Why write an academic guest post?

I’m engaged in a year-long experiment (along with some others) to see if we can change attitudes in the industry that practitioners have toward academics, and vice versa. Part of this experiment involves inviting academics to publish shorter, practitioner-oriented versions of their academic articles on this site (I’d Rather Be Writing), which is one of the most visited tech writing blogs that practitioners read.

More than 4,300 tech comm professionals subscribe to I’d Rather Be Writing, and the site receives approximately 1,500 hits a day. Each article offers commenting features for discussion, and social media buttons make it easy to share articles.

If you’re an academic who has published an article within the past several years, I invite you to create a practitioner-friendly version of content as a guest post. You’ve already done the research, written the content, and made your conclusions. The guest post involves simply rendering this same information in a practitioner-friendly format (think of articles you might read in Intercom or the Harvard Business Review).

Guidelines for making content practitioner friendly

As part of the practitioner-friendly version of your article, consider the following guidelines:

  • Limit the word count. To accommodate shorter attention spans online and optimize for the length of the most popular posts, keep the content to about 1,600 words in length.
  • Use shorter paragraphs and subheadings. For online readability, keep paragraphs somewhat short, such as 3-4 sentences. Also, include more subheadings to facilitate scanning and visual scaffolding.
  • Use a first-person point of view. Feel free to use the first-person point of view (“I”) in your article, especially in the first section where you introduce the relevance of the topic. Readers want to know why a particular topic is relevant. Was there an experience or conversation that made this topic relevant to you?
  • Minimize the methodology details. You might want to save some of the methodological details of your study for the journal publication. Practitioners won’t be interested to know the full details of how you number crunched the data with this or that statistical method.
  • Use everyday examples to illustrate your points. Consider how examples, anecdotes, or other experiences might convey certain theoretical ideas. Using more familiar and immediate experiences can show how theory applies to work-world interests.
  • Define theoretical concepts in 3-5 words. You can use theoretical terms in your writing, but if you do use unfamiliar words, try to define them in 3-5 words.
  • Write the content in Google docs. I prefer that you write the post in Google docs and share it with me ([email protected]). Google docs allows for easy conversations, editing, word count estimating, and lets me export to Markdown.

Sections to include at the end of the article

At the end of your article, you can include the following information:

  • Include a brief bio. Tell us a few sentences about yourself, such as where you live, what program you teach at, what your academic interests are, and what your personal hobbies are. If you spent time working as a practitioner before turning to academia, include that too. Feel free to include a photo (but it’s not required).
  • Promote your program. This is an opportunity for you to promote your tech comm program or other courses available at your university. What’s the name of the program, what degree or certificate is offered, and is the program online or in-person? What other details make the program unique? A lot of traffic to I’d Rather Be Writing involves students or transitioning professionals looking to break into technical writing, and they often ask about tech comm programs.
  • Invite participation in your research projects. If you have a research project where you’re looking for companies to participate, or surveys to complete, or other involvement with practitioners, provide the details here and ask readers to participate. Your article might align with practitioner interests such that the practitioner might be willing to collaborate more formally as a data host for the research. I’ll also discuss these research project opportunities in regular podcasts.

Post-publication activities

Publishing the article is just the first step. After the post is published, you can gauge more of the impact of your content. Do the following:

  • Share the post. Share the link to your post on Twitter, Linkedin, and any other forums where you participate. Include the hashtag #techcomm. You may feel uncomfortable promoting yourself, but don’t think of it like this. You’re sharing yourself — your ideas, your research, your contributions to the profession — with others through these social media links.
  • Let me know where you’ve promoted your article. It will be helpful for me to know where you’ve promoted your article so that I can get a better feel for what venues (used by academics) might work effectively over time for getting word out and drawing traffic to the posts.
  • Respond to comments. Make one comment below the article to ensure that you receive email notification of any comments. When people comment, try to respond in some way. People like the interaction, even if the response merely agrees or reflects on their comment.
  • Analyze metrics. At the end of the year, I’ll send you metrics from Google analytics around your article. The metrics will include the number of views, the average time on page, the geographical location of readers, and other details.

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