Blogs: An excellent way to open the discussion on a new publication, write up sessions or key points from a conference you’ve attended, or to comment on recent world news/policy changes relevant to your field. Very flexible medium – blogs work particularly well for departments or groups looking to share their research or news with a wider audience.
Note: There are numerous hosting services out there, for which I will try and put together some tips in a future post. This introductory post assumes that you are new to blogging and that you will (for now) be looking at a University blog. There are lots of options for blogging out there, but bear in mind that many external hosts will charge server fees.
The University runs its own Blogging service at blogs.kent.ac.uk (this link will always take you to most recent posts across all University blogs). The full list of blogs can be accessed via the link in the top-right corner of your screen. Any staff member or research postgraduate is able to request a Kent blog. If applying for a department-affiliated account your Head of School will need to approve the request; otherwise no approval is required but your department will be notified.
We strongly recommend looking at and, if possible, writing a few pieces for your departmental blog before you sign up for your own – it can be difficult to come up with enough posts to keep things going on your own and many blogs are left to languish just a few weeks after being opened. If your department doesn’t have one you may consider writing a guest post for a Society, Community or Publisher blog: e.g. OUPblog or LSE Impact blog. If you have contributed to The Conversation, an academic blog tends to aim for a similar level and tone as in both cases you are writing for a wider academic audience but where many readers may not be from your field.
What should I blog about?
Anything within the scope of your blog – if it’s titled ‘Quantum Physics’ your readers won’t appreciate too many posts on politics or photos of your dog – but for a departmental blog it is entirely appropriate to have staff comings-and-goings. Topics could include new appointments, staff publications, staff and student awards, alumni news & achievements, opinions on mainstream news relevant to your department, and write-ups of any events/visiting lectures/major conferences.
Finding a niche may seem desirable but we recommend going for something broad enough to sustain at least 10-15 posts a year – and assuming you’re aiming for an ongoing blog also consider the longevity of your topic.
Top tip: We recommend including a picture in each blog post if possible as this will make your entry stand out on the home screen (use your own images, or ensure the image is available for non-commercial use – I can recommend resources if required).
Can you point me to any good examples?
Many departments and central services run active feeds – good examples include: School of Anthropology and Conservation, the School of European Culture and Languages, and the Centre for Health Studies (all using different themes).
There are also a few individual Lecturers who have registered for a blog, either individually or for their research group. For a strong example see Dr Jorge Quintanilla’s (School of Physical Sciences) group blog (note the tabs at the top of the page): http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/strongcorrelations.
Are any topics off-limits? Anything else I should bear in mind?
- As with any Social Media, always make sure your posts follow confidentiality guidelines and any non-disclosure agreements.
- If you’re writing on a topic that you’re particularly invested in but could be viewed as political or contentious (these can make for very powerful posts) it may be worth asking a colleague to read through or taking a fresh look the following morning before you submit.
Whilst the ‘hard’, controversial topics are not necessarily off limits, take extra care if your subject matter could be considered contentious. Posts on abortion law, cuts to social welfare, the current situation in Myanmar, and Donald Trump / Brexit absolutely have a place – just be mindful that some of your readers may strongly disagree with you (have you ever read through online news comments sections?). Do your best to provide a well-reasoned viewpoint and respect that some of your readers may have other perspectives – and these aren’t necessarily wrong.
Just this morning I asked a colleague to read through this blog before publishing and we got into a heated (though friendly) debate on the proposed change to make organ donation in the UK opt-out. A lot of these topics make for fantastic blogs, but do be mindful of differing opinions.
Make sure you monitor comments for posts as this is your responsibility as blog owner/post author [IT regulations for Kent Blogs].
Persevere (at least to a point)! I recently attended an event organised by Kent Innovation and Enterprise (this one, if you’re interested). Jo Wimble-Grove‘s (aka Guilty Mother) first post was read by 3 people (she’s pretty sure one of which was her Mum). Today, she has been named one of the ‘top 35 under 35’, has thousands of blog followers and has written for a huge number of high-profiles newspapers, magazines and parenting blogs. Everyone starts somewhere!