After taking into consideration all of the aesthetic aspects of the website, the next thing to tend to is the blog. A regularly updated, thoroughly tagged and categorized blog (if the site allows for it) is the main source of up-to-date content on your website. It, aside from social media updates from a plug-in, should be the most frequently changing page of content. However, there are still a few things you need to take into consideration when laying out the concept and envisioning the direction of the blog content.
- Theme and topic
Every single outlet of Opinion Editorials has a theme: be it the editorials section in a newspaper, the political opinion blog, professional blogs, personal blogs, even sitcoms. Before I started this blog, I sat down and wrote down a bunch of topics that I wanted to touch on with this blog relating to the central theme. It’s been over a year and I still refer to it when I find myself at a loss for something to write about. Now, I’ve crossed off topics that I’ve addressed, and I’ve added topics that have come up in conversation or at a conference when talking with others. Sure, certain subject matters came about that took my blog in a slightly different direction from my original intent, but the central topic has been consistent. No matter what I write about, no matter what topic is discussed, every single article has talked about ways that we in the translation and interpretation industries interact with or could interact with technology. Now, a lot of ATA Chapter blogs will have the same theme, or I assume that they will; they should all be collections of articles regarding the T&I industries. The trick, however, will be keeping to that central theme. What you don’t want to do is start out with the goal of advancing and sharing knowledge about the T&I industries, and then due to a lack of content creators a few months later, inadvertently expose some subconscious, ulterior motive because you were focusing solely on publishing an article with some sort of regular frequency.
- Recruiting authors
When it comes to regularly updating the blog, the easy thing to do would be to have one administrator who exploits the blog section of the website as a Facebook newsfeed or Twitter page and posts whatever comes to mind (however, events, conferences, organization updates, etc. would be better left to their own pages on the website), but the more challenging and preferred method is to have a group of content creators who regularly write articles using the chapter blog as a publishing outlet. Now these content creators can be translation bloggers that already exist, and it would be wise to ask current bloggers if you could re-blog their work (giving credit where credit is due, of course) when you’re just starting your chapter blog, but the content that will have the most impact, the content members will want to read, is the content created by the members themselves. Sending out emails or having a small blurb in the newsletter with a call for blog articles will not work. When you passively propose action to the populous, no one responds. The preferred method of recruiting content creators is in person. Remember how I recommended social events and attending conferences in my post regarding recruiting new members? This is exactly where you can recruit some content creators. At any interpersonal social event where you’re interacting with other professional translators and interpreters, you should be going in with two questions: 1) Is this person a member of my organization already? If not, recruit. 2) If this person is already a member, what aspect of the industry is it that they’re passionate about? Once you determine what it is in the industry that gets them excited, encourage them to write a blog article about that topic.
- Managing submissions and posts
If and when the time comes where you have a few or many submissions coming in at a time, you want to be sure to space out postings. You do not want to post every day because you won’t give followers time to read and take in what the author says. Posting weekly is a good rate for independent bloggers because it seems to be a good rate at which you can produce articles when maintaining an overarching theme while still accommodating other work and commitments. For a professional organization/chapter, bi-weekly is the most frequent I would suggest when not re-blogging a themed series of blogs. The most elapsed time between posts for an organization/chapter blog that I would recommend is a month, the idea being that you want to show visitors that you’re an active chapter with regular submissions to your blog. What you want to avoid is posting a couple articles or more at a time and then not posting one for a long period of time, and then posting another few articles. Followers of blogs like to see regular posts at somewhat regular intervals. And here’s a little trick of the trade for new bloggers: you don’t have to publish an article immediately when you put it on the blog, you can schedule it so that the time the posts are made live is consistent.
- Maintaining a standing pool of content creators for regular submissions
After spending all that time and effort in recruiting new members and getting them to become content creators, the last thing you want to do is have them provide a one-off and fall away as a contributor to your newly formed or re-envisioned blog. Honestly, if I didn’t have the constant support and feedback from the other members of the MATI board in addition to the numerous shares, retweets, re-blogs, and paper.li features of my articles, I probably would have stopped writing. People like knowing that what they spend time on and write about is important and valued. So why would you accept a content creator’s article, thank them, and leave it at that? It’s important to the health of your blog and maintaining membership that you follow up with the author, commend them on a good article and encourage them to contribute as frequently as they are able to.
At the fourth point, the blog starts to write itself. A handful of content creators submitting articles every other month can supply you with regular posts indefinitely, in addition to the new content creators you can potentially add with every new social event. Moreover, and more importantly, contributing to a blog allows the members to make the chapter their own. Something as simple as writing a blog article every two or three months about a topic they are passionate about, getting it published, and receiving positive feedback will let members know that their contributions to the organization matter, their involvement with the organization matters, and will encourage them to want to be more active in the chapter. Not to mention that once you have a core group of blog authors, they can go out and do recruiting with you at these social events and suddenly the responsibility that fell solely on the shoulders of the board members is exponentially magnified with the addition of the non-board member contributors.
So, why is the blog important? Why are regular posts important? One reason: SEO. Translators, Interpreters, and the NSA aren’t the only ones paying attention to your online activity. Search engines are monitoring changes to your website as well. Additions to content demonstrate to search engines that your site is active, the more frequently content is updated on your site, the higher up on search results your site will appear and therefore, more people will be able to find your chapter’s site.
Now, are the suggestions I offer up definitive? No. Just as my suggestions were not definitive in regards to web design, or recruiting new members. But will these suggestions help you revamp your chapter’s image and get it noticed? Absolutely. Next week, in part five of this series, I’ll discuss social media, how to get it to work for you, and how you can use it to get your website and blog more exposure.