It seems that more and more blog content is being generated on college campuses and from a variety of voices including college presidents, students, deans, faculty, and staff.
For college communicators, this is great news. Blogs are great tools to promote visibility for your institution. The fresh content they offer helps with your site’s SEO, and the variety of perspectives, personalities, and topics can provide the kind of authentic glimpses into academic life that your audiences value.
There are some steps you must take, however, to develop this type of content into a valuable asset for your institution. It seems many institutions are of the mentality, “If the campus writes it, they will read.” Not true. There are a number of elements that contribute to a good blogging presence.
Role of MarCom in Blog Sites
It’s in establishing that blog presence that the marketing communications unit can and should play a role. Surfing through a number (ok, a lot) of college blog sites, it becomes quickly evident that they are mostly random repositories of user-generated content often containing a list of links to blogs generated across campus. What is missing are the primary elements that draw readers to blogs and keep them coming back – context, point of view, navigability and organization. Too often, on campuses, the aggregate richness of what is being said through the blogging platform is lost because the college’s blog presence is fragmented.
Treat Your Institution’s Blog Content Like a Magazine
Because college and university blogs tend to be collections of various blogging voices from a variety of units, think about creating a magazine-style blog site. This will allow you to package and contextualize content for your audiences, give it a more cohesive presence and create a user-friendly way for site visitors to find the kinds of topics that interest them. WordPress, which many institutions are using, and others, offer many great magazine-style templates that will help you organize and feature content appropriately. Magazine style templates are characterized by having a home page, like this one to the right, that aggregates story snippets from the site’s sections – top stories so to speak. Then section landing pages that offer a quick glimpse at the content offered in those sections and then a page where the full narrative of the blog is contained.
Steps to Getting More Out of Your Blog Content
Here are some additional ways to get the most out of the blog content on campus.
- Review what’s being blogged about on campus and create umbrella content sections – i.e. student life, the admissions process, research, athletics…etc. Then develop subtopics for each of those content sections. The blog home pulls in snippets from the various sections, usually the most recent posts. The section landing page gives readers a sense of what content in that section is about, who the contributors of that section are, and list the variety of topics that section has to offer.
- Create an overall design for the institution’s blogs – related to your main website, but with enough distinction that site visitors know it contains user related perspectives.
- Think of topics that give readers some sense of the type of content they will find in that section – i.e. the label “faculty blogs” doesn’t give prospective readers much context.
- Blog posts should be accompanied by a date posted. While some subjects might be timeless, like news stories, blog readers find comfort and context in understanding when the content they are reading was posted.
- Make your bloggers’ identities, personalities, and interests known to readers and keep blog content from a personal point of view. Content with an associated person as the author has more credibility.
- Ensure that you have a good blend of voices appropriate to each of your blog sections.
- Keep posts fresh and current. Blog sites that don’t look busy with new content are unattractive to readers.
- Archive bloggers who are no longer actively posting.
- Try to have consistent contributors that readers can follow. Provide readers with an easy way to see other content written by familiar authors.
- Provide training and guidelines for your bloggers on how to be an effective blogger. There are many sites with tips about being a good blogger, here’s advice from Average Joe Blogger (http://www.avgjoeblogger.com/general/what-makes-a-good-blogger/). Also teach them the protocols to posting and tagging content appropriately.
- Provide an easy, cloud-based publishing platform for your contributors so they can easily post from anywhere.
Finally, Promote Your Blogs
Add social media and sharing capabilities to all your blog pages and make sure that the authors are in the habit of sharing their blogs on social media sites once they are posted.
Find other outlets like tumblr through which to promote the blogs.
Additionally, look for places on your website to link to appropriate blog content. For example, your home page might have a link to the blog home page, but on your admission’s landing page, you would have a link to admissions related topics. If your site contains professor profiles and some of your professors blog, make sure there is a link in the profile to the page that features blogs the professor has written. If you have a good tagging system on your blogs, you could pull blogs tagged with certain topics onto pages related to those topics. For example, on the pages of your site that talk about study abroad you could include a widget that has the top or most recent blogs by students studying abroad with a link back to the blog site.
Then have some patience and you will find that if you take these steps, then, “If your campus writes it, they WILL read.”