I was recently invited to speak at the Media Trust Spring Conference on the topic of blogging in the charity sector.
It occurred to me that, although blogs can be powerful, relevant tools for communicating campaign or brand messages, charities often regard them as a burden.
They don't have to be. Creating engaging content that is a pleasure to work on and just as enjoyable to read is possible - it just needs a little bit of planning.
A successful blog needs a clear editorial calendar. This is a straightforward spreadsheet that plans out potential article titles and upcoming topics against dates in the coming week, month or even quarter.
This approach might sound almost too simple, but it ensures that blog content can be aligned to activities in the real world and allows bloggers to create themes around content.
For example, your editorial calendar would enable you to align your charity's blogs with its wider marketing activities and events, such as an anniversary or an awareness-raising day.
This approach can also stimulate creative thinking by encouraging individuals and organisations to think ahead, instead of feeling that blogs always have to be conceived and written from scratch on any given day.
Guest bloggers can add vibrancy. The most powerful ones are often volunteers with stories to tell. They can give the charity a human face by discussing their work on the front line. Their blogs can also give authenticity to the emotions behind a story or experience, which traditional case studies often fail to do.
Tips for visibility
There are simple tips and tricks you can use to increase visibility. In the recent e-book The Changing Face of Communications, published by my company, we highlighted some techniques for successful blogs.
First, add 'how-to' guides or 'top five (or 10) tips' and keep the content short and punchy - don't write essays. And use visuals and video to enhance your story.
To drive traffic to your blog, make sure visitors can share content easily and be sure that you post excerpts from other bloggers.
Don't focus only on what you have to say, but comment on thought-leaders from within the sector and contribute to other blogs out there, too. This doesn't have to take much time and helps build both awareness and credibility.
Making it straightforward to share your content is more important than ever. Make sure you add links on your blog so that people can post your content on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ and so on. This not only helps promote your blog and website to others, but also increases your visibility on search engines.
Content is king
To some people, blogs can seem old hat nowadays - but they should still be core to a charity's digital strategy. Draw up an editorial plan and ensure shareability of 'sticky' content that draws readers back time after time - this is how to breathe life into what might be a burdensome activity.
So when you're thinking about your blog, remember: content is king and quotability is queen. Create engaging content that people want to read and share and you will have a blog that's both a pleasure to write and a powerful weapon in your communications toolkit.
Dean Russell is European social media director, Lewis PR, and a Conservative district councillor