Parent bloggers and The Lullaby Trust

Lullaby TrustI knew something was in the air for the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths because my friend Jennie had been tweeting about working with them on an exciting project.

Yesterday it emerged that the FSID was changing its name to The Lullaby Trust. As they say on their website “‘The Lullaby Trust’ communicates warmth, trust and compassion. It is a simple name which is easy to remember and illustrates our commitment to promoting safer sleep for babies to every family.”

To tie in with the re-brand, parent bloggers were asked to write their own lullaby and blog about it.

It was such a great idea and the rate at which tweets about the #lullabytrust were appearing in my timeline shows what a success it was.

Charity campaigns that work with bloggers can have a great impact, Damien Clarkson has already written some top tips for blogger effective outreach.

As Damien says “Bloggers tend to be early adopters; they are essentially the cool kids at school and what they like and support other people soon do as well.”

In the case of parent bloggers, they’re incredibly passionate about issues affecting their children, especially if they’ve been affected by something as devastating as sudden infant death.

Here are just a few of the tweets that were posted yesterday:

https://twitter.com/MerrilyMe/status/322105488013684737

The Lullaby Trust offer support to anyone affected by the sudden and unexpected death of a baby or young toddler. You can find out about their services at http://www.lullabytrust.org.uk.

Celebrating the legacy of Matilda Mae

Beautiful Matilda Mae

Beautiful Matilda Mae

Last week was one I don’t want to revisit for a while. Thursday was spent with two close friends as they held a funeral for their beautiful baby girl Matilda Mae. Baby Tilda died while she was sleeping just a month ago, she was 9 months old.

Matilda Mae’s mum Jennie is a prolific blogger. Since she was first pregnant with her twins she has been sharing what it’s like to be pregnant, the experience of parenting premature babies, bringing them up, playing with them and then all over again when baby Tilda came along.

Jennie has got an incredible amount of help and support from the online world, and given back the same and more.

When it came to preparing what I’m sure was the most difficult day of her life, Jennie wanted to make sure the friends she had made through her blog were included and what they mean to each other was reflected.

The service was just lovely, it was a true celebration of Matilda Mae’s life. Susanne (AKA @Ghostwritermumm) and Heather (AKA @SAHMlovingit), both bloggers who I’m not sure had even met Jennie in real life before, read incredibly moving pieces about Jennie and Matilda and what their lives and experiences meant to them. They included other words from bloggers who couldn’t be there and I’m sure they could have read a lot more.

In the pub later, there was a Twitter wall showing all of the love and wishes from tweeters across the globe. For a while #matildamae was trending, a true social media baby. People changed their avatar to a special star picture, making Twitter twinkle for the day.

Jennie’s reason for including these social media elements in the day was to show her non-blogging friends and family just what strength, support, help and love she has got from the network. It was bloggers that rallied round to make sure Jennie and her husband looked after themselves in the horrible weeks following Matilda’s death. They arranged for Graze boxes and other food to be delivered, to keep up their strength for their other children.

An older man I sat next to in the pub – who I took to be a relative – asked me about Twitter and how the Twitter wall was working and then acknowledged that actually, blogging was pretty good. He admitted to only every having read negative stories in the press. I think that’s exactly what Jennie wanted.

Matilda Mae’s impact in the world, in just 9 short months, has already been incredible. As well as practical help and support the blog has given other parents in that time, over £3000 has been raised in her memory for the charity Bliss, and hundreds of people are already signed up to walk a Mile for Matilda for the charity FSID.

The connections you make with people online can be incredibly powerful and make a real difference. I am sure that Matilda Mae will continue to inspire for a long time to come.

Thank you Weekly Blog Club

It seemed appropriate in my last post of the year to say thank you to Weekly Blog Club for being there, sticking it out, sharing amazing content and introducing me to a whole new bunch of people.

At least 20 different people have contributed posts under the #weeklyblogclub tag covering a wide range of topics; from work to leisure, from hopes to fears, from personal musings to challenging think pieces.

Lots of us have had a turn covering the Twitter account but the biggest thanks should really go to Janet Davis who has made sure we all got our act together. She really is the driving force… and she’s looking for work so if you need someone amazing then check out her website.

I’ve found having a reason to blog such a great motivator and I can’t believe I managed 31 out of 52 weeks, not too shabby considering I was away for about a month getting married.

It’ll be interesting to see how WBC develops next year.

If you’d like to take part, there’s some info about getting started over on the website.

Happy New Year everyone x

Happy 5th birthday blog!

I can’t believe it’s 5 years since I started blogging here!

I started writing it while working in the ICT Hub at NCVO and it was pretty much a record of me getting to grips with “new media” technologies. I wrote about finally understanding what RSS feeds where, downloading my first podcast, experimenting with social bookmarking and even having my first Skype call.

There was a bit of lean spell through 2009 and 2010 but I picked it up again in 2011 with (what I hope are) more useful posts describing how charities can use these tools, such as an introductory guide to blogging, using technology to be more effective trustees and social media for campaigning.

2012 is my year for blogging. I joined up to Weekly Blog Club, a loose group of bloggers who not only write interesting posts themselves but also read and comment on mine, which is so encouraging. The Twitter body that is @weeklyblogclub always nudges to get a new post every week and I think I’ve only missed about 4 or 5 this year (mainly due to getting married). Regular writing makes you a better blogger, at least that’s what I’m hoping.

Even after 5 years I haven’t got it right yet. I tend to only post links once which is ridiculous, I don’t spend time finding similar blogs to comment on and cross link, I don’t listen out for conversations to share my relevant content with… but I should. And this year I am really trying hard to make it work.

