Recently, our team was intrigued to learn about a whole new way to write and publish books, Book Sprints, in which teams of people get together to create a book in just five days. As we do whenever we hear about fresh ideas, we thought about how this approach might be adapted for our clients…. So when an organization approached us for help in launching a new blog from the ground up, we knew we had an opportunity to test a Blog Sprint.
The key goal we had for the Blog Sprint was to help the organization develop a robust body of ideas and supporting content to share with their most important audiences. Since blogs are often aimed at creating an ongoing conversation with those closest to the organization and other key leaders in the field or issue area, we wanted to make sure our client had lots of smart ideas that would add value to the discussion. Here’s how we did it – and how you can, too.
Step 1: Brainstorm Content
Gather your colleagues for a brainstorm session (with coffee!). Before they arrive, place 13 large sheets of paper around the room. Label one of them “Evergreen Content,” and label each of the other 12 with a different month of the year. Distribute post-it notes throughout the room, as well as pens and markers. Kick off the brainstorm session by bringing your colleagues up to speed on the goals and target audiences for the blog. Then ask them to brainstorm blog post topics, capturing one idea per post-it note, and stick the note on the appropriate month. Ideas that could be covered any time of year should go in the “Evergreen Content” category. Encourage your brainstormers to riff off of offbeat “calendar hooks,” such as Groundhog Day, Banned Books Week or Juneteenth. For example, for Back to School season, you might call out politicians who need to “go back to school” to learn the facts about climate change, or women’s health or immigration.
Step 2: Build an Editorial Calendar
Once you’ve generated those great content ideas, organize the best ones into a shared editorial calendar. The editorial calendar serves as the organizing tool for all your ideas, coordinating your team for the work of content creation and publication of your blog (and social media, and email, and more!) You can create your own in Excel or Google docs, or you can download our 2015 Editorial Calendar template and customize it for your own purposes.
Step 3: Generate Content
After sharing the editorial calendar with your colleagues and thanking them profusely for all their smart ideas, gather everyone together again for the Blog Sprint. Give them some tips and show them examples of types of blog posts that are easy to write, such as listicles and Q&As. Ask each person to choose one post from the editorial calendar, then take 10 minutes to outline it. Next, pair them with a buddy who’ll serve as their editor on the post. Assign homework and deadlines using the buddy system: the blogger creates first draft by [date]; buddy edits by [date] and sends to blog editor for publication, who posts it on [date]. Pro tip: We recommend having at least half a dozen evergreen blog posts stockpiled before you launch your blog. Just in case someone misses a deadline, you’ll still be able to publish on schedule.
Step 4: Share, Repurpose, Repeat
Once you’ve published your first post from the Blog Sprint, invite people to read it. Share a link to the post on your Facebook page, along with a short preview. Create a few teaser tweets about the blog post, and space them out across a week or so. Invite your colleagues to do the same on their own social media networks. Once you’ve got 3 or more blog posts published, can you aggregate and repurpose them as newsletter content, or send an email to your list previewing the content to invite them to investigate your blog firsthand.
A Blog Sprint can be a great way to engage more voices, more ideas and more person power to make your nonprofit’s content even better.
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LightBox Collaborator Renée Alexander is also a freelancer writer who regularly generates blogs and other articles in record time.