How to blog successfully as a councillor

Welcome to part eight of our “Introduction to blogging” guide for Liberal Democrat bloggers or would-be bloggers. It’s appearing each Saturday between now and Christmas, with all the posts available via this page. The series will then be revised and collated into an e-book, so please do post up your comments as the series progresses. Today it’s the turn of Kingston councillor Mary Reid.

Young woman, blogging by windowYou probably already know that 7% of Liberal Democrat councillors have a website/blog, compared with 2% of Tory councillors and only 1% of Labour councillors. So there is plenty of experience around and many good blogs to emulate.

I have been blogging, only taking breaks for holidays, for nearly five years. One thing that I have learnt is that you will only persist with your blog if the act of writing meets your own needs as well as those of your electors. In my case, I like being able to process my thoughts on issues and enjoy creating a permanent record of my work as a councillor.

So here are my hints and tips …

Your name is your brand, so don’t hide behind a clever title.

Don’t forget to include your imprint and contact details.

Never write anything that you could not say in a public meeting. A blog feels like an intimate space but it isn’t, so think twice about what you write, especially if you are angry – or drunk.

But, don’t sound as though you are at a public meeting. A chatty style is best.

Don’t think of blogging as an alternative to delivering Focus – it supplements and extends your printed literature, but it does not replace it.

Use photos. I always ask permission and explain I’m taking photos for my blog. You absolutely must check that there is parental permission before you use photos of children.

It is tempting to do nothing but campaign on a blog, but it is also a space where you can praise work done by the voluntary sector and council officers. If you are invited to some kind of celebration, or even just an AGM, take photos of the key people, and use your blog to tell the world about the good things they are doing.  Then send them an email, thanking them for the invitation and explaining that you have written about them on your blog. This amplifies the praise, and neatly grows your audience.

You will mainly be writing about local issues, but also try to find the local angle to national stories.

Make sure that the local press knows about your blog. I find whole chunks of my blog are lifted and used directly in the local papers. From time to time drop an email to the local reporter with a link to something that might interest them on your blog. It’s much simpler than writing press releases.

Encourage comments on the site, but use the option to pre-moderate them. Although this restricts the immediacy of responses, it does protect you from the nutters. From time to time explain the criteria you are using when moderating comments. Mine are: no offensive comments about individuals and no spam (those irritating comments that are simply placed to increase the Google rating of a business). I also try to discourage anonymous comments.

Respond to comments, but don’t forget that you are still in a public space. Beware of the kneejerk reaction to a political challenge and continue to present yourself as reasonable and thoughtful, which you undoubtedly are.

Don’t forget that the opposition will be reading it.

Don’t forget that council officers will be reading it.

Make sure that your council website provides a link to your blog, and that its web address is printed on business cards and stationary. If the council refuses to do this, then refer them the Guidance on this issue produced by the National Project for Local e-Democracy (copies available from me).

You can see Mary’s own blog at www.maryreid.org.uk

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This entry was posted in Blogging guide.
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