Professional Blogger: How Do You Recognize One?
As the independent publishing industry gradually grows, an increasing number of online web publishers are running to find the resource they need the most: professional bloggers and talented content writers.
Photo credit: Yanik Chauvin
But it is not an easy search.
In fact, while there are thousands of bloggers searching for a pro job offer to start earning something more than their little AdSense revenue, few remain those that have sincerely asked themselves what does it really take to be a professional blogger and what are the specific traits that differentiate them from "normal" bloggers.
The malaise here is that just like the one derived from using Photoshop or Dreamweaver without some good foundations about communication. Too many end up believing that just because they have posted a few articles online (with no quality control or editorial review from anyone) they have automatically self-graduated to professional bloggers. I call it the "Leonardo" syndrome... it is a false and increasingly common perception that the moment you know what buttons to push in a specific tool, one becomes also a master at the art behind it. Knowing Photoshop equals being a great image artist, knowing Wordpress apparently makes you a blogger instantly, and so on.
Great communicators and artists of all times, past and very recent, have all spent significant amounts of time in learning from their masters... whoever they were. As much as a serious passionate would-be painter tries to learn everything she can about colors, pigments, inks, canvas and paintbrushes types, the influence of humidity and temperature on paint, in the same way a would-be professional blogger should cherish spending significant time in the mastery of grammar construction, the fascinating field of web titling, the variety of story-telling approaches, the breadth of plot or news reporting strategies, the value of extended vocabulary or the ability to select great matching visuals for his content.
But how can you tell, when first exchanging via email or via a Skype conversation whether your would be professional blogger is worth the money and time you can invest on her?
It's very hard.
To recognize a true professional blogger there is no amount of posts or experiences in her CV that can guarantee the guy you are looking at is the person you need. Often, it is difficult to check and verify how previous work has been done, corrected and published. Don't trust those credentials unless you know a lot about the publication they went into. The only way to find out is to work with your candidate and to see on real workgrounds whether or not sHe meets your criteria. Give it enough time (paid but clearly labelled as a testing period - I'd say 1 to 2 months) and you can tell quite well whether your candidate is a professional blogger or will shortly become one.
Photo credit: Thomasz Trojanowski
First of all be outright wary of anyone promoting herself out of the box as a professional blogger. The reason is that while blogging as a profession has certainly become a reality, blogging by definition is not anything that can be easily defined with specific editorial qualities that are considered the standard in the industry.
Yes, there are issues of transparency, disclosure and credit that should be shared and used by all professional bloggers out there, but there is in fact no guarantee that one has done so just because she has written on a paid for blog-based web site.
In fact there are more differences and discrepancies between individual professional bloggers on the web than there are strict and broadly shared commonalities (standards).
Is a pro-blogger someone who has been writing three-paragraph long posts, or someone who can research and synthesize multiple sources and viewpoints into an organic and legible in-depth report?
Can you send your candidate would-be pro-blogger to test and dissect a new web service or software technology or is she capable only of putting into her own words news and stories already published by someone else?
Difficult to say.
How I recognize a professional blogger
Open-minded- knows no standard and can use and adopt any specific one offered. Can easily let go of long held beliefs and adopt new ways of working and seeing things rapidly. Uses flexibility, humbleness and focus as her key propulsion engines.
Curious- wants to understand the why and how of things. How they work, why we do things in a certain way and not like everyone else. Leverages sincere curiosity to ask, explore and discover what is not superficially evident.
How can you tell: Your would be pro-blogger candidate doesn't say "OK, sure, I know... oh yeah I know that too..." as you explain new things to her. She is silent, takes lots of quality notes (which sHe will later share with you) and asks relevant questions when given the opportunity to do so.
Humble- is not eager to show off her talent and to credit herself for things she knows only very little about. She knows that true credit is the one given by the readers and not the one she self-awards on her personal blog. SHe often credits you and others publicly for the your good work.
Perseverant- A professional blogger is someone that strongly believes, beyond factual evidence, that today's new media technologies do offer an opportunity to anyone to provide useful, entertaining and at times self-sustainable content services without needing to be hired by anyone. Realizing such confidence requires tons of will and perseverance. It is in fact over the day to day commitment and dedication to improve and refine one's own skills that any would-be blogger can self-elect herself to a "professional" level.
Responsible- Taking responsibility for one's own action and mistakes while acknowledging them in the open is one of the most valuable traits a professional in any field should have. For a professional blogger being responsible means taking double care in approving content for publication, making sure that readers and comments get their due attention, reporting problems and issues found along the road and making sure they get fixed instead of looking the other way around.
