Blogging for chauffeurs
– 7 top tips for a better blog
Are you like many of your chauffeur peers? Do you tweet regular status updates and use LinkedIn for professional networking and building business? Maybe you have a Google+ profile and Facebook too. Banter about just arriving at Heathrow or Gatwick for another pickup is all good and well (but be careful about the confidentiality of what you announce). But to really engage with your target audience and the search engines takes something a bit more substantial. In this article, I'll share some of the professional blogging tips and tricks that I use. I'll encourage you to make more of your blogging and I've even included suggested topics to inspire you...
Are you giving prospects (and search engines)
the content they want to read?
How are you taking advantage of your prospects' and Google's insatiable hunger for useful, relevant content? Forget the cheap and cheerful, keyword-stuffed SEO articles of yore. Instead, think about creating articles, posts and updates that offer relevant, timely and useful information to your followers. Information that executive PAs will share and holidaymakers will keep until they need a chauffeur. Information that will set you apart from your competititors. Above all, content that will gain you points in the world of sementic web search where shareable content is indeed King, and potentially the Ace up your sleeve, when it comes to promoting your services.
Why aren't you making more of blogging?
The answer may be as simple as a few hints and tips dropped into a Tweet or a G+ post. But more likely, it will be meaty content for your website or blog. Maybe a guide to the challenges of getting to different airports or a reminder about the privacy benefits of hiring a professional executive chauffeur like you. It's all good stuff, the ideas, knowledge and experience running around in your head after years of chauffeuring – and the little anecdotes and stories that will engage readers. So why aren't you making more of this valuable information to differentiate and define yourself?
Here's the thing. Blogging or article writing takes time. Like driving cross-country from Cheltenham to Luton or East Midlands airport in the middle of the night, it's not everyone's cup of tea. But blogging is important because it adds useful content to your website and gives you meaningful content to publish on social media platforms. At risk of nagging, you really should be making the effort to do more than just send occasional sales messages or 'just arrived at T5' updates out onto the internet. It's very important – and it's not as hard as you might imagine to get started.
You'll be amazed what you can achieve
I want to reassure you that with practice you'll be amazed what you can create and how engaging it can be for your online readers. As a professional copywriter, crafting a few hundred intelligent words on almost any subject comes as easily as jumping in the Merc or Jaguar and heading for Gatwick does for you. I write blogs and website pages day in and day out. I've also done a bit of defensive driver training in my time and have already written for several chauffeurs in and around Gloucestershire, so I can relate to the work you do.
Now I want to share a few tips that will get you started with the sort of content that humans and search engines alike will love.
1. When to write your blog
How often do you find yourself waiting around at an airport or outside a client's offices. As a pro chauffeur you will make sure you get to the pickup point early. And if you are like many chauffeurs I speak with, you will do drop-and-wait work for busy people who want to head into London or other big cities, attend several meetings, then be driven home.
Situations like this lend themselves to a bit of blogging – or at least getting the ideas down in draft form. You see, the first thing is to write something. It really doesn't matter how rough or ready your first draft is. It could be a few bullet points, notes in your phone or on your tablet, or a lengthy draft written on a laptop or Netbook. The important thing is to write first without worrying about editing what you write. That comes later. For now, just get your ideas down.
2. Making it easy to blog
Having a suitable means of what some people call 'ubiquitous capture' is one of the keys to blogging easily. For 'ubiquitous capture', think 'with you all the time' and that probably means the phone or tablet that you already use to manage your day on the road.
Alternatively, it could mean using a good old-fashioned notebook and cheap ballpoint (of course, with this you will have to transcribe your notes into electronic form later, but that suits some people).
The important thing is to have a writing tool that is accessible, always with you and easy to pull out and start writing with. By the way, if you have certain Android phones and tablets, I can't recommend Lecture Notes
highly enough. It's an ingenious app that works with a stylus so you can write notes by hand, but directly into your digital device.
