Keeping an up to date blog is important as it’s the primary way of getting a message out to the public in an effective and accessible way. Blogs can be shared across the internet and posts on blogs can be used to engage with your audience.
As research groups, we want to show the research activity that goes on in groups and to encourage engagement with our research. This can be done in the form of a blog which is presented as ‘News’ on the group’s website giving a professional context to why the blog exists.
The posts in your blog will be listed at the side of each page on the website to be accessed easily and can be fed to other web pages across the internet, if suitable (on corporate, university web pages, on a personal website etc.).
Blog posts need to be interesting and full of useful information but also easy to read. Below are some tips to help make the most of your research group’s blog:
- When you first start, it will seem like no one is reading. Don’t give up; at the very worst it will give you a valuable log of the activity of the group and show activity to those who visit the website
- Good examples of blog topics for research groups include:
- Publications in journals, recently published books
- Updates on work being done towards publications
- Attendance at events
- Reviews of events
- Review of speeches/lectures/talks given
- Comment on current affairs related to the group’s research activities
- New/leaving members
- Opportunities to be involved in research
- Opportunities to participate in studies
- As well as writing about your group, write about what’s important in your field to position the group as experts in that field; this will help develop the readership and encourage engagement
- See what others are talking about in your area of research and comment on those topics; this gets your posts spread around and alerts more people, relevant to your field, to your existence
- As a guideline, a blog post should be 500 words maximum; readers don’t want to read an essay
- Think about what tone of voice you will use for your blog and keep it consistent; first or third person, relational or corporate?
- Links are the currency of the internet so use them when you can. Only use links to a website once on a page, however
- Since pictures say a thousand words, use at least one image in your post; they brighten up the post and make it more readable. Using your own images is even better as other may link to the post to use it (remember to include an alt-tag and captions!)
- Remember to organise your posts clearly: create informative titles, add your posts to categories (useful for readers to find all posts related to a certain theme, for example ‘events’ or ‘publications’) and add tags to your posts too (useful to give a gist of what the post is about in the form of keywords which are also searchable)
- Use the Insert More Tag after the first paragraph or so. This makes the news page more readable/scan-able and readers can then click through to the post’s page to read on further. Bear this in mind; you will need to persuade the reader to read on in the first paragraph (would your post suit an introduction maybe?)
- If you use an acronym, always spell out the full organisation name first, with acronym in parentheses, and then use acronym from then on; this helps readers know who you are talking about.eg. ‘The Policy Studies Research Centre (PSRC) conducts research in policy studies. Members of the PSRC include…’
- Keep it up. If a blog isn’t going to be updated at least once a fortnight, there’s no point it being there; it will look outdated and make your group look inactive
- Tell people about it! This can be done through email subscriptions or, most effectively, through sharing on social media (Twitter and Facebook); use plugins or services like Twitterfeed to do this for you.