Secrets to BLEND's Guest Blogging Program

Creating relevant and useful blog content takes not just a good chunk of time, but also an equal amount of creative effort.  But there are some effective blogging strategies, such as using guest bloggers (Beth wrote about 3 benefits of using guest bloggers here), that will save you some marketing time, while giving your blog a unique edge and writing perspective. BLEND (Better Living through Exercise and Nutrition Daily) is one non-profit who has really taken this guest blogger marketing approach and ran with it!  We recently interviewed Kathy Geislinger, BLEND Program Specialist, and she openly shared their experiences with blogging and guest writers.  Here is what she said….

Kathy, tell us a little bit about BLEND…BLEND logo

As a non-profit, grassroots health and wellness initiative, we strive to create healthy, active communities through advocacy efforts and partnerships.  BLEND staff works steadily to engage our community members and build a base of support to become better connected, better networked, and better informed; all to create an infrastructure for effective movement building. Woven throughout the fabric of BLEND is a strong advocacy base that seeks to impact laws and policies at both the local and state levels to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.  BLEND has outreach capabilities that others in the industry recognize and as a result we are often used as a catalyst to prompt and mobilize advocacy efforts.  One of those outreach tools is our BLEND Blog.

How do you find potential writers for the BLEND blog? 

In recent months, BLEND has launched a guest blogging plan to further steward relationships and to tap into new resources that might not immediately be associated with our mission but can serve as another source for momentum building. To find prospective writers we look to local partners, advocates and champions in our community(s) who can potentially help further our mission Blend websiteand build our network.  May it be to promote BLEND-supported events (i.e. Fit Kids Club Series) or programs (i.e. NuVal® or Walk-At-School), legislative or policy-driven activities (i.e. Safe Routes to School), share success stories (active moms and community garden), or to simply educate our audience (i.e. area parks and trails, cancer awareness, wellness programs).

We often let our instincts determine whether a potential writer is the right fit for BLEND.  BLEND staff typically seeks potential writers and makes the request.  Just recently, we’ve been getting many requests from bloggers around the U.S asking if we would be interested in posting their work on our site…some want to submit samples of their writing or want to propose topics we may be interested in.  At this time we are declining any offers because it would not benefit our mission or advance our efforts.

How do you ensure the writers understand your expectations?

As we were looking to begin a guest blogging venture, we felt it was important to develop guidelines and expectations prior to inviting anyone to write for us.  By doing a little online research and asking the best social media guru in the area (Beth Gasser, Vivid Image) we were able to develop a document we were comfortable and confident with to share with our potential writers.  This identified our expectations, provides instructions, eliminates unexpected problems and helps minimize time by placing all the information in one document.   For our first-time writers it really calms their nerves and provides them direction. View BLEND’s Guest Blogging Guidelines for Guest Writers (PDF).

Do the writers format and publish the posts themselves in WordPress, or do you?

At this time we only allow for BLEND staff to publish posts.  We have worked very hard to create a quality website with uniformity and feel it’s important to uphold that.  Though the voices in our blogs may change the look and formatting stays the same. I think our viewers get a sense of comfort; too, it’s predictable and consistent. I have trained myself to leave the blogs as they are written (maybe correct grammatical mistakes) and I think our readers can identify and appreciate the different voices. View BLEND’s Guest Blogging Goals and Guidelines for Internal Staff (PDF).

Do you suggest topic ideas or do the writers come up with them themselves?

A little of both.  Whenever a partner/champion agrees to writing a blog its likely they/we have an event, program, celebration or effort they/we would like to highlight.  There are times when a partner accepts our offer to guest blog but doesn’t have a specific topic – we then allow them the autonomy to select their topic. A great example is our guest blogger Chad Johnson with the YMCA – he’s written about diabetes prevention one month and a large community event hosted by the Y the next month.

What results have you seen from starting this guest blogger program?

Tremendous results…from increased website and Facebook page traffic…to gaining respect for using our website and outreach capabilities to benefit the community.  Even our blog interactions and blog subscribers have increased.  Our website visitors through the 3rd quarter of 2012 have already increased 65% over our website visitors for the whole year of 2011!

What else do you want to tell us about BLEND’s blogging program?

My favorite part of our guest blogging endeavor is reading their story for the first time.  Most guests are not comfortable with sharing their story to unfamiliar faces and feel a bit uneasy.   Knowing that – I like to put extra effort in making sure the blog looks and feels great…and, of course networking the blog to drive more readers to the blog.

Now, please share your comments, ideas, and questions on guest blogging below! What has been your experience with including guest bloggers on your blog/website?  If you have ever been a guest blogger, did you receive any benefits from the additional exposure, such as traffic back to your website or additional brand awareness/exposure?

At Vivid Image, we love to hear (and share) our client’s success stories!  Thank you to Kathy and the rest of the team at BLEND for sharing their guest blogging success tips.  Click here to read more marketing, website, and social media success stories about other small businesses in Minnesota!