Part Two

THE ART OF BLOGGING PART TWO

Last week I covered the art of blogging and taking your first steps into this sometimes, mostly fun world. I wrote about how to get started and I mentioned that having a blog strategy is critical. This week we take an in-depth look at the content strategy as I share some of the tips I have picked up over a period of time.

Initially I went down the path thinking that spontaneous content would always be fresh and relevant, believing that any prior preparation would make the content dry and worthless. I also knew that being a bit of a non-conformist I wouldn't be able to follow a strategy for very long. My inspiration often seems to live in a different time zone to the rest of me, so having an idea at two in the morning meant getting up and writing. But it doesn't have to be. Sure my inspiration still lives in a different time zone, but having a plan means that I can just write a quick note in the relevant part of my plan. This gives me time to flesh it out, create a piece worthy of you spending a few minutes of your life reading it.

Blog planner 1
A simple planner is all you need.

There are some pros and cons to planning, in support of a blog plan you can ensure that your inspiration works better because you have more time, topics are much better because you have the additional time to work on them. Without a plan, there is no time to carry out research and the content can seem rushed. I can't count the number of times I thought I had finished a piece, and then five minutes prior to uploading the content I figure that it needs another thousand or so words.

That friend called inspiration often comes only when you are in the zone. But whatever inspiration you have, it is better to spread the inspiration across a number of blog posts rather than a single one.

There are fives stages that I use to plan my blogs. I also have a timeline, so I can say with some degree of certainty that there will be a part three of "The Art of Blogging", and it will be published soon.

Blog planner 2
Keyword planning is critical

 

The first step to creating the killer blog post is the plan. Create the publishing schedule and a timeline. The timeline for publishing should give you enough time to carry out the research, and on the timeline, also create a list of actions that you need to carry out for each post. Blogging is a process above everything else, if you get the process right then you are more likely to succeed. Think of your blog as a magazine, and decide if it is a daily, weekly, or monthly magazine. Initially you might want to write many posts, you are overcome with excitement, but remember that you need to keep it up.

Blog planner 3
Uploading also needs to be planned

Figure out what you want to say. It's fine to look at trending topics but if you can't realistically get the words written in time, your posts will be disjointed and will appear to be outdated the minute they go live. So for this stage you really need to start collecting ideas.

 

At the beginning and before you commit a single word, you really need to find out what it is that your fellow bloggers are writing about, and figure out what gets shared. You need to research at last 30-40 blogs and list the most popular topics.

The next stage is planning your keywords, so you will need to take your ideas and plan what keywords you will use in your post. I mentioned a couple of keyword tools in my previous post but now it is time to get them down on your plan.

Now you have planned what to say, the process of writing becomes much easier. The most important part of this process is finding enough time so that you can get in the zone. For this step you need to write and forget about the formatting and keywords, they come much later in the process.

Blog planner 4
Ideas for future blogs, write them down and keep them in a folder. Cross off the ones you have used.

 

Now the writing part is over you simply need to go back and refine the post. Break your writing down in to smaller paragraphs, remembering that your posts need to be easy to read. You can add in the keywords, and finally add in the images that you will need. All of these should already be identified in your blog plan, so this part becomes easy too.

Now that your post is planned, written and you are happy that it fits in with the overall content strategy, it's time to upload. This is when the real work starts. Simply uploading and forgetting to promote is a sure fire way to zero readers. It is also the part that most people forget to do.

The key to promoting is consistency. Each time you promote your post you need to follow the same route. You might want to schedule several tweets during the first day, promote your new post in a group on Facebook, but you also need to consider that despite it being 10am in your time zone, other people who will find your post enjoyable might still be asleep on the other side of the world.

To make sure you reach everyone, take a look at your demographics. Most blogging platforms have at least a basic analytics platform that will show where you are receiving the most visitors from. Make sure that scheduled tweets and Facebook posts go out to cover these times too.

