Blogs are website pages that communicate thoughts, ideas, stories and information. They are often informal and conversational in style and they usually follow a theme, point of view, or idea. Both organisations and individuals use blogs as a way to communicate their thinking about particular topics.
If you are thinking of setting up a video blog then you will find more relevant advice in our YouTube guide.
If you are approaching blogs for the first time you may find reading the following guide for beginners useful:
If you are familiar with blogging but are interested in learning more before approaching storytelling on the platform, then the following articles may be helpful.
This article covers why blogs are still relevant and will be around for at least the next decade:
This article from 2019 still has some very relevant insight into blogging for museums that can be applicable to archives too:
Across the Digital Engagement Toolkit, we are looking at who engages with a particular platform by generation. You will find more detail on this within the platform finder. When looking at audience engagement by generation it is important to keep in mind it is not definitive of everyone’s behaviour. However, understanding the broad trend of a generation’s approach to a platform is useful to understand the audiences you are most likely to find there. For the purposes of this toolkit, we are using terms that define audiences with the following demographic terminology: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z.
Gen X will be among the most common readers of blogs and articles online. Baby Boomers and Gen Y who are looking for informative or personalised reading content are also still reading blogs. It is less likely that Gen Z will be engaging with blogs. Their relationship with online content is more active and are more likely to engage with content that is more immediate such as video.
Remember that your blog is not for everyone, therefore don’t try to make it for everyone. Have clarity in who you are speaking to and how you are connecting with your audience. You will likely be connecting with audiences who share an interest in archives, documents and history. Don’t assume any level of knowledge and allow the first time reader and long time enthusiast to both be able to enjoy your writing in the same way.
Tip: Perhaps you could describe somewhere on your blog who you think it is for. For example ‘sharing insights on local history for anyone who shares a passion for the past’.
Storytelling guide for blogs
The best place to start blogging would be through your archives service website by adding blog pages. If for some reason this is not possible or you do not have an easy way to access and update your website regularly, you could create a blog space separate from your website.
The most important thing to note about contemporary blogs is that they have transformed a lot from their early beginnings when the internet was a less crowded content space. People are certainly still reading blogs but the format of your blog needs to be visually appealing and the content needs to tell a story. You need to know who your readers are and how your blog is reaching them.
With so much to choose from on the internet from news articles to the latest posts from friends, think about how your blog could be unique and interesting.
There are three important considerations when beginning a blog: Content, Story and Audience (we have already talked through audience considerations above and in the platform finder).
To help you curate the content for your blog, consider what is the purpose of your blog and what stories and insight will an audience discover by visiting your blog that they can’t get elsewhere?
If you would like to read more about discovering a creative voice for your blog you will find a guide to this within the Creative Inspiration Guide.
It’s important that your blog is clear to an audience who may know nothing about your archive but have an interest in the stories you have to tell. Your blog will have a global reach, even if you may be telling a local history story, the voice of the storyteller should engage everyone and not make assumptions about what an audience may or may not know.
The main format of a blog is text but this shouldn’t be the sole format used. How you visually present your blog is becoming more and more important. Use imagery as a way to bring your blog to life and enrich the topic you are writing about. One solid long page of text will be off-putting for many users, especially those on mobile devices. Highlight and title the different elements of your blog so audiences can find and discover the parts they find most interesting or relevant.
Remember, your blog doesn’t have to be long; keeping some blogs short might mean that people are more likely to engage with the content. Think about when people are likely to be reading your blog, maybe on the bus to work or even during a lunch hour, therefore a shorter read might fit into their day better than a longer piece of text. Consider adding a rough estimate of the reading time at the top of the blog i.e. “five minute read” so that the blog is accessible to people who are short on time.
Blogs allow archives to connect with audiences in more detail and to translate archive collections into living and breathing stories about the people connected to your archive material. Offering a connection to the past they can’t get anywhere else.
The focus of your blog has to be to tell a story from your point of view, this will make it different from information found on Wikipedia for example. Audiences read blogs to connect with people and to connect with their stories. Be conversational, be informal and don’t be afraid to talk directly to your audience.
