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Blogging 101

So, an elected official recently asked me for some advice on starting his own blog. Here's my tips - and they'd apply to anyone trying to launch a thought leadership blog: organization presidents, CEOs, candidates, etc.

  • Keep the tone and voice personal. There's nothing worse than an 'official' blog that reads like a stack of press releases - or has been flattened and dried out by the communications office. It should be your voice. Don't forget to be funny.

  • Write it yourself. That'll help maintain the tone, and it'll also help ensure that you're never in that awkward place of not knowing what you 'wrote'. If you want to include other voices, that's good, but have them write over their own names, too -- either as guest bloggers or regular contributors.

  • Post daily, or as close to daily as possible. People who are blog readers tend to surf down a list every day. If you're static, they'll stop visiting.

  • Keep your posts short and sweet. Never write six paragraphs when one pointed sentence will do.

  • Vary the content. Along with ruminations on policy stuff, post your reflections on things you do outside the building - especially informal stuff, like art walks, street fairs, etc. Mention people you meet - especially regular citizens. Nothing like the buzz that comes from being noticed by an elected official.

  • That said, don't be afraid to come back to a single theme again and again. Bloggers tend to ride hobby horses, but that's OK - it's a way of keeping folks updated on something they care about. It's also a way to drive the conversation on a topic.

  • This may be obvious, but it's worth saying: Don't post when you're exhausted, sick, angry, or drunk. Blogging is easy, instant, and forever.

  • Keep a digital camera in your office, car, briefcase, etc. Never know when you'll want a photo - and visual content always improves a blog.

  • Use lots of links. They're free, after all - and they're what the net is all about. When talking about a policy proposal, summarize in three sentences and link to another document; no reason to reinvent the wheel in each post. Of course, don't just link to policy stuff - link to all kinds of things in the community. People will appreciate the attention.

  • Use the "trackback" feature. Basically, this allows you to reach out to other people's blogs and put links on their blog back to you. Nice, huh?

  • Have a blog with open comments. If you require user registration before commenting, you'll lose 95% of the comments. The conversation will never get started. Once you've got huge numbers of comments (over 100 on every post), then consider going to a registration system. (Our most popular blog, BlueOregon, still does not do this.)

  • Open comments will, of course, attract trolls. Their goal is to fight, irritate, and disrupt meaningful discussion. Ignore trolls and encourage others to do the same.

  • If you get a great idea from another source (blog, media, or personal), give credit where it's due. That can often get overlooked, but can lead to hard feelings. In the blogosphere, people will often say, "Hat tip to so-and-so for the link/idea/mention." That's enough.

  • Use the titles of your posts carefully. Google will give special weight to the words in your blog post titles, so make sure appropriate keywords are in there.

  • Promote your blog ceaselessly. That means posting comments elsewhere with a link back. That means mentioning it to people. That means driving traffic by posting things people want on the blog ("oh, want my powerpoint slides on that? get 'em on my blog this afternoon.") Wherever you can, get people to link to your blog. Look for blog aggregators that will automagically syndicate your content. In Oregon, that's ORblogs.com.

  • Use a "blogroll". That's a list of blogs you like in the sidebar. Besides being convenient to you, those folks will often blogroll you and thus drive traffic.

  • Final thought: Remember that your blog will drive many conversations - among your staff, media, other electeds and community leaders, and of course, those you're trying to influence and those trying to influence you. What you're doing is different than some teenager's ruminations on life; rather, you're doing a "thought leadership blog" and the power to influence can be huge.

Finally, pop in to Debbie Weil's blog on thought leadership and CEO blogs. Great stuff.

Posted on December 30, 2004 in