Jeraldine Phneah first began blogging in 2013, when she was just a student. She would write about socio-economic issues just to get her thoughts off her chest, with no idea that one day she would make a name for herself as one of Singapore’s leading content creators on personal finance and other generational issues.
Though her blog was her very first experience with content creation, Jeraldine continued writing posts and delving deeper into her craft. She’s mostly self-taught, and over the years, she took online tutorials on marketing and did lots of reading to stay up to date on the latest digital marketing trends. Between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020—over six years after her first foray into blogging—her website received 654,529 page views.
Jeraldine credits this success to her penchant for penning relatable content. She uses an audience mapping strategy to think of topics and write posts that are rational, respectful, and responsible. Her consistency with this strategy has allowed her to develop content partnerships with household names like the Central Provident Fund (CPF), DBS, and Banyan Tree.
Running a successful blog isn’t as simple as “just being a good writer”
Many other personal finance blogs in Singapore are run by men or full-blown teams—think Seedly, The Woke Salaryman, and DollarsAndSense. Jeraldine is unique for finding success as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, and we asked her what she believes makes her blog so successful.
She responds, “I would say I succeed because of my constant focus on delivering content my readers want.” Many people have the misconception that successful blogging is simply about having good writing skills. Some resources urge writers to “just start” and to let ideas flow naturally. But Jeraldine believes that becoming a successful content creator isn’t so easy.
She explains, “When it comes to being a content creator, one has to pick up other skills aside from writing.” These skills include knowing your audience, being familiar with technology, managing a community, providing an interesting experience, and successfully working with stakeholders.
- Knowing your audience: Understanding the type of content they want to see
- Being familiar with technology: Understanding the terms and tools used in social media marketing, email marketing, and search engine optimization. This includes staying updated on social media algorithms and search engines changes
- Managing a community: Engaging with readers and helping build relationships with them so they come back
- Providing an interesting experience: Understand what factors in a post encourage audience retention and discovery on a website and how blog writers can ensure the best experience for the audience
- Working with stakeholders: Learning how to work with other stakeholders such as the media, partners, and customers
The most important tool that Jeraldine uses to maintain her blog, refine her skills, and understand her readers is something called an audience map.
Audience empathy mapping methodology
“I’m a millennial, and I care about the challenges and aspirations of my generation. When it comes to planning my content, I put our generation at the center of every piece of content that I create,” Jeraldine explains.
Her blog caters to millennials—those who, like her, are between the ages of 25 and 34. She also has some loyal readers in the 35 to 44 age range. She has created Empathy Maps for each of these cohorts to understand their wants and needs.
Empathy Maps are similar to buyer personas, which are often used in goods and services businesses to help develop products that consumers want. Jeraldine tries to understand her audience’s experiences, fears, and hopes for the future and fills out the map to understand what kind of content they need.
Her readers often give feedback in the form of comments on her website or reply to her Instagram stories. Based on their input, she revises and adjusts her Empathy Maps every few weeks. They are living documents that change as her readers change.
Gaining context to write relevant blog posts
Aside from updating her Empathy Maps, Jeraldine also reads the news daily for any topics which could impact her audience. She speaks up on these issues on her blog and Instagram. One of her most recent posts called for improvements to protect trainees under the SGUnited Traineeships Programme.
“I make it a point to interact with other people from my generation online or in-person—to listen to them and understand their views—to ensure that I am writing something which truly adds value to their lives. Often, content fails to get engagement when it is not aligned with what the audience cares about.”
Of course, it isn’t easy to stay engaged with readers and constantly churn out high-quality content. Because she speaks on topics that many people have strong opinions about, Jeraldine has also had to deal with naysayers and people who believe that she’s just plain wrong.
“This used to hurt me when I was just starting out, especially when they made sexist remarks. Helping my generation has always been a key priority,” she explains.
To ensure discussions are framed in a considerate manner and to ensure they do not get too heated, Jeraldine follows her personal 3R guidelines. The posts and her response to feedback must always be rational, respectful, and responsible.
Jeraldine commits to doing her research to ensure that recent data and facts back every post. Rather than responding emotionally to a comment, she always tries to speak with empathy and to focus on the truth.
Jeraldine believes in being assertive, not aggressive. She also tries to state her views in a calm, confident, and positive way. She avoids personal attacks and being too opinionated. Rather, she tries to consider the viewpoints of others and to be open to their views.
Many of her readers are older than her. She recognizes that, in a sense, she is a representative of her age cohort. She has committed to conducting herself responsibly by sharing only truthful information, operating with an understanding that she is responsible to readers.
Caring for her generation through advocating for policy changes
From the first day Jeraldine began blogging, she has always recognized the importance of governmental policies in supporting—or limiting—an individual’s ability to thrive.
She explains, “When I graduated, like many in my generation, I entered a job market and economy that was being disrupted by technology, where there were cases of discrimination against Singaporeans by some companies and where starting salaries did not grow as fast as our cost of living.”
Policies impact personal finance, careers, and lives more than people want to admit. When discrimination happens in the workplace, those who are at the receiving end do not get a fair chance to get hired or promoted. When sick leave is not legislated, trainees who are facing unfortunate financial circumstances and who do not have the luxury of choice suffer.
Jeraldine has always believed that citizens must give back to help others who have fallen behind and ensure the betterment of our society. She has used her platform to advocate for policies such as minimum wage to help Singapore’s working poor and eldercare leave to help the sandwiched generation.
These posts are some of her most popular content.
Over the years, however, she realized that policies take time to change, and people can’t wait forever for the government to begin doing better. In the meantime, individuals must take steps to proactively improve their finances, career, and wellbeing.
Jeraldine believes career choices and investing in the right way can have a much larger impact on one’s personal finances than focusing too much on saving account interest rates, investment instruments, and cashbacks—not just financially but also in terms of wellbeing.
Though she continues to advocate for policy change on a national level, she has also begun to create more educational content to help her readers as individuals. Compared to some other blogs in the finance space, she puts more focus on career-building and personal growth.
- Is it disadvantageous to graduate from a private university in Singapore? (51k views)
- What is the average cost of living in Singapore for a young working adult? (49k views)
- What are the best job portals for Millennials? (33k views)
It isn’t as easy for millennials like her to afford a house, get married, and start a family. Resources are shrinking, and costs of living are increasing—yet they still have the same dreams to see the world, take care of their health and wellbeing, and give back.
She says, “It is important in the pursuit of one’s own financial security, we do not forget those who have fallen behind due to systemic issues and speak up for them. I care about the challenges and aspirations of our generation and want to see us all cope better with the high cost of living, build rewarding careers, and lead meaningful lives.”
Measuring success as a blogger
To Jeraldine, success is defined by the positive impact her content has on people. If they see consistent value and the content resonates with them, page views will naturally follow.
Some readers may be surprised to know that Jeraldine still maintains a full-time job outside of managing her blog. She doesn’t have any plans to switch to full-time blogging any time soon—for now, she plans to continue to stay in touch with the issues and concerns of her generation and create content which adds value to their lives.