Balancing Personal and Organizational Blogging

photo from Kristina B http://bit.ly/1OayPrz

photo from Kristina B http://bit.ly/1OayPrz

I’ve been blogging for a number of years now. I love writing, and enjoy the learning that takes place through the reflective practice. It’s also been a great way to add my voice to the conversations that help us contextualize the changes taking place in the learning and technology space I am so passionate about.

In addition to my personal blog, I’ve also written for other magazines and periodicals over the years, including the eLearning Guild Blog, TWIST.

Writing for TWIST has been an interesting experience, as the work that I do for the Guild exists in the same intersection of learning and technology that my personal blog supports. It’s part of the reason that the posts to my personal blog have been less frequent in the last couple of years. Much of the writing ideas I would normally place here often finds itself on TWIST.

That’s not a bad thing, but at the same time it makes me wonder about where the balance resides between writing for personal blog when also writing for an organizational one. I feel as though I’ve neglected my personal blog a bit the last two years, and if it weren’t for the curated backchannel posts that run here, might have actually considered shutting it down and just moving everything I write to TWIST.

Instead, I decided to spend a bit of time looking into where the value proposition of this blog may differ from other places I write, so that I can better support all areas, and in turn, hopefully allocate more time to write effectively.

Like many posts, this post is me simply sharing my thought process to help me connect the dots, and doing so publicly in case someone else may be able to learn from it.

Three Types of Writing

The first thing I did in analyzing my situation was categorize what I was writing. I wound up with three primary categories:

  • Personal Blogging: These are posts that I write on my personal blog.
  • Organizational Blogging: These are posts I write for TWIST. I think it’s important to note the difference’s between “Organizational Blogging” and “Professional Blogging” as labels. I qualify both my personal and organizational blogging as professional in terms of the narrative, as both blogs focus on the interest in my profession. It’s the narrative that’s different. More on that in a minute…
  • Guest Writing: Guest writing consists of articles, books, and posts that I am invited to contribute to by individuals and organizations that I do not have regular writing responsibilities for.

Three Distinct Narratives

With the three categories established, I then starting digging into the unique value proposition of each category. The approach I took was to look at the narratives that I was creating for each category. When I did this, certain themes emerged for each category.

  • Personal Blogging: This is my soapbox. My personal blog is where my opinions belong. It’s the place I naturally go to when there’s an opportunity to add my voice to a debate, or in some cases, to try and start one myself. It’s a place where I, as David Kelly, can have my voice be heard as a member of the community instead of as a voice of the Guild.
    Side Note: All bloggers should know that this is a slippery slope. If people associate you with an organizational brand, any interactions you have online are ultimately a reflection of that organization.
  • Organizational Blogging: This is where I can tell the stories of my work, sharing the narratives of what we do what we do at the Guild, and commentary on the Guild community conversations. While most people are familiar with the final output of the work we do at the Guild – the conferences, workshops, discussions, insights, and more – what I write on TWIST enables me to provide a narrative that explores the WHY of what we do.
  • Guest Writing: Guest writing is the smallest category, and the most direct in terms of narrative. In short, my guest writing consists of someone coming to me with a specific request, and me writing something that addresses the request.

The Importance of Narrative Stimulus

Guest writing is fairly simple and direct. When I agree to write something for someone else, their request usually dictates the topic and theme of the narrative. The writing emerges from an external stimulus, so it’s reactive writing in that sense.

Personal writing, on the other hand, usually emerges from an internal stimulus. There’s some sort of intrinsic need that compels me to write. That need could take many forms, such as a desire to reflect on something I’ve learned, a need to build understanding through contextual writing, a choice to add my opinion to a public debate, etc. It could also be writing just to further explore something I am passionate about.

The stimulus for organizational writing tends to operate on both sides of the internal/external fence. There are times when something we’re doing at the Guild may warrant a deeper explanation than we provide in our marketing, such as why we choose specific keynotes or the reasons we might be placing a focus on specific topics. There are also times where I may just feel compelled to share what we’re doing as a way inviting conversation, and to reflect openly on the work we do.

When Three is Still One

As I move forward, I’m hoping my understanding of these three narratives will help me be more efficient in my writing, and to make it easier to determine which category each new writing idea belongs in. It’s also important for me to remember that each of these unique narratives are still part of a single voice; regardless of where you read something from me it still has to match the standards I set for myself, and there needs to be consistency across all platforms.

But this deeper understanding of why I write in these different spaces should (I hope) make my writing more targeted and consistent anywhere I write. One this blog, I can feel free to explore certain personal passions like curation and game-based learning without the worry I might feel in overly weighting those topics on a community-based blog like TWIST. The clarity of how I can use my personal blog will also help me provide a more focused narrative when I write for TWIST, where my personal biases and preferances take a back seat to more objective commentary.

And the guest writing requests that I receive provide the perfect compliment, exploring topics that work both sides of the equation and push me to explore topics I may not have thought to write about on my own.

It’s not a perfect science, but it’s where I see things for today. If you got this far, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially if you are someone that needs to balance the personal and organizational writing spaces.

As always, thanks for reading.

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