Originally published on 9 December 2009 & featured in Ragan’s PR Daily. Updated on 20 May 2010. Updates are in italics.

Over the past few semesters, I had nearly 450 of my students blogging as part of their grades in public relations courses. And this semester, I have more than 75 more. Based on their experiences and mine, here are some tips for maintaining your blog (especially when it’s graded as an assignment):

  1. Your professor may require a certain amount of posts on specific topics and perhaps even a specific length. Follow these guidelines to a T. Refer to the assignment sheet/post often to be sure you’re doing what’s needed.
  2. There may be interim deadlines for your blog posts. Keep up. Even if there aren’t interim deadlines, blog throughout the semester. If you do all your posts toward the end (or even the day they’re due), it’s not to your advantage. It will appear as though you procrastinated. Your readers will likely not read more than a post or so a day, so piling a bunch into one day actually hurts your readership.
  3. Make an editorial calendar for yourself based on the blog requirements. Consider using Google Calendar to keep track of posts you intend to write and when they should be written. (Google Calendar can even send you text message reminders.)
  4. Stuck for topics? Ask your readers at your blog what they’d like to see, or ask your followers on Twitter for help. Read Ragan’s PR Daily and listen to PR podcasts for additional ideas.
  5. Proofread. This should go without saying, but since I’m saying it, it apparently doesn’t. Misspelled words and poor grammar significantly detract from your credibility. If you know you’re not a great speller, then write your posts first in Word, where SOME misspelled words and grammar errors show up more easily. Partner with a friend and proof each others’ posts, too. (NOTE: If you write in Word first, be sure to use WordPress’ “Paste from Word” feature, or else you will end up with some really ugly formatting.)
  6. Write in short paragraphs. Long paragraphs are really grey and hard on the reader’s eyes.
  7. Use photos licensed by Creative Commons to add visual impact to your blog. I recommend Compfight for finding images.
  8. One of the best ways to become a better blogger is to read & comment on others’ blogs, too. It’s not all about you. Once you start commenting on others’ blogs, you may notice that your readership will increase (because of people clicking on your name in the comment and finding your blog.)
  9. Change the name of your blog from whatever WordPress “gave” you as the default (which may be something like Bnixon13’s Blog) to something more professional and interesting. Though you cannot change the URL for your blog, you can easily change the name. And definitely change or get rid of the default tagline “Just another WordPress weblog,” which screams N00b.

Yikes! I promised you 10 tips, and I only gave you 9! I need your help. What’s one more tip you’d provide to round out this top ten list?

barbara_is_listening

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For students in my classes, the tips in this presentation should help get started using WordPress for blogging.

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Tonight on Twitter, I saw a tweet from Milton Ramirez that pointed me to this presentation by Arun Basil Lal. Arun has some great tips here on writing good blog posts. The most useful information specifically about writing starts on slide 11.

It’s worth reading. Soon.

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Blogging is like gardening. Though it may be easy to start a blog, you must nurture (“feed” and “water”) it often for it to flourish. (Many thanks to Michael Willits for help with the analogy!)

If you are in one of my public relations classes this semester, please complete the appropriate checklist to see if your blog meets the expectations for the end of January:

These checklists are designed to help you. I will start reviewing your blogs late this weekend.

Questions? As always,

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In PRCA 3030 (Social Media for PR), we’ll all blog about the same general topic each week during the semester. Your TOWs should be posted by Saturday at noon at the end of each week.

Some weeks have more than one topic listed; choose one of the available topics on those weeks.

If you have a topic to suggest, please add it as a comment to this blog post.

If you are unsure how to get started writing these TOWs, many times you can use this three-pronged approach:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What surprised you?
  3. What do you want to know more about?

WEEK ONE

No TOW required. But if you would like to write one, write about which types of social media you currently participate in (such as blogging, podcasting, social networking, etc.), which platforms you use, and why.

WEEK TWO

  • How was/is social media being used in the Haitian earthquake crisis, especially by the American Red Cross?
  • Why are comments such an integral part of blogs? What advice would you offer on writing effective blog comments?

WEEK THREE

Is social media monitoring ethical? Provide commentary and discussion on both sides of the issue, and offer your personal viewpoint.

WEEK FOUR

Adam Vincenzini asked on Twitter and on his blog for people to share their definitions of “social media” with him, in 140 characters or fewer. Read through the list of definitions that were shared with Adam. Pick a few that resonate with you and discuss why these definitions “work” for you. Develop your OWN 140-character definition of social media.

WEEK FIVE

After reading Search Engine Visibility, an Edelman Insights paper by Steve Rubel and others at Edelman Digital, react to it using the three-pronged approach (discussed earlier in this blog post).

