Nine steps to developing nonprofit blog editorial guidelines
If your nonprofit has an existing blog, or you are in the process of establishing one, it’s very important to develop and publish blog editorial guidelines. If you have more than one contributing author, editorial guidelines allow you to communicate and be clear about what content fits on your organization’s blog; the idea is not to be heavy handed with control but to set your blog up for success!
Your blog editorial guidelines will provide parameters for the type of content you will feature and will provide clarity about roles and responsibilities of contributors and approvers. All of this information will be helpful to writers as they shape their posts. Articulating your nonprofit blog editorial guidelines now will reduce work and confusion down the road.
In addition, the process of developing editorial guidelines will help you to think through all aspects of what you want from your blog’s content, and what is acceptable from your organization’s point of view – important components that you don’t want to be figuring out as you go along.
Here are nine steps to developing nonprofit blog editorial guidelines.
1. State your blog’s content goal
Your nonprofit blog should have a primary goal, which should be stated in your guidelines. Why was this blog created and what does the organization hope to achieve with it? If your content goal hasn’t already been established, establish it now. The surest way to stay on course with your blog is to have a destination in sight.
2. Describe your target audience
When you spend time carefully establishing your content goal, you will need to identify your primary audience. Who are the intended readers of your blog? Writing with a specific audience in mind help with creating consistent content tailored to their needs and interests. Ideally, you will get more specific than ‘supporters’ ‘donors’ or ‘volunteers’. An excellent approach is to craft specific marketing personas that describe your nonprofit blog’s audience.
If it’s too difficult to narrow down one audience for your blog, establish a primary audience and then list additional audiences in order of priority – but try to keep this to just a few!
3. Explain your content criteria
What types of content will your blog feature? This is a great place to give authors ideas for posts. Some examples might include:
- How-to content
- Profiles (donors, volunteers, employees, board members, program participants)
- Organizational news and announcements
- External cause-related news/events (with commentary from the organization)
- Personal stories from stakeholders about their experience with your organization
- Reader questions answered (interview-style posts)
- Challenges (e.g. 30-day challenge)
- Curated round-up of news about your cause (weekly, monthly)
What types of submissions are highest priority, perhaps because they will be high-performing in terms of search? Provide examples of high-priority blog posts if you can.
What type of content will not be considered? Articulate those in this section as well. For example, if there is any sensitive/controversial material related to your cause that you would not be able to feature, specify that here.
4. Describe your style and formatting
This is where you can get into the details of such things as headline format, word count, sentence length, use of bullets and subheadings, spelling and grammar, etc. If you have them, ensure that your organization’s messaging or style guidelines are reflected here or that you link to them. Because you want each writer’s voice to shine through, you don’t want to be too restrictive, but you also want to provide guidance now that will reduce revisions later.
5. Specify your linking policy
What links are acceptable or encouraged in a blog post? Can writers link to external blogs and websites? If links are encouraged, state that here. Are links to commercial products and services acceptable? Can guest bloggers link to their own websites and if yes, how many of these links will you allow? Do you encourage or require internal linking to related blog posts?
6. Make your topic submission and review process clear
It’s often a good idea to review a proposed topic or an outline before submission of draft copy to ensure that each post is aligned with your content goal. A poorly chosen topic will mean a poor post, no matter how many revisions you go through. Specify whether a topic or outline must be submitted as part of your process.
How should guest bloggers submit their articles: when and to whom? Describe the submission, review and approval process for blog posts here, along with the estimated time that the overall process will take.
7. Indicate your republishing/repurposing policy
Can authors reuse their content on other websites or blogs? Be clear about that and put it in writing. If yes, is there a minimum waiting period before doing so, for example two weeks or two months? Must authors acknowledge in writing that the post originally appeared on your blog? Provide the necessary text here.
8. Detail other items to be submitted
Depending on how you feature or acknowledge your guest authors, you might require a photo/headshot and bio from them. Specify this in your guidelines, including word count for the bio and image size for the headshot. Indicate what social networks and other links authors can include in their bios.
Also, if you expect authors to submit supporting/thematic photos to accompany their post, indicate the image style, formats and sizes you require.
9. Format and post!
Your guidelines can take a number of different formats and can be as simple as a bulleted list using headings pulled from the steps listed above. Here is an example from the Nonprofit Technology Network. And our own editorial guidelines, while not for a nonprofit blog, provide an example of detailed guidelines.
Once your nonprofit blog editorial guidelines are drafted, post them in a location to which you can easily direct people. Having this url at your fingertips will come in very handy!
What else will you include in your nonprofit’s blog editorial guidelines? Is there anything else that must be included to ensure the success of your blog?
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