Last post, we looked at the key elements for blogging and how organizations can connect with blogs and their authors. In this post, we look at how organizations can blog and why, or if, they should.
The first question you have to ask yourself is “why should our organization have a blog?” Keeping up with the Joneses is not the right answer; there should be a strategic objective for starting a blog. If you’re not sure why and you can’t figure out a purpose or objective, perhaps you shouldn’t be starting a blog.
A Northeastern University and Backbone Media study revealed 5 factors that should be taken into consideration before making a decision to blog:
- Culture (does your organization have particular cultural traits worth revealing? Or conversely, does your organization have a bad reputation that needs improvement?);
- Transparency (transparency is crucial to establishing credibility and trust with an audience. While you do not have to install a live Web cam feed from your President’s Office—it is okay to set boundaries—people want to see an honest picture of a company);
- Time (it takes a lot of time to set up, research and write a quality blog and engage the blogging community effectively);
- Dialogue (a company’s ability and willingness to engage in a greater dialogue with the blogging community is an important determinant in the success of their blog);
- Entertaining Writing Style and Personalization (the writing style and how much a blogger is prepared to reveal about their life, experience and opinions in a blog post bring a human side to a blog).
If you are purely thinking about another way to get your marketing message out, another outlet to sell tickets, you shouldn’t blog. Sure, blogging can get the message out or boost ticket sales, but it is not a quick fix and if you start out with marketing or promotions as a focus, you will never gain much traction or an audience.
Think about it: do your patrons really want to hear about the XYZ Orchestra performing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony? No. They already get that information through too many other channels. But do your patrons want to hear what your president has to say about the supposed decline of classical music, or the inner workings of an orchestra administration, or maybe even the anecdote on how Mahler’s Ninth Symphony was surprisingly scheduled this season? Perhaps. It depends what you write and what kind of information you are willing to give. The most important thing to keep in mind is to add value. Valuable industry news and conversations with notable colleagues from around the industry are just two directions to take.
If you do decide to blog, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Author (who will write the blog; interesting, authoritative voice);
- Audience (remember who you are writing for);
- Topics (think about what your audience wants to read);
- Comments (what is your policy on comments; what is allowed and what is not).
Nina Simon, who writes at the Museum 2.0 blog, lists 4 approaches to Institutional Blogging. She writes: “you have to decide WHY your institution is starting a blog (and no, “all my friends are doing it” is not enough) and then find the approach that works for you.”
- Institutional Info Blog (blogs that distribute news about the organization; maximized by adding a personal touch);
- Community Content Blog (blogs that take the content and offerings of the organization and try to open it up to community input);
- Specialized Content Blog (blogs that are typically linked to an exhibition or sub-specialty of the museum, presenting news about that content);
- Personal Voice Blog (blogs in which individuals or a small panel of staff offer personal commentary about their organization).
In the world of classical music, a good example of a Personal Voice Blog is Brian Dickie’s “Life as General Director of Chicago Opera Theater.” This very casual, personal journal highlights the day-to-day activities and travels of Dickie.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Institutional Info Blog of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Written mostly by Philipp Brieler, who is a managing editor in the editorial & media content department, the blog follows current productions and shares background information with a personal touch, often in the style of a magazine article. Sometimes, guest bloggers are invited to write, such as mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer.
The Chicago Classical Music blog can be classified as a Community Content Blog. The main blog entries are written by staff members of participating organizations, but there are also opportunities for patrons and the public to offer their view and take on the scene.
These three examples are by no means the golden standard for each approach. They each have their own merits and faults. Repeating the abovementioned advice: remember your audience. Rising or dwindling readership or participation is just one indicator of whether you are taking the right approach for your organization.
A quick note about one option we haven’t discussed yet: the internal blog. Generally accessed through the organization’s intranet, an internal blog can serve several purposes and may encourage employee participation, free discussion of issues, collective intelligence and direct communication between various layers of an organization.