Thursday, July 22, 2010

Creating a Juicy Blog for Nonprofits

This month, Britt Bravo at the Have Fun, Do Good blog is hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The way the carnival works is a blogger volunteers to host the carnival and puts out a call for bloggers to submit articles on a particular subject. Britt, whose blog title tells us squarely that she thinks doing good and having fun belong together has chosen “How to Create a Juicy Nonprofit Blog” as the carnival topic. How fitting. So here’s my two cents:

When I talk with nonprofits about starting a blog we always start by talking about what the objectives of the blog will be. The answers usually cover things such as advocacy, education, get information out about what we do, fundraising, etc. No one has ever told me that they want to have a juicy blog.” But if they had they would probably be the one with the most successful blog. In my workshops I use a great slide originated by Chris Garrett which says we should blog about the overlapped area of what you know and what readers want.

This is the juicy midsection. The dictionary provided this definition of juicy: “thirst quenching.” Writing a blog should be fun – I know it is for me – and not a “going to the dentist” experience. (Right now I apologize to my dentist friends.) One of the basic tenants of good blogging is that it is personal – written from a particular individual’s point of view. How many of us check the reviews on Amazon before purchasing a book. We value that personal opinion of another person we don’t even know sometimes more than the professional, well thought out words the publisher has provided on the dust jacket. (Is it really a dust jacket if you read it online?) Don’t let your blog read like pablum on a dust jacket.

We all know the importance of storytelling for nonprofits but how many of us do it well? Good storytelling is really juicy. We can “taste” the pain and the joy. It quenches our thirst. This can most effectively be done in a blog from the perspective of individuals. Why is Law and Order so successful after all these years and on so many TV channels all the time. Its opening lines….”This is their story” ……. They don’t feature a lot of blood and gore or fancy sets or costumes. We are captivated by the story and the turns it takes as the story unfolds. And we always come back for more or are willing to watch the same story over again.

Here are some basic tips to get into having a “juicy blog.”

1. Lively Bio (Maybe even a little bit juicy) - Whether you have one or more bloggers have their personal bio – not just professional credentials in the sidebar. Include details like that they have three cats and are a soccer fan. A picture of the person who is writing helps us connect with them. If you have multiple bloggers, each article should be signed by the author.

2. Content - This is the most important aspect of your blog. Don’t just talk about your organization. That can be boring and repetitive. Sorry, but it's true. Write about your cause on a larger scale and what is happening elsewhere. Invite guest bloggers. Don’t be predictable.

3. Pictures and graphics - ALWAYS use pictures and/or graphics in your articles. Almost ALL of us connect better on a visual level.

4. Get your readers involved – Include questions that encourage comments. Readers comments truly enhance the value of your blog. Even if it isn’t all “You are wonderful” feedback. Run a poll and have a box with your top ranked articles.

5. Promote the next installment and related posts – Is the article one in a series? Leave hints about what aspects of the subject will be addressed in future posts. Ask readers what else they would like you to write about a topic.

6. Link! Link! Link! – Link to other related articles both on your blog and other blogs. Links to other blogs will be appreciated by both your readers and the other bloggers.

7. Predictable pattern – Sort of “Law and Order format style. Feature a particular topic every Friday. The Geraldine Dodge Foundation’s blog

has “Poetry Fridays” and features poets on Friday blog articles. Some bloggers post only a picture on Wednesday participating in the “Wordless Wednesday” phenomena. This causes people to come back to see what is happening with a particular pattern of interest to them.

Most of all, enjoy blogging! If you enjoy it, that will shine through. And if you approach it as a required task, that will shine through too.