Today sees the start of my new NALC blog, which I am very excited about! I get excited about a lot of things, but I am particularly passionate about our work at NALC and in the first tier of local government. So I am really looking forward to writing about it.
The idea is to make use of my blog as part of our communications strategy and to take the work of NALC and local councils to a wider audience. Although my blog will hopefully also appeal to current audiences but may be in a format they might prefer. I’ll just see how things go!
You can read more about me in the aptly titled About Me section and I will obviously outline more about NALC and local councils in another post.
I thought it would also be helpful to provide some frequently asked questions below to provide some background and context about blogging and why I have started a NALC blog.
What is a blog?
A blog, or weblog, is a kind of website. The main page consists of entries, or posts, arranged in a reverse chronological order, with the most recent post at the top. Typically each entry is a short piece of text, often with links to other websites, photos are also often included, and posts can also contain audio or video. Typically a blog will also include the ability for readers to leave comments, so making it more interactive than traditional websites.
What are blogs for?
A blog is essentially an online diary or journal, a place to post musings, thoughts or information of interest, and record day-to-day events. In other words it is a way of keeping people up to date. Blogs can also make links between other blogs and websites, and because blogs rank highly on search engines, they can increase website traffic.
How do you set one up?
There are numerous free blog hosts including Blogger and Flickr to choose from. After signing up for free on their website, you choose a name, layout and design and then start posting content. It should also be possible to set up a blog on existing websites by installing side-server blogging software on an existing Web server. I used to have a mobile blog with Blogger, so have stuck with them for my NALC blog.
How are blogs updated?
If using a blog host, posts are created using simple tools built into the host’s website. This means being able to update a blog without any technical knowledge, from any computer with an internet connection. It is also possible to update a blog via a mobile or smart phone, PDA or BlackBerry. I don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge (!) so am hoping the process will be simple, particularly as I want to update my blog from a computer and BlackBerry.
It is estimated that there are over 30 million blogs – that’s a lot of people blogging! Although many do not last long and are not regularly updated. Recently the Communities Secretary Hazel Blears started using a blog, and used it to good effect around the time of the publication of the community empowerment white paper. She has also kept an account of her holidays during the parliamentary recess! Other people who also blog are David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party, Paul Coen, Chief Executive of the LGA and John Arthur, the current President of the Society of Local Council Clerks. The Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg is on Facebook.
Why have I started blogging?
Using a blog supports our underpinning strategic objective of communicating the message about what we do. Our communications with local councils is consistently highlighted as being one of our top priorities, and indeed an area which we could improve. The use of blogs provides another way of sharing and communicating what we do more widely. Also, the revised Quality Parishes Scheme encourages local councils to make their websites more interactive and to make use of blogs. Indeed the recent community empowerment white paper continued this theme as a way of better engaging and interacting with citizens on the work of local government. I think that the National Association, in its leadership role to local councils, should lead by example and make the use of blogs to communicate with our constituent member councils, county associations and other people about aspects of our work. So we’ll give it a go!
The forthcoming conference season, which is a key strand of our promotional and influencing strategy, provides a particular opportunity for us to start sharing more widely how proactive we are at promoting the first tier of local government. There is also a great deal going on in our wider work which would be good to start communicating in a different way to usual methods.
I think this a brilliant way for us to be innovative and proactive and set the example for others to follow. I hope you agree and support the idea. And I hope you keep reading my blog!