Don’t forget to make your writing human-centred. That may sound like an obvious thing but it is very easy when writing about collections to become disconnected from the people connected to them. But that’s what’s most interesting. How archive collections give us a link to the people that came before us. Be the storyteller who connects the reader, the object and the stories of our past. If you weave both your knowledge, insight and feelings into a narrative, you connect your audience and take them on a journey with you.
Ultimately, we all tell and read stories to learn about what it means to be human and to understand our world and the world of others. Don’t hide the emotions and feelings connected to these stories.
Creative thinking and exercises
Part of the creation of a blog is about finding your voice and this can be developed through consistently thinking about your writing. You can find more detailed information on finding your voice in the Creative Inspiration Guide.
Exercise one – shaping your blog
Jot some thoughts down on a piece of paper in response to the following questions to help you think about your approach to writing a blog:
- What is the purpose of your blog?
- How would you describe the point of view of your blog?
- Who is speaking in your blog?
- Does that voice of your blog ever change?
- Who is your blog for and why is the story you are telling best suited to a blog?
- What stories and insight will an audience discover by reading your blog that they can’t get elsewhere?
- Could your blog also go out as a newsletter?
- Do you remember to tweet and post to Facebook every time you update your blog?
- In what ways are you measuring the impact of your blog?
Exercises two – developing your writing
The following exercises will help you develop a clearer understanding of your writing and help develop consistency in your blog.
1. Describe yourself or your archive in three adjectives. The descriptions you choose should help elicit the feeling or tone you want your blog to have.
Example: engaging, fun, and energetic.
2. Imagine your ideal audience as a person. Describe them in detail to a colleague or write a short description. This will help you understand who your blog is for and enable you to consider them when writing your blog. You can begin to imagine writing for that person and their likes and interests.
Example: My ideal reader has a keen interest in history and a great sense of humour, they like precise information and are up to date with technology and pop culture.
3. Write down at least five books, articles, or blogs you have read recently. Spend some time examining them. By examining the writings you enjoy and understanding what engages you will help further develop your writing voice and have confidence in what you write.
- How are they alike?
- How are they different?
- What keeps you reading?
Exercise three – free-write
This is when you take a pen and paper or sit at a computer and write without consideration for what the topic is going to be. No pre-planning, just see what comes out on the page. Use this exercise to write in a way that’s comfortable to you, without editing. Reflect on what you have written and what it tells you about yourself and your voice as a writer. This can help you to follow your passion and is also a great exercise when you have writer’s block or are finding it difficult to find what to write about.
Take a look at this blog from Archaeological Analytics which has compiled the best blogs on cultural heritage. It examines each of the blogs on its list and outlines what works and is interesting about the blog:
You will notice across this blog the creator has used strong and clear imagery and the same can be said of the blogs on the list. They visualise what they are talking about well and each blog has its own style of writing and way of connecting with its audience. Take a look through the content and see which styles you prefer and note down any ideas you get from these blogs.
Adobe Creative Cloud Express (formerly Adobe Sparkpost) has a range of tools and templates to help support the visual design of your imagery and the stories you want to tell on the web. You will find tutorials, templates and tools to organise and display images, video and text.
Similarly, Canva also has a library of tools to support the visual and graphic design of your blog with many free options available.
How to measure impact
Exactly how to measure the impact of your blog will vary depending on the website you are using. It will be worth investigating what data in terms of engagement your blog is capable of generating and if you can capture data beyond page views.
It may also be worth ensuring that there is a comments section on your blog as this will enable more engagement and ways to have a dialogue with regular readers.
If you are unable to measure the impact of your blog it may be worth investigating how you can use some of the content from your blog across other platforms like social media where analytics are easier to gather.
The exact accessibility tools available to you will be determined by what website builder or host you are using. Consider contacting them for a guide on what tools may be available to ensure your content is as accessible as it can be.
This guide gives a thorough insight into website accessibility, covering principles, tools, techniques and approaches:
National Lottery Heritage Fund – An introduction to online accessibility
This guide gives tips on how to make your website accessible that can be utilised for blogs also:
Search Engine Journal – 9 Ways You Can Make Your Website More Accessible
This blog gives ways to make your blog more accessible for people with visual impairments:
Life of a Blind Girl – 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment
Digital Pathways – Resource portal. This portal has aggregated useful resources from different organisations on a multitude of digital topics. Guides relating to aspects of digital engagement are included.