Blogging can do a lot for a nonprofit organization, an association or a small business. But many people struggle to find the motivation to blog and wonder why they should invest the effort and time into blogging. I try to blog regularly on my website and I’ve also advised clients about blogging. I find you often don’t realize the benefits of blogging until you do it for yourself.
I encouraged a nonprofit organization client to start a blog a few years ago because their website felt very formal and institutional. In person, on the phone, and at events, the organization projected an image that was touchy-feely, compassionate, informal, accepting and embracing for the people it was trying to help. Their online voice through their website felt very brand dissonant from their actual service and behavior. Since they didn’t have much staff time available for blogging, we recruited a dozen individual people touched by the organization’s work to blog, and assigned someone on staff to liaison with the bloggers, remind them of deadlines, and edit their pieces. This spread the workload but also ensured that what was published would be professionally edited and share the organization’s voice.
In addition to keeping their home page updated and looking fresh every week, the blog posts were recycled into social media. Over time, this built a library of content that was populated into other areas of their website, giving them lots of fresh first person material that related to the population that they served.
The blog also drew media attention to the organization. A couple of reporters – one for a national television network, another a recent Pulitzer Prize winner – went through the blog posts and contacted the organization asking to interview specific bloggers. One story aired on a national television network and featured the actual blog post written by the blogger, supplemented with photos she provided. The other story ultimately featured multiple people assisted by the organization, as well as the original blogger the reporter asked to talk with, and was part of a month-long series run on a major online news network.
Here are seven tips for why you ought to consider blogging:
Tip #1: It helps you learn by forcing you to stay up to date on industry developments. Blogging can be a big kick in the rear. It forces you to be on the cutting edge of your field, to think about what is going on, and to regularly formulate your own opinion and share it. To prepare your own blog posts, you do online research, review other blogs, and consider what others are saying. A tweeted article link that you might have overlooked in the past, sparks your creative juices and has you pounding the keys. If you are writing about a program your nonprofit or association offers, you are forced to think about it in new ways when you have to write a blog post – you consider things like why the program is needed, how you will judge its effectiveness, who it will help, how it will be managed, and how you will fund it. If you are writing about a new product or service – you discuss what the product does, how it compares with others, what people think of it, or the unique and interesting story behind its creation.
Tip #2: Publishing a blog regularly forces you to create content. Blogs are always hungry – for content. You get into a content creation mentality when you know you need to feed a blog on a regular basis.Having a blog also forces you to ask others in your organization to think about content creation strategically. When your nonprofit or association rolls out a new program – it’s not just an email or a press release announcement – now it’s also a blog post, written in the first person. Blogging forces you to build a culture in your organization or company that values content creation – and this pays huge dividends. Instead of scrambling to get the staff in charge to give you photos or share information after an event, it is flowing to you. Maybe the media didn’t cover an event held by your organization as extensively as you had hoped – but you can post information and photos or a video on your blog. More than a static website, a blog shares stories and impact and comes across as more of a “living” content representation of the organization or business. A regularly updated blog, filled with a record of activities and stories that demonstrate your impact to customers, donors, members, partners and the media, is going to win for you friends you didn’t know you needed but that you will be very glad to have.
Tip #3: Content multiplies. When you hear a speaker at a lunch, it becomes a great opportunity for live-tweeting (or micro-content creation). Then you harvest the tweets and key nuggets of information into a blog post and reflect on how the information impacts your work. You’ve just created a record of the event and applied it to your work (and improved the likelihood that you retained the information too). Conversely, new blog posts can boomerang into your organization’s social media presence and provide share-able content on a regular basis that feeds your social media streams. The blog can be broadcast easily on Twitter and Facebook – with short snippets shared if appropriate. If your blog is part of your company or organization’s website or home page, regular blog publishing guarantees that your website will stay updated and look fresh.
Tip #4: You build credibility by sharing your real voice in a digital environment. Blogging builds authenticity, if it’s done correctly. It can’t be just a press release or an ad copy regurgitation. A valuable blog includes the voices of real people – the people behind the scenes of an organization, association or business. A good blog allows for personality to shine through and injects a personal element into your online presence. You can also use your blog to answer common questions, discuss new research, or address myths or stereotypes in your field.
Tip #5: It makes you approachable and builds community. A blog that accepts and publishes comments is demonstrating its commitment to open dialogue. When tools are provided on the blog so a post can easily be shared in social media, it invites others to engage and become brand ambassadors for your content. When a blog can be subscribed to through an RSS feed or email posts, it helps you build a dedicated fan base for your organization or business. A blog that invites guest posts or features posts from others touched by the organization sends the message that the organization is embracing its own experience in all its facets and values these many different voices. Blogging – if managed well – can build a sense of community and purpose for an organization or business.
Tip #6: It can help you garner media attention. A blog can showcase a personal side to your organization or business to journalists. If you have issued a news release about a new program, consider issuing a blog post, in the first person, that shares why your organization is doing this new program and your commitment to it. As in my example above, a blog may expose a journalist to people your organization has helped or assisted, and the journalist may find their stories so compelling that he or she wants to feature them in a broader way. A blog can also be a valuable tool for issuing a statement on current events in the first person, if your organization or business needs to weigh in on a court decision, research development or breaking news.
Tip #7: You improve find-ability. One added value to regular blogging, is it can help you improve find-ability and search engine rankings. Newer content tends to rank better than older content with search engine algorithms. You also want to have plenty of key words populating your blog posts by organically discussing topics that relate to your work. Over time, your blog should generate inbound links from other sources, directories or partner organizations, and these will also contribute to growing your visibility and search engine rankings.
Talk to Us: What do you like (or hate) about blogging? How does blogging help you market your organization or business? How does blogging assist you as a professional?
Featured image courtesy of Search Engine People Blog on FlickR and licensed via Creative Commons.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.