Advice to an MEP blogger

April 7, 2009

I’m currently working with an MEP who is looking to launch a blog within the next few months. Here’s a summary of a few of my recommendations.

Define an editorial approach

You may have 20+ years’ experience. You may have your very distinct writing style and feel you have Shakespearean abilities. Perhaps, but you still need to define an editorial approach, write it down and stick to it. This includes type of language you’ll use (colloquial or formal), how often you’ll post (at least once a week), how you’ll address readers, length of posts, and if and how you’ll interact with other bloggers. What’s the point? It’ll help maintain consistency, which you need to keep readers coming back: they’ll grow accustomed to your style and get to know the “real you” more than if you were to serve up a hotchpotch of posts.

Decide on your themes and stick to them

Similar argument here. You don’t want to risk the blog going all over the place, so stick to 4-7 core themes which you know about, you know your readers will be interested in, you can write about well, and then stick to them. In this way you’ll establish yourself as an expert and a resource on certain policy areas, rather than the MEP who writes about scores of topics but does not really believe in any wholeheartedly. By all means, if something out of the ordinary is taking place that doesn’t fit within the themes – the upcoming EP elections, a natural disaster, crisis, etc. – which people would expect you to write about and where you feel you can contribute to the debate, feel free, but then get back to your core themes asap.

Develop an editorial plan

To help stick to your approach and themes, develop an editorial plan which is at all times updated for the upcoming three months. You don’t need to stick to this religiously, but it will help to ensure that you maintain focus and consistency.

Don’t campaign!

Granted, a politician blogging is by nature campaigning you could say, but what I mean here is: don’t make it all about you and your party and how you’re far better suited to govern than the opposition. Blogging is about building relationships with readers over time, so it’s much better to establish yourself as a good writer who provides insights and expertise in his/her chosen subject-matter. If you’re seen to just be campaigning, you’ll only be preaching to the converted rather than utilising your blog to engage in issues and trying to shift the debate towards your views in the long-run. Political blogging tends to be a bit more partisan and cut-throat than average, you might say, but so what, this highlights my point all the more: stand out from the crowd by talking about the issues in depth as you see them, not how your view is inherently superior to the opposition’s. Just two “disclaimers” on this point though: 1) this works if the politician in question is moderate. If he/she could be described as straying fairly far from the centre, like say a Dan Hannan, there’s probably more political capital to be won by being highly opinionated rather than engaging; and 2) with the EP elections coming up it’s fair for MEPs to campaign just a tad bit!

Don’t stray from blogging too soon

If you like blogging and get into it, hang on a moment before you jump on the Twitter bandwagon, set up a Facebook group, a YouTube channel and so on. It’s tempting to spread your tentacles far and thin, like Swedish MEP Åsa Westlund has done, but I think it’s important to get the blog just right first before starting to worry about when next to tweet or post a video. By all means, all tools can play a part, but none more so than a high-quality blog.

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