Everyone seems to be blogging these days - should your organization have a blog? The answer is the same as with all communications channels or tools - if it fits with your communications objectives. If you are looking for a channel to provide timely updates about your organization and mission and/or you want to encourage interaction and dialogue with your constituents, then a blog may be right for you.
Why create a blog?
To Promote Engagement:
You may ask: our non-profit or membership organization has a website – so why do we need a blog? As we've noted in Wild Apricot blog posts, it’s a question of broadcast versus engagement. The most important difference between a blog and a website is in the way content is provided to the reader and what they can do with it. Static website pages provide information through a one-way exchange, while blogs allow readers to interact with posts and become engaged in the conversation – asking questions, making comments and sharing information or links. Through blog posts and comments, your constituents get to know and trust both the organization and the individuals (real people behind the scenes) that they are connecting with through the blog.
To Connect With Supporters and Enable Dialogue:
A blog offers an opportunity for you to share information and ideas and also connect with your existing supporters and even attract potential new members, supporters, volunteers or donors. As you nurture your relationship with your readers, and they interact, you can gain insight into your constituency – their perception of your organization and ways to enhance your efforts.
To Improve SEO:
Blogs are naturally “good for SEO” (search engine optimization) because of the way they are coded and structured. Search engines like websites that update their content regularly and have lots of incoming links. Blogs offer a fresh flow of content that keeps the search engines interested in your site — making it all the easier for new readers to find you when they search for information on your organization or your cause.
By offering frequent blog posts with fresh, relevant content, you can increase traffic and boost your searchability – which in turn will improve your blog’s perceived value or authority. And if your blog becomes popular and your content becomes highly regarded by your community, you may find that you’ll be quoted in other blog posts – increasing your links and offering further exposure for your organization and further promotion of your cause.
To Broaden Exposure:
Your improved searchability may lead to increased press coverage as the media identifies your blog as a source of information in your particular sector. As your blog readership grows and your blog's reputation solidifies, your blog may be a regular source of information for media in your field and your contributors may be seen as experts in your area.
What’s involved with starting a blog?
Here are some things you'll need to think about before you commit to creating a blog:
Identifying your blog format or style:
There are many different types of blogs in the blogosphere: personal blogs - offering personal and sometimes highly controversial opinions, news blogs; cultural blogs, business blogs and so on. While you'll want your blog to have a unique voice to get attention and keep readers coming back, it's important to remember that your blog will present your organization's message. This means that individual bloggers may offer their opinions, but the blog content should always be tempered by your organization's mission and culture. The type of blog you choose can incorporate one or a number of possible formats, such as: collaborative; educational, news-oriented, commentary, and so on.
I've said it about e-newsletters and it also applies to blogs as well: content is king. While blog posts don't need to be lengthy, they do need to be current and compelling to keep your readers coming back. While you may find it challenging to find the time to write the blog posts and manage the blog, you shouldn't be at a loss for content.
Here are some ideas for blog content:
- Your blog can be a place for sharing news - you can tell people about your programs, events, campaigns.
- You can profile a volunteer or member - sharing stories that demonstrate the value of the work your organization is doing.
- Post videos or slide presentations on topics that relate to your cause - framed by comments or opinions that relate back to your organization.
- Promote and offer resources that you've developed.
- Respond to a recent study, blog post, article - or simply bring it to your readership's attention.
Who should be blogging for your organization? Of course, someone needs to manage the content and editorial calendar (ideally someone with some writing and editing expertise). As we noted above, posts don't need to be lengthy or meaty, but they do need to be focused and share a common organizational thread - which is why it is best if you can have one individual managing the content and even publishing the posts. This will ensure consistency and enhance accuracy.
But you could also have a group volunteers drafting blog content. If your organization doesn't have dedicated staff that can take on this role, your Communications Committee would be a likely place to start. You could create an editorial group or a blog committee. The efforts could be organized a number of ways - such as having certain staff or volunteers watching the web and media for content ideas and having others gather content internally (e.g., about ongoing projects, events, fundraising campaigns, programs, etc.). If you don't have one key writer/editor managing the blog content, you might want to create a social media policy for your volunteers to ensure effective brand and image control.
Since you are hoping to engage your audience, you need to be prepared to respond to comments on blog posts. Work with your contributors to set a policy on who will respond - e.g., will it be the person who wrote the post or the key blog manager/editor? How frequently will you check for and respond to comments? What type of contact information will you offer for email follow-up?
Of course, to launch a blog you need the technology to power your blog. If your organization uses Wild Apricot’s Membership Management software, you have a built-in blogging feature that you can activate.
But If your website isn't powered by Wild Apricot, there are a number of blog platforms you can check out the ProBlogger post "Choosing a Blog Platform," by Darren Rowse, for a review of some system options.
Design and overall usability of your website immediately affects how first-time visitors view your brand, says Heidi Pungartnik in her blog post on blog design
. Here are some quick tips to keep your blog looking fresh:
Use templates for everything.
Consistency is the key in having your brand recognized all over the web. Think of creating templates as a great way to save some time when creating new blog posts and social media graphics. Customize free stock photos
Everyone uses free stock photos. The result is that everyone’s blogs look the same. You can either take your own photos or customize a stock photo by adding some color overlay, text, or even draw an illustration on top of it. Create a style guide
A style guide is a simple document you can create in Photoshop
, or online tool like Canva
. Its sole purpose is to hold all assets of your branding (logo, colors, fonts, etc.). Every time you or someone else sets out to design something on your blog, a style guide will help them use the right colors and fonts. Neat, huh?
If you want folks to regularly read your blog, you need to enable readers to subscribe by email as well as RSS (Really Simple Syndication). An RSS document or "feed" offers a summarized text and metadata
such as publishing dates, authorship and a link to that blog post. If you are a Wild Apricot client using the auto blog feature, you can activate the RSS feed so that your subscribers receive email notification of each post as it is published in your blog. If you are not using Wild Apricot, you can check out services such as Feedblitz
or Google Feedburner
Promoting Your Blog
How will folks find your new blog? You'll have to introduce it to both your current constituents as well as the general web public. Here are a few suggestions to consider for on-going blog promotion:
- Offer excerpts of a blog post in each edition of your e-newsletter with a link to the blog
- Promote the blog in your e-newsletter and offer a link to subscribe through the RSS feed or your email list
- If you are on Twitter, you can set up auto feeds to tweet about each blog post, or you can do a manual tweet
- You should also post on your Facebook page - again you can set up an auto feed if you like
- Include a link (URL) to the blog as part of your auto email signature
- Enable blog readers to bookmark and share your posts by adding links to Facebook; Twitter; Delicious; Digg; StumbleUpon; Google, etc.
- Make comments on other industry blog posts and share the link back to your blog - this opens up new audiences
So if you are ready to begin engaging your constituents through a blog, we hope you find the preceding information helpful to get you started. We've also offered some additional resources below, such as Wild Apricot blog posts, that you might also find helpful.