Jesse Lyn Stoner writes one of my favorite blogs. I profiled it in 2012 in “Blogs I Like” where I talked about her superbly crafted posts. In June, 2013, she began a series on vision. I’ve seen many bloggers invite others to do a guest post. I’ve seen many bloggers do a series.
Jesse combined those two ideas into an effective series about an important leadership topic: vision. Like many good blog posts, Jesse’s series began with a question.
“I’ve been wondering what happened to vision. It used to be sexy. Is it considered outdated in the context of today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world?… have we “vision experts” failed to communicate it well enough?… have we failed to show how vision links to daily work life? … is the term so overused that it has lost its meaning? Or am I wrong and it’s alive and well?”
I interviewed Jesse about her Vision Series. Here are some lessons we can learn from what she did.
The inspiration for how to structure the series came from an HBR series on collaboration that shared the ideas of several experts. There’s probably another structure idea lurking out there, waiting for you to find it.
Jesse’s first challenge was to convince some people with expertise to agree to do a post. She started by reaching out to Ken Blanchard. She and Ken co-authored Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life, so he knows Jesse and her work. There were two big advantages to having Ken agree to participate.
He’s a true expert and a great writer, which assured a quality post. But he’s also an expert that others respect and recognize. When he agreed to participate it became easier to sign up other experts. Lesson: Start with big names.
Jesse didn’t know everyone she wanted to ask. For example, she had no contact with Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s, before the series. But she did know Dan Rockwell, who knew Doug. So she asked Dan for an introduction. Lesson: Use your relationships to reach out to people you don’t know.
Jesse made a conscious effort to line up a diverse group of contributors. That resulted in a lot of variety in the posts. Lesson: Diversity among contributors can improve the range of opinions, but you have to make a conscious effort to achieve it.
There weren’t any blogging examples to follow, so Jesse dove in and did what made sense to her. In blogging, and writing in general, there are very few right answers, but a lot of intelligent choices. Here are some that Jesse made.
- She didn’t publish the first post in the series until she had all the posts.
- She decided to post twice a week during the series.
- She decided to wrap up the series with her own thoughts.
- She didn’t just go for big names.
- She created a hashtag to help promote the series on Twitter.
The series took a lot of work. It may seem like having guest posts made things easy, but that wasn’t the case at all. There was a lot of coordination, creating a visual presence for the series, getting pictures and setting up bios. It’s truly a case where God is in the details and there a lot of details.
As we wrapped up, I asked Jesse if she would do something like this again. She said she would, but “not just to do it again.” Lesson: Even the best idea or practice is situational. This was one of Jesse’s experiments to find things that work and why and where.
My Bottom Line
For my money Jesse’s Vision Series does two things. It provides some wonderful resources for people interested in vision that will be available on the web as long as Jesse leaves them there. The Vision Series also gives the rest of us some good examples of things we can do with our own blogs.