August 7, 2013 at 8:43 pm #179639
My agency is going to launch an internal blog to replace our outdated, quarterly employee newsletter, and I’m excited to be acting as “producer/editor” for this project. I want to provide contributors with best practices and guidelines. Anyone have any experience with internal blogs and/or any best practices to share? I’ve already listed keeping posts concise, writing in a conversational tone, and responding to comments in a timely matter. Any other suggestions? Thanks!
August 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm #179679
Couple quick ideas:
-Find a regular rhythm – too often I find blogs start out good and then 4 months later it’s a dead zone and no updates. Key is just committing and holding a schedule (1 a week)
-For contributors – give them a schedule, remind them, and have backups. Most people say they’ll help but get busy so need reminding and then backup if really can’t do it
-Topics – you can try lots of fun series like “Employee of Week” and ask 5 questions to a person. Could do project of week & same thing – highlight 3 items. Generally lists and bullets work – 5 tips on X, 3 ideas on Y VS huge long blog posts
-Perhaps brainstorm a list of topics with some co-workers and writers and then have the writers access to list so can look at topics when they are stuck
August 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm #179677
- Have fun with titles! Aside from good content, clever, witty, informative titles are a great way for writers to think creatively.
- Bring in stuff from outside your agency – news stories, research work, reports, documentaries, etc – that might be relevant to the work of your colleagues.
August 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm #179675
Happy to help, Janna.
1. Email, email, email. It’s one to post it. It’s another to get it in people’s workflow. Like Steve said, set a schedule for posting, but also pick a schedule for sending your posts – daily, weekly, etc. Pick a day of the week, make it part of people’s rhythms
2. Images. Include pictures whenever you can. Employees at agency events. Employees in action. Images that represent your mission. Customers / people who are benefiting from your agency’s mission.
3. People. Highlight and honor good work. Interview both senior leaders and front line employees. Blog the high points, but also include some rich media, if you can (video clip, audio / podcast – don’t worry too much about it being perfect). As Steve said, you could even have others write so it takes the pressure off you and spreads the insights around. If more people own it, they’re more likely to promote it as well.
4. Problems. What are the common challenges that you know people are facing? Can you address them in a respectful and constructive way, allowing people to share input on that subject?
I could probably come up with a bunch more, but that’s off the top of my head. I know there was another conversation on GovLoop awhile ago (years ago!) on blogging tips, so maybe you can search and find that (on the run right now, otherwise would grab it for you 🙂
Good luck, Janna. Blog back here and tell us how it goes – sharing your own lessons learned!
August 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm #179673
Thanks for the tips! I especially like the idea of asking 5 fun questions to an “Employee of the Week.” Great way to break down internal barriers and spark conversation!
August 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm #179671
Hey Andy — thanks for all the great tips! Just a few follow-up questions…
1) So would you suggest emailing out the blog posts in addition to just posting them to the intranet? We’re trying to use the intranet as a way to cut down on all the internal emails, but maybe doing a weekly digest would be beneficial when we’re first starting out until people become more aware of the blog.
2) When you talk about problems and common challenges (in point 4), are you referring to writing a blog post about common problems facing the agency as a whole? Or are you referring to talking to the contributors and finding out what issues they’re facing in their blogging?
Thanks again! And we’re still quite a few months away from going live, but I’ll definitely be sure to blog about my experiences blogging (how ironic…) once we do!
August 9, 2013 at 11:10 am #179669
To expand on the contributors – make sure that your leadership regularly participates. One of the best blogs years ago was the US Coast Guard blog, where Coasties could interact directly with the Commandant – Thad Allen. Very powerful and engaging!
August 9, 2013 at 11:12 am #179667
I agree with the “pictures” comment, but would also add short videos (sort of like Instagram and Vine). If you highlight your employees, they will engage and share your postings.
August 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm #179665
For your second question, I believe Andy was referring to individuals writing blog posts or starting discussions about common challenges that they face in the office and how they have overcome them. I think it would also be a good practice to talk with contributors and discuss challenges that they are facing in their blogging. This could lead to good discussions about how the process could work better and build a sense of camaraderie.
Hope this helps!
