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Five tips to get the most from your charity’s blog

28 July 2015

Writing a blog can be a great way to generate regular, fresh and engaging content for your charity. But starting a blog can seem like a daunting undertaking – will you have enough to write about? Will anybody even read it?

At Macmillan Cancer Support, our Community News Blog is a key way for us to communicate with members of our Online Community and other people affected by cancer – and for them to respond to us.

Here are some of the key lessons we’ve learned about running a successful charity blog.

Have a content plan

It can be all too easy for a blog to fall to the bottom of your priority list, and to say to yourself “I just don’t have any ideas for the blog this week.” To make sure you have enough content to keep the blog active, it really pays to plan ahead.

Think about campaigns and events that your charity has planned, but also external and seasonal events that you can use as a hook for content. Even for content that isn’t time-sensitive, it can help to brainstorm ideas and put them into the plan, so you aren’t struggling for ideas at the last minute. Plans can always be altered if something unexpected happens that you want to react to.

BBCWhen the BBC adapted The C Word by Lisa Lynch as a drama starring Sheridan Smith, we knew this would be a big talking point for Macmillan’s Online Community members. We were able to plan a blog post in advance, asking members who watched it to share their thoughts – and generating one of our most commented posts ever.

Remember: it’s not your news page

A blog isn’t a place to simply broadcast your organisation’s message or write content that sounds like a press release. It’s supposed to be engaging, personal and relatable.

Titles like “We’ve launched our new campaign” won’t get you many clicks. Think about an angle that will get people talking about the concept behind the campaign instead. Can you tell an individual story or ask a question that will prompt a debate?

When I was asked to use the Community News Blog to promote Macmillan’s Reach Out campaign, I encouraged our readers to engage by asking the question “what’s the best thing someone’s done to support you?

Be human

A blog post should come from an individual, not an organisation. If you’re writing posts yourself, don’t be afraid to use ‘I’, to use a little of your own voice, and to share snippets of information about yourself (nothing too personal, obviously!).

However, being responsible for the blog doesn’t mean writing every post yourself – it can be more about commissioning and supporting others to write. Blogs by frontline staff, or by your service users themselves can be great ways to bring your charity’s work to life.

For example, WWF’s blogs are largely made up of updates from conservation workers in locations around the world. Time to Change’s blogs give a voice to real people affected by mental health issues.

Real voices can be more relatable for the audience and can be bolder and more opinionated that someone writing in the capacity of an employee.

Make the message go further

Writing great content is only half the story – of course, you want to get it out there and make sure people are reading it. The principal of COPE (create once, publish everywhere) is a useful one here – what other channels do you have where you can make use of this content?

You could consider integration with your main website, linking to individual blog posts from relevant content pages. This could be done manually, or through a keyword-based feed.

Your blog posts can also make great content for your social media channels or newsletters. Scope produced lots of great blog content for its End the Awkward campaign, which it shared widely on its social media channels, making use of the #EndtheAwkward hashtag on Twitter.

Measure success

As with everything else in communications, measuring and analysing your blog is essential for knowing what works best for your audience. Pageviews are important, but there are lots of other useful metrics to keep an eye on, including: number of comments, likes, shares, time on page, and whether people are clicking on any links you’ve included.

The most valuable metrics will vary depending on your charity and the purpose of your blog – and so will the best ways to achieve good numbers. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting, learning and adapting to make your blog content more and more successful.

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Priscilla McClay

senior online community officer, Macmillan Cancer Support

Priscilla is an experienced digital communications professional with a particular focus on digital content, blogging and community management. She leads on all editorial content for Macmillan's Online Community, a peer-to-peer support community for people affected by cancer. Previously Priscilla was web content editor at British Waterways (now the Canal & River Trust).