5 Steps to Start a Blog

Have you been thinking about starting a blog, but you’re not sure how to get started? Well, stop thinking about it and do it. If you’re like me, though, you need a few steps to get started so here are five to move you forward.

Computer keyboard

The key to writing a blog is to stop thinking about it and write it. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Choose your topic. You can write about anything you want to write about but if you want a following try to narrow your focus. I started my blog as a way to communicate with members of National Federation of Press Women. I’m exposed to lots of information through conferences, training, list serves and business books, and I realized I could distill the nuggets from these sources so that others wouldn’t have to do the research. That’s my blog – Cynthia’s Communique.

Choose a platform.  I set up mine on WordPress because at the time that is what I was most familiar. I also like how easy it is for readers to post comments. Another platform is Tumblr, which is especially nice for short posts and photos. A colleague once described it as long-form Twitter. Whatever, you choose, take the time to read or watch the tutorials.

Create a content calendar. How often will you publish? Where will you find inspiration? I post every Wednesday and Sunday – it’s what works for me. During NFPW conferences, I post daily for the members who can’t attend. You may decide to post simply when you feel like it. A downside to that is that it’s challenging to grow your readership when readers don’t know when to expect a post.

I also keep a running list of ideas. I note key holidays and events that might be relevant for a blog topic. Sometimes I’m able to create evergreen posts that don’t have a time limit but I can use when I might be too busy. These are especially helpful for when I’m traveling and may not have the extra time needed to write a post. My content calendar is always with me so I can tweak it, rearrange it, add to it.

Write your blog. And then proof it and edit it. Even after you do that, you may post a mistake. Own up to it and correct it. My blog is usually a few hundred words. To get to those words, I often spend an hour or two researching my topic, interviewing people, distilling information and then putting the salient points on paper (well, on the screen). It’s a lot of work, and I must carve out time to do it. Be prepared to put in the prep work.

Market your blog. You can write a blog and post it, but that doesn’t mean anyone will see it to read it. It’s not like a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield. You need to employ SEO (search engine optimization or key words). You need to print it on your business card. You need to tweet it. You need to share it on Facebook. You need to talk about it. You should also read other blogs and write a comment if you have something relevant to share. You should link to other blogs and materials in your blog so that your readers know they’re getting something more than simply your thoughts.

These steps will move you forward. You’ll keep learning along the way, just as we all do. When you launch your blog, I hope you will send me a link so I can check it out.

(Thanks to CPW member Ann Lockhart for inspiring this blog.)

Blogs and Building Communities

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 final one. Part 1 focused on whether to start a blog and Part 2 focused on blog comments.

“We have a lot to talk about” was the refrain of several bloggers who write about their communities, whether it’s a neighborhood or a community built around the theater.

During the recent WordCamp Richmond several bloggers shared their experiences in keeping a community blog going.

Scott Berger writes about a small neighborhood in Richmond, Va., known as Oregon Hill. It’s near a major university, which has eroded some of the neighborhood’s character. He wanted to write about the community because “it’s such a great neighborhood.”

He also wanted to bring neighborhood concerns out in the open because “We weren’t getting through to the mainstream press. They weren’t really giving our viewpoint.”

John Murden also lives in a unique neighborhood in Richmond, known as Church Hill. “It’s a crazier neighborhood than I ever have lived in,” he told the audience. He cited the beautiful old houses and the hookers near his house. He started finding things that were important to the neighborhood such as historic preservation and the blog Church Hill People’s News was born.

Mike Clark and his wife created a blog around theater reviews, ShowBizRadio. “Our review was the two of us talking about the show and recording it and putting it up as a podcast,” he said. They added interviews with actors, producers and designers. Then they added a calendar with show times and audition dates. They started hiring writers. “Now we go to less shows, but have more content,” Mike said.

Scott says he tries to recognize the journalistic venture in his blog, but he also includes his opinions. And because he’s covering a small neighborhood, he has to be respectful of people’s privacy. He finds comments by listening, attending meetings and also checking out Craig’s List and foreclosures. A recent post highlighted a vintage 1950s blue vinyl chair and ottoman for sale. He then reminded the neighbors about an upcoming flea market.

John, too, pulls from wherever he can. “The best is when I do my own reporting,” he noted. One piece he was proud of was comparing crime data from the worst crime year to the present. It took a lot of time, and that, said the panelists was the difficult part. The blogs are not a full-time job for them and most don’t get paid. “It’s hard to find the time,” John said.

Added Scott, “ It’s a matter of time and energy.”

He’s had readers complain about his photography, but he has to laugh. He said he often takes the photos using his cell phone when he’s walking two dogs around the block. “They’re not going to be the best photos!”

They all agree that they need to find others to help with the blogs. Said Mike, “The site is not evergreen so if I don’t post something new within a few weeks, the site is dead.”

They keep doing it, though, because it helps their communities. Said Scott, “Sometimes people don’t always know what’s going on in the next block. Let’s get together and figure out what’s going on and how we can address it.”

John said letting neighbors know about meetings led to the formation of a dog park in his community. And he helped get the word out about neighborhood clean-ups. “Here’s how you can make a real difference in our neighborhood in a couple of hours.”

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?