I got this great question from someone and I know that many of you may have struggled with this issue and have some wisdom to offer:
My question is: does the voice/tone of a blog need to match up with the voice/tone of the nonprofit?
For now, I am a one-person shop, and several advisers have pointed out that the "blogging" me is snarky will not be taken seriously as the "executive director" (professional) me.
My nonprofit grew from my blog, and not the other way around. Perhaps that is why I am protective of my blogging voice.
Any thoughts or resources?
What is your best advice? What resources? What has been your experience?
I wanted to summarize the terrific learning and sharing in the comments. Thanks you guys rock!
The question can be boiled down to "Should your organization's blog have a personality or reflect the institutional voice?" It reminded me that Rohit Bhargava's new book, "Personality Not Included" was just published. The thesis of the book - (based on what I could gleam from the free download chapter) is:
Personality is the unique,authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about.
Personality is not just about what you stand for, but how you choose to communicate it. It is also the way to reconnect your customers, partners, employees, and influencers to the soul of your grand in the new social media era.
Some of you agree strongly with this idea, that blogs from nonprofit organizations with strong individual voices will attract attention and build community in an era of social media. Some of you believe that nonprofit constituents really want to hear authentic voices, that audiences have grown tired of bland institutional communication or marketing copy. If the blog is written by a staff member(s) that the tone should be more informal, almost like a hallway conversation or business lunch.
But it isn't just about style. Given that nonprofits are mission-based organizations, all of its communications efforts need to contribute to meeting that mission. A nonprofit blog needs to have a focus and purpose; it's not just a place for a staff person to write personal random rants. It is very important to clearly identify a blog's purpose first and then ask how is your blog serving your constituents, and how does the tone of your writing fit into that?
It can be difficult with nonprofits that may need to address different stakeholders that have different opinions and perceptions. That's why it is important to clearly define audience and style and substance that appeal to them
If a genuine, non-institutional voice is appropriate, it is very important to keep your blog's tone professional. Here's quick litmus test:
- Realize you can be quoted…not just on another blog but in your professional life.
- Are you willing to “live” with what you said?
- If a prospective employer, potential donor to your organization, etc. saw what you wrote, how would it reflect on you and your abilities? (If you don’t care, that’s okay too…sometimes we all get passionate about issues).
- Be accurate.
- Be courteous.
- Have an opinion, then back it up.
- Before you hit the “publish” button, walk away and come back later. How do you come across to those who don’t know you?
As one reader noted, "A nonprofit blog can certainly be opinionated, use sassy (but not insulting) language, be provocative, speak from the heart of the writer and offer challenging ideas -- but it always needs to be related, somehow to what it is the organization is trying to achieve. And the words are "forever" -- there's no taking them back once they are out there."