Couple of weeks ago I did a guest post over at the terrific blog run by the Ohio Workforce Coalition, all about using blogs for advocacy work in our field. Here's the post in its entirety. They're running a series of posts by national workforce development experts - click over to the OWC blog to read much more.
Let me start with a couple of facts I think we can all agree on:
1) What we do in workforce development is important. More important today than perhaps any time in recent history.
2) Far too few people know about workforce development.
3) We’re overworked and underpaid, and don’t have the time or staff to take on another task.
All that being true, how can you use blogs to support your workforce development advocacy efforts?
Here’s another fact of life in our modern world: You can’t do advocacy work without having an online component, but your advocacy work can’t take place only online. What you do online has to be coordinated and should build on what you’re doing in the real world, and vice versa.
I’ve been blogging since 2006 over at Workforce Developments and I’ve been teaching workshops about blogging and social media since 2007. In that time I’ve seen blogs go from “the hot new thing” to just another tool in your advocacy toolkit.
Even though Twitter and Facebook have taken over the hot new social media tools, blogs still matter. They’re the place where you can create original content and go into issues in more detail than a quick status update will allow. They give you a platform where you can speak in an informal voice to a broad audience.
And right now, you have something important to say.
Everyone knows employment in the US is a wreck. As a workforce development practitioner or advocate, you know unique details, trends and underlying causes about the current employment crisis. You also know about solutions that work. What’s more, you know that getting people back to work in this economy is hard work that just takes time to succeed.
If we’re going to get good policies and smart investments at the federal, state or local level rather than simplistic slogans and short-term infusions of cash, you need to educate policymakers. The general public needs to hear from you too if they’re going to support workforce development policies. This is why blogging remains an important tool for your advocacy work. You need to explain what you know to all those audiences.
If you work for a government agency, you may not be able to engage in “advocacy” work, but you should be blogging too. You have access to data, and you have stories to tell about what’s working and what’s not in your programs or the ones you fund.
Government employees used to tell me that “we’re different – we can’t blog.” The Obama presidency ended that, ushering in a new era of government blogging. Check out this list of blogs from federal agencies. The Center for Technology in Government at SUNY-Albany recently did a nice overview of “eight essential elements” governments should consider when setting social media policies. Their report includes examples of policies from a wide range of agencies.
Whether you’ve been running a blog for a while or just getting started, here are a few suggestions to help you use blogging to support and build your advocacy work.
Create a blogging schedule that’s right for your organization and stick with it. If that means once a week, then post once a week. If it’s more or less than that based on your staff resources, that’s fine. Just be consistent.
Keep it simple. One idea per post – that’s all you need. If you find yourself going into detail on background info to explain something, then you should probably save all that background content for a new post.
Seek blog content in the everyday. Every single day, your organization and your colleagues in workforce development and related fields are writing reports, issuing statements, creating web pages and otherwise generating information you can blog about. Next time an email hits your inbox with a report by a colleague, instead of marking it to read when I have time and never getting back to it, read it and write a quick blog post about what their findings mean for your community.
Be strategic with your social media networks. That means getting links to your blog posts out via Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and other sites. Make it as easy for people find your content as you can.
Don’t forget the people. Connect with other workforce development sites, blogs, Twitter feeds and so on. Link to them from your blog, but also connect with those people personally. At its heart, this social media phenomenon really is about people.
Do your homework. Stay up-to-date on how other nonprofits, government agencies and even businesses are using social media for advocacy work. Take a look at what your high-profile colleagues are doing. A few of my favorite social media resources these days are Heather Mansfield’s Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog, the indispensable Beth Kanter’s blog and Mashable . But don’t stop there – follow their links to far more resources than I could ever list here.
Advocate for our field. Workforce development matters and anything you can do to raise the profile of your work and that of your colleagues helps us all.