New HR bloggers are brave.
They live in a liminal state where they daydream about the future of work while processing payroll, managing compliance issues, and providing ongoing support to leaders and employees.
I admire their fortitude.
Before you can write well about HR, you have to learn how to write. All new bloggers go through a difficult phase where they sort through mental clutter and figure out if they have anything to say.
It isn’t pretty.
The mind and heart demand to tell the only story they know. That’s why early blog posts are a humbling mix of manifestos, proclamations and statements about tremendously emotional issues — broken relationships, conflicts with parents, career confusion — masked in a miasmic narrative of HR and leadership development issues.
Those first few posts from a new writer are always raw. If you asked the blogger, he would deny writing anything personal. That’s because he isn’t experienced enough to know that he is writing about heartache or betrayal. He would tell you that he is sharing a message about FMLA or social media while he’s describing his own feelings about heartache and loss.
I won’t name names, but 90% of HR bloggers in 2014 have never left the early phase, even if they’ve been blogging for years. The world doesn’t allow corporate professionals to be exposed and open. They get stuck in a cycle of self-reflection and double-meaning. It trips them up and stunts their growth. And let’s face it: there are corporate policies against honesty and vulnerability, too.
The second phase of HR blogging is a better phase where the writer begins to consider his audience. Early bloggers think that the only story that matters is the one that conveys truth. More mature bloggers learn that the only story that matters is the story that moves the audience to consider a new point-of-view and change its behaviors.
Phase two of blogging can be fun, but enthusiasm often gives way to shrewdness. Writers want to move away from being vulnerable — because that’s a hard place to live — and instead think about SEO optimization and opportunities to socialize content in new and broader ways. These bloggers brag about exposure on shitty sites like Huffington Post and LinkedIn. They will get competitive about reach, resonance and relevance.
I love how writing becomes baked into a blogger’s daily life at this point. It gives me hope. My only advice for writers in this phase is simple: don’t be passive-aggressive. Don’t leave the audience feeling like they have just visited the doctor or endured a lecture from mom.
There are only six HR bloggers in this second phase who are doing it right, by the way.
Finally, there are a few seasoned HR bloggers who are writers. They know who they are, they can tell a story, and their content feels universal and true. They don’t always write the most compelling stuff related to HR, but they write with clear and honest voices.
Can they sell shit? Sure. Can they speak at conferences? Yeah. Would they write even if you weren’t reading? You’re goddamn right they would.
There are only two HR bloggers in the market who meet that criteria. And I admire them both.
So the state of HR blogging in 2014 is sparse. With all of the options out there for good and interesting content, does HR blogging even matter?
I don’t think it does.