Last week, I had the opportunity to ask Chris Garrett, co-author of “ProBlogger”, a few questions about the value of blogging for small non-profits. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Chris, he is a thought-leader among the blogging world and founder of “OMIQ“, a new media consulting firm. Most recently Chris gave a talk at the Successful Outstanding Bloggers conference (SOBCon08) in Chicago.
John: First of all, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to help my readers gain a better understanding of blogging. A lot of small non-profits already have a web-site. What are the differences between a traditional web-site and a blog?
Chris: A traditional website acts like a brochure. They can be informative, but there are few reasons why a visitor would want to return. They also tend to be very self-referential, me-me-me.
Blogs, on the other hand, have constantly updated content, built in ways to keep updated, such as feeds and sometimes email lists, and also a sense of community, through comments. On top of this, a traditional website is usually difficult to find in the search engines for all but their organizations name, because search results are largely driven by links, and there are few reasons to link to a traditional website unless the organisation is very good at promotion.
Blogs on the other hand link to each other all the time due to cross-blog conversations, and as a natural part of how blogging is done. You will find it a lot easier to get your blog found in the search engines, and by extension your organisations website, than you would a plain old traditional site alone.
John: Sometimes when non-profit folks want to implement a blog, they get resistance from the Board Of Directors, who see blogging as a waste of time. What’s the business value of blogging?
Chris: Search engine benefits I mentioned earlier are one way your bottom line will be directly improved by blogging, another is what the online world calls “stickiness” or the way certain types of websites get people to “stick around”.
How many organizations spend a fortune on advertising, only to have to repeatedly keep finding new visitors and prospects? That is because they don’t hold on to the people they attract. You have to give a reason to stay in touch, otherwise you will have to keep paying for their attention, which gets very expensive.
We all know it takes multiple “touches” of a prospect before they will open their wallet, on occasions up to seven times. So you need some way to keep in touch with prospects. To get people to opt in to continued communication you need a hook to get them interested. What better way than valuable and interesting content?
A great use of blogs beyond these benefits is as a launch pad and recruitment platform for PR activities, and it is not just for press releases. Say you want to run a survey, do you spend money delivering packages to postal addresses? Send out staff with clip boards? If you already have an interested audience you can simply announce the survey (with appropriate incentive). Having an engaged audience is not just worthwhile but I would say essential in today’s business.
John: What the best way for Non-Profit to start a blog? What considerations and resources should these folks keep in mind?
Chris: The fastest and safest way is to seek advice, as you know with any communication medium there is potential to shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t take the right precautions. Failing that, start small, don’t go too public. Perhaps begin with a few articles and a monthly newsletter.
What I would absolutely NOT encourage is what some businesses do and see it as just another expense where you can write a cheque and have someone handle it. This is a road to problems that could be easily avoided. It has to be owned and accountable, it has to be run to communicate both ways, not just as an outlet for press releases and announcements.
First decide who the audience needs to be and second how you can absolutely delight that audience and truly engage them. If your audience is top of mind everything else will slot into place. If your own bottom line is top of mind then, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!