The following blog post recaps Marlene Oliveira's webinar presentation, Planning a Nonprofit Blog You Can Manage, into two parts. Part one discusses planning a blog, while part two focuses on executing that plan. You can watch the full webinar here.
Playing the Editor
Being an editor can be a tricky role, because even when you receive a guest post with great content, it may not be a fit for your audience. It takes commitment to keep your content subject matter consistent and focused.
The best way to achieve this is to establish a clear set of editorial guidelines. They outline the purpose and planning process of your blog. You can also share them with potential contributors, so they understand your blog's purpose before writing! This helps get first drafts from guest authors closer to the mark (saving time with editing), and prevents writers who don’t fit your blog from contributing. They also prevent you from having to repeat important points in emails (all the information is in your guidelines!), and it demonstrates a commitment to quality and consistency and reflects positively on you and your organization.
Crafting your Own Guidelines
Your guidelines should be clear, concise and include a(n)...
- Introduction to your blog, and its purpose.
- Brief description of your audience - in one or two sentences.
- Overview of the content types you publish.
- Linking policy: what links are acceptable and/or encouraged? Are promotional links allowed?
- Detailed outline of your blog’s style and formatting. What is the ideal word count? What font is used? What spacing and indentation is used? How long should sentences be? How are subheadings used? What spelling and grammar conventions do you adhere to? What’s the voice and tone? Think of every detail you can, and specify a specific method for it. This all contributes to the branding of your blog by creating a distinct and consistent feel.
- Clear submission process for topics and draft posts. What do you need to see first? Just the topic, or a full outline? Can ppl send completed posts for review if they feel it’s a good fit?
- Republishing policy: can guest authors reuse the content they wrote for you, elsewhere? How long do they have to wait before doing so? Can you yourself republish content on your blog?
- Outline of what guest authors should provide for self-promotion; a headshot, bio, and link to author’s organization etc.
- Late policy: What happens when submissions come in late? Do you offer an extension? Do you push their content slot back? You need to have a clear plan in place to avoid last minute confusion, or even conflict! For Marlene’s MarCommunity blog, when a post comes in late, it gets bumped the back of her rotation, and won’t get published for 3-4 months! You can sure this dissuades late submissions.
Make these guidelines accessible through a public URL published on your blog, so potential authors can read them before contacting you. Check out Marlene’s own Nonprofit MarCommunity guidelines, and learn more about how to craft your own.
Documenting your processes puts all your efforts in writing and helps you reflect and learn from them. It’s also allows others to help you! Whether you’re addressing how to format posts, how to create custom images, or even posts are going to be shared on social media, documenting them gives people the tools they need to contribute to the creation and promotion of content. For example, if someone knows your process and guidelines for creating a complementary image for your blog, they can do it for you.
Your documentation doesn’t have to be long - in fact it shouldn’t! But it should be thorough and thoughtful.
Keeping Up with Production
Starting up your own blog takes a lot of work - you have to roll up your sleeves and get things done. But even with the most diligent planning and effort, things still fall through. That’s why it’s important to have contingency plans in order to keep the ball rolling. The best way to do this is to compile an array of ‘evergreen’ blog posts.
Evergreen blog posts are posts that are not time-sensitive, therefore retaining their value regardless of when they’re posted. They are ready to post at a moment’s notice and are a good reserve to publish content on schedule, even when a guest author falls through.
Certain content types work best for evergreen posts, such as crowdsourced content (round-up posts). This format is straightforward, and always has value. You simply write an introduction, a conclusion, then ask a set of ‘experts’ to answer a question, and then share their answers and voices. It’s a popular content type, and is a win-win between you and the people who share their views.
Having evergreen posts prepped and waiting in reserve will save your blog from falling off its publishing schedule and will ensure things are always running smoothly.
Having a Mix of Contributors
Different contributors have unique styles and voices that add diversity and quality to your blog, and guest authors will increase exposure as they share their guest posts with their own networks.
Therefore, it’s important to have a variety of contributors in order to maintain consistency and reliability. For example, you may have a guest contributor who is unreliable, but produces quality content. Great! Keep them in your arsenal and publish their posts whenever you can; but also foster relationships with more reliable and consistent authors to contribute when the unreliable ones miss deadline.
Initially, people won’t have heard about your blog and it will take effort to solicit guest authors. This means being on the lookout for potential contributors! Seek out authors and extend invitations to contribute. This benefits your blog in the long-run by forming a pool of authors, and preventing you from having to beg past authors for another post. You’ll have enough people in your pool so that they will always come to you.
Who should you be soliciting? It can literally be anyone you feel would produce good content. But a good place to start is with colleagues, identified experts, other workers you have a relationship with, speakers at events you liked etc. This means you need to start thinking about your blog when you network and build relationships. Invite them to contribute to your blog if they’re a fit. It’s an easy way to kickstart relationships that may have otherwise sizzled out, and then those relationships can benefit your organization in other ways other than writing!
Promoting your Blog
How you promote your blog depends on your audience persona. Incorporate your partnerships and relationships into your promotion by asking others to share your work within their networks, thereby gaining exposure you wouldn’t normally have. Aside from having others contribute, featuring strategically chosen organizations in case studies or profiles you publish also helps.
Ultimately, realize that getting a blog up-and-running is a long process. Marlene took around a year of hard work to get her NPMC blog streamlined and manageable, and it may take just as long. But as long as you’re using your time efficiently with all the steps outlined in this article, and you commit to seeing your blogging project out long enough to determine whether it’s worth the investment, you will be successful.
Executing a nonprofit blog you can manage is crucial, but having a plan in place is just as important. If you missed part one of this two part recap, read on: Planning a Nonprofit Blog You Can Manage.