The final part is to learn something from each of your previous posts. Take a look at the metrics and any feedback and refine your strategy further. As you continue to blog you will start to develop a sixth sense around what works and what engages people. If you have a strategy it can be refined as you learn more about what people want.

Blog planner 5
Learn from every post and carry out some research

If there is enough interest I am planning on writing a free e-book that will include all of my posts and additional tips too. So if this is something you will be interested in reading, please do let me know. The Art of Blogging Part Three will be published very soon too, so please bookmark this site and check back for updates.

PHOTOGRAPHY OPPORTUNITIES RIGHT ON YOUR DOORSTEP

Wow, another week has flown past. This week I have taken a week away from the day job and have been focusing on filming new footage for a commission I am working on. It has involved early mornings and late nights, and I do not think I will ever completely thaw out. My days shooting film on Cannock Chase couldn’t have come at a colder time. I did manage to get some great footage, and I was particularly impressed at just how many people were visiting the local area.

Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase, Staffordshire

 

Those who know me know that I live in Staffordshire in the UK. It is a wonderful part of the country, although I have to frequently visit and commute to London, I am always happy to return to the Shire.

Cannock Chase is a mixed area of countryside in the county of Staffordshire. The area has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in fact the smallest area of Britain that claims this status, and is actually a former Royal Forest.

For photographers and mountain bike riders, the area offers so much in the way of scenic trails. Combining open woodland with deciduous trees, and the remnants of early industry and mining. The landscape is also relatively unique in that it owes much to the underlying Triassic Bunter formations, but what makes this area even more special are the people that surround it.

Much of the area is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but despite its relatively small area, the Chase thrives with a herd of around 800 or so fallow deer and a number of rare and endangered birds.

But the Chase is also known for its other attractions that draw people from all over the world to visit. The Chase has several War memorials, including a German Cemetery and a Commonwealth Cemetery that are visited frequently by overseas visitors. There is also a memorial to the victims of the Katyn massacre which was unveiled by Stefan Staniszewski, whose father Hillary Zygmunt Staniszewski (a high court judge) died in the massacre. Preserved below the memorial are phials of soil from both Warsaw and the Katyn forest.

National Memorial Arboretum sits on the edge of Staffordshire. http://www.thenma.org.uk
National Memorial Arboretum sits on the edge of Staffordshire. http://www.thenma.org.uk

 

The chase is also famous as a site where the burials of Freda, the Harlequin, and Great Dane mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (Earl of Liverpool’s Own) took place.

Back in 2013, the County Council allowed a team of local archaeologists and volunteers to excavate a model World War I battlefield. The battlefield was originally constructed by German prisoners of war held in a camp on the Chase that was guarded by soldiers from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (Earl of Liverpool’s Own).

The area also has a certain air of mystery. The area became synonymous in the 1960’s with the Cannock Chase Murders. The remains of three young girls were found buried on the Chase after going missing from the local area. The culprit was named Raymond Leslie Morris who worked as a motor engineer from Walsall, a town to the south of Cannock. He served 45-years in prison at the age of 84, whilst serving a life sentence for one of the murders.

In 2015, a team of so called Ghostbusters claimed to have captured images of the Black Eyed Child of Cannock Chase on camera after spending some six-hours in the area in the hope of capturing some of the events that make the Chase a paranormal hot-spot. In the blurry footage that went online after the event, a small white outline can be seen in the distance, appearing to be standing around 7 meters away from the camera. These sightings of the Black Eyed Children took the internet by storm in 2014, alongside sightings of big cats roaming the area, and deer carcasses that had been massacred in a similar way to supposed alien cattle mutilations.

In recent years there have also been alleged sightings of a Pig Man, werewolves, and many sightings of UFO’s and the area has developed somewhat of a reputation for being a little strange. But the Chase itself is a beautiful part of Britain, despite the so called ghastly goings on.

It’s not all doom and gloom, in fact the Chase is home to an annual music festival as part of England’s Forestry Commission nationwide Forest Tour. Lately there have been acts such as Status Quo, The Zutons (I have no idea who they actually are), The Feeling, and even Jools Holland who have played in an outdoor arena set within a clearing in the forest. Personally I must admit to never attending the event, I have been tempted but the traffic that builds up in the area when the event is on always manages to put me off. I am certain I am missing out on a great event, so many people from all over the country attend.

