Ask The E-mail Diva: Promoting Blogs

by , , Apr 11, 2006, 2:00 AM
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Dear E-mail Diva: I work for a news organization, and we are greatly increasing our blog product selection. I'm wondering if you are aware of or have spoken to anyone about the best way to promote these features. Sincerely, Ashley K. Edwards, Orlando Sentinel

Dear Ashley: Like all blog promoters, you have two hurdles: 1) promoting current blogs to tech-savvy enthusiasts and 2) educating the uninitiated.

For the tech-savvy enthusiasts--those who understand what an RSS feed is and have a reader-- you need to promote the value of the information. What's in a particular blog that the subscriber must know the moment it hits the Web? What distinguishes the blog from the column online? In the E-mail Diva's humble opinion, there is too much emphasis on quantity over quality with blogs. They too often become what WOMMA CEO Andy Sernovitz calls sandwich blogs: "Today for lunch I had a turkey sandwich...." Blogs are for readers, so they must showcase the writer's voice. The most popular blogs are characterized by wit and style in addition to unique content.

Once you have your content house in order, promote it on your site. You do a good job with blog promo banners, so start by repairing the site navigation (which won't make you very popular with your tech team). The secondary navigation for blogs provides links to news pages, rather than blog pages. When a reader clicks on BLOGS, the categories that appear are not the BLOG categories. Since all the other site navigation works differently, it is confusing to readers.

Create a landing page for each blog department (news, sports, business, entertainment, lifestyle, travel) and promote the benefits of the blog(s) in that category. Note the word benefits--not just who's writing what. What will readers get from this blog that they care about? Why should they subscribe rather than reading your site or your paper?

Remember that blogs are for enthusiasts, so your writers should promote them in the forums they access. Not in an overt, big-business way that is unacceptable forum etiquette, but in a casual way, saying, for example, "I've been writing about this in my blog, if you're interested...." Be sure to promote specific blogs in your e-mail newsletters on the same topic. And speaking of your e-mail newsletters: 1) it is extremely difficult to find your sign-up option; 2) the subscription form only shows the Midday Update and Travel newsletters, although there are several others; and 3) there is a negative option for offers from your advertisers, i.e., the reader must act to opt-out. This is a BIG no-no. Also, your personal e-mail signature with a blog link is a great idea--but I got a 404 error when I clicked on that choice.

Your second challenge is to educate the uninitiated. Your readers will benefit from a VERY simple description of news feeds. Devote a page, with no other information and nice diagrams, to describing in layman's terms what feeds are and why people like them. Promote your how-to page with a banner titled, "What the heck is a blog?" or something similar. Your current page is a good start, but I think people find the RSS buttons forbidding and the descriptions unnecessarily technical. It reminds me of the early days of the Internet, when everyone felt it was necessary to discuss ARPANET. We're too eager to display our newfound knowledge and not communicating the basic concept or--you guessed it--the benefits.

For the latest thinking on RSS, explore Rok Hrastnik's http://www.marketingstudies.net/ and Brian Offenberger's http://www.RSSCommunications.com, as well as the MediaPost archives.

Good luck! The E-mail Diva

Send your question to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at emaildiva@kd-i.com. All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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