Heading up a college blogging project sure can be a headache. There are a lot of people on even the smallest college campus, and sometimes it can seem like everyone wants to have their say — especially when it comes to the content on your college’s website.
The admissions department wants to speak the language of high school college searchers. The faculty wants to show off their academic bona fides. The vice president of development is nervous about upsetting donors. The college president wants to honor your school’s longstanding traditions and values.
Is it possible to please all these people without succumbing to blog schizophrenia?
It will take a little forethought, discussion, planning, and policy-making, but if you marshal their enthusiasm in the right direction, you can put a structure in place that will allow you to blog unperturbed by campus busybodies.
Here are three ways to get your entire college campus on the same blogging page.
1. Create a Blogging Mission Statement, Get Everyone to Agree to It, and Write it Down
Why is your college blogging in the first place? Is it to:
- Build a bigger pool of applicants by attracting them with helpful information?
- Keep in touch with alumni and nudge them toward becoming donors?
- Boost your college’s nationwide prestige with stories about the accomplishments of your faculty and students?
- Do a little bit of everything?
Before you do anything with your college blog, answer this question. Solicit input from all the interested parties and get them to sign off on a final version in the form of a blogging mission statement: “The goal of our college blog is to…”
Now, next time you have to answer, “Why aren’t we writing about the chemistry department’s latest breakthrough?”, you’ll have a documented, agreed-upon mission statement to back you up.
2. Create a Blogging Style Guide, Get Everyone to Agree to It, and Write it Down
Besides topic, the element of blogging on which college departments disagree most is writing style.
Should your blog be formal and academic or informal and youthful? Do you write from a relatable first-person perspective (“I,” “we”) or an authoritative third-person perspective (“he,” “she,” “they”)? Do you capitalize professional titles like president and dean? How about academic departments like history and business? (Can you tell where I fall on those issues?)
These kinds of questions can spark raging debates. But it’s better to have those debates and settle the answers once and for all before you start blogging rather than when you have an ambitious blogging calendar to fill.
A blogging style guide is a compendium of all the guidelines contributors must follow when writing, editing, or publishing on your college blog. The definitive answer to any contentious issue concerning writing style, format, tone, or voice should be contained in your blogging style guide. It can be especially useful if you’re working with freelance writers.
If this sounds like a monumental task, take heart. It’s not as much work as it might seem. As HubSpot explains in this excellent guide to creating a style guide, you can build off the work that’s already been done for you in a professional style guide like the Associated Press Stylebook.
Like you did with your blogging mission statement, as you build your style guide, get input from all the relevant people on campus. When it’s done, get them to officially sign off on it. I guarantee this will prevent dust-ups over Oxford commas down the road.
3. Create an Official Review Process, Get Everyone to Agree to It, and Write it Down
Schools can be painfully slow about publishing new blog content. It’s not uncommon for blog post drafts to pile up by the dozens while publishing deadlines fly by. This happens because so many people need to weigh in on each post — and they usually take their sweet time to do it, too.
Take it from me. I’ve worked with schools of all sizes at my inbound marketing agency. It always happens.
First, the marketing department takes its pass through a post. Then the communications department has to pick through it for house style. Then the president marks the whole thing up in red pen. Then the piece goes back for a rewrite. Then the cycle begins again.
Attention to detail is admirable — to a point. But if your blogging efforts are ever going to pay off, eventually, you just have to publish your blog articles, perceived warts and all.
Before you launch your blogging calendar, create and outline an official review procedure. Decide who will be responsible for reviewing and approving each blog post and how long they have to do it. And, just like with your blogging mission statement and your style guide, get everyone to sign off on it.
I recommend a process that takes less than two weeks from first draft to publication. Any more drawn out than that and you’ll be encouraging the kind of perfectionism that gets in the way of meeting deadlines, and most importantly, getting the results you want from your college blog.
How do you get your college community to back your blog?
Getting everyone on board with your blogging approach is one the hardest parts of inbound marketing for colleges. What do you do to keep the calendar rolling without upsetting everyone on campus? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.