Picky- blogging doesn't mean that you always need to favour and spontaneity for quality writing and proper grammar. A professional blogger will always take the time to spell check, review and check in detail his formatted article before submitting it for approval or publishing it directly online. Attention to detail is the single most underutilized competitive advantage component by bloggers. Attention to references and use of links, ethical use of other people images and content, are all key strategic components for building high value and highly credible web sites.
Committed- bloggers that are only after the money, last only so much. Unless you would-be pro-blogger has a bigger cause and motive behind her interest for writing and reporting you are going to find yourself short-handed when you most need it. Great professional bloggers are those that are first serving their self-interested needs to voice important ideas, to sincerely share the insight provided by the intelligent application of new tools, those that truly serve a purpose before selling their supposed skill.
Passionate- Passion is the desire to really do what one likes and wants the most. Passion is a fuel with no competition. Passionate bloggers focus on topics and issues they have at heart and not on just about anything that's labeled "new". Passion is shown in the desire to go the extra mile when not asked to so, the craving for exploring uncharted grounds when everyone is taking the freeway next to you, the will to stand out and sacrifice what one already is for what one could potentially become.
How can you tell sHe is passionate? Passion is something that can't be hidden. True curiosity, desire to know more, a love for making improvements, thirst for models and tips are all great signs of a passionate talent.
Professional- Precise, timely, attentive to details. Precise in checking her own work as well as in reporting and planning her future assignments. That is a good sign, indeed. Attentive to details is a rare trait, but with those truly willing to learn, it is something that you can train just about anyone to become good at. It involves looking at things with a critical eye and with the same attention that the final reader will put in reading your article.
How can you tell? If your man keeps having problems at deadlines, asks for changing the order of assignments and comes in with the article ready one hour before publication, worry. If instead, your would-be pro-blogger comes up to you anticipating issues and possible problems, offering alternative solutions rather than complaints, you may have found the right guy.
Skilled real-time collaborator- Professional bloggers today need to be in easy touch with their virtual newsrooms wherever they are. Via Skype, Twitter, instant messaging and video conferencing technologies, the ability to communicate and be found in near-real-time has become an absolute must. But again... watch out: installing Skype doesn't mean you can instantly use it to your team best advantage. Also here, and maybe even more so, the distance between installing, clicking and using these new cool real-collaboration technologies is the same as between owning a car and driving one.
How can you tell: Can sHe use Skype? Does sHe ring you out of the blue or does sHe ping you to check your status before opening a live call? Does sHe use multiple communication channels simultaneously or does she use just one at a time.
Honest- I have known more bloggers that lie and sell you a picture of them that is order of magnitude bigger than who they truly are, than honest and talented new media writers that are passionate about their work and go more after the "doing" rather than the light and petty "talking". Taking credit for what you have not done and in which you have contributed only a small part is so easy to do today, that telling honest pros from presumptuous liars is increasingly more difficult. Beware.
How can you tell? This is my recommendation. Ask for references: names and phone numbers. If they are so good there must be someone who can testify to it, or not? Call and talk to the those people who have actually worked with your candidate pro-blogger and ask them what your candidate pro-blogger is really capable of doing. You'll have some surprises, believe me.
Open to listen- Those who can watch and listen with an open-mind can learn a lot. Though apparently simple traits, very few individuals seem to be able to use those faculties to effectively interact with their partners and team-mates. Most communicators watch but do not "see". They look at the surface of things but have little perspective on the patterns and strategies behind the reality they are watching. Whether that be television, film, radio or web news any professional communicator should be able today to look at any media with a critical eye and with a questioning mind. Taking all information at face-value does not create any new opportunity to expand, increase or broaden the ability to inform, uncover and share useful insights.
The best professional bloggers are inevitably those that have developed a great ability to listen. Exactly the opposite of what many believe pro-blogging to be all about: "Doing my own thing the way I want it". Listening is of the essence to a blogger because she will need to listen with an open mind to what is being asked of her, how she will need to attack and treat editorially her stories as well as how she will need to apply specific formatting standards to the content to be published.
How can you tell if sHe truly listens: Does sHe proactively respond to feedback and comments on her articles? Does sHe send you written feedback and notes from your meeting and decision-making exchanges? Does sHe ask lots of good questions?
What would YOU add?
Original article written by Robin Good for Master New Media and entitled "Professional Blogger: How Do You Recognize One?"
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