Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of being part of a roundtable discussion on blogging at Red River College. Creative Communications instructor, Kenton Larsen, invited me and three other Winnipeg-based bloggers to share our thoughts on blogging with first year students. The other bloggers were Graham Hnatiuk of Progressive Winnipeg, Curtis Brown from Endless Spin Cycle and the enigmatic Policy Frog.
As part of their studies, all of the 75 students in Kenton’s class are starting their own blogs. So their questions and comments during the roundtable had immediate relevance. Some of the topics we covered were as follows:
Why do it?
For many, blogging is just another way to express personal opinions or ideas. For others it’s a way to build support for a particular cause or issue. Some use it as a business tool.
I think getting first year PR students to blog makes good sense. I started blogging and becoming familiar with other social media platforms because I knew that the practice of public relations was starting to change and that these communications tactics were going to become central. For me to assist clients to use social media, I had to use it myself to figure out how it all worked. In addition, having a blog and a broader social media presence helps to build your personal brand and stand out from your competition. It is another way to build credibility.
How do you decide what to blog about?
All of the bloggers on the panel seemed to agree that passion is a necessary ingredient. Finding something that you feel strongly about is the first step to successful blogging. If your goal is to build an audience (rather than just writing for yourself) explore the blogosphere to see who else is writing about the topic. Is there a unique slant or sub-niche you can employ in your blog to make it stand out from the crowd?
When I began exploring social media, I noticed that there were a lot of PR blogs that focused on this new communications medium. Although I was developing a passion for social media, I didn’t feel the world needed another blog with that as its sole focus. I did know that there are many people in the nonprofit and small business sector that take on PR roles as part of their many other duties. I thought a blog about basic public relations and communications practices might engage people and be useful to my clients.
How do you build a successful blog?
All of us on the panel shared that the audiences for our blogs grew over time and that it is not simply a case of “if you write it, they will read it”. Building an audience takes time and effort. Posting to your blog consistently helps. Being active in the social media world is also important. Commenting on other blogs or to podcasts, promoting your blog as part of your Twitter profile and linking to it on your Facebook page will make your blog more visible. You can also promote it through your offline networks—to friends, family and co-workers. I have a link to my blog as part of my e-mail signature along with the title of my latest post. All of these tactics help to build an audience.
I made the point that a large audience is not always the goal of a blog–particularly if you have a very specific niche. A blog with 30 committed, engaged followers can be just as successful as one with thousands. It all depends on what you want to get out of it.
It was a great discussion and I am looking forward to checking in on the student blogs as they progress. You can find them listed on Kenton’s blogroll. As I know many of the students are now checking out this blog, I’ll throw out the invitation to any of them who would like to write a guest post on the topic of public relations practice (another way to build an audience for your own blog). Get in touch with me if you’re interested.
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