My top 5 posts in this time have been:

  1. Creating your own data visualisations
  2. A recipe for the perfect database (AKA how not to get undercooked data)
  3. Hosting a Google hangout for charity freelancers
  4. Social media campaigning on my own doorstep
  5. Dealing with the impending cookie monster

And if I can get 172 of you to have a look at my blog today I will hit 10,000 views on my blogging birthday!

(For the rest of the year it’s not about the numbers but just for today, it definitely is).

An introductory guide to blogging

[This post originally appeared at on the NCVO website in December 2010]

I met with a friend recently to help her think about how she could write a blog for her small business. A lot of the concepts are easily transferable to voluntary organisations so I thought it might be useful to post them up here.

This is by know means everything you need to know about blogging, for a more in depth guide I’d suggest taking a look at the excellent resources produced by Mark Walker at SCIP, all free to download at http://scipdiy.wordpress.com/downloads/.

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Why are you blogging?

It’s important that before you start you know why you’re blogging. It will help you to keep focus and make clear decisions. I’d like to suggest that you might blog to:

  • Reach supporters – letting people know you’re there and encourage them to make a connection with you, encouraging them to get involved
  • Community – fix yourself within the voluntary sector online community
  • Profile – raise your profile as a person, organisation and cause
  • Engagement – start connecting with people in your field and taking part in conversations

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Practicalities

Getting started

Message: Before you do anything think about what it is you’re trying to say with your blog. Are you talking about the work you do specifically, the general work of the organisation, policy issues relevant to you, a campaign or something different? If you are clear about the focus then people will find it easier to connect with you.

Tone: Make your post personal but don’t feel like you have to reveal too much. You can say that you like something without having to give away any more than that.

Platform: What are you going to use to start your blog? Many websites have a blog built in but if yours doesn’t then you might want to use something like WordPress www.wordpress.com, a really good and popular (and free!) blog site in the sector. I’m going to assume you’re using a WordPress blog from now on.

Title: The name of the blog is important as it will be your URL e.g. http://name.wordpress.com.

URL: It is possible to get a custom URL through the WordPress site so it becomes something like www.mycharitycampaignblog.com more info at http://en.support.wordpress.com/domain-mapping/.

Theme: WordPress has lots of template “themes” that set out the structure for the blog (including number of columns, font etc). Take a look through them and see what you like. Choose one with a “custom header image” so that you can put your own photo at the top http://en.support.wordpress.com/themes/.

Statistics: WordPress has an in built statistics package. As well as keeping track of the numbers of people visiting and where they came from you can also see what key words people use to get to your site http://en.support.wordpress.com/stats/.

Creating pages: As well as the blog posts you can also create static pages. These can be useful places to describe yourself, your organisation, how to contact you etc http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/.

Scheduling posts: If you’re feeling productive then you can write multiple posts without publishing them and then schedule them to go out at a specific time. This can be useful if you know you have a busy week coming up http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/schedule-a-post/.

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Promotion

How will you get people to read your blog?

Find local blogs and comment: There’s no point writing a blog if you’re not connecting with others to promote it and entering the blogging community. Find other people blogging about your topic or similar and connect with them. Start by posting a comment on their blog to say hi or refer to something they’ve written and then encourage them to return the gesture.

Google blog search: You can find other blogs by using the Google blog search http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch/advanced_blog_search. Put in keywords and your email address and it will alert you each time something relevant appears on the net.

Other blogs: If there are some key blogs that you want to promote to your readers then you can add them to your blogroll http://en.support.wordpress.com/blogroll/. Look at the blogrolls of other blogs to find new people.

Link to others: The more people link to your blog, the higher it will appear in Google searches so it’s really important to make those connections.

Encourage comments: Comments are the great thing about blogs so, as well as posts that state fact, post something that encourages views from people.

Google alerts: Google alerts are more general, scouring the whole of the net for new content http://www.google.com/alerts. You can set up an alert using the same keywords as your blog search.

Newsletter: Include a link to your blog in your newsletter if you have one, on your email signature and any print materials.

Post straight to Facebook and Twitter: It’s easy in WordPress to send a link to your new post to other channels such as Facebook or Twitter. There’s some info about it here http://mashable.com/2009/10/08/wordpress-twitter/ and http://en.support.wordpress.com/publicize/.

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Content

What should you write about?

Personal: Make your posts personal in the sense that people feel like they’re hearing from a human but don’t feel like you have to say too much like where you live or the names of your children.

Short: Blog posts don’t need to be long think pieces, short and sharp works well. A couple of paragraphs is fine, maybe 500 words max, and pictures make it more attractive.

Often: The most important thing is probably to post regularly (and you can decide what regularly means; every day, every other day, every week, every fortnight). It’s possible in WordPress to draft posts and then schedule them to go live at a specific time.

React to news: If there is something in the news that relates to your work then why not post your reaction to it? Journalists search blog posts so you might even get an interview about it.

New products/ services: Post photos and descriptions, promoting your wares.

Campaigns: Give behind-the-scenes information about your campaign planning and delivery including successes and challenges.

Use what happens in the office or at events: If something happens in the office or out at an event then why not post about it? Don’t use it as a place to moan but turn it into something constructive, possibly ideas or top tips.

Case studies: How are people benefitting from the work that you do?

Events: Promote your events in blog posts and those of similar organisations.

Your geographical location: If it’s relevant then why not talk about what’s happening in your town? How does the organisation fit in with the local community?

Policy issues: How are the decisions being made at a government level affecting your service users?

Gimmick: Why not have some kind of gimmick on the blog, maybe something that says if someone quotes the blog when booking a place on an event then they get £5 off.