This is part three in a 5-part series of articles examining the stages of blogging development within the nonprofit arena, describing the various challenges, solutions and innovations I have witnessed in the actual content marketing work of my clients. See if it doesn’t get you thinking about the power of the blog for your own organization. Access the previous entry here.
Stage Two: Getting Your Feet Wet
Once your organization has recognized the usefulness of a blog and identified the people who will be involved in its production, there’s really nothing more to do than simply begin to publish. You probably already know how often you would publish the blog, and whether you would add it to an existing newsletter or send it out separately. You might consider whether or not you want to give your blog a name that will be used in each publication – if so, you might want to create a little graphic that can used to “brand” the blog title and be used every time it’s published.
For the very first blog post, it usually makes sense for it to be written by the Executive Director, the subject being the blog itself – an announcement that the blog is your new endeavor.
But while the E.D. is off writing her blog for the first edition, it isn’t too early to begin preparations for the subsequent editions. If various members of the staff plan to contribute blogs, then a brief discussion at a staff meeting can usually map out several months’ worth of content – who will write each piece, and what they will write about.
At this point, the importance of quality writing should be stressed. The blog is a representation of the organization – what you do, what you believe, how you think. Consequently, everyone involved in the production of the blog should strive for quality. Writers should take the time to polish their work, someone else should proofread it for errors, facts and links to webpages should be verified. Layout of the blog should be handled methodically, adhering to your organization’s general publication “style” – for example, headlines in a certain font, bolded and centered, the text in a certain font, left justified with line feeds between paragraphs. Etc.
It is highly recommended to use images in a blog – at least a headshot of the author. In this case, the formatting is also important, and if you don’t already have “style” guidelines for images, you can establish them now. Often the practice is to center an image, size it appropriately, placing related text (a caption, or the name/title of the person in the picture) below the image, also centered, and in a font that is smaller than the general text, and italicized.
All of these formatting decisions are either dictated by your organizations’ existing “style” or will be decided with the first blog. Once that is set, the previous blog becomes the template for the next one, so formatting is already in place and just needs to be replaced with new content.
It’s useful to understand that social media goes beyond your website, Facebook and Twitter pages, but also includes your broadcast email (“eblasts” is the most popular term). Every organization has its own process for producing content on each of these social media platforms, and I tend to call that process the “flow” or “stream.” When your organization begins publishing a blog, it can simply add it into the existing stream. As an example, one nonprofit I work with publishes its blog as part of a monthly newsletter that goes out on the first of every month. As part of their routine for preparing all content, they prepare the blog* and schedule its distribution across all their platforms. Then, on the first of the month, the blog goes out by email, appears on the website, and is posted on all social media channels, simultaneously.
* Organizations generally publish the entire blog on their website, but only publish an excerpt everywhere else, with a link people can click on to READ MORE. This is a handy way to drive traffic to your website, where in depth analytics can help you effectively analyze their activity.
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