While most agencies and government offices focus their online communication efforts via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, there is an extremely valuable platform that these offices can take advantage of.
It's the four letter word…B-L-O-G.
With the increase of citizen journalism and the growing number of blogs that are shared on news sites, the credibility of the blog’s author often gets overlooked. Because of the easy access and usability of online articles, many people are turning to blogging to voice their opinions and points of view.
Blogs can be very helpful and useful tools when wanting to learn about someone’s personal or professional experiences. It allows us to connect to a larger world and community of writers or bloggers. In this week’s blog, I want to share my opinion on how blogs can help offices/department/agencies improve their community image and increase awareness. I also want to discuss why employees should blog and read blogs to enhance their own professional development.
Why should we care about blogging?
Quite simply, blogs are an excellent way to stay current. News travels down the blogging pipelines long before it appears in print and, in many cases, online magazines and journals. By visiting the blogs of similar agencies and offices, you gain the perspective of others working in your field, confronting similar issues and finding various solutions:
Reason #1: Writing a blog keeps you current. You’ll want to know what’s going on in the world before you start talking about it. Posting regularly to a blog encourages you to actively engage the process of information seeking and current awareness.
Reason #2: Blogs are an advocacy tool. If you want change, you have to talk about it. Blogs are a great forum, not only for exposing the world to the issues facing local communities, states and our country, but also for thinking through your ideas and cultivating means of expressing them effectively.
Reason #3: Blogs build community. Some of you are probably thinking that no one will read what you have to say. As it turns out, no matter whom you are and what you write about, there will be others who share your interests.
Reason #4: You are unique. One of the problems with working in government is image. Stereotypes of government employees abound. Publishing a blog is an opportunity to demonstrate your or your agency’s individuality and, thereby, work to dispel some of those pervasive myths.
Even if you don’t think of yourself or your agency as unique, you have a right to voice concerns, promote events and resources and increase awareness of certain topics and issues that are unique to your agency/office.
Reason #5: It's easy, so no excuses. There are many, many tools that help make it painless to write and publish your own content.
I personally have found that reading blogs helps promote my own professional development by reading what others are doing and what is working in other govenrment offices. By sharing your knowledge and skills through a blog, you will open yourself up to a community of your peers who appreciate the information you have to share and will comment and share your information. This is a great tool to boost your own self-esteem and help you feel that your work is valuable in the federal, state or local government.
How Blogs Can Help with Marketing and Community Engagement
There are hundreds of ways that government agencies and offices are using blogs already. The most obvious application is for news and updates, which you need to be able to update frequently and easily. Here are a few other ways blogging can be used as a marketing and outreach tool:
Promote events. Create a blog that promotes your office/department/agency events and programs. Reach out beyond the visitors to your regular website. Set up an RSS feed for your blog and alert everyone in your community that they can include your headlines on their sites or can use an RSS newsreader to see what’s up.
E-commerce sites try to turn each visitor into a repeat customer. Government offices and agencies can try this too. Put an e-mail subscription form on the blog site and encourage visitors to sign up. This type of permission-based marketing is your chance to send your news straight to the user’s in box on a regular basis. Make your blog stand out from the crowd by including some special content that captures readers’ interest. For example, include a “quote of the day” from a famous literary work, run a trivia quiz each Friday or share an interesting fact about your community each week. Don’t be afraid to develop a unique voice for your blog, whether it’s that of a friendly helper that explains mysteries or an authoritative approach that focuses on giving “just the facts.”
Engage your community. Post news about the latest trends and issues affecting your office/agency. Invite comments and suggestions. It’s a great way to engage your community and get helpful feedback and ideas.
Build new ties. Are you trying to reach a new area of your community? What about offering a blog in another language to provide short entries on upcoming programs, services and new resources? Perhaps you are trying to reach out to millennials in order to create more civic engagement among this age group.
What about starting a blog-style newsletter that’s just for millennials? You can focus on special services for and resources for them or how civic engagement and involvement can boost their career. Some blogs allow you to have extended entries and include feature articles.
Does your agency or office have a blog or do you have one personally? Share the link below in the comments section and we can build our own govie blogosphere. If not, what are your “go to” blogs?.... Other than GovLoop of course!
Emily Arnold is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.