There are so many attractions so close to where I live, and this week was also a week where for the first time in my almost 20-years of living in the area that I discovered so many great venues. I had visited the Museum of Cannock Chase on previous occasions, this is a small museum but also a great insight in to the industrial and military past of the area.

All the time I walked through the Chase this week I was surprised by just how many people were mountain biking. The terrain in parts is difficult on foot and I admit to feeling slightly beaten up when a mountain biker overtook me on a steep incline that in all honesty I was thinking that the right thing for me to do would be to turn around and slowly walk back down.

The mountain biker community tend to be drawn towards 17-waymarked trails that are professionally maintained. The trails take you through sweeping countryside, heathland and ancient forests which were once a Royal hunting ground.

If Downton Abbey had been set in Staffordshire, then it would have been set at the Shugborough estate. This place is always a great visit, a place where you can enjoy a living experience that is wonderfully bought to life as costumed characters walk around the Mansion House, servant’s quarters, working farm and mill, and the riverside gardens.

In 1624 the land formed part of the estates of the Bishop of Lichfield. Eight acres of land together with a Manor House were purchased by William Anson who was a local lawyer. He purchased the land for the princely sum of £1000. In 1693Williams grandson demolished the Manor House and built in its place a three storied house which now forms the centre of the Mansion House.

There has been so much history throughout the estates life, and in 1960, Patrick Lichfield inherited Shugborough from his grandfather the Fourth Earl of Lichfield. So ultimately the area is a photographers dream. There is a website for the estate which you can view here: http://www.shugborough.org.uk/theshugboroughestate/EstateHistory.aspx and if you are ever in the area, this place is well worth a visit. For those who like Downton Abbey, this really is as close as you will get to seeing life as it was during that period of time.

So I have spent the best part of this week taking in sights that I never knew existed and finding out more about the area that I live in. But what has surprised me more than anything is just how many photographic opportunities I have found on my doorstep.

Having travelled extensively around the world, I have seen many beautiful locations, from Dunns River Falls in Jamaica, the Everglades in Florida, Havana in Cuba, St. Petersburg in Russia, and a myriad of locations throughout Europe, and all the time I hadn’t realised that there is some stunning photography opportunities within a few miles of where I live. I can’t compare the natural beauty to somewhere like the Everglades, the two places are not only geographically apart, but they are two very different landscapes. If you are on the lookout for a great photo opportunity, then it just goes to show that sometimes, it is right outside your door.

IN THE NEWS

Now you are figuring out where your next photography opportunity may come from, the news in the world of art and technology is constantly changing. Christie’s have announced their end of year results, maintaining their global leadership position and auctioning the top three highest selling works of 2015 and an increase in digital sales.

London / New York / Hong Kong – Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, announces 2015 sales of £4.8 billion ($7.4 billion), down 5% (by£) for the same period in 2014. The results are the second highest total in company history. Demand from global buyers remained consistent at both the highest end of the market as well as in a diverse range of collecting areas and price levels.

Notable successes included the record-making sale in New York in November of Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couchĂ© for $170.4 million and the highest day-sale totals seen during our corresponding 20th Century Sale week, reflecting continued strength in this core area of the art market. Christie’s continues to offer buyers broad choice from a wide range of price points, categories, geographies and online, as well as uniquely curated sales and important private collections worldwide.

“Last year saw continued strength in the art market and showed that there is breadth of demand across geographies, categories and price ranges. Amidst an increasingly challenging global financial environment we are in a strong position to adapt to the marketplace and well equipped to service the new, broader, geographically diverse audience for art. Our strong overall sold percentages demonstrated how we have achieved great results for our clients and we will remain focused on service, bringing the best art to collectors around the world", commented Patricia Barbizet, Christie's Chief Executive Officer.

