When we set up blogminster.com, I spent quite a lot of my time trawling through MP websites and blogs. Of the hundreds of websites, some were good, some were bad and one stood out for (unwittingly) containing links to prescription drugs.
I thought it might be useful to share some insights as to how to campaign using blogs. These observations combine industry best practice with specific observations following our review of hundreds of politician websites.
1. Think carefully about your audience before you even start
When professionals design a website, they start with the “personas” of their target audience: Who is it that they want to target and why. This may sound like stating the obvious, but too many politicians think that a blog is a place for their ramblings or worse: their press releases.
Examples of groups you would be writing for:
- CONSTITUENTS AND VOTERS
- THE MEDIA
- Your title should contain a hook, to lure the reader in. Think of it this way: if anyone wanted to quote your blog post on twitter, they would only use the title and a link back to your blog. If that were the case, would readers find it interesting enough to click on?
- Think story. Is there something in your blog post that is interesting enough to be quoted by a newspaper? Is there a human element to a story that can make it more accessible and interesting?
You’ve doorstepped, distributed pamphlets, got photographed with the needy, but what would your constituents think of you if they bought into your campaign and wanted to learn more about you? If you had a good conversation over a cup of tea with Mr Doe, and he decides to check you out, what will he find about you online that would encourage him to support your campaign?
Mr Doe is likely to ask two key questions:
- What do you stand for? What are your policies, especially on local issues and those relevant to him. Are you going to represent him and his views? Are you going to do good? Your general policy views are also important – they convey the full picture, and the background to who you are politically – and whether you deserve his support.
- What kind of person are you? This is where the personal touch comes in. Blog entries about topics that show that you are of substance as a person besides your politics. Would Mr Doe think you are a person of substance and integrity? Can he relate to you? Can he trust you?
If you want your blog entry to be quoted and mentioned, it needs to be engaging. On the Internet, readers tend to scan content, rather than read everything. If the title to your piece is not engaging, they won’t follow through to the body. If the first paragraph is boring, they are likely to go elsewhere. Attention spans online are fleeting, and journalists on the lookout for interesting stories are bombarded by too much inane information.
Some key points to getting it right:
2. Create relationships through your blog
For many voters, your blog would be a place they visit once, but if you write well and often, and make your posts interesting, you can create a readership. When your blog becomes a popular read, not only do people engage with you and feel like they have a relationship with you, they also spread the word.
3. Make sure your blog gets exposure. Don’t expect people to just come to your blog by virtue of it being there. They won’t. You need to take steps to publicise it.
- Make sure you write often, and at least 2-3 times a week (more is better). Google ranks popular blogs higher and better than those that are less active.
- Ensure that every one of your entries gets Twittered. Some blogging platforms allow you to automate this process
- Ensure that your blog is search-engine friendly. Some blogging platforms provide Search Engine Optimisation steps automatically, for example by adding keywords to each entry, and notifying search engines whenever you’ve written a new post.
- Get other bloggers and websites to link to you. This is another way not only to generate traffic, but also to increase your visibility on search engines.
Ways to increase your blog’s popularity:
4. Create a multi-blog campaign
This is a little more sophisticated, but can work extremely well if there is a group of people campaigning together or alongside each other – or the volunteers/staff of a campaign are available to launch their own blogs. You launch several blogs and Twitter accounts that engage in debate with each other and with external websites, cross referencing and highlighting relevant post. If this is done well, and in an engaging way, the campaign itself can start to generate a following, and with it exposure. Of course wit and good writing cannot be guaranteed, but if you are passionate about the issues, it will often come across and engage your readership.
5. Don’t get your nephew/niece/neighbour/friend to design a blog for you. Design disasters are often left unobserved by their grateful victim, but are not appealing to the wider audience. The reason we launched a free political blogging platform was, to a large extent, because we saw quite a few such disasters.
6. Be yourself. This may sound like it flies in the face of all the elaborate tips above, but actually it doesn’t. When you write from an honest place, it often shines through, and you come across as more accessible and more genuine.
7. And finally – don’t delay. The earlier your blog is out there, the more popular it becomes. It takes time to build a readership. Get one going now.
* Danny Dagan is founder of blogminster.com. He has fifteen years of new media experience, including as Head of Online Communities for News Group Newspapers, Web Consultant to the European Bank and Senior Product Manager at Freeserve.
I first published this article here.