So, You Want to Start a Blog?
You have something to say, and you’re looking for the right platform to say it on. Blogging can be a great way of communicating long-form content to a specific audience. But be aware, there are blogging pitfalls that you’ll want to avoid as well as roadmaps that can lead the way to success.
Are You Ready for This?
The Web Content Team has seen a lot of LU blogs come and go. Some have taken off, while many have sputtered out. Then there are those that didn’t even get off the ground with more than a few posts! Because of this, you can understand why our team may be a bit cautious when we’re asked about setting up a new department blog. We know that the idea of a blog can be attractive, but the responsibility that comes with it can be too much to handle for some.
Blogging takes well-written content, a targeted audience, and a lot of time. If you can check all these boxes, then you might be good to go. But if not, it may be best to wait until you have everything in place.
Write for Your Readers
When writing a blog, you need to have a clear understanding of who your audience is. If you don’t know who they are, your content may be too general to catch anyone’s attention. Rob Mills from GatherContent, a content operations platform, says this about audiences: “There’s an adage in our line of work that says if you create content for everyone, you create content for no one. This is because content should be specific to user needs and so your audience is never ‘everyone.’”
When you write for a specific audience about something they are interested in or need to know, it’s easier to get their attention, and most importantly, get them reading.
If You Build It, They Will Come … Maybe
Okay, you did it. You wrote your first post! Congratulations! Now your audience will flock to it, right? Wrong. They won’t flock to it. Not now. Maybe not ever. But there are things you can do to point them in the right direction.
When it comes to getting the word out about your content, distributing it through email can be very effective. You will most likely need to rely on your own audience email list for this. If your content contains marketing material, you can reach out to your Marketing project coordinator to see if Liberty’s Marketing department is able to assist with distribution.
With 3.9 billion global email users projected to grow to 4.3 billion by 2023 (Statista, 2020), it’s clear that email is a favored form of communication by many. (10 Email Marketing Stats You Need To Know In 2021)
So, a monthly or bi-monthly email from you about your new post can be an effective way to let people know that you have some fresh content waiting for them to read.
Another great way to let people know about your new posts is through your social media channels. Hopefully, you have these set up and are already sharing shorter form content this way. Letting people know that a new post is live on social media can help draw your audience’s eyes to it.
And … You’ll Need Pictures
A header image adds visual appeal that pulls a reader into your content. It’s also mandated by the WordPress blogging platform for Liberty.edu’s department template. In order for this layout to function properly, you must have a header image sized at 954px by 350px at 72ppi. If you have access to Photoshop, here’s an Image Sizing Tutorial that can help. If not, use these free online image cropping and resizing tools:
Getting photos for your blogs can be tough. You know you can’t take copyrighted images from your web browser, so what are you supposed to do? Where can you get images for the web? If you can take high-quality images yourself, this may be an option. Or, there are sites out there that offer free stock images that you can actually use. Here are a few of our favorites:
You’ve read all of the text above and are ready to request your blog. Here are a few questions we’ll ask you—and some guidelines on how to answer.
How often will the blog be updated?
We generally recommend that you post every 2-4 weeks. If you post more than that, your audience can become overwhelmed. If you post less, they’ll forget about you.
Who will be responsible for updating it/writing posts?
This is important. Somebody has to do the work whether it’s a shared task in your department, or you assign it to just one person. Don’t assume that people already stretched for time will be able to fit it in their schedule. It can take many hours to publish a single blog post when you factor in writing, editing, proofreading, finding and sizing images, AND THEN distributing via social media, email, etc.
Who is the target audience for the blog?
You have to know this. Remember, your audience is key. If you’re blogging about something specific, make sure that your targeted group wants or needs to hear what you have to say.
What kind of subjects will be covered in the posts?
Remembering your audience, choose between timely information your people need to know or are already interested in. It’s a good idea to have a content plan that includes blog topics and a schedule for writing, proofing, publishing, and distributing each post.
What is the overall goal/purpose for the blog?
Having a vision is important. Without it, you’re scrambling for direction. Keeping your goal in the forefront gives you and your coworkers a clear understanding of why you are doing this – even when the going gets tough.
How will a blog meet needs that cannot be met through other existing media (i.e. social media, website, news stories, etc.)?
Before you double your work, it’s important you have a good answer to this question. If you’re already maintaining a social media account, why can’t you continue communicating to your audience this way?
How will you distribute/publicize the blog (newsletter, email, social media, paid ads, etc.)?
If you build it—will your readers find it? Probably not. Like we talked about above, you must have a way of telling your audience about your posts.
Get Ready. Get Set. Go!
If you’ve made it this far, there’s a good chance you’re well on your way to a successful start for your blog. And remember, the Web Content Team is always here to help. We also have some pretty great resources for you on our own Web Content Blog.
We wish you success in your new blogging adventure!
Web Content Specialist II — LU Web Content Team