"It is also encouraging that new buyers represent 30% of our total buyer base, coming to us through our curated auctions, various categories as well as digital sales. As we begin our 250th year, Christie's will continue to celebrate our heritage and, with innovation and expertise at the heart of our business, continue to lead the industry."

APPLE

Is 2016 going to be the year that the Apple bubble finally bursts? No. Not a chance, but investors are getting a little worried and it is all down to the economy in China. Despite 2015 being a success for Apple in financial terms, something happened in January 2016 that shook the Apple world to its core, share prices began to fall and dropped below $100 for the first time since October 2014.

Apple
Apple iPad. Surely one of the greatest inventions ever?

 

But over the coming months Apple will be launching a new range of straps for the Apple Watch, ahead of a Watch 2 release later in the year. Also expected in the fall, and in line with Apple’s usual release calendar will be the announcement of the iPhone 7.

There is also an anticipation that the iPhone 5SE could see the light of day earlier in the year, and this might become a prime product for markets such as India and China.

The iPhone 7 has received much speculation that it will be Apple’s finest product yet, but rumours of not including a standard headphone jack are said to be putting some people off. Having to spend another £300 on high-end headphones is likely to be off-putting for most people, although we can anticipate that adapters will be made available at least on the grey market.

But it is China that will determine Apple’s success over the next twelve-months, the current instability of the Chinese economy is where Apple are most invested. On the horizon there is talk of an Apple Car, although many are speculating that this could either be a physical car, or it might be an expansion of Apple’s Car Play system that links the iPhone to the car and offers interaction with the vehicle. I would edge my bets on the Apple Car going down a similar route to Google’s self-driving vehicle, either way it will be an interesting period over the next few years for the Cupertino based giant.

Apple has been mooting a pay TV subscription service for some time, disappointing sales of the new Apple TV will have also been thought about and a subscription service similar to Netflix would be a way to increase Apple TV revenue. Content will be king, so maybe Apple should just outright buy Netflix. Now that’s something I would be excited about. Apples next product release date for the iPhone 5SE and a new tablet is now confirmed for March 15th 2016.

ART IN BUSINESS

Being distracted at work is often frowned upon by bosses, but the reality is that it isn’t always a bad thing. If the object of distraction is a work of art, it can actually boost productivity, increase well-being and lower stress.

Blank wall
Dress up your walls with some fine art

A recent study by Dr Craig Knight has found that this is exactly what happens following his studies that he has undertaken over the last twelve-years of studying the psychology of working.

One of his findings was that if you enrich a space people feel much happier and work better, and a good of way doing this is by using art.

The German Investment Bank, Deutsche Bank has the biggest collection of corporate art in the world. Some 60,000 artworks spread over 900 offices in 40-countries, they even have an interactive app that allows employees to find out more about the work that they are looking at. They even have an “Arthotek”, a place where people can go and ask an expert for advice when they are choosing artwork for the office. That surely must be a dream job.

The research carried out by Knight looked at four very different work environments, Lean, containing only the basics to perform the employees tasks. Enriched, featuring art and plants that had been prearranged. Empowered, the same art and plants found in enriched, but employees could choose where to put them, and finally disempowered. Participants could arrange the art and plants themselves but the experimenter undid any personal touches and reverted back to the enriched layout.

The findings were that people who worked in the enriched environment worked around 15% quicker than those in the lean office and had 15% fewer health complaints. This figure doubled for those who worked in the empowered space, those who had their finishing touches reverted had a productivity level the same as the results from the lean space.

So it seems that a momentary distraction in the workplace is not a bad thing, art is ultimately about escapism, and we all need to escape from the trials of work life sometimes, far too many organisations these days tend to go with the work place equivalent of giving a general anaesthetic and using bland colours. If your workplace falls in to the latter category, I suggest you send the following link to your boss and show him or her the evidence. http://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com

M.A’s LINE-UP FOR 2016

I actually have a plan this year for my artwork. The first part of the plan is that it is unlikely I will be releasing as many pieces as I did in 2015, but that’s for a very good reason or two! Firstly, the number of requests for commissions is starting to increase, and secondly, pretty much all of my work over 2016 will become part of a series of works.

