To blog or not to blog. That’s the question

24 06 2011

I understand why companies and organizations blog. By blogging, they can provide valuable information, answer questions and engage customers, all which help to build brand awareness and brand loyalty.

As a university, it makes sense that we have a blog. After all, there are many topics we could tackle to, as Erica Swallow says, provide insight into our areas of expertise:

  • The admissions process
  • Demystifying the mystical world of financial aid
  • Academic majors and the careers they could lead to
  • Residential life and dealing with roommate issues

But …

Who should write it?

As the unofficial campus word nerd, fingers would be pointing my way. And, I’m not shirking from work, but I’m not sure I’m the best person. Remember, I’m a marketer. Posts coming from me likely would be viewed as pure marketing-speak, and we know that successful blogs needs to be viewed as authentic. But, how do I ask someone or a couple of someones to take on the task when most people on our campus already have enough to do?

Who should our audience be?

Should we focus on prospective students? Their parents? Current students? Donors? It’s an important question since our content will hinge upon the answer. While there will be some overlap – everyone cares about financial aid – most topics will interest only one audience.  Donors won’t care about roommate issues but students sure will.

Can we do it without being stuffy?

Universities tend to be formal, stoic, and stuffy, which would be disastrous for a blog because an effective blog needs to be personable and exude personality as Jon Burg says.

What are your thoughts?

Before I take my blogging idea to the president, I want to know your thoughts. Should there be one writer or several like Southwest Airlines has on its blog, Nuts About Southwest? Should it come from our president, like the one from the University of Southern Mississippi  or someone else? What topics should we tackle?

Each comment with feedback equals one doggie treat for Izzie,

who’s one hungry puppy. (Let’s face it. Every blog should have at least one gratuitous puppy picture.)

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10 responses

24 06 2011
Liza

Good questions and what a face! I’ll enumerate my responses so Izzy will get two treats.

1. On topics: As only a light consumer of blogs, I’ll admit I don’t read even my favorites everyday, so by the time I check in, it is usually to scroll through and read what interests me. If others consume like I do, it seems that a wide variety of topics would be good since our audiences have such a wide variety of interests.
2. On authors: I happen to like the one-author style. Especially when I like that author’s voice 🙂 It helps to almost develop a relationship with that entity through that blogger. Even if various people are supplying the content, I would like to see the thread of one voice tying it all together. Making the information “relate-able” (able to be related to) seems important, and personal touches facilitate that for me.

24 06 2011
Pat

So, it sounds like you’re advocating one writer (I won’t ask you who) who could take a plethora of topics and present them in an appropriate fashion.

Who should that voice be? The president? The director of admissions or financial aid? The dean of students?

I could envision a ghost writer for any one of these. What do you think?

24 06 2011
Jennifer Taylor

I think a few different voices would be more apropriate, something real, real people speaking and not necessarily a fluff piece. Maybe students could write, someone from admissions, alumni, a professor (interesting ones only!), heck someone from campus police could take part. I do think it is a great idea for Pitt Bradford. I don’t know that I would necessarily be your target audience, but I do think it is something perspective students and parents would take a look at. Great idea!

ps your puppy is adorable!

24 06 2011
Pat

I like the idea,too. I do think we could provide a valuable service to our readers, since there are rich and interesting topics to tackle.

The challenge would be finding people with enough time to do it.

But, if I create a schedule, let people know far enough in advance, and help facilitate the process, maybe it’ll work. It’s certainly worth a try.

Thanks. One more treat for Izzie.

27 06 2011
David

We’ve experienced the same thing at Baker, Pat … and quite unsuccessfully. We tried the one person (President and CEO) format and it failed, partly due to time constraints and mostly due to him running out of things to say on a weekly basis that was interesting or impactful. But we wanted it to be his voice and not some PR person like me speaking for him. So it is now officially dead.

I would recommend the several people route, and train the selected people (or people whjo might be interested and actually have something to say), on the how and what to write on blogs. Have it be a multi-perspective blog on UPB. Maybe even include a student. You’ll just need to make sure people are posting frequently and with good, readable material. When we did have our blog, it was the personal perspective that our employees enjoyed the most, and most of the time it had nothing to do with the company at all.

Good luck ….

27 06 2011
Pat

Blogging is something a couple of us have been talking about for quite some time. But, I didn’t pursue it then because of some of these concerns, which still make me nervous.

I tend to lean towarrd the “many contributors” idea, people who could address specific areas they’re experts in. For example, admissions, financial aid, even health services. But, as you mentioned, it would require training. It would also require monitoring and making sure the blog is being updated frequently.

However, the very first step would be to see if there is interest. No point in starting one if no one is interested. The last thing I would want to do is start this project and watch it fail because people aren’t interested.

If Seth Godin read this, he would accuse me of having lizard brain, being afraid to start something for fear of failing.

28 06 2011
Joyce

I think the audience most likely to read your blog would be prospective students and their parents. As such, a blog by a first year student would be fantastic. (On the other hand, it would be quite risky. What if they were not happy at your school? So…maybe a sophomore..) But a student blog would offer a real taste of college life. And, it could be a great resume-builder for a creative writing major!

28 06 2011
Pat

Joyce,
First, Izzie thanks you in advance for the treat, which I will give her when I get home.

I agree with you regarding audience. I see our main audience as prospective students and their parents, which would help us hone our content.

I also agree in theory that student blogs can be effective. In fact, we tried them for awhile. However, we discovered that students — at least the ones who agreed to blog for us — didn’t post frequently. Some went months without posting, which just made us look lame. While allowing students to blog can be risky, we didn’t suffer from any of the negative consequences. A couple of the students were a bit edgy in their posts, but we thought that added an air of authenticity.

21 07 2011
Mary

I think it is a great idea! A good way of reaching students! I love the puppy!

22 07 2011
Pat

Mary,
I’m excited about it and your blog as well. I think they will be very useful tools for our audiences.

The next time I bring Izzie to campus I’ll let you know so she can meet you.
Pat

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