Promoting Engagement With A Blog

Lori Halley 25 May 2011 7 comments

Everyone seems to have a blog these days – should your organization jump on the bandwagon?

Of course, I am obviously biased, since I AM a blog-writer!  But I’m a communications person first and foremost, and as such I think that non-profits and membership organizations should consider adding a blog to your communications toolbox.

Why create a blog?

Promote Engagement

You may ask: our non-profit or membership organization has a website – so why do we need a blog? As Rebecca noted in a previous post – Non-profit Website or Non-profit Blog? – 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.

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 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.

Broaden Exposure and Improve SEO

As Rebecca also noted in her earlier post, “blogs are naturally “good for SEO” (search engine optimization) because of the way they are coded and structured, offering 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.

What’s involved with starting a blog?

Here are some things you'll need to think about before you commit to creating a blog:

Format:

While we are most familiar with personal blogs – where someone offers their personal opinion – there are many different types of blogs and blog formats in the blogosphere. While you'll want your blog to have a unique voice to get attention and keep readers coming back, your blog will present your organization's message. This means that individual bloggers may offer their opinions, but the blog content will 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.

Content:

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.

Contributors:

So, 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 have a group volunteers drafting blog content too. 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.

Comments:

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?

Blog Platform:

This post was meant to get you thinking about whether you should create a blog, so I’ve stayed away from technical details about your blog platform - e.g., the technology that will power your blog. But if your organization uses Wild Apricot’s Membership Management software, you have a built-in blogging feature that you can activate.

If your website isn't powered by Wild Apricot, there are a number of blog platforms you can check out this ProBlogger post by Darren Rowse, "Choosing a Blog Platform" for a review of some system options.

So - is your organization ready to start a blog?  I've offered a few ideas to get you started, but check out the resources below and stay tuned for future Wild Apricot posts on member communications and engagement.

Read more:

Want even more? Here are some posts that we found on the web:

Get a Special Report on Simplifying Membership Management

Enter your email and receive this special report in your inbox.
Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 8:30 AM

Get a Special Report on Simplifying Membership Management

Enter your email and receive this special report in your inbox.

Comments

  • Britt Bravo said:

    Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Thanks for sharing my post!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 5:27 AM

    Britt: You're welcome - it is a great post.

  • Geri Stengel said:

    Friday, 27 May 2011 at 4:04 AM

    Good points all. I especially like the implication that all aspects of the blog -- responsibilities, procedures, content, and oversight -- should be discussed before the first blog is posted. Proper planning prevents poor performance

  • Allan Leonard said:

    Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 7:47 AM

    I do agree with all you say about encouraging blog postings by members and volunteers.

    However, serious shortcoming using Wild Apricot built-in blogging platform is that it doesn't even allow contributors to upload and display images in their postings -- one of the most basic blogging features. Because of this, I had to shut down one of my Wild Apricot websites and will have to create a parallel non-Wild Apricot site for one of my other projects.

    I don't understand why this basic feature element is missing; Wild Apricot's blogging platform is one of the most anaemic out there.

  • Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 8:29 AM

    Allan,

    Thanks for posting - I would not argue with you, our own blog module is pretty basic. Wild Apricot is a very broad system which includes:

    - contact/member database

    - event registration

    - online payments/donations

    - website CMS, including blog module

    - discussion forums

    - Email blasts/newsletters

    So we always have to balance the resources we put into various modules - and we had to make a decision to postpone any blog enhancements for now at least until we finish the rollout of new CMS.

  • Michael said:

    Monday, 06 June 2011 at 12:09 PM

    I have been a blogger for many years and can't imagine a business not having a blog. It is a fun way to get the online marketing going and is a great way to interact with your readers. Sure Twitter and Facebook are as well but a blog is your own space.

    My one big piece of advice is to plan it ahead of time. Theme, design, what you want to write. Then when that is all taken care of, you can just create!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 06 June 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Michael: I couldn't agree more - planning is key. Thanks for your comment.

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.