WEEK SIX

“Social Media: Friend or Foe?” :: Listen to Shel Holtz, Mark Ragan and others discuss “concerns and objections around the adoption of social media communication channel.”

WEEK SEVEN

What is this Foursquare thing that we keep seeing in our Twitterstreams? How could companies benefit from it? And what are some of the potential dangers of using Foursquare (and other location-based services) for individual participants?

WEEK EIGHT

Since our focus for this week is podcasting, write this week’s TOW on something related to podcasting. Potential areas for discussion include: what would drive an organization to choose a podcast as a way of connecting with its publics, the importance of shownotes, technology you can use for podcasting or how PR majors can benefit from listening to PR podcasts.

WEEKS NINE & TEN

Create a profile at PR OpenMic, a social network developed by Auburn University’s Robert French. Connect with me there as a friend so that I know you have joined (do this before Spring Break). Then for your topic of the week, describe what PR OpenMic has to offer to PR students and recent grads. Be sure to discuss at least three or four things you encounter at the site, and provide hyperlinks to the specific areas in the site for your readers.

WEEK ELEVEN

Watch my interview with Martin Waxman. Use the three-pronged approach to react to the interview. What does Martin have to say about the need for traditional PR skills?

OR

Set up an account at Delicious, a social bookmarking site. Create social bookmarks to at least 20 sites; these could include classmates’ blogs, PR blogs, Georgia Southern University, your favorite musical artist or actor, etc. In your Topic of the Week, share a link to your Delicious account. Discuss how college students (especially those working in groups) could benefit from social bookmarks. Be sure to include a link to your Delicious bookmarks in your blog post. Optional: how could an association, like the Georgia Communication Association or the International Listening Association, use social bookmarks to benefit its members?

WEEK 12

Watch my interview with Kneale Mann. Use the three-pronged approach to react to the interview.

OR

One of this week’s readings concerned widgets and badges. After briefly describing the difference between a widget and a badge, offer suggestions on how one specific organization you are a part of (or wish to become a part of) could benefit from using widgets or badges.

WEEK 13

Just what is it that makes a simple little video like “David After Dentist” become a Viral Video? Also, share links to (or embed) at least two of your favorite videos that went viral.

WEEK 14

This week’s topic was inspired by Adam Vincenzini’s Be My Guest month: post something by a guest blogger. Connect with another blogger (it can, but doesn’t have to, be someone in your class) and exchange blog posts for the week. (You don’t have to write something new . . . share your favorite post you’ve written this semester.) In your own blog, make it really clear that the post is written by another person, and link to your guest’s blog.

WEEK 15

Be My Guest Part 2: Post something from a different guest blogger. (See Week 14)

WEEK 16

{TBA}

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Guidelines for Student Blogging

On May 18, 2009, in public relations, by Barbara Nixon

Toward the end of 2008, Jeffrey Keefer and I used Google Docs to collaborate on guidelines for students to follow when writing in their blogs. What follows is the result of our collaboration, along with some of my personal spin added in. Though I wanted to create these guidelines as a guide for my students at Georgia Southern University, they may apply elsewhere as well. 

Guidelines for Creating Blog Posts

Keep these general guidelines in mind when you post blog entries for our class:

  • Blogs are public, so write in a way that you will be comfortable with anybody reading your work (co-workers, friends, potential employers, parents, etc.).
    • Public blog posts may be indexed by Google and other search engines, so be mindful of your online identity you are creating.
    • Remember that Google may cache previous versions of your blog posts, even if you delete them. Google never sleeps.
  • Use an engaging title that captures your blog post and promotes reader interest.
  • Write about anything that interests you as it relates to our class content, even if there is no specific class assignment. Writers get better writing by writing. 
  • Give credit where credit is due
    • If you use the direct words or lists of another blogger/writer, you MUST put the words in quotation marks.*
      • Cite the source by including the name and URL of the source; hyperlink to the source. OR use APA style.
    • If you paraphrase another blogger/writer, you MUST indicate where you found the information.*
      • Cite the source by including the name and URL of the source; hyperlink to the source. OR use APA style.
    • When using images in your blog posts, indicate where the images come from, either by linking back to the image source or providing a photo credit on the page. A great source for images is Flickr, especially when searched using CompFight.
*Note:  Failure to cite sources in blog posts will result in the same penalty as failure to cite sources in traditional research papers or other writing projects. Consult with your professor if you are in doubt about how to attribute the sources.

Guidelines for Commenting on Blogs

  • Reading your classmate and colleagues’ blogs to will give you ideas for your own writing.
  • When you comment on another person’s blog, you can potentially start a dialogue and gain new social contacts.
  • Like blog posts themselves, you never know who will read your comments.
  • It is good practice reply to comments on your own blog.

Questions about blogging guidelines?

barbara_is_listening

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