The first blog I launched was in 2000. During the world’s best graduate assistantship (I was the coordinator of the International Communications Studies program at the University of Southern California), I had to come up with a way to keep parents updated before and during our six-week traveling class to Europe.
A quick reminder: those were the days before social media and e-newsletters. Heck, Yahoo Groups hadn’t even taken off yet!
What was a girl to do?
Well, I leaned about this website where I could easily design the look of it, add text, a few pictures and it would be live on the Internet in a matter of hours (RIP, GeoCities). It was called a blog, and I thought it would be a great way to keep parents updated without filling their inboxes every day with photo-heavy emails.
My hunch was right: parents, family members and friends loved my blog. Every night throughout the trip, I’d tuck into an Internet café, pay for 30 minutes of Internet access, connect my camera to the computer via a cable and while I waited for the pictures to upload, I’d scroll through them, trying to remember all the details from that day. I’d then hammer out a post in about 20 minutes, upload a few photos and sift through the many comments left on posts, including, “John is not returning my emails. Please remind him to pick up a souvenir for his sister.” Or, “I am so proud of you, Jennifer! We love and miss you.” I’d write down the names of the students who had comments directly at them and then once I was back at our hotel, I’d left them know they needed to check the blog for messages from home.
Looking back, blogging sure seemed like an arduous process. So why is it that with technology now literally at my fingertips, I’ve failed at maintaining a blog? I think I have an idea:
As a communicator, I’ve been trained to only put out perfection. If there was a typo or mistake in anything I approved, I would get roasted:
“You should be embarrassed that you printed something with all of these typos,” said one commenter about a document where one word was missing a letter.
“This error could cost us a lot of money, and I need you to tell me how you are going to prevent this from happening again,” said a boss regarding a brochure where the designer made the spacing between two words just a bit too tight.
“Our brand’s blue looks more purple than blue. How did this happen?” said a colleague about a publication printed by our in-house print shop.
Working under this type of microscope is beyond stressful; it’s anxiety-inducing and can even be depressing and demoralizing. It’s no wonder so many communicators freeze when it comes to blogging. We’re terrified of being imperfect, with our imperfection on display for the world to see.
And I’m one of these communicators.
I’ve started and abandoned several blogs—both personal and professional—over the years. But this year is different.
Last month, I had the honor of interviewing Chuck Will, the revered, former education blogger who wrote Chuck’s Corner from 1998-2014. Chuck’s Corner was a Proctor Academy blog that was designed to give parents a “peek over the fence” at the private boarding school.
Note: I will soon be writing another post with Chuck’s invaluable takeaways to running not only a successful blog, but one that you will actually maintain.
The piece of advice Chuck gave that immediately resonated with me? “Don’t be afraid to be perfectly imperfect.”
“Don’t be afraid to be perfectly imperfect.”
Isn’t that the exact opposite of what we are supposed to do in our roles as communicators?
Well, yes…and no.
Yes, we have to maintain a consistent message, consistent branding, proper grammar and perfect spelling. But some of us need to adapt in order to communicate to our audience or potential audiences in a way that is entertaining, conversational and easily digestible.
So, here I am. Writing a blog post with short paragraphs, informal tone and maybe even a grammatical error or two. And I’ll admit: I’m having a slight panic attack that once this goes live, the naysayers will jump out, ready to pounce on my imperfect prose.
But that’s okay. I’ve been working on myself to be more perfectly imperfect. Try it and let me know what you think; it’s not easy, but it’s quite freeing.