Will you make me a promise before you read this? Don’t make blog planning a six-month process. A little planning will go a long way towards making your blog more successful. A lot of planning will just slow you down. Use these steps as a guideline. Jot down some notes, have a couple meetings, and start blogging!
OK. Here we go.
Research what blogs are writing about your cause, and where yours could fit in the conversation. Use Google Blog Search, Alltop.com, blog rolls, and Twitter Search to find blogs about your issue. Add related blogs to a feed reader like Google Reader to make it easy for you to read and comment regularly.
2. Find your blog’s purpose
Knowing why your organization wants to blog will help you determine how often to post, what to post about, and who should write for your blog. Questions to ask:
- Why does our organization want to blog?
- What goal(s) will a blog help us achieve?
- What would a successful blog look like
3. Describe your ideal audience
Your blog may not be the right tool to reach everyone (e.g. donors, volunteers, constituents, funders, and press), nor does it need to be. Questions to ask:
- Who are three people who represent our ideal readers?
- What topics interest them?
- What would make them read every post?
4. Brainstorm juicy blog post topics
This is a great activity to do with a group. Ask folks to brainstorm blog post topics that will fulfill your blog’s purpose and reach your ideal audience. Below is a list of types of blog posts to spark your imagination:
- answer readers’ questions
- ask for help
- “best of” list
- challenges (e.g. GOOD’s 30 Days of Good)
- comment on current events
- click list of other blogs’ posts
- guest post
- how to
- notes “from the field”
- numbered list
- personal story
- regular column
- reviews (e.g. books, films, products)
- round-up of news about your issue
- your organization’s news (e.g. events, campaigns, press)
5. Select your staff
You’re going to need a blogger(s), a managing editor (if you have more than one blogger), a community builder, a web designer, and tech support. All these roles could be filled by one person, or by multiple people. A word about making your Executive Director your main blogger: unless they LOVE to write, don’t do it. They don’t have the time. If you’re thinking about depending entirely on guest bloggers keep in mind: 1. your readers probably don’t care as much about who these people are as you do, 2. wrangling people who don’t work for you to write posts won’t necessarily save you time. If you want to have interns run your blog, be sure to have a plan in place for who will write for it when they leave.
So, who should write for your organization’s blog? Someone who:
- loves to write
- is able to write short, engaging pieces
- understands how to draw readers in with words and images
- enjoys being social online
6. Decide how often to post
Here’s the deal, the more you post, the more likely you’ll be read. On the other hand, regular subscribers might not want to hear from you everyday; plus, you might not have the staff to invest in daily posting. The answer: post regularly, at least once a week. Two to three times a week would be great, but once a week is better than not at all. Also, when you’re mapping out your blogging time for the month, remember that “blogging” encompasses reading, writing, commenting, and sharing posts on social networks.
7. Choose your features
Some basic features all blogs should have are:
- prompts to subscribe by rss and email
- a short “about” paragraph
- sharing buttons on the bottom of every post (e.g. tweet this)
- the name of the blogger who wrote the post on each post
- a link back to your site’s home page, if the blog has a separate URL
Some features you’ll have to decide about are, do you want:
- the blog to be integrated into your site, or separate?
- a custom design, or template?
- a blog roll (a list of related blogs) in the sidebar?
- a donate button in the sidebar?
- anything else in the sidebar?
8. Create an editorial calendar
When you have small windows of writing time, knowing what you’re going to write about can save time, especially if you’ve been collecting ideas and resources somewhere (e.g. your Twitter feed, a notepad, Pinterest). Some questions to ask:
- How often are we able to post each week?
- What’s going on in the world this month (e.g. holidays)?
- What’s going on in our org’s world this month (e.g. conferences, campaigns, events)?
- Which posts were the most popular last month? How can we write more like them?
9. Create a plan to build traffic and engagement
Even the most amazing posts in the world will go unread, unless you let folks know about them. At a minimum, you should be:
- sharing all of your posts with your social networks
- linking to the month’s most popular posts in your e-newsletter
- putting a link to your blog in your email signature and on your business card
- commenting on other blogs
- writing great titles with keywords people are searching for, and that draw them in. For title inspiration, peruse The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com)
If folks aren’t commenting on many of your posts try:
- sharing a strong opinion in the post and title
- asking a question in the post and title
- asking for help, opinions, or advice. If you sound like you know everything, what is there to comment on?
10. Decide how you will measure impact
Look back at your blog’s purpose, and how you defined success to determine what metrics are appropriate. Some possible ways to measure impact are by noting:
- page views
- popular posts
- Facebook likes, shares and comments
- tweets, retweets and favorites
- press that came as a result of your blog
- donations that happened as a result of your blog
- volunteers who found you through your blog
OK That’s it. Ten steps. Remember your promise: a little planning and a lot of blogging.
Oh, and here’s my biggest blogging tip:
Don’t be boring.
Do be creative, visual, engaging, educational, entertaining, resourceful, inspirational and fun!