expert witness

I’ve been hearing a lot from artists and cultural organizations that they’d like to start a blog, but they’re unsure what they should write about. They seem convinced that since a blog is a good marketing tool, it’s really just another place to put press releases and event announcements.

Not so.

Blogs are a particular type of communications tool, different from a press release or a feature story in the local paper. Those things are still GREAT, but now you have this other tool, that can accomplish slightly different goals.

First, let’s brainstorm a bit on what you might want to write about.

If you’re an artist, I might read your blog because I want to know more about you, not because I want to read the same stuff I read about you in the newspapers. Give me the inside scoop! What is it like to be you?

What? It’s not all late mornings and Oscar-Wilde-like witty remarks in the world of an artist? So disillusion us.

Most people are fascinated by the interior life of artists. Many people are turned on by the chance to peek backstage at a theater. Almost everyone I know thinks they can curate an art exhibit. Are they right?

Artists: Write about your favorite kind of paintbrushes. Write about where you go shopping for paintbrushes. Write about how hard it is to find decent studio space. Write about why you ditched that banker job to see if you could make it selling art. Write about your crippling self-doubt and fears of failure. Write the truth. Not the press release.

Cultural Organizations: Write about your insides — what goes on inside a theater, a museum, a historical home? Not the tedious soap opera that will get you fired if you share – the cool stuff we’re all dying to know! Where do your staff come from? What brought them here? How much fun did you have striking the set over the weekend? Can I help next time?

Of course, since you’ve left comments open on your blog, you get to hear back from your community. They will tell you what they want to hear more about, what’s working, what’s not. Like it or not, they are YOUR community, and it’s far better to know what they are thinking about you than to not know.

(You know how you sometimes send out surveys and evaluation forms, trying desperately to get feedback on your programs and show their impact? And then bemoan the fact that nobody responds? Open up comments on your blog.)

Why? What are the objectives you are trying to accomplish by sharing this insider information, reading constituent comments, interviewing your volunteers and donors? All this takes time and effort — how do you justify taking the time to write this stuff down and share it with the world?

Here are a few things you will be doing, without even knowing you are doing them, if you blog like this:

  • Position yourself and your organization as an expert in the field
  • Feature and promote the people most important to your success (sponsors,volunteers, staff, donors)
  • Connect with your peers and your peer organizations
  • Think out loud, learning about yourself and your field as you do (also known as “learning by writing”)
  • Show the human face of your organization
  • Engage your members and donors more deeply, giving them a personal investment in your success
  • Reach potential members/donors you don’t even know about

To paraphrase David at JournaMarketing:

Turn your {blog} into a service, instead of a commercial. When you do that, you get the benefit of reaching more people — and the added benefit of directing them to a place where they might come to trust you, instead of forgetting about you in 30 seconds.

This doesn’t mean oversharing, or giving away proprietary information. It means giving your readers a tantalizing peek behind the curtain — you get to decide how high to raise it, and what corner of scenery to reveal — so that they want to know more.

It means accepting the fact that you are an expert, and that you have knowledge to share. Just by virtue of the fact that you do what you do – create art, build sets, sing and dance, preserve a historical home — makes you an expert.

You are an expert in what it is like to be you. Because you work as a creator, promoter, curator, preserver, or supporter of the arts, you are doing something that most people only dream of doing. Share.

Update: Jeremiah Owyang just resurfaced this post from October 2007, a thoughtful list of challenges presented by CEO blogs, most of which translates perfectly well to cultural organizations and other nonprofits considering starting a blog.  He also rightly refers you to read Shel Israel’s and Robert Scoble’s Naked Conversations, a must-read book on business blogging.


One response to “expert witness

  1. Hi Beth,

    Thanks for the mention! I’m glad to find your blog, because it looks like we’re interested in a lot of the same things. I’m adding you to my feed reader!


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