Tips for Growing Your Blog’s Audience: Bravery

This is the second part in a 3 part series designed to introduce education bloggers to the tips and tricks of building an audience. 

Each part in the series is drawn from the ABCs of social media spaces laid out by Amber Mac in her fantastic book Power Friending.  You can find part one in this series here.


Another challenge for anyone interested in being heard in today’s new media landscape is that our audiences are literally swimming in digital noise. The number of messages—delivered via snail mail, email, websites, television stations, radio stations, text messages, instant messages—consumed by any one individual during the course of a given day is simply staggering.

That means being heard requires bloggers to be inventive about the content of—and the craft behind—the messages that we’re creating.

Remember that blogs were never designed for the kinds of unbiased, staid reporting required of traditional journalists. Blogs are about opinions—and provocative or controversial opinions shared in interesting ways are far likelier to be embraced and shared by audiences.

Bravery in Action on The Tempered Radical:

Bravery can often be a challenge for education bloggers. Working in a professional setting where making waves is frowned upon, we’re trained to be perfectly diplomatic in every setting.

Being brave, however, doesn’t have to mean alienating employers or colleagues.

It simply means demonstrating a willingness to ask the kinds of tough questions that educators love to avoid. Here’s a few examples of brave posts on The Tempered Radical that broke through the digital noise and garnered a ton of attention:

Taking Controversial Opinions

For whatever reason, making waves is simply a part of who I am. I’ve always been the guy sitting in the back of the faculty meeting looking for the relevance in school-wide decisions and letting my skepticism shine.

While those behaviors haven’t always made my principals happy, I feel pretty strongly that they’ve made my schools better places to work and learn. Avoiding challenging questions isn’t healthy for any organization, after all.

I’ve also found that posts built around challenging questions are the ones that get the most traffic on my blog.

Two great examples are a bit that I wrote arguing that Interactive Whiteboards were a waste of money ( and a bit that I wrote arguing that media specialists often alienate language arts teachers in their efforts to defend their profession (

Both posts generated passionate responses from supporters and detractors—and were widely commented on and shared by other bloggers.

Neither post made me a particularly popular guy with every audience—I think most media specialists still cringe when they hear my name—but because they asked difficult questions in an interesting way, they resulted in more attention that I typically receive.

Crafting Interesting Content

Bravery for a blogger isn’t simply about the content of the posts that you’re creating. Bravery also requires you to work to craft interesting messages that stand out in a crowded messaging landscape.

For me, that often means incorporating powerful and/or provocative images into the posts that I’m writing.

While I’m proud of the written text in both of these posts from the Radical—the first challenging the notion that schools are ready for data-driven decision-making ( and the second challenging the importance of standardized tests ( –I’m also pretty certain that the images that I’ve included will be far more memorable to my readers.

4 thoughts on “Tips for Growing Your Blog’s Audience: Bravery

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Mattie wrote:
    As teachers, we have to be brave, and smart, when posting blogs.
    Here’s what’s interesting, Mattie: While blogs have been a real equalizer for teachers—providing us with places to raise our voice without having to ask for permission from bosses or leaving the classroom for ‘more important’ positions—-there’s still a REAL intimidation involved in the process.
    That’s because the best blogs do challenge difficult topics in provocative ways—-but our profession doesn’t deal with provocation well at all.
    Complicating matters is the fact that blogging is public and permanent. You never really know when people are going to stumble across your ideas—or what they’re going to think about it.
    Take my post on media specialists as an example: What if a new superintendent finds that two years from now and is upset about what I’ve written.
    I could be in some hot water!
    Any of this make sense?
    What I’m trying to say is that blogging honestly is important to growing an audience, but it’s not always easy simply because teachers are still the least powerful people in our organizations.

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Brendan,
    Good to see you here and jazzed that you liked this post. From the looks of your profile, you’re a social media kind of guy times ten.
    If that’s true and you haven’t read it yet, be sure to pick up Amber Mac’s book. It’s super approachable, which makes it a convincing read for school leaders who might be skeptical about social media.
    Rock on,

  3. Schneiderb

    This is my first visit to your blog and I will be back.
    I really enjoyed this post and your examples. I think you failed to mention one thing that you do well with your posts surrounding controversial issues. You have presented your arguments without emotion and with PLENTY of supporting reasons and examples. People can disagree with you but at least they come away knowing not only your point of view but also your rationale.
    Thanks again for this post.

  4. Mattie Bearden

    I completely agree that blogs are supposed to be opinions. Often times we read blogs that are simply what people think that we want to read, not their true opinion. As teachers, we have to be brave, and smart, when posting blogs. We have to be able to state our opinions in a professional manner, while still getting our TRUE opinions across. I also agree that we have to be inventive and creative when posting our blogs. People do not want to read boring things, that is just plain and simple.

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