This article originally appeared in the “GovGirl on Social” column in Government Technology Magazine.
People aren’t talking about blogging like they used to — is it still relevant for social government? While it may have lost some traction as a big buzzword, blogging may be an underutilized resource for government agencies looking for a way to tell their narrative without some of the limitations of other social outlets.
When done well, a blog can be a useful collection of stories and multimedia posts. The key here, however, is “done well.” Remnants of the late-’90s-style blog design are still active on the Web and can make an agency look dated and out of touch. Yet the core function of blogs can be useful.
COMPONENTS OF A BLOG
We’ve seen agencies use native website functionality to create a blog, or they integrate it via tools like WordPress, Medium or Tumblr. But what distinguishes a blog from a simple news feature on your site? In both, entries are posted in reverse chronological order, so the newest items are at the top. But a blog is usually further distinguished by having an RSS feature so visitors can subscribe to posts using a feed aggregator.
Another major tenet of a blog involves having a personal voice. Posts should be written by a named person or people who work for your agency. If having an “About the Author” area on every post would be weird, then what you have is probably not a blog.
Blogs are also written in the first person — not in the usual press release third-person style that works for content on your news page. This takes effort because it involves staff training and likely an editorial review by a communications designee. It’s also the best part of a blog, because it speaks to people on a conversational level and tells the story of your agency.
OWNING YOUR NARRATIVE
The purpose of a blog in the private sector is to make money. Companies use content to build a sales funnel or they establish the blogger as a thought leader in their industry, both of which drive sales.
But government agencies aren’t driven by revenue collection in that way, so what’s the primary purpose of a government blog? I can’t stress enough the value of owning your narrative and how telling your story humanizes government.
And keep in mind that comments are extremely important for the conversational intent of blogs. Ensure that your content elicits feedback and ideas from citizens, and that comments are enabled and simple to use. Even though you’re telling your own story, you don’t want your message to be a one-sided piece — you want it to be a conversation with the public, which means you should also reply and encourage back-and-forth interaction.
WHAT WOULD A MODERN GOVERNMENT BLOG LOOK LIKE?
A modern blogging strategy incorporates multimedia. A “vlog” is a video blog in which content is filmed instead of written, but there’s no reason a contemporary blog can’t combine multiple formats.
An inherent challenge with social media is that it’s fleeting by nature. Social posts are designed to live in the moment. However, a blog can be a collection of your best material, a compilation of personal voices from within your agency. It can be a place to combine social media posts from several outlets, embedding your top YouTube videos, a collection of Instagram images, and your most engaging tweets and Facebook posts.
With the ever-shifting algorithms on social media, businesses and governments are seeing far less reach for their efforts. Perhaps breathing new life into an agency blog is one way agencies can take back ownership of their social content.