The Art and Science of Higher Ed Blogging


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My presentation at "The Art and Science of Social Media Marketing," hosted by The Lawlor Group, June 8, 2011, in Minneapolis.

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  • Thank for opportunity to present.Introduction – 20 years in higher ed public relations and marketing, all at the same institutionLongtime fascination with the use of technology as a communications toolBackground as a print journalist but first became interested in using the Internet as a storytelling method in the ‘90sBlogging (personally) since 2002 – started my Higher Ed Marketing blog in November 2005.Began advocating for blogs as a communications tool on our campus soon thereafter.
  • We launched our first blog – Visions: a research blog – in February 2006. It replaced a quarterly e-newsletter about research that we discovered wasn’t too successful.We followed up with a few other blogs – Experience This is about our engineering student design teams and experiential learning.The Best Ever Blog is an annual online publication about our 103-year-old St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which is our most storied tradition.
  • A few other blogs:Spacebook was a campaign tied to Sandra Magnus’ trip to the International Space Station and her 4 ½ month stay aboard the ISS. There was much more to this campaign than the blog, but it was the focal point of the buzz-building. The solar house team is one of several student design teams to have their own blog. Name Change Conversations was a two-year blog designed to help communicate the rationale behind our name change.
  • With the launch of a new look and revision of our main website, we embraced the blogging platform on the main site.In all, we have about 30 blogs – some more active than others and mainly decentralized. They’re used by student groups (mainly the design teams), dining services, the library, our IT department, residential life and a couple of committees.We also use the blog platform for our news site, internal newsletter and other non-blog uses.
  • So – I was asked to address a couple of points: First, why are blogs important for colleges and universities? I have four reasons.
  • If blogs are done well – they provide a human voice to an organization.
  • A recent study by a Ph.D. candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism…
  • A faculty blog at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology is pretty effective at engaging readers in conversation.One of the blog’s most popular posts is this one about the theological necessity of a historical interpretation of the Bible.If you really want to get a good discussion going – just start a blog about religion – or politics – or sports. You’ll find plenty of people like to discuss or argue about those topics.
  • A few examples of comments from that post. There are more than these few shown here.
  • Blogs are a wonderful way to get your content out to the audiences you want to reach – and the audiences who most want to hear from you about your particular topic.KarineJoly, who publishes the blog College Web Editor, has this to say about blogs extending reach:“A blog can act as a great hub for social media activities by nature. … It provides legs to your institutional content (news, projects, etc.) via its RSS feeds. This is the perfect online communication platform with your institutional domain name. It will always be around. So, this is definitely the right place for your social media basecamp.”Your blog content is also searchable and linkable, so optimizing your blog content for easy searchability is critical to extending your reach.
  • By publishing content on your blog, you are in the driver’s seat. You don’t have to rely on earned media or pitching to journalists to get your story out to key audiences. Consultant and blogger Michael Stoner has this to say about the level of control blogs offer institutions:“A blog is a channel that you control, so you’re able to offer your perspective on an issue or event. A blog can offer the point of view or voice of an individual — the president or another senior leader — and because a blog is less formal than a website, it provides an institution with the ability to offer a wider, more nuanced perspective on issues or events than a website which is more formal.”Connected to the third point about extending your reach – by creating the content and stories YOU want to get out there, you are
  • I was also asked to provide some tips for those who might want to consider starting a blog for their institution. Here are 10 steps that I think are essential to success in blogging.1. Evaluate how blogging fits with your overall communications strategy. It may be that blogging is not for you. Or that you have a particular need. Are students or parents confused about the admissions process at your school? Perhaps you should consider developing a blog that addresses those issues – or provides a more humane online approach than what they currently find online.2. Find your niche – maybe you have a faculty member who is an expert in some field or other and would make a natural blogger. Maybe you have a distinctive program that you wish to highlight – or a particular tradition (such as our St. Pat’s Celebration).3. Fully commit. Be willing to put in the work to make the blog a success. Two or three posts a week is par for the course. If you plan to create a student blog, you’ll need to hire students to do it – and make that their job. That means – pay them the going rate for student assistants on your campus. Pizza is not pay. Give faculty and staff the time they need to blog and make it part of the reward structure.4. Create a plan for your effort. Set goals. Hold weekly or fortnightly strategy sessions on content for your blog. (We do this with Discover.)5. Follow through – hold people accountable. Assign them responsibility for creating the blog posts.
  • 6. Empower your bloggers – Time Nekritz of SUNY Oswego says, “You don’t pre-approve blog posts. You pre-approve bloggers.”“Find responsible students doing cool things or from interesting programs, give them directions and expectations and provide tools to help them succeed.”7. Respond quickly to comments. And if you moderate – be a responsive moderator. Assign people to monitor comments to ensure the tone is civil. 8. Leverage other social media to drive traffic to your blog posts. Use your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn sites as resources. Also get your blogs registered on Google Blogs so they are listed and indexable.9. Don’t forget to promote your blogging efforts through other media. Post the URLs on brochures. Use QR codes. (Just make sure your blog is optimized for mobile.) If you advertise programs in traditional media, promote your blogs and social media there too.10. Evaluate your efforts to see what’s working. Review your analytics data, comments or lack thereof, retweets, likes and comments on social media, etc. Don’t be afraid to kill a blog if it is not working. Remember that much of this is experimentation.
  • One final noteLast month – four international students from our campus were killed in a traffic accident on Mother’s Day. Because our news site functions much like a blog, allowing for comments and sharing of content, the comments section of the news story became a part of the grieving process for friends and family members of those students. Don’t underestimate the power of the comments section of your blogs. It can connect people on a very human level during times of tragedy.
  • The Art and Science of Higher Ed Blogging

    1. 1. The art and science of higher ed blogging<br />Andrew Careaga<br />Director of Communications<br />Missouri University of Science and Technology<br />Rolla, Missouri<br />Summer Seminar Pre-conference Workshop: The Art & Science of Social Media Marketing in Higher Education | June 8, 2011<br />Photo by Andy Piper via Flickr (<br />
    2. 2. Blogs @ Missouri S&T<br />
    3. 3. More blogs<br />@ Missouri S&T<br />
    4. 4.<br />links to blog posts<br />
    5. 5. Image via Anna Vignet,<br />
    6. 6. 1. To humanize your institution<br />Image via<br />
    7. 7. Communicating in a human voice adds a sense of personal and sociable human contact to the interaction with the public. <br />… [P]erceivedconversational human voice may promote trust, satisfaction, and commitment in relationships between an organization and the public, which in turn results in favorable behavioral intentions toward an organization.<br />Hyojung Park<br />Missouri School of Journalism<br />Source: MU News Bureau, “Use of Human Voice in Social Media Can Help Organizations Build Relationships,” May 18, 2011.<br />
    8. 8. 2. To facilitate conversations<br />
    9. 9.
    10. 10. 3. To extend your reach<br />Image via msspider66<br />
    11. 11. 4. To put yourself in control<br />Image via Ben McLeod<br />
    12. 12. 10 steps to successful blogging<br />Evaluate how blogging fits with your overall communications strategy.<br />Find your niche. Blogging should complement what you already do well.<br />Fully commit to blogging.<br />Plan your blogging effort. Include goals and measurement.<br />Follow through on your plan.<br />
    13. 13. 10 steps to successful blogging<br />Empower your bloggers to blog freely.<br />Be responsive to comments – quickly.<br />Maximize your reach by leveraging other social media.<br />Promote your blogging efforts the old-fashioned way.<br />Evaluate your efforts – again and again.<br />