August 9, 2013 at 5:49 pm #179663
Gary T LefkoParticipant
We’ve leadership blog in US Forest Service/CIO for about two years now. Employees love them (when they do them). We have a schedule, have to send reminders, etc. We post to Sharepoint blog and we send all-CIO email to drive traffic (only way it would work). Folks don’t seem to have time to remember to check our employee engagement site so a little poke always works.
August 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm #179661
Here are 10 tips for creating an engaging internal blog:
1. Focus on your readers’ wants and needs.
2. Limit your content to xxx words.
3. Include images whenever possible.
4. Invite readers to respond.
5. Provide useful links that readers can click on for more information.
6. Tie local topics into national or global issues or trends.
7. Write to be understood, not to impress.
8. Vary your sentence length, but strive to keep paragraphs short.
9. Use active voice rather than passive.
10. Be authentic.
August 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm #179659
David B. GrinbergParticipant
Awesome advice so far. Here are two more approaches to consider, as appropriate:
- Every Monday have an installment for The Week Ahead, which will provide timely updates on key agency activities. This is an effective means for employee engagement via information sharing, which may also boost morale. Employees want to be “in the loop” and “in the know.”
- Internal blogs may also be successful for enhancing transparency agency-wide on controversial internal issues of employee concern. For example, furloughs, budget matters, sick buildings, moving locations, etc. The key here is to be as transparent as possible and have an open dialogue via the blog to let employees speak out and be heard.
I hope this helps, along with the other awesome advice from Steve, Andy and the others. Good luck with it!
August 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm #179657
Thanks Samantha and Andy — I think that would be a great idea to us to have regular discussions with contributors built into the schedule for everyone to share what’s working, what’s not, and brainstorm ideas for improvement. I’ll definitely try that out once we launch!
August 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm #179655
Thanks David! All of this advice has been extremely valuable!
August 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm #179653
Thanks Rick — this is a great list and I worked several of them into our “blogger guidance” cheat sheet! Do you have a suggestion for the number of words you think works best for the limit?
August 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm #179651
Be interested to hear others views, but my take is that 800 words is the ideal number of words for a blog, some of my posts run a bit longer/shorter, but 800 feels about right. If you start getting too long, just split them up for multiple posts and turn it into a blog series.
Regardless of the length, bolding headers, bullets and lists is a nice way for readers to quickly consume information if they are reading quick and skimming through the post. Be sure to keep us posted on your best practices/lessons learned once you start up the project! Lots of great information here to get started.
August 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm #179649
Gary T LefkoParticipant
Is someone going to post a “all-inclusive” blogging tips cheat sheet for (us) interested downloaders?
August 14, 2013 at 2:32 am #179647
I’d be happy to post our guidance once it’s finalized.
August 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm #179645
Truckloads of great advice thus far; allow me to offer a few more that I hope are useful:
- The substance of a blog post can be an embedded video message from a sincere leader, a compelling graphic about budget, or live coverage of an important meeting. Think about ways to do more than the first-person written account.
- A senior leader can’t be expected to know the answer to every question raised in the comments section — create a list of subject matter experts throughout your agency to whom you can quickly turn to help provide answers (and then document answers to popular questions in a place you can link to from the blog).
- You’ll get a lot of questions about how many people are reading posts and the like. Find and use an analytics tool that will get you the info you need, ideally in realtime, about user activity.
- There is no one response to all 75 of the agitated commenters on the post about sequestration that will make them all understand and be happy. Help your leaders avoid going down that rabbit hole.
- Anonymity can help introverts get involved in the conversation, and it can facilitate unconstructive drive-by commenting. Choose your identification policies wisely.
- There is often a really interesting inside story behind the things your agency tells the rest of the world in a press release or congressional testimony. Find those stories and tell them on the blog rather than rehashing what you shared publicly.
Hope it goes well — keep us posted, Janna.
August 29, 2013 at 2:33 am #179643
Thanks for the unique advice! Your tips on comments and analytics bring up some great points that would be best dealt with upfront — much appreciated!
September 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm #179641
Create groups of blog contributors to share the burden of feeding the blog. Fatigue kills most blogs.
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