8 things you can blog about in civic activity

Knowing how to update a blog technically is one thing – but it still needs content to bring it alive and keep it going. Here are a few ideas to first get you blogging regularly – and then blogging successfully.

First: who are your users?

Before you can do this you need a clear idea of who your users are. Are they other people in your organisation? Potential partners in other organisations? Existing users of a particular service? People who might be interested in using it in future?

It’s likely that it’s more than one of the above, and you might write different posts for different people.

1. Link to something interesting or useful to your users

If there’s a website, article or report that you think your users might find useful or interesting, blog about it.

This needn’t take you more than a couple of minutes: the blog post doesn’t need to be long – just a one-paragraph explanation and a link will do. But simply providing regular links to useful material saves your users time and establishes you as a knowledgeable source. It also helps you remember useful material yourself – and makes it easy to find again if you need to.

2. Compile a list of useful resources

You may already have lists of useful resources elsewhere that you could publish online. Or there may be one that you need to compile. Or there may be a question that you’re regularly asked and these resources answer it neatly.

This again needn’t take long to write. A simple ‘5 useful websites for help with setting up a business’ or ‘3 webpages that explain Big Society’ is just an extension of blogging a link to one useful resource. You might just provide the list, or include brief summaries.

A good tip is to invite the user to add any more they might know of – this can introduce you to new useful resources.

3. Write a how-to

If you ever have to explain to someone how to do something, or have to find out how to do something, why not publish that guidance on the blog? One of the largest categories of searches online are ‘How to…’ questions, so it’s likely that others will be asking the same question.

If you’re already doing the work this will be no more than a copy-and-paste job – and will save you time having to repeat the advice in future.

Alternatively, if you’ve asked someone else how to do something it may be worth asking if you can publish their advice on the blog as a ‘guest post’.

And of course you should invite users to add their own tips or advice in the comments.

4. Interview someone interesting

Having a blog gives you a perfect excuse to make contact with interesting people and ask them questions about what they do or what they think. Whose stories do you think deserve a wider audience? Or that illustrate a point you want to make? Whose advice do you want to seek?

A simple set of questions in an email can provide the basis for a post – try to keep them open (not yes/no questions) and interesting, but useful.

Alternatively, if you’re technically confident you can meet the person and conduct the interview with a small digital camcorder, mobile phone, or digital dictaphone.

5. Preview an event (or events)

What events are coming up in your field? What’s in your inbox or calendar? A quick description and link can take less than a minute if there’s already a webpage for the event. If not then just copy and paste the details from an email or Word document.

One tip is to find the venue on Google Maps and link to that map (guidance on how to do that here)

6. Summarise an event

If you’ve attended an event it’s likely that there will be other attendees who want to see what people thought about it – or people who wanted to attend but couldn’t. Blogging about the event serves both – and also helps you keep a record of what happened.

If people have made a presentation you might also ask for a copy of it and upload it to a site such as Slideshare (asking permission first).

7. Invite contributions to something you’re working on

You may be about to put together a report – publish a simple blog post explaining what you’re doing and saying any ideas or contacts would be welcome. This approach can suggest new ways of seeing issues, introduce you to new contacts and new sources of information.

If you have time to provide updates on your progress that can also nudge people to provide further leads and help.

8. Publish a report – in parts

Once the report is finished it’s always worth publishing on your blog – but don’t just publish the whole thing in its entirety.

Instead, publish it in thematic parts. Do one post publishing the section on education, for example, and another on commerce. Different people with different interests will then more easily find – and read – the parts that interest them, and comment accordingly.

For example, someone who is interested in “Fitness facilities in Selly Oak” might find that part of the report without realising that one was even being prepared. It’s much less likely they would stumble upon it by searching for the full “Report on health and wellbeing in Birmingham”.

Make sure you publish as text rather than linking to a PDF or Word document. Text will be easier for people to search and find, while PDFs and Word documents present extra barriers both for users and for search engines.

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