September 1, 2013 Columns

Spreading the Word: Start a Blog

Many speech-language pathologists and audiologists use blogs to better connect with communities of interest. You can also set up blogs to grow your business, earn speaking opportunities, position yourself as a media resource and enhance your own knowledge.

But how do you know if blogging is for you? First ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why choose a blog over other methods of communication?
  • What exactly do you want to communicate via a blog?
  • Is it worth the time investment to start and maintain a blog?

Blogs provide some unique benefits. Far from the outdated one-way information push of a newsletter or even a website, blogs are all about interaction and fostering a dialogue—perfect for SLPs and audiologists, who are dedicated to improving human communication. Blogs also are more personal, less formal, highly visual and increasingly dynamic—allowing bloggers to easily embed photos, videos and other compelling content. In addition, blogs are not as space-restrictive as other forms of social media. Although blog posts should run paragraphs—as opposed to pages—there is much more freedom to expand beyond the brief quips that characterize other social media.

Moreover, blogs are public (readers don't have to be members to see content) as well as search-engine friendly (they generally appear higher in search rankings, making your content easier to discover). Blogs also are an effective vehicle to engage and cultivate a specific community—primarily online, but sometimes evolving into meet-ups at professional conferences, blogger-specific workshops and other venues.

If you are going to start a blog, first determine your topic (preferably with a unique twist or niche) as well as your target audience. Do you want to provide information to parents of patients with feeding difficulties? A blog is a great way to present meal ideas with step-by-step prep instructions (along with accompanying photos or video); recommendations for feeding-related products (age- or developmentally appropriate utensils, divided plates, bottles/cups, seats/highchairs); and helpful tips for special circumstances—such as surviving meals at a restaurant or on a road trip when options are limited. Perhaps you want to engage fellow audiologists about new research and developments in hearing loss. You could interview the lead author of a promising new study on hearing loss from loud blasts in war zones; preview your upcoming presentation at a professional conference; or offer your take on a news story of the day, such as a possible link between hearing loss and smoking during pregnancy.

Here are 10 tips to help you get started:

  • Determine your goals. Are you looking to find new (or support existing) patients? Network with colleagues? Knowing what you are trying to achieve willl help drive your content and justify the time commitment.
  • Choose a blogging platform. There are many free or inexpensive options for hosting your blog. Wordpress and Blogger are popular and easy to use.
  • Pick a name and design theme. Be creative, but make sure that whatever you choose represents you and the content you will be providing.
  • Write... and repeat. One of the biggest pitfalls to blogging is infrequent and inconsistent posting. You should try to blog at least once a week. Posts should be short, conversational, helpful and authentic to your voice.
  • Train your brain. Ideas for posts can be found anywhere. Get in the habit of noticing everyday things that may make good topics. Keep a running list of ideas so you never find yourself hard-pressed for a topic. You can even create an editorial calendar of planned posts for a month or a few months in advance.
  • Prepare for feedback. Comments—good and bad—are all part of the blogging equation. If you are not comfortable with negative feedback, blogging may not be right for you. Read and respond to comments to show readers that you value their input.
  • Network with other bloggers. Follow other blogs that you find interesting, and comment on posts. This will encourage others to follow your blog.
  • Give credit where credit is due. If you decide to share information from other blogs or articles, always make sure to note the original source.
  • Optimize for sharing. Make it easy for people to share your posts. Add social sharing buttons so that readers can pass posts on to their own networks. After all, that is the beauty of the "social" revolution.
  • Promote your blog. Unlike Field of Dreams, readers will not come if you don't drive them to your blog. Share your posts on your own social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), use an RSS feed to allow subscribers to see latest posts, and link to outside resources to boost your search engine rankings. Also, think about adding your blog's address to your business cards, e-mail signature, website, newsletter... anything and everything.

A quick Google search will provide endless resources offering step-by-step instructions on many of the tips listed here. Many blogging platforms will provide explicit instructions to help you get started as well. You can also contact pr@asha.org for more information.

Francine Pierson, is an ASHA public relations manager. fpierson@asha.org.

cite as: Pierson, F. (2013, September 01). Spreading the Word: Start a Blog. The ASHA Leader.

  

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