Your organization is starting a blog and you have all your ducks in a row. You're happy with the new blog design, you understand the platform you've chosen, you've gotten sign-off from above to move forward, and you've signed a surprising number of your staff up to serve as regular bloggers. You want to offer your bloggers some guidance and make them comfortable with the process since many of them are nervous about blogging and most have never blogged before.
Here are some of the key lessons we've learned at Rad Campaign through blogger orientations and trainings we've run.
Set Clear Expectations
Explain why you're blogging. Your bloggers won't stay committed to blogging regularly unless they understand your goals for blogging. Are you trying to start a conversation? Demonstrate expertise? Foster community? Get press leads? Celebrate your volunteers? All of the above? Fill your bloggers in!
What will you be measuring? Explain how you'll be evaluating your success and how often you will be sending them analytics reports. What feedback are you going to be providing bloggers in the organization with that will help them improve and understand what's working?
What's the time commitment? How often do you expect your bloggers to post? What length post should they shoot for? Do they need to find an image for every post? How often do they need to come back to respond to comments? The time commitment is often what makes new bloggers the most nervous so be really clear in setting these expectations in advance.
How will you be supporting your bloggers? Knowing that you'll be there as a safety net will calm the fears of most new bloggers who are anxious about your organization starting to blog. Are you serving as a proofreader, or will you also be making content suggestions? Can bloggers rely on you to provide blog topics for them to choose from or do they need to brainstorm alone?
Will you be moderating comments? Are you going to let comments go live as they come in, or approve them one by one? What types of comments will you consider over the line and what kind of content would you consider deleting?
Sage Wisdom to Share with Nonprofit Bloggers
Add value. With billions of words being posted every day you'd better be sure you’re writing something people will value. Write what you know, be thought-provoking, and provide worthwhile information and perspective.
There is no delete. Anything you post online can be found by anyone for years to come. No matter how stringently you limit access to material or how quickly you delete it, once something is shared, it’s possible it can be shared widely. Always keep this in mind before hitting publish.
Be polite. It can be easy for people to use the anonymity of a screen and keyboard as an excuse to be prickly and come off as offensive. It’s important not to fall into that trap, especially when disagreeing with others’ opinions. Err on the side of caution, as you wouldn’t want something you post at the spur of the moment to come back and haunt you years later. If something is making you question whether it should be posted, don’t shrug off that discomfort and hit send. Spend a minute trying to figure out what is bothering you and fix it. If it can’t be fixed, maybe it shouldn’t be posted. As many people in the community like to say - if you wouldn't want your mom to hear you say it, it probably not something you should publish.
Give credit where it’s due. If you’re referencing other material, give clear citations and links. Respect copyright laws by quoting and linking to the full text and only use images that you have permission to use (i.e. the image falls under fair use or creative commons licensing or you have explicit permission from the owner).
Be Human and stay true to yourself. You are representing the organization's brand, but showing some personality and passion when you feel it will help readers relate to you. That doesn't mean you need to make jokes or dumb down your message. You can be authentic and engaging without being kitschy or simplistic.
You gotta give to get. Adopting an attitude of generosity on the web goes a long way. Recognize the good work of competitors and peer organizations. Your readers will see you as a resource for the top information across your field and learn from your perspective. People The context you provide helps people understand the relevance of current events and the implications that are obvious with your depth of knowledge (but are not obvious to readers). Don't be afraid to share link-love with the competition.
Time Management. This is likely the part your bloggers are most nervous about. Help them find the system that works best for them to manage their blogging time. Help them set up an editorial calendar or blogging schedule. Help them plan for future posts. Explain the role of the blog editor or content manager if there is one. Encourage bloggers to pair up with a blogging buddy so they can share topic ideas and edit each other's posts.
Over to you.
What would you add to these tips? What lessons have you shared with bloggers at your nonprofit? What policies and expectations have helped put your bloggers at ease?