31 Days to a Better Blog Results: What About Growth in Community?
31 Days to a Better Blog Results: 31 Lessons Learned

Launch Your Nonprofit Blog with a Bang!

Launch Thinking about launching a blog for your nonprofit? How would you like to get 6,312 subscribers to your new blog in one day? This Copyblogger case study from Brian Clarke offers some powerful lessons in launching your blog with a bang, based on the experiences of Tom Kuhlman and Articulate, a company that sells rapid e-learning software.

Offer Value to Existing and New Readers
There's a tendency for most nonprofits to think that talking about themselves will be enough to bring readers running when they launch their new blogs. Not true in most cases, particularly if your blog is merely another thinly-disguised attempt to raise money.

Your first step is to figure out what blogging content you can provide to readers that will add value for them regardless of whether or not they do something with your organization. So an environmental blog might offer daily tips on how to live a more environmentally-friendly life. Or an organization that serves youth might provide resources for teachers and parents to use in engaging young people. The goal is to have a blog focus that isn't just about reporting on what your organization is doing. You should also provide value-add beyond just being an online newsletter.

Create Cornerstone Content
Prior to launching Articulate's Rapid E-Learning blog, Tom Kuhlman created two series of posts, one on Rapid e-Learning 101 and one on 5 Myths of Rapid e-Learning. He posted these to the site before they even announced the launch. This gave readers immediate, meaty content with which to interact when they visited the blog giving them a greater incentive to subscribe and to continue visiting. Compare this to the usual blog launch which consists of one or two entries that often sound tentative at best or that aren't particularly interesting because the blog is just starting up.

If you want to get the most from launching your new blog, you have to give people solid reasons for visiting and subscribing. This means having a fair amount of content already on your site when you do the launch. This also takes us back to the previous point of "value-add." When you're developing that cornerstone content, it should be material that is immediately engaging, interesting and useful for your target audience.

Provide an Incentive to Subscribers
In addition to great blog content, it also makes sense to provide subscribers with a "bonus" for their subscription. Articulate's Tom Kuhlman developed a free e-book, The Insider's Guide to Becoming an E-Learning Pro, that RSS subscribers received immediately when they subscribed to the blog. Again, this was value-add info related to the purpose of the blog that was only available to subscribers.

An e-book is one example of a "freebie." You could also provide some kind of "tip sheet" (10 Tips on Making Your House More Eco-Friendly), a video how-to, or a podcast of an interview with someone important to your target audience. The point is to give subscribers a value-add extra that they can only obtain when they subscribe to your blog.

Send a Launch Email
To get the word out about your new blog and the availability of free content, develop a short email announcement to send to your mailing list. The purpose of the announcement is not to sell the subscription, but to send them to the landing page (see the next item), so it should be brief and to the point and enticing enough to persuade them to click through to the page. Be targeted in sending your email--the freebie and the blog should be of interest to the audience you're emailing, so you may have to segment your list.

Create a Landing Page
The landing page will sell your subscription incentive and provide people with the means to subscribe and receive the free content. It should include a brief description of what you're giving away and how it would benefit the reader. It should also include a statement that lets the reader know they are subscribing to your blog, a call to action, an email form, and a “no spam” statement. Here's the Articulate Landing Page to give you an idea of how it would look. 

A few key features for you to note from Articulate's example in putting together your own landing page:

  • The friendly, personable tone. Nonprofits often sound a lot more institutional than they mean to as they try to sound like "professionals. But people relate to other people, so your landing page should make you sound approachable.
  • Subscribing is easy--just enter your email address. Don't make people look too hard for a way to subscribe and use a familiar method like email so that you can broaden the number of people who will respond.
  • The "no spam" statement is friendly, too--"Don't worry. We hate SPAM as much as you do and don't do it."
  • The description of the e-book that focuses on benefits to the reader in a few key bullet points. Don't go overboard on the landing page and be sure to focus on how the material will benefit your audience.

You'll also note that when you visit the Articulate blog, the e-book offer is prominently displayed so that new readers can also subscribe and receive the content directly through the blog.

Pull Together Your Delivery System
Articulate uses the Feedburner Email system for subscriptions and the Wordpress RSS Sticky plug-in to deliver the e-book. If you don't use Wordpress or you're offering a multimedia "freebie" like a podcast, then you may have to do some further exploration to find the right automatic delivery option. That's an area that I intend to research a little more in the next few weeks. I'll share with you what I find out. Or if you have some ideas, email me or leave them in comments.

The Last Step--Start Blogging
Now it's time for the fun stuff--or the really hard work, depending on your perspective--the blogging. At this point you should already have some great content  on your blog, based on the cornerstone content you posted earlier. Keep building on that. If you've been successful in driving traffic to your new blog then you can also use your audience to help you identify topics to explore, information they'd like to receive, etc. A major point of blogging is to engage your audience and in this process you should have created a pretty large one to start.  Now have fun with it.  

Photo via Jurvetson

Comments

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This is very helpful, Michele. I feel like I'm getting a "head start." Thanks!

You're right, Robin--I was thinking about you and our call when I put this up actually. I think that we could do a lot with this.

I recently launched a blog for a non-profit professional association. I'll have to add some of these features, since I have not focused on subscriptions at all yet.

We have, however, been building traffic and are getting interaction through comments. I asked key people in the organization to comment, mostly in person when I ran into them. I have added board members as well as other active volunteers as authors. I make sure people get responses, so we are setting a norm of interaction right from the start.

Good things are happening even after two short months. We are reaching new audiences, and I see the blog becoming more important as a communication vehicle for the org over time.

That's really good to hear, Christine, as I know that a lot of organizations wonder if it's worth it. I'm hearing you say that a big part of this has still been the "in-person" approach of personally inviting people to comment, to write, etc. in terms of getting your group engaged. That's a good point that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Thanks for reinforcing that.

Thanks for mentioning the blog. I think that there's a lot of synergy between my blog and the people in the nonprofit world. A lot of the tips I offer are for those with limited budgets who don't have access to all of the slick tools. I've just been with Articulate a few months. Ironically, I started using their tools when I was putting together elearning for nonprofits. Most of our clients had PowerPoint and they loved being able to create their own content and get it online quickly. Have a great day.

Thanks for showing us exactly how to do a great blog launch, Tom--on top of having great content at your blog. I love everything you do with graphics, too--a very clean look.

These are all really great ideas. Unfortunately, they take time. We're launching a blog rather rapidly to comply with some press deadlines, and I'm afraid we're going too fast to capitalize on all of these tips. Perhaps we could do a soft opening, like restaurants do? However, I do think the tip about not coming off as sounding too institutional and posting content that has real value beyond just what our organization is doing is key -- and the most challenging part of all for nonprofits who aren't used to doing things that way.

A soft opening might not be a bad idea, Shannon, if you can do it. I completely agree with you that it's difficult for nonprofits to follow a lot of these ideas, but then it goes back to the fact that they are often operating in some kind of crisis mode where they're reacting to something in their external environments rather than being more planful about things. Being less "institutional" and providing value, though, shouldn't be as difficult as they are.

Thanks for the heads up on some of your ideas - it's always interesting to see how others have tackled problems, in order to make it easier for oneself - I'm going to try some but realise that it all takes time - which can sometimes be a pain and then I end up losing heart with the project!

I'm a newbie who just launched a blog called Beacons on the Frontline, sustaining the light of those who serve. www.beaconsfrontline.com. My learning curve is steeper than an advanced rock climbing wall. Patience is a must in this endeavor.

Your tip about having content and something for people to read when they come to the site is valuable and makes me want to increase the content for my readers.

-Asia

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