Man bites dog: the art of blogging

Featuring Oxfam’s Duncan Green

Ever wanted to write a blog, but not sure where to start and how? Well, occasionally we at the Abt Governance Practice feel the same way. The work we do is fascinating, important and often affords us a unique perspective, and while we believe there is value in capturing and sharing our professional experiences, let’s face it – we are not seasoned writers or influencers.

Needing some fresh insights and advice, we asked Oxfam UK Senior Strategic Adviser, Duncan Green. Duncan is a prolific writer and blogger, and the author of several books and blogs, including the widely read ‘From Poverty to Power’ Blog.

To our delight, Duncan’s response was both simple and exciting.

He told us:

Blog like you talk. A good blog is like a diary. Be empathetic, minimise jargon and write conversationally, and as if you are having a conversation with an intelligent friend or relative.  As Duncan puts it, “This is your chance to let your personality shine!”

Keep it short! The average person will spend less than one-minute interacting with your blog, so aim to pique people’s interest with one single, compelling point. You can link to more detailed or nuanced reading, but remember your audience (busy, time poor, and with attention spread across multiple channels).  

Title, title, title! Maximise the likelihood that people will read on with an interesting and usual title. Duncan’s advice? ‘Man bites dog’ is a story, ‘Dog bites man’ is not.

Bounce off an event – what’s your angle? If you can link to a topical event, you have a ready-made audience who are looking for content related to that event.

Listicles – boil down your idea into steps. People love lists, and it’s an efficient way to convey information.

Write quickly, polish later – get down your ideas and refine them later. This way you don’t get lost or stuck on any one point.

Make friends with the reader – engage them, befriend them, amuse them – whatever, but don’t patronise them.

Not convinced? Hear it from the man himself in this short clip.

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