I am currently producing several pieces featuring the City of London, the first pieces are currently available at http://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com and I will be focusing on a new series of abstracts, and will also be attempting to create a few minimalist pieces. A new series that features various regions across the US is also planned. Of course, it will all depend on time, but given that I produced almost 200-pieces of work in 2015, I am hoping that I will at least create the works I have in my plan.

I currently have somewhere in the region of a hundred pieces that will one day be completed, but this year I will be pretty much focussing on adding a few new styles of artwork to my portfolio. Expect to see a few interesting turns.

It is the first time I have actually spelled out what I want to work on, I sometimes get artists block so hopefully this new tactic will avoid those frequent blank moments. I have always been reluctant to plan anything to do with art, but I have a mind full of new ideas, and wanted to find a way of achieving them. I needed a way to channel my boundless creative fervour, and give myself a direction of travel.

I hear that many artists maintain that creating what you want, when you want is the only path to artistic freedom, and I was one of those artists until I took a step back and really thought about how I wanted to approach art this year. I even considered for a brief moment that I would take a break and return in a few years, but that thought came and went in a matter of seconds. I will remain, stylus in hand. Also, I did try that a few years ago, it lasted for a week and I jumped straight back in.

The other realisation that has come to me is that if I produce whatever, whenever, I upload it or dump the artwork at my customer’s feet, and I am subconsciously saying, “Here you go, you figure it out”. I understand the art but I need to make sure that my buyers also understand my art. So that will be my other focus during 2016. Spending time flitting from one piece to another rarely gets any artist anywhere. But thinking about overarching ideas and bodies of work as opposed to creating pieces one at a time, will I hope provide me with a much more focussed approach and make my buyers more aware of where I am and what the art is about. This my friends will be the year of my artistic experiment.

MICHELANGELO

 

Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel - well worth a visit

For those who struggle to read a newspaper because of painful arthritis, you are not alone. It's something that happens to a lot of people, me included. Sometimes I feel that what don't ache, don't work. Unfortunately my arthritis came along as a side effect from my colitis treatment, and also because in my youth I ran a few marathons and well, now I am older I realise that I probably should have carried on running.

But it has now been suggested that Michelangelo was also a sufferer of arthritis. He continued to sculpt and paint and drew up the plans for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, all while suffering the effects of chronic arthritis according to a new study.

Italian scientists now believe that the extensive hammering and chiselling undertaken by Michelangelo in the name of art, was responsible for leaving his hands deformed in later life.

The study suggests that it was the artists refusal to give up work until just days before his death which kept his fingers flexible. According to Dr Davide Lazzeri, a specialist in reconstructive and aesthetic surgery at the Villa Salaria Clinic, based in Rome.

THE ARTISTS EXCHANGE

If you haven’t joined already, my Facebook group The Artists Exchange is gaining a huge momentum. It is a group where artists promote and share the work of other artists, seek advice and ask for critique.

Despite still being relatively young, the amount of new artists that are being uncovered by the group is phenomenal. People are gaining more visits to their own pages, and apparently making more sales as a result of other people sharing their works. The system works by sharing new artists on your timeline and other artists sharing your works on their timeline. This gets peoples posts viewed on more timelines across the globe, and increases the visibility of those who are as yet undiscovered. The group is free to join and you can sign up immediately. All you need to do is to log in to Facebook and head over to https://www.facebook.com/groups/940723089340284/

That’s all for this week. I will be spending a little time in The Artists Exchange over the weekend, and I am planning a few pop-up art projects for the group. In the meantime you can catch up with what is happening in the world of art and technology on my Facebook page at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia

Have a great week and if you have found photo opportunities in your local area that often get missed, please leave a comment below. If you have some tips for blogging then feel free to share, and if you would be interested in my free e-book without having to sign up to click-bait spammy email lists, let me know too!

 

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