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September 22, 2008

Some people stink at blogging: Managing a multi-author blog

Caron Mason says the folks contributing to her association's multi-author blog don't really get it. They aren't receiving comments, they want her to republish old magazine articles, and they've given her some off-the-wall suggestions that she won't share. Sadface. I'd really like to hear these unusual suggestions.

Organizing a multi-author blog (MAB) is not totally unlike writing your own blog, but it does present some very different problems. Here are some of them and potential solutions.

First, be careful who blogs for you. Let's face it: Some people just shouldn't blog. Here's a warning sign: People who ask to write for your blog. Usually the ones who ask if they can blog for you are precisely the wrong people. I've had the most success asking established bloggers to join our association's MAB. People who write for magazines, journals and newspapers aren't necessarily good bloggers, you should know. I've found the the ones who ask to write usually wind up doing one of three things:

  1. Writing one or two posts and then fizzling out.
  2. Writing bad posts, requiring me to edit them (sometimes extensively).
  3. Writing inappropriate or really boring stuff.
Here's another tough thing to manage on a MAB: Different voices. Personally, I've found it's a bit more difficult to fully engage with a multi-author blog than a single voice. I leave fewer comments on MABs, find myself opening their feeds last, etc. The folks who run Engadget, the A-List personal electronics blog, understands this and so has a lengthy document describing the blog's voice that all authors (mostly paid authors, by the way, as I understand it) are expected to adhere to. I'm sure there are several others that have a voice standard.

But even if you had managed to create a discernable voice for your association's blog, and even if you had documented how it was to be implemented, could you realistically expect unpaid volunteers to abide by it? And since blogging is often considered a raw and personal form of expression, imposing editorial or voice standards on those you've recruited can be a real turn-off to some bloggers. I've experienced this first-hand.

What to do? I've seen a few good approaches to overcoming this problem:
  1. Create a visual voice. Ensure all posts are formatted in the same font, all posts use the same paragraph styles, blockquotes, imagery, headings, etc. This is less of an imposition on your authors and creates a certain consistency, even if the authors have different writing styles.
  2. Limit authors to staff or paid freelance bloggers. With compensation comes cooperation on style and voice standards.
  3. Feed your bloggers stories that are likely to elicit a response. I'll be the first to admit I have very little idea on what kinds of posts will get comments, and why others get zip. (Compare these two. What's up with that?) But I know better than a newbie. You too will get a sense of what gets comments, what what doesn't, even if you're only right part of the time.
  4. Keep your bloggers connected to what's going on with the blog (i.e. stats, what's getting the most comments, new bloggers, blog initiatives) and they'll feel more connected. (I'm doing a terrible job of this on my association's MAB right now, so do as I say, not as I do, alright?)
Also, generating interest in a blog requires other kinds of communication. E-mail, newsletters, magazine, face to face, etc. Make sure you're cross promoting your blog.

And don't be afraid to try comment contests. For example, all comments received in September are thrown into a fishbowl and the one drawn out wins a fancy paperweight emblzoned with a fancy logo.

Finally, remember that comments are a good bellweather for how successful your blog is, but pageviews, time on site and other statistics are just as revealing, if not moreso. Don't judge your lack of success on comments alone.

Tagged: ; ; ;

5 comments:

Lindy Dreyer said...

Great advice, Ben. I just added this post to the Bibliography for our *Associations Now* article on commenting.

Miss Lynn said...

Perfect timing. Seriously.

I'm working on starting a blog series on SNAP (http://snforassociationprofessionals.ning.com) and this is just the sort of guidance I needed right now to help keep me focused and so I don't forget anything, especially working with so many different bloggers.

Thanks Ben!

Caron Mason, CAE said...

I am learning things the hard way Ben. I really like your suggestions (numbers 3 and 4) as I think they will help my association's blog the most. Thank you for the ideas!

As for those off the wall suggestions... maybe some day I will share them, but only when I am sure it won’t ever have the potential of singling out or embarrassing a particular member. It other words, only when enough time has passed. :coolface:

Maggie McGary said...

These are great ideas, and much appreciated as I'm being tasked with heading up and steering my association's blog. I am very apprehensive for these exact reasons--particularly interest fizzling out over time and the blog becoming a ghost town. That, and the fact that I know how hard it is to keep peoples' egos in check with regard to suggesting their writing is anything other than perfect. I know this will be even trickier with a blog because then it's not only their writing that’s on the line; blogging is also about expressing your personality through writing. I don’t relish the thought of having to tell people, sorry, your post is boring or wrong or whatever.

I will definitely be book-marking this post for future reference as the blog takes shape and launches.

Shelley Estersohn said...

You're right about the timing Lindy...I'm passing this around to the team here. Thanks Ben!