Well, dear readers, it's been a while. . .
My absence from blogging has got me thinking about some of the core issues with Web communications and, for that matter, social media communication outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
A while back in a lively Communications Advisory Board discussion, Joe Connell used a term that resonates with me to this day - "The tyranny of the urgent."
In the rush of the day to day, it can be hard to make communications a top priority. Even when you're a communicator by trade. For the last few weeks I've been guilty of pushing TOW to the bottom of my to-do list. Not because I don't think I need to post, but other urgent items get in the way.
Having something to say.
My idea of having a blog that contains worthwhile content seems to be at odds with what electronic communications experts advise as the rate of post. I just can't be useful 3 times a day - or 3 times a week for that matter. I think that's why tweeting and blogging can get a bad rap - and people joke that the content is of the "what I had for lunch" variety.
I envisioned this blog as having useful, thoughtful content. And that can be hard to crank out with great frequency (at least for me.)
Do these issues resonate with you?
Shared content is the easiest and why ANR blogs like the Food Blog and Latino Briefs Digest work. The job of posting is spread out among many authors.
Aggregate. Sometimes just passing along an outside item of interest is enough. Remember - the Web is all about pointing.
Serialize. Breaking a long post down into several parts gives you more content and makes your blog easier for busy people to read.
Pay yourself first. Financial experts advise that paying yourself first is the surest way to save. Fitness experts advise working out first thing in the morning so you have no excuses later in the day. Notice I'm posting on Monday?
Create a backlog. Write multiple posts when you've got the time or you're feeling inspired. Keep a file of post ideas.
Have you got a favorite strategy? Pass it along!
Not so fast.
This week our own News and Information Outreach in Spanish (NOS) has launched a new blog. And I have to say - this is a great example of how blogs can have an edge over other communication tools.
For years, I have subscribed to Latino Briefs Digest. Myriam Grajales-Hall and her team put together this informative monthly e-mail update - and it's great. But I admitted to Myriam that I am often guilty of not reading the e-mail. Why? I know there's going to be great information there, but I'm often busy; so I find I give it a cursory once over and tell myself I get to it later. Which of course I never do.
But this week Latino Briefs Digest has been transformed into a blog. Brilliant! Now I get my news in more easily digestible bites - and Myriam and her team have the added benefit of communicating with their audience on a more frequent basis.
Now as for this blog - I'm going to be away for a few weeks. But Brenda Dawson has graciously agreed to guest blog for me while I'm away. I'm looking forward to reading her posts!
On the heels of the success of the ANR Food Blog comes the ANR Green Blog. ANR stories about natural resources, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy — everything "green" — is on the Green Blog. New posts are added at least once a week. If you're using Site Builder 3.0 you can add this blog to your Web site as an asset; step-by-step instructions are on the Stories page of the Toolkit.
Jeannette Warnert is looking for contributors for this new Blog - so if you've got something to say we'd love your input. One of the reasons the Food Blog is such a success is the number of contributors - so let's get this one off to a good start!
After last week's post you're all on the shared content bandwagon right? If you still need a little nudge, here are some fun facts about the Food Blog from Jeannette:
- The hit counter says the site has been visited 27,700, but that doesn’t include hits to the information when it is feed onto other sites.
- The feed is growing in popularity. Currently, 12 counties carry the feed on the front page of their websites and one site, Ventura, has a link to the blog.
- Another indicator of the blog’s readership came from Mary Reed of the Post Harvest Technology Center, who sent Jeannette the following e-mail:
“I wanted to let you know that, as a result of my ANR Food Blog post of twelve days ago, we have received over 100 requests for the home storage of fruits and vegetables poster. Previously we used to receive 1-4 requests/week. These requests are coming from all over the country. Do you know if the blog is picked up by other media outlets? It’s been very interesting to see this groundswell of response, and I thought you might be interested.”
So here's a quick and easy tutorial on how to set up a blog for shared content:
You can do this to a new or existing blog.
First, in the Administration section of your Blog, change (for an existing blog) or set (for a new blog) the "Post Options" to "Blog Owner and Moderators May Freely Post" from the drop down menu.
In the User Administration section of Administration Tools, you're going to add your contributors. In this example, I'm going to add Sonya Valea Hammond as a contributor to my blog.
I type Sonya's name into the box.
The system finds 2 Sonyas, I pick the one I want and click if I want her to be a contributor or a moderator.
Choose moderator if you don't need to approve that person's posts; click contributor if you want to look them over before they go live.
Keep doing this until you have added all of your contributors. If you have a lot of contributors it can also be helpful to set up a Collaborative Tools group.
One of the real success stories out of the Toolkit team is the Food Blog. This idea, hatched up by Jeannette Warnert, was a way to highlight some of the Division's activities around a topic everyone could understand: food.
But the Food Blog serves another purpose. A vehicle for providing easy access to client focused content to anyone with the ability to create a link. With the ability to add blogs to any Site Builder 3.0 Web site, anyone across the Division could add this feature to a site.
Voilà! Instant content.
Newspapers and magazines have been using this feature to add value to their print content and drive traffic to their Web sites.
The Los Angeles Times uses this concept in their L.A. at Home feature, where you'll find the Master Gardener in Training among other writers. L.A. at Home tends to cover a broad array of topics, but strategic tagging lets the reader hone in on the topics they care about.
Sunset uses the Fresh Dirt blog to counter the decreasing number of pages available to cover gardening in their print publication. The blog is also used to drive traffic back to the main Sunset Web site.
Another example is the Opinionator section of the New York Times. This I don't think works as well as the others, as readers tend to follow a topic or a specific writer rather than opinion in general.
So how do you make this concept work for you?
- Enlist the talents of willing participants and set up a schedule for posting
As a writer for the Food Blog, I received an assignment and a deadline from Jeannette when the project was launched.
- Make it easy
Jeannette strong-armed - Oops! I mean recruited - enough participants so that we only have to post once or twice over the course of a year.
- Organize the tags with the reader in mind
With so many writers, the tags can get out of control. Think about setting up some standard tags at the outset that your writers can use. Or, as moderator of the blog, you can re-edit the tags to consolidate the number of tags. A tag list with (1) after each entry isn't very helpful to the reader.
Next post - a quick tutorial in how to set this up in the ANR Blog system.