Monday, May 29, 2006

How to Work This Blog

Various segments of the political and activist communities are looking for ways to publicize their candidates or causes through blogs, and working with blogs and bloggers is a topic often seen in the schedules of training sessions for activists and operatives. While there are likely to be commonalities it seemed prudent to spell out the best ways of utilizing this blog in particular.

First off, my readers aren’t going to send you money. To the best of my knowledge, candidate mentions on this blog have resulted in exactly two campaign contributions, one of $50.00 and the other denomination unknown. There may be others but these are the only ones I’m aware of (see “the nicest thing….” below). For big money you need the big dogs.

What you can get here is exposure. As for the blog audience, sitemeter statistics tell me the greatest majority of my readers are from Pennsylvania (go figure). Many are from within government, federal, state, and local, or associated industries (lawyers, lobbying firms, media), but there are also quite a few readers coming in from verizon, comcast, etc., that appear to be just interested folks. At least a third of my business comes from search engines, people looking for specific information. Searches for candidates or causes will retrieve interviews, descriptions of events featuring candidates, information on organizations, and so on, months after those postings appeared. Since the blog is updated frequently it often shows up higher than might be expected in search engine results. The rest come straight to the blog or from aggregators such as Philly Future, Leftyblogs, or PoliticsPA.

I focus on the Philadelphia suburbs (Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware counties, sometimes Chester), but occasionally venture into the city or further afield geographically. I am a Democrat and focus on Democratic candidates and progressive causes, but I’ve highlighted a few Republicans along the way.

The blog is written under a pseudonym; I don’t meet candidates or officials in person or talk with people on the phone. The easiest way to approach me is just to email me (see “view my complete profile” for the email). People do that all the time. They send me press releases, notices of events, links to relevant articles, and information on what they are doing. Sometimes I post it, sometimes I don’t. It depends on what else is going on and whether or not I agree with you and how substantive what you’ve sent is, and how often I’ve written about that candidate / cause lately. I may post on your topic but take the opposite or a variant stance on it. It may take a few days for a posting on your topic to show up. The blog is a hobby, shoehorned into days already full with work and family, so it can take time for me to investigate something.

Your email doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact the plainer the better. Flattery is neither sought nor appreciated, but “please” and “thank you” are always welcome. Heated campaign rhetoric will not win points. A long string of press releases on how awful the opposition is won’t have as much impact as a few examples of what you are doing, not what you plan to do or believe, but what you are actually doing or have done. I don’t always open attachments and won’t use your fancy graphics anyway, so cutting and pasting into an email is easier, at least for me. If the info is available online, provide a link, too.

Interviews with candidates and officials have been popular posts and I am open to doing more. If you are interested, let me know; interviews are done via email. The questions I prepare are detailed and specific to the candidate and the district. I’m told they are tough to answer. Since it takes time to research and prepare the questions and often takes weeks (sometimes months) to get the answers back, I won’t be taking interview requests after Sept. 1 for candidates running for office in the November elections. I don’t think there would be time to do a good job before the big day.

If you plan on a continuing contact with blogs, appoint a blog liaison. Personally, I like to have one main contact with a campaign or cause. That’s not to say that others shouldn’t get in touch; they are welcome to do so – it’s just easier to develop good communication with one person. Then I know what is an official communiqué and what is a side conversation. Otherwise there are bound to be conflicting messages and I get frustrated with that – trying to figure out whose messages take precedence or what is the burning issue of the day. The primary contact can be anyone from a volunteer to the candidate. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as I know who to contact with questions.

The nicest possible thing you can do for me is give me feedback. If you are working on a campaign and people tell you they have read about your candidate here, let me know. It will make my day. I can get some idea of what posts are being read and see what posts elicit comments but beyond that I’m in the dark.

That’s about it. As the song goes, “send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view…”

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