Best Blog

5 questions help craft an award-winning blog

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute’s small team did big things with its science blog.

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If you’re starting a blog—or already have one—there are five questions you must ask to ensure that you’re on the right track. Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute did, and this put its blog on the award-winning track. Sanford-Burnham’s science blog, Beaker, is the winner of Best Blog in PR Daily’s 2013 Nonprofit PR Awards.

What are your goals?

Without clearly outlined goals, a blog is unstructured, messy, lacks purpose, and is difficult to manage. Sanford-Burnham’s communications team put four goals in place: to raise awareness of Sanford-Burnham, its research results, and its personnel; to generate conversation about science; to build an easily searchable archive of accomplishments; and to attract new donors.

What’s the game plan?

Beaker is meant to target scientific and educated lay audiences. Thus, the blog maintains a friendly, accessible tone and links to resources in a fluid manner. Blog content includes news from each of Sanford-Burnham’s five research centers, reflections on social and political issues that face the scientific community, information on the Institute’s events and accomplishments, and human interest stories. 

What—and who—will make it happen?

Beaker’s editor oversees the blogging process and does the bulk of the writing. As the team is small, there is a new post every four days. But the small team prides itself on ensuring the content is fresh and interesting. They focus on using photos, video, and rich linking and tagging to make posts easy to find in search.

How can social media help?

Beaker’s content is highly integrated with Sanford-Burnham’s social media plan. The team piggybacks on the already-existing social media presence—Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest—for Sanford-Burnham to further tell the Institute’s story. To make sharing easy, social media share buttons are included on each blog post. Additionally, a feed from Beaker is featured on Sanford-Burnham’s LinkedIn company page. And, just as importantly, the team behind Beaker made sure the site was mobile-compatible. 

How are you measuring your efforts?

Team members measure traffic monthly. They’ve noticed a steady upward trend since January 2012, with a threefold spike for March 2013, due to a blog post about an important discovery in Down syndrome research. Beaker’s success is also gauged by its popularity with reporters and news outlets. It’s been featured in the U-T San Diego and a science magazine blog. Lastly, the Beaker team keeps up to date on its audience with surveys.

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