Blogging for beginners

So you say your nonprofit needs a blog but don’t know how to get started? Here’s a brief primer.

So you say your nonprofit needs a blog but don’t know how to get started? Here’s a brief primer
By Kirsten Lambert

Seems like blogs and news about blogs are everywhere. General Motors has a blog. Quickbooks has a blog. I’ve even heard rumors that AARP has a blog. You can’t spit without—well, you get the idea.

So who is doing blogs? Why? Should your organization have one? Is the term organizational blog an oxymoron? And what are these blasted blogs anyway?

What blogs are …
The term blog comes from the word weblog. One blogging Web site defines a weblog as a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer. It’s a Web content tool that is interactive, easy to use and allows for quick posting.

Who’s publishing blogs …
You’ll find blogs written by journalists, CEOs, musicians, politicians. Several nonprofits have jumped into the fray, as well. In addition to the blogs mentioned elsewhere in this issue of Nonprofit Communicators Update, you might be surprised to find that the following organizations have blogs:

International Association of Business Communicators
Association Forum of Chicagoland
National School Boards Association

Do your homework …
Should your organization publish a blog? If you’re not sure, ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • Do you have timely news?
  • Will the topic interest people who are online?
  • Are you trying to reach people who may have common interests but are geographically dispersed?
  • Do you want a simple mechanism for feedback on your content?
  • Can you commit enough resources to the blog?
  • Do you have buy-in from your leadership?

Getting started …
It’s easy to launch a blog, at least if you believe neophyte blogger Charles Pizzo, who likens blogs to the “casual Friday” of business communication in “Confessions of a first-time blogger.” It’s keeping a blog going that’s a bear, says David Murray in “A work in blogress.”

You can find step-by-step instructions on starting a blog at the following sites:

Blogger
TypePad
WordPress

Get down to blogging …
At their best, blogs are informal, short, timely, topical and up-to-date. Here are some basic guidelines:

Choose topics carefully. Not every post will appeal to everyone, but you should know what topics will engage your readers. The best blogs cover issues that are important to the people who read them, whether those issues are politics, technology, music—even air conditioning or communications.
Write informally. Many blogs are written in the first person, some in the third person. Use a conversational tone. Contractions are acceptable; typos aren’t.
Be brief. Keep the words and sentences short. A paragraph or two, totaling between 100 and 200 words, is plenty for a post.
Update the blog frequently and regularly. As with any publication, readers like to know how often to check for news. Daily? Every other day? Several times a day?
Streamline the approval process. Blogs can’t be timely or lively if they’re written (or edited) by a committee. The fewer the people involved, the better. In fact, if you can find someone with the right skills and authority to both write and review the content, that may be ideal. Or perhaps one person can write and a second person can review.
Monitor your traffic. You can get an idea of what topics are connecting with readers if you track visitors to the blog. Reading comments can help, but the majority of people will probably “lurk” without posting.

Put on your thinking cap …
Here are some other blogs that will help you study the tone and content of blogs.

Ragan’s conference blog
This blog from Ragan Communications offers an insider’s take on some recent communications conferences.

John Stahl’s Journal
Technology assistance for the Northwest environmental movement. Great longtime blogger linking people, technology and the environmental movement.

The Oceana Network
This is an information-heavy blog with lots of links to original sources—a great use of the tool.

American Lung Association of Minnesota
Straightforward opinion from the nonprofit’s staff—some of it straight from published editorials.

Steve Crescenzo’s Corporate Hallucinations
This blog is billed as “A blog on communications, straight from the twisted and sometimes relevant mind of Steve Crescenzo.”

The Speechwriter’s Slant
This blog covers “The world of corporate and political rhetoric, according to David Murray.”

Now, as Charles Pizzo says in “Confessions” (with apologies to Nike): Just do it. Get started.

Kirsten Lambert is principal of Watermark Communications, a Chicago-based communications and marketing consulting firm. She has worked with numerous corporations and not-for-profit organizations in the past 18 years.

What blogs do you read? Nonprofit Communicators Update wants to know. Tell us all about them at ncu@watermark-communications.com.

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