Having a newspaper or some kind of reliable information source in a community is vitally important to the citizens and businesses of that area being able to talk and share ideas, organize for meetings and gatherings, celebrate their successes and plan and execute new projects.
In this day and age, though, the changing nature of the newspaper business has seen many local newspapers close down, leaving small towns without this vital community hub.
The good news is, there is something you can do about that. All you need is internet service and some dedication to the cause.
A community blog is a fast, free and effective way to provide the same service that your local newspaper once did.
Starting a blog is not just a great way to provide information to your town. It’s also very helpful to do the same thing for neighborhood groups, small nonprofits orgs or new community projects – anything that needs to get information out to the general public.
How to get started? It’s easy.
1. Open your blog.
Tumblr.com and WordPress.com are two free and easy-to-use blogging platforms that will do everything you need. They are designed for the person with little or no technical expertise, so if you’re no computer whizz don’t be intimidated. Just pick one of those two guys (honestly, it won’t make much of a difference), and follow the instructions.
Pick a name, something that makes sense. “Funky Town News” (if your community’s name is Funky Town, which would be awesome.) Anything with your city, town or county’s name in it will be fine.
2. Write something useful.
You don’t have to be Hemingway. In fact, the best blogs are usually those that are short and sweet, heavy on helpful info and light on drama and philosophizing.
What kind of helpful info? Well…
Where and when is the community meeting? Did they change the schedule for trash collection? Does the county know when the roads will be cleared? How is the high school basketball team doing? What’s that new business that’s opened up in the old hardware store building? When does meals on wheels service resume? When is that new Zumba class starting?
There are lots of small but vital pieces of information that a community relies on to stay connected and enlightened. Providing this information in an accurate and timely manner is how local blogs like yours become hugely popular go-to resources.
3. Share it.
There are two main ways to “broadcast” your posts to the people who need your information.
First, make sure your blog has a “subscribe by email” function. This means that when someone reads one of your posts they will be able to enter their email address, and from then on whenever you post new content it will be sent to their email inbox.
Second, use Facebook. Start by announcing the new blog on your personal Facebook page (and include the URL), get your friends to do the same, and invite people to “subscribe.”
The next step is to give the blog its own Facebook page. Starting a new Facebook page might sound like a lot of work, but it will actually save you time. You will be able to set your WordPress or Tumblr blog so every time you publish a new post it will automatically be posted to your Facebook page. And, soon enough, your Facebook page will be where people start providing the information your blog needs, so you’ll save time by having the news come to you!
Once your blog gets up and running, there are a few other bells and whistles you can add. But just by providing consistent, helpful and timely information to your neighbors and fellow citizens, you’ll be providing an enormous asset for your community.
Need some help, or just want to ask a question? Email me, Jake Lynch, at firstname.lastname@example.org.