3. Useful blogging tools
I've found that a couple of tools help me when I am writing with tablets and phones. A good Bluetooth mini-keyboard is a fantastic complement to your tablet. You can get keyboards that are fitted into tablet cases, or you can keep one separate and use it while the tablet is propped up on the dashboard in front of you. I like that: the keyboard can sit in your lap while you can look at what you are doing in the tablet screen. As for software, there's a huge choice of applications that you can use. You can use MS Word or Polaris Office for Android (or the Apple equivalents), but I'd actually recommend using something simpler like a plain text editor, or even web-based email as I'm doing while I write this article. The big advantage of using something like Gmail is that it will keep saving drafts for you – perfect if you have to stop writing and attend to your client. And of course, when you are finished it's easy to email your draft blog post onwards.
You could of course just work straight into your blog or website content management system (CMS) if you have internet access where you are. But there is something convenient about using Gmail...
Bluetooth keyboards for easier blogging on the road
Anyway, getting back to Bluetooth keyboards and I'd recommend them over the built-in on-screen keyboard in your tablet. You might feel differently, so I'll leave you to experiment, but if you do decide to get a Bluetooth keyboard, I can recommend the machines from LEICKE-Sharon and Anker from experience. Both are good for simple keyboarding, seem to connect reliably to my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition, and have a decent feel to them. And I've used both to write while behind the wheel of my (parked!) car.
4. What do I blog about?
And so to the big challenge that people seem to stumble over, the question of what to blog about. Okay, I'll admit that this comes easy to me, but that's because I've had loads of practice, write every day and this is my profession. It can become easy for you too, with practice and just having the confidence to write. After a few blogs or articles I'm sure you'll find your own unique voice and be off...
To get your imagination working, here are a few ideas tailored to the chauffeuring profession. The important thing is to always make sure that you write with your reader in mind, be they the corporate PA who books chauffeurs, a company executive, couples who are planning a wedding or tourists planning a trip to the UK.
- Your thoughts on topical industry trends that are relevant to the reader. You don't need to try and emulate The Economist, but the perspective of a busy chauffeur could give useful insights.
- Top tips (try five or seven, for some reason these are especially popular with readers) for getting the best out of an executive chauffeur service: things to look out for when booking an airport transfer or wedding car; questions to ask a chauffeur before hiring them to drive for you; or the top 7 signs that you have found a professional chauffeur. Use your imagination and brainstorm a few ideas. How about advice and tips for staying sane at Heathrow or Gatwick, based on your experience. Or a chauffeur's perspective on different executive cars? E-Class vs S-Class? Jaguar vs Audi? Bentley vs Rolls-Royce...
- Lessons learned from observing business people as you drive them around (but no giveaway details here – remember confidentiality!); things like how successful executives best use their time in the back of a chauffeur-driven car; or maybe productivity tips and tricks that passengers shared with you.
- How about a few observations on amusing incidents that you've seen on the road (or at airports). There's a mini-saga in every departure and arrival and you are in a brilliant position to commentate on it.
Whatever you write about, one of the secrets, one of the unwritten rules of blogging, is not to be over 'salesy'' and push your sales message down anyone's throat. Okay, occasionally, you can announce a new service, but as a general rule, that should be no more than one in 10 (or better, one in 20) of your posts. Your blog should be informational and useful for your reader. Of course you will put your contact details at the end of the post (as I've done below), but that's generally all.
The secret of blogging is that the post (and the blogger) should be interesting in its own right; everything else follows naturally from a well-written, engaging article.
5. Tone of voice and writing style
Be yourself and find your 'voice'. If you aren't used to writing 'creatively' this might take a few posts to develop, but please persevere. Suddenly, you will find your natural voice and your posts will come alive on the page (or the screen!).
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Write as you would talk (it's okay to begin sentences with And or But, use sentence fragments and contractions such as doesn't, don't or can't'.)
- Imagine that your reader is with you and you are talking to them – as I'm imagining talking to you now! Use lots of You and I in the blog post to help it engage your reader.
- Use short sentences (aim for an average of 15–18 words per sentence)and lots of full stops. Like this. It keeps your writing easy to read.
- And avoid long, rambling paragraphs.
- Use the active voice wherever possible: 'the chauffeur drove the executive to Heathrow' is much better than 'The executive was driven to Heathrow by the chauffeur'.
- Write first, then leave your first draft overnight before editing it. Writing and editing use different parts of the brain.
