Before reading this please refer to the official attributed digital content policy.
What is a blog?
A blog is a simple and informal personal online journal that allows readers to add their own comments.
Standard characteristics, features and functions:
- Entries are usually short and information-rich, and allow readers to comment at the end.
- It is easy to include links, photos, videos and other media.
- Blogs provide attributed personal content. The author offers an opinion.
- Readers subscribe to the content, developing a community of other bloggers and readers who post comments over time
- Blogs can provide a ‘behind the scenes’ insight.
- Blogs are written by people who are an authority on their subject
Examples of government blogs
- Deputy Director of the Francis Implementation Team at DH
- Director General, Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships at DH
- Social care - a DH topic blog
- British Ambassador to Egypt
- Civil Service Quarterly
- Head of DFID Nepal
- The Minister for Europe
- The Chief Scientist at the FSA
Blogs can have great reach, visibility and influence, but to create a readership and community takes time.
Blogs can help you to:
- Reach out to new people
- Highlight strategy and the interactions you have on a daily basis
- Be personal – talk to lots of people in the first person
- Interact with people
- Network with peers
- Bring public service to life
Do you need a blog?
Before committing to a blog, ask yourself:
1. How will a blog fit with my existing communication activity?
A blog on its own is not a catch-all solution. It should serve as a portal for engagement with your audience, but must complement the way you reach out to these people on- and off-line. Sometimes, blogs are requested for the wrong reasons:
- “…because Team X has launched a blog…"
- “…it’s trendy, every teen has one…“
- "…we want to look high-tech…”
In theory, none of the reasons above is an obstacle, provided there is still a real purpose for the blog, and the necessary resource is in place.
2. Who will make up my blog audience?
Does your target audience consume other online information? Is there already an online community of people discussing your subject. Will you be able to promote the blog to people you know?
Blogging won’t always be the best or most appropriate communication tool. But if you know you can join an existing online conversation, then a blog might be the ideal tool to use.
Does your target audience read other blogs? Will they understand the culture, such as commenting on posts and sharing links?
3. Do I have the necessary resources to maintain a blog?
Blogging well takes time, effort and expertise.
- Blogs take time. It takes time to create and publish content; it takes time to research, write posts, update them and maintain the blog. And for any organisation time means resources diverted from other work.
- Blogs need people. Blogging is a personal commitment. Bloggers write regular updates and read and respond to the comments they receive.
- Blogs require information. You need to have something to write about. As an official DH blogger, you will be aware that you are representing the Department. You will need to ensure that you are an authority on the subjects you are blogging about.
4. How will my audience determine my blog content?
You need to know who you are writing for.
Will your blog speak to your audience and their areas of interest or concern? How does your audience feel about you and your project or cause?
5. How will I track and evaluate the effectiveness of my blog?
You will need to set some objectives for your blog. You should measure your success as a blogger by how far you are able to deliver these objectives.
There are lots of things you can measure to give you an indication of how far you have met your objectives. For example:
- the number of subscribers
- the volume of comments and engagement
- the number of people linking from their blog to yours, or amplifying your message across social networks
- your reach into target online communities
The digital team in the Communications Directorate can help you to evaluate your success.
6. What makes a good blog entry?
There are no rules about what makes a good blog. But effective blogs tend to be:
- Well signposted: Use self-describing titles and summaries. They may be the only thing your readers see.
- Authentic: Always use your own words (even it's based on policy or briefing). Say things that only you could say.
- Responsive: Moderate - and respond to - comments.
- Targeted: Write about things that people are already talking about online.
- Integrated: Connect your blog with other things you do (Twitter, guest articles elsewhere, interviews, speeches)
Roles and responsibilities
The digital team will:
- provide your blog template
- provide coaching before you start on blogging best practice and how to use WordPress - our blogging tool. (For more information about WordPress and how to use it see WordPress Made Simple and the easy wordpress user guide)
- provide ongoing support from a named digital communications advisor
- check blog posts for Gov.uk style
- monitor your blog to ensure that you are using it in line with the best practice principles described above.
You will need:
- to write regularly for the blog (roughly once a week to build and retain an audience)
- a second pair of eyes (we recommend that all DH bloggers run their blog past a colleague before publishing)
- to moderate comments – by default, all comments are pre-moderated (you approve them before they appear on the site). Our commitment is to publish comments within 24 hours, and we publish almost everything, including critical comments. See our Comment and moderation policy for more information.
- an audience
You should also read, understand and adhere to the Civil Service Code on Online Participation
You will be responsible for the accuracy and suitability of the content on your blog.
You will also need:
- An agreed clearance process, signed off by your branch head. People blogging about sensitive issues may require official clearance, but most should be able to sign off their own text, with agreement from their branch head and Communications Directorate.
- A quarterly review process for the blog
- Publish original, distinct and unique content
- Write about broader issues related to the theme of your blog
- Listen and respond to your readers and their comments
- Post regularly – at least once a week
- Give readers an insight ‘behind the scenes’
- Have a forward plan for content
- Use the first person – I, we, me
- Include embedded videos, images and captions
- Link to other sites and blogs
- Just regurgitate official lines
- Overlap or reproduce content that already exists elsewhere eg. on GOV.UK or other websites
- Write about subjects that are outside your field of expertise.
- Ignore comments made on your blog
- Post occasionally or inconsistently
- Talk at readers instead of with them
- Be left short of ideas for posts
- Save up ideas for one long post.
- Copy images from other websites, unless you have permission
- Be afraid to ask for help or feedback
Before publishing official personal content staff should consider:
- whether the content is in line with DH policy positions
- whether the content is appropriate for a national – and potentially international – audience, as well as a particular target audience
- how the content might be received when played back outside the specific context (for example in the UK press or in regional media)
- whether the content needs another pair of eyes before publishing
- how staff will respond to questions and comments from readers.
See our Official attributed content policy for more information
I am ready to blog – what happens next?
Get in touch with the digital team to discuss your specific objectives and requirements.