Teche has just turned 2, and people often ask the Editorial Team how we’ve managed to keep it chugging along (well, that’s happened at least a couple of times anyway). In that spirit, here are our top tips for starting – and sustaining – a blog as a community platform at a university.
There’s no “I” in “blog”
Aim for the widest possible authorship for your blog. A content strategy that depends on the contributions of just one or a few people will burn out. If your institution is anything like ours, your authors and editors will be blogging in addition to their day jobs, so sharing the load (“distributed authorship”) is crucial.
We made it easy for staff to contribute to Teche by ensuring any staff member or student can log in with their usual Macquarie credentials and get started. We also have an Editorial Team who collaboratively set the overall direction for the blog and take responsibility for finding new content in their areas.
Content is everywhere
Relying on your colleagues to keep coming up with those 1500-word reflective feature pieces is a mistake. Be proactive, and source relevant content from everything you do. Event coming up? That’s a short blog post. Someone won an award? Send them a quick Q&A to fill in via email. (Read ‘How to Effectively Crowdsource Content from Your Entire Organization’ for more tips.)
Working in partnership with other areas of your organisation (such as Marketing) can maximise your exposure and help to grow your audience. Don’t try to take over the world – work out where your sphere of influence lies and try and complement what others in your organisation are already doing.
…and influence people
Likewise, if you don’t have the support of the decision-makers at your university, your blog will likely never grow beyond the status of optional extra. Seek endorsement from your stakeholders early, and, ideally, get them to post regularly.
Great writers aren’t automatically great bloggers
No question, your organisation is filled with fantastic writers, including academics who (partly) write for a living. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to write for a blog. “Should I include a reference list?” is one of the frequently asked questions. The good news is that your contributors will easily get the hang of blogging if you put supports in place, like a style guide, blog templates, and even blogging workshops. Even better news – blogging is now taken seriously as a strategy for building an academic research profile, so it’s not a wasted effort for anyone to up-skill in this area.
If you (just) build it, they won’t come.
Creating a blog and just expecting people in your organisation to visit it is like opening a shop and relying solely on foot traffic. You need to advertise. This means working on social media, search and newsletter strategies. We’ve invested in WordPress plugins like Mailpoet and Yoast SEO to make sure people have a better chance of finding our posts. And you can also follow us on Twitter.
Keep it real
If you work in a university, there’s usually no shortage of formal, dense text to read. A lighter, conversational style can make you stand out. With Teche, we’ve also encouraged a diversity of voices and authentic writing styles to emphasise the fact that we are a community blog that anyone can contribute to, not an ‘official’ publication. Students are an integral part of the Macquarie University community, and we would dearly love to include more student voices like this one or this one on Teche – watch this space!