Blogging

AHA Blog Post ImageHere at AHA, we have always strongly believed in the relevance and value of blogs. Even when it didn’t seem quite so “cool” anymore – our clients continued to see results from blogs. We monitor them closely to make sure that they provide return-on-investment; anyone who has ever had the responsibility to write a blog knows how much effort they take to produce on a consistent basis.

Writing a blog is like writing a newspaper or magazine column – it has to have an element of opinion in it, you need accurate stats and facts if you are going to cite them, the blog content has to be timely and interesting to your readers, and it should provoke thought and discussion. For many of our clients, a blog provides an excellent opportunity to share information and to open a conversation with their stakeholder group(s). But – and I know sometimes our clients get tired of hearing us say this – the blog has to be well-written and it needs to have relevant information that matters to the readers. If a blog is used just to put out marketing and sales information, it’s not going to gain traction. That’s not what people read blogs for.

We live in an incredible era. For the first time, there is an opportunity for people who are not paid by a print publication to have a voice. Media relations is still an important aspect of public relations; however – it is no longer the only option when it comes to sharing an organization’s story with stakeholders. Technology now provides the opportunity to write blog posts, to connect on Twitter and other social networking sites – to create awareness and enter the conversation about the topics that matter in your field of expertise.

Social Media Examiner recently ran an article on the results of Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influencer Report. This report shows that “blogs rank favorably with consumers for trust, popularity and even influence.” And that means something. If you don’t have a blog, I encourage you to consider starting one – but first, of course, sit down and plan it out. Approach it like you would any other communications tactic and define your objective, outline your topics and your target audience, ensure you know what to do if you are put under attack for an opinion or what to do should a blog post garner a great deal of positive attention, and understand how you will measure its success and what success means in this context.

Done right, a blog post is an excellent tool for strategic communications.

 

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Over eight months ago, I wrote a blog post that used a quote. We recently received an email from a person telling us that we had attributed the quote to the wrong person (same name) and that many of the online reference sites (which we had checked) were in error about the author of this quote.

We are in the process of checking out what is accurate in regards to whom the quote belongs to – and it’s not as straightforward as it should be as there are discrepancies online. This process caused some interesting discussions in the AHA office about how deep you should go in order to verify something.

When I was at Maclean’s, we needed to be able to showcase that something was accurate if we wanted to include it in a story – in fact, we needed to have three separate and independent references about the fact or point if we were going to cite it in an article. We use that approach here at our PR agency – however, the person who wrote to us made us question whether, in this day and age, we need to go further than that.

Some facts are easier to check or confirm than others. When we write articles for client newsletters, develop speeches or we produce brand journalism pieces, there is a fact checking process that we go through with the client to ensure that what we are saying is accurate. And, I have to say, in my experience, there is usually a strong commitment to being accurate from the client. If there are errors in their communications pieces, they lose credibility with their stakeholder groups.

Quotes are a little more challenging to fact check (as we are finding), especially with the propensity of the online world to share information. If something is shared and it is wrong, it can be shared again and again while being wrong – and this perpetuates the error.

The world seems to move more quickly than ever these days and there is pressure to get things done. It’s also important to get them done right. And small errors pull at the thread of an organization’s credibility… and they build up.

The error – if it is an error – in our blog post isn’t a huge deal in the big scheme of things, but it matters to us. We’re checking on it and will correct it if it is wrong. And while I think that checking three sources regarding facts is still a good process, we are going to revisit how we fact check and see what we can do to improve.

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A picture is worth a thousand words…

Images, photos, illustrations and visuals – they matter now and, the fact is, they mattered back in the “old days” too. When I worked for Maclean’s magazine, standing over the light table going through images was an important part of the storytelling process. You didn’t just hand that off to a photo editor or photographer (no matter how smart or talented that person was). You were involved because you knew that a great photo drew people in to the story; that it communicated what you were trying to share in a different way.  And today, some of our strongest assets at our PR agency are our relationships with exceptionally talented (and reasonably priced) photographers, illustrators and videographers. These creative professionals are an important part of our AHA crew.

These days, images are crucial to telling the story of your organization. Not only do they tell the story in a different way, they help you to humanize your organization, show behind the scenes and engage with your community in a different way. And, if you embrace this approach, your community will use images to communicate with you. It really is a two-way street. User-generated content is incredibly informative and valuable.

On Wednesday, I will talk a little bit about the different ways you can incorporate images (still and video) into your communications initiatives, including when it’s important to bring in the professional photographer, illustrator or videographer.

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Last year was an interesting, challenging and rewarding year for the AHA team. Our small PR agency worked on some incredibly challenging, rewarding and important projects. We discovered things about ourselves as professionals and as people that have changed how we engage with the world. We learned new things. We bonded as a crew. We improved and evolved as an agency, as communications professionals and as human beings. And that means that 2013 is going to be even better.

In 2012, AHA was a very active PR agency. We had several very large, high-profile projects that kept us busy working 18-hour days, seven days a week, for months on end. If we weren’t working, we were sleeping. It was that busy. We are a small agency on purpose – and that means that something had to give (besides social activities and sleep – we were already giving those up!). Our blog and Fast Take Friday videos became causalities of how busy we were as an agency and how busy I was, since I write most of the blog posts and am the “face” of the Fast Take Friday videos.

I have to say that while I do regret that there wasn’t time to write the blog posts and produce the Fast Take Friday videos, I did learn a valuable lesson. I give some of our clients grief about not keeping up with their blog posts and, in the past, I haven’t given enough respect to the fact that we live in a busy world and sometimes there really isn’t enough time to do it all. That doesn’t mean it’s right to put a hold on your external communication outreach. It isn’t. It does mean that you need to find more realistic approaches and ways of creating the content and making sure you are consistent in your communication outreach. Ways to do this include having more than one blogger on your team, developing some blog posts ahead of time that can be used when you are busy, and making sure you don’t just “go away” and not explain that you are busy and will be back shortly.

I am thrilled to be back blogging and am looking forward to producing our first Fast Take Friday of 2013 this week – check back Friday morning for that. And – for those of you who took the time to email and call asking when the blog posts and Fast Take Fridays would be back – thank you. It’s always nice to know that we have a core community who count on us to connect with you.

From the entire AHA crew, we wish you a very happy, challenging, inspirational and successful 2013.

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Writing is a challenge, even when it goes well. Good writing is a gift from the universe, but it’s never guaranteed. Even people that write incredibly well have times when it just doesn’t click; the piece never comes together as they had hoped.

For those of us who write often and who are always chasing that “click,” this article provides some good tips and hints on how you can improve your writing – sometimes without changing a word.

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