Blogging 101

Editor’s Note: I recently attended WordCamp Richmond, which was all about blogging using WordPress. I learned a lot, felt overwhelmed at times and was inspired to write several blogs. This is the first one. Part 2 will focus on blog comments and Part 3 will talk about communities and blogging.

When colleagues learn I have a blog, they often say to me, “I need to start one.” My next question to them is why?

Don’t get me wrong, a blog is a great communications tool. However, if you don’t have a communications plan or a purpose for writing the blog, your blog is going to go into cyberspace and nothing will happen.

So why should you have a blog? During a recent WordCamp in Richmond, Va., Bradley Robb, a digital producer with INM United offered four reasons to blog, including:

  1. Building Community
  2. Establishing authority: “If you’re the one with the mic people obviously assume you know what you are talking about,” he notes.
  3. Building fresh content
  4. Engaging directly with clients, customers or peers

Once you’ve decided that a blog is an appropriate communications tool for you or your client, you will want to establish an editorial calendar. I post on Wednesdays and Sundays so my calendar has all the Wednesdays and Sundays listed. I then go through and note possible topics. For example, I knew I would be attending WordCamp Richmond so I marked the dates closest to the camp as topics related to the camp.

In September I always note that I will have three to four posts around the National Federation of Press Women conference. January is a good month to have a post around resolutions related to communications.

An editorial calendar Bradley says “is a great way to make sure your blog doesn’t die.” Since establishing my schedule and calendar, I have never missed a post. A calendar forces consistency for me. When I run low on ideas, I have to spend some time researching so that I don’t come up short on a day that I post. A calendar also leads to new ideas. I met a student the other week for breakfast after he asked for advice about communications in the non-profit field. He tweeted about it, and it inspired a post on a day when I had not yet decided what to write about.

The final benefit of an editorial calendar is that it forces consistency. Thanks to my calendar I have never missed posting on a Wednesday or Sunday. My readers have come to expect twice weekly posts. I don’t want to disappoint.

When you’re ready to blog, don’t forget to create your editorial calendar. Whether you post once a week or once a month, it will help you with your content.

Are you ready to blog?

How to Help a Student

I had breakfast this morning with a student from VCU. I was introduced to him by email through a colleague who had spoken with him. James wanted to know more about PR and, specifically, about PR work in nonprofits.

Early in my career I had good mentors and met with individuals who were willing to share their experiences and advice so I’ve always tried to do the same. I have one rule, though, if we’re going to meet in person, it has to be breakfast. That way I can tell how committed they are.

James was committed. He arrived by bike through thick fog and had lots of questions. He shared his experiences, too, and he’s on the right track. I suggested some articles for him to read and websites to review. I also encouraged him to get on LinkedIn because most college students aren’t, but most recruiters are. I encouraged him to connect with me. I’m perusing my list of contacts for some additional introductions for him.

So why take the time out of my schedule to meet with students? I enjoy helping them. And I love recalling my college days and the anticipation of what was ahead of me. The students always remind me of why I do what I do and of some of the basics that may have slipped.

It’s a win for both of us.

I hope it was worth the bike ride, the fog and the early morning breakfast. I think his tweet means it was.

Have you thought of offering your wisdom to a college student? If you’re already doing it, what other advice would you offer?

Journalism Lead Is Much Like a Woman’s Skirt

Women's skirts

A story lead is much like a woman's skirt.

The first paragraph of a story is much like a woman’s skirt. It has to be short enough to attract but long enough not to reveal too much.

When you read that, I’m quite certain you completely understand the purpose of a lead in a story. That definition came from a communications associate in Uganda and was shared with a group of us participating in communications training.

As reporters and writers, we are taught in college that the lead should hook us into the story. My journalism professor likened it to someone grabbing you by the throat and pulling you into the story. That always seemed a bit rough to me, so the skirt analogy resonated with me.

Simply put, the lead is your promise to the reader. It must capture the idea of your story and encourage the reader to continue. It’s important to make each word count.

I had not thought about leads in many years. Sure, I write them almost every day, or at least weekly. But as we discussed leads with individuals who were not familiar with the term, it really forced me to think about leads and how I was writing my story.

A colleague asked me, “How do I know what to include in the lead?” My answer was a technique that had been shared with me numerous times in my career and is known as the “tell-a-friend” technique. You imagine your friend – or neighbor or mom – asking what your story is about. You then answer the question in one sentence, capturing the essence of the story.

It’s good advice. Sometimes it’s good to return to the basics.


NAA Says “Smart is the New Sexy”

“Smart is the new sexy,” says the Newspaper Association of America.

NAA "Smart is the new sexy" campaignThe NAA launched a new campaign last week designed to promote the value of newspaper media. In a press release, the NAA said the “campaign celebrates the distinctive editorial, advertising and community attributes delivered by newspapers.”

Three different ads leverage a blend of engaging illustrations and entertaining anecdotes to reinforce the value of newspaper media among existing and prospective consumers.

Highlighting the multiplatform experience that is today’s newspaper, QR codes and digital prompts link audiences to a campaign Web page, where they are encouraged to share their own connection with newspapers through social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook.

“The newspaper brand remains very strong in the hearts and minds of consumers,” said NAA President and CEO Caroline Little. “The campaign speaks to the many reasons people value their newspapers, and to the various platforms through which newspapers deliver that value.”

Mike Hughes, president of The Martin Agency, said about the campaign which his company created, “We’re delighted with the ‘Smart is the new sexy’ tagline: The truth is that being smart is important and attractive.”

The campaign comes on the heels of recent findings from comScore that indicate a 20 percent year-over-year increase in total visits to newspaper websites in the most recent survey period and double digit growth in other audience engagement categories.

How are newspapers important to you?