Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blogging for Candidates - 101

(The following is a brief bit about candidate blogging that I wrote up for someone, and I thought it would be good to share here too, just as a general fyi and because I'd like to hear your comments about how to improve or expand upon this summary. Terry)

Blogging 101 - a primer on blogging and the netroots for local candidates

Blogs give you a public platform to address the issues that are important to you and your campaign. They are meant to be communal and conversational in tone. This is not press release style communication, but more personal and engaging. Remember that it is a two way conversation. Candidates need to respond to thoughtful and inquisitive comments - this shows you take the netroots seriously, can answer difficult questions, and are interested in hearing what people have to say. Be honest, direct and authentic. Blogs cater to informed citizens who want something more than what traditional media offers.

Write your own posts. It doesn't have to be a constant stream. Something every week or two, and if you have communication staff or a writer/blogger that can fill in between times, that will keep it more active. Active is good. It keeps people coming back to see what you're doing. If you have someone else help with the writing, make sure you know what they're saying. You don't want to be asked about something said on your blog, when you don't know what's been said on your behalf. If you're going to blog, it requires personal involvement. It's a part of your media and communications plan, so you can't just delegate and forget about.

On the issues, blogs are a great place to address issues that the traditional media isn't talking about or where you think they have the story wrong. You can talk about controversial issues, and how you would have voted and why. You can show how you are different than your opponent or the currently elected officials. (examples: in San Diego you could address the Sunroad/airport issue or the Walmart Supercenter issue) Talk about local issues or problems that no one is addressing or talking about. People who read blogs want to read about your vision for the city and your perspective on public policy.

You can also use your blog write about events you are attending or have attended. (example: I went to ArtWalk today and saw... I went to a meeting today and heard...etc etc etc.) You can use your blog to make campaign related announcements too.

If you decide to post a diary on a blog other than your own, it's a good idea to read a bit first rather than just jumping in blind. Blogs have their own culture, habits, rules, etc. It's good to have a sense of those things before posting.

A few additional points:

  • Use descriptive rather than clever but vague titles. The better to Google you with, my dear.
  • Most diaries are 800-1000 words. Find a happy medium between too short and too long.
  • Be clear and concise, but don't be shy about letting your personality show.
  • Give credit where credit is due. (ex: Props to Robert for his input on this piece!)
  • Put links in your posts. Everyone loves a link.
  • Put pictures in your posts. It's personal, it's nice, it adds interest. Video is great too. YouTube and Google video can be your friends.
  • Act Blue is also your friend for fundraising and is a good site to incorporate into your online presence.

And finally, trolls: Trolls are people who come to your site just to disrupt conversation and throw verbal bombs. Don't feed the trolls. Stay cool. Ignoring often works because you're not giving them a reason to continue. You have to decide your level of tolerance for that if it occurs, and you can delete or hide posts that are offensive/threatening/obscene. If a blog has a serious problem with trolls, you can enable moderation or turn off comments. That's not preferable, but it could happen.

Resources, additional info and examples:

Leveraging Online Media
Powerpoint slides from the Democracy for America Night School online course

A great source of CA political news, plus you can see how people use links, quotes, photos, video. You can post your own diaries there too.

Charlie Brown for Congress
Brown is a Congressional candidate that has a good understanding of the netroots.The link is a mix of posts by him and about him.

Good luck and have fun!



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