My recommendation is that you aim for a friendly, reassuringly professional, conversational tone of voice; warm and confidence inspiring (but never patronising). Rather like you, in fact.
Lastly, spell check your blog post when you are happy with it (but remember that spell-checkers aren't foolproof, so proof read it yourself or get someone else to do so. Blogs are a relatively informal medium, but you should still aim to get rid of as many howlers as possible before you publish). And of course, you will write an engaging headline won't you. Something like ''7 tips for choosing a professional airport chauffeur' works well.
6. Your blog layout
You don't need to be a professional desktop publisher or a graphic designer. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on the right track:
- Keep it simple. Aim for at least 500 words; ideally, 750–1500 these days (Google and humans like relevant content, so long as it is interesting and not waffle).
- Put a strong main image at the top of the blog.
- Write an engaging headline.
- Begin with an introductory paragraph that sums up the whole post in a few sentences and draws readers into the piece.
- Break up your text with subheads to highlight what is coming next and help 'skim readers' to navigate your blog.
- Use bulleted lists (max. of seven items) and occasional bold text to help readers assimilate the information in your post.
- Aim to keep the line length at around 13 words maximum; it makes your blog post much easier to read.
- Remember to include a final paragraph that ties everything up and invites your reader to comment or add their own experiences to your blog (if Comments are activated in your blog).
- Break up the body copy with a couple of relevant images.
- Include a few relevant outbound links to other resources that will complement what you have written.
- Finish off with very brief contact details: one sentence saying who you are and what you do, your phone numbers, email and website details as well as Social Media contacts. You can include links here too. And maybe a small head and shoulders picture of you (if there isn't one elsewhere in the post) too.
Here's an example from my own blog (as it happens, with a chauffeuring theme) to show the kind of layout to aim for.
Choose good quality images that are relevant to the blog post. If they aren't your pictures, don't use them without permission or infringe the copyright. Never be tempted to just grab a picture off the Internet – doing so will come back to bite you! Modern digital cameras and phones achieve such amazing picture quality that there is no excuse not to use them. And of course, a well-observed candid snap could be the headline image for an inspiring blog post. If you do decide to use a professional photographer, remember that they can take lots of other photographs at the same time – pictures that you can use in on your website or in brochures as well as in your blogs.
7. How often should I blog?
Different people have different views on this. There's a consensus of opinion that it's better to blog regularly once a week than to do noting for a month and then fire out four blog posts in quick succession. The same principles of regularity apply to Twitter and other social networking platforms. If you create a good blog post each week, that can be one of your Tweets or LinkedIn updates, supported by other social media updates in between. By the way, if you have a WordPress
blog it is straightforward to set it up to post to your different social media accounts every time you publish a blog post.
That's about it really. The hardest part is probably getting started. Once you've written a few blog posts or articles on your website (you can easily share them using an add-on such as ShareThis
) you will probably find the process a lot easier. Just be yourself, as if you were talking to a client, their PA or another chauffeur. It's that simple and the world of professional chauffeuring is full of interesting topics just waiting to be captured and shared online.
Sharing useful content is essential these days
The important thing is that you start blogging and thinking about how you can share useful content online. As SEO expert David Amerland describes in Google Semantic Search (a fascinating, read for another quiet moment when you are parked up somewhere), Search engine optimisation has changed for ever.
The old techniques of creating an optimised page and waiting for visitors and search engines to find it are gone. Despite the changes, the new face of search is fairer than ever and gives small players the opportunity to go head-to-head with major corporates. That means that you have a fantastic opportunity to define and differentiate your business online – and blogging, tweeting useful articles, adding helpful posts to Google+, publishing LinkedIn updates or putting contact on Facebook are the new marketing for all of us. Will you rise to the challenge or will you let that blogging competitor in the Audi A8L
get the jump on you in words, as well as at the lights?
Take the next step!
If by any chance you find this harder than you imagined (and I'm sure you won't), I'm here with advice. Just get in touch. And if, after all I've just said to encourage you, you still can't find the time I can help you write or edit your blogs (or any other online or offline marketing materials
) into sparkling copy that your readers (and Google) will love.
Drive safe and feel free to call 01242 520 573 or email me
if I can help.