One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

Welcome to the Official (For Me) Chicago Now One Cause At A Time Archive!

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Several weeks ago, Alden Group (current owners of the Chicago Tribune) shut down Chicago Now, the blogging platform that allowed local bloggers (like me) the opportunity to write about Chicago life from a variety of perspectives. Granted, my blogging for the platform had been nonexistent for six months due to my mother’s passing, but I had some forewarning of what would happen…

…and I exported all of my blog data before the switch was pulled. (Luckily, I own my Chicago Now content). So now, you can find the blog at

So the above graphic is what you see when you access Chicago Now. However, I have also featured many prominent organizations and individuals with this blog’s focus on technology and community. As much as I would like to resume blogging, my freelance/professional consulting work and New Pulp writing prevent me from blogging full-time.

However, since many organizations rely on linking to outside resources, please email me if you want me to revise your entry. (Unfortunately, one of the casualties of the switchover to WordPress was that image links were broken. I am more than happy to replace them upon request). I also apologize for the sudden end; had I known, I would have prepared readers for the changeover.

(And why didn’t I rely on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine? Short form: it’s too clunky and irregular, and the results are rather spotty. With this archive, posts can be found more easily).

So please dive in and enjoy this archive. If you wish to support my current creative efforts, you can join my Patreon community or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

September 12, 2022 at 11:34 am

Posted in Administrata, Commentary

Tagged with ,

ADMINISTRATA: Our Blog’s Public Relations Policy

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We’ve worked with many organizations over the years, and we’re proud to highlight them. In fact, we frequently receive requests for coverage on this Chicago Now blog.

In that spirit, this blog now has a formal public relations policy for those looking for coverage.


Written by gordondym

December 1, 2019 at 3:07 pm

Caregiving, Career, and Creativity

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Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win the 2019 Pulp Factory Award for my short story “Knights of the Silver Cross” in 1950s Western Roundup. After winning the award, I decided to take a break from creativity and writing. Working on creative projects for two years non-stop while balancing caregiving duties and freelance work has been especially challenging, and taking a break has enabled me to recharge and regain a strong sense of focus.

Caregiving an elderly, ill parent often means a greater need for self-care, and my own efforts to maintain relationships and stay connected were becoming compromised. Think of caregiving as “parenting in reverse”: there are similar dynamics to raising a child, but while a child tends to develop upward, an ill parent requires greater effort and time. Self-care, especially focusing on other relationships, can be particularly challenging to caregivers, and I was finding myself feeling increasingly isolated despite a non-stop schedule (including a successful Doctor Who panel at C2E2). Engaging with my friends and colleagues requires consistent effort, as well as a self-reminder that I have a community of friends and colleagues supporting me even if I am not always aware of it. Plus, I have also started a south side Chicago caregivers meetup in order to bolster my efforts to find support but to also “pay it forward” to other caregivers.

C Now - Blogging

One of the other aspects of caregiving is balancing my “regular” duties while seeking freelancing work and consulting assignments. One of the great challenges is finding time for professional networking: my schedule does not always permit me to attend the plethora of networking events in Chicago. So my efforts have been more focused: touching base with several contacts, running a coworking meetup, and attending nontraditional events focused on specific kinds of clients rather than larger scale, two-drink-minimum kinds of events. I have also had to consider the kind of work I want to do, focusing more on freelance and remote work than traditional full-time work. Finding employment can be a challenge for anyone; for a caregiver, it can be especially daunting.

Especially in terms of current attitudes towards work and employment. For those who openly embrace the myth of “crushing it”, my efforts are inadequate (in other words, I’m not “trying hard enough”). Many individuals often advocate that I simply just “get a job to care for your mother” as if jobs are prizes to be won rather than opportunities to utilize my skills. Not only should professional work come before everything else, but my creative work should be “freely available” and without recompense. (Recently, I had to remove a member from Chicago Doctor Who Meetup for not only trollish behavior but for suggesting that I simply “accept modern technology” when it comes to the effect of digital piracy on my work as a writer). Being creative when facing both life challenges and negative attitudes from others can become increasingly difficult and means shifting priorities.

Comics Code

Shifting those priorities and managing time effectively in the midst of all of this has impacted my ability to write and blog consistently. Our current cultural lack of empathy towards working creatives (including writing, music, film, and other media) has resulted in an attitude of “I-know-better-than-you” from those who may not understand the totality of effort. (Just look at YouTube “critics” declaring that certain works have “failed”, or that there is “too much diversity”.) Blogging allows me to express myself, but also allows me to highlight lesser-known efforts around technology, social change, and other community-based efforts. Writing New Pulp fiction allows me to express and resolve more intense emotions, but also requires time and distance that my caregiving duties may frequently impact. Achieving a sense of balance and equilibrium is possible, but requires great effort.

So why am I writing this post, you may ask? Many caregivers like myself are often held to unreasonably high expectations, being told that we’re heading “on a great journey” without acknowledging our specific challenges. Caregiving for an elderly, ill, or dying relative can be physically and emotionally taxing, and our current culture does little to provide basic support to empathy. People like me who care for a relative (especially caregivers in marginalized communities) require resources and support if only to provide them an opportunity to express themselves and their experiences. I am fortunate that between this blog and my fiction work, I recognize that I have the luxury of having my voice be heard…

…and recognize that many other caregivers are not as fortunate, yet they need to have their voices be heard.

Want to share your comments or experiences? Please leave them in the area below. Please join the conversation and follow us on our Facebook page, or join our Patreon community. If you want to contact me directly, please use this email contact form.
And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

April 28, 2019 at 10:35 am

Blogger Outreach: An Insider’s Perspective

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As a Chicago Now blogger, I’m finding myself in a middle of a popularity contest: between helping friends with their efforts, getting requests from media and organizations to profile them, and creating real-time topics…I am never at a loss for topics that make great posts. However, I also recognize that many nonprofit, community and other mission-driven organizations are looking to engage bloggers (and yes, blogs are still relevant in today’s times) to drive their mission. As an effort to provide guidance and insight (as well as generate interest in my freelance work as a digital marketing consultant and copywriter, here are some guidelines for engaging in strong, smart blogger outreach.

  • Do Your Research On Your Target Blog – it’s more than just reading the blog to ensure that its content fits your mission. Be sure to check out its unique monthly traffic through free tools to ensure that you will get proper coverage. Check out the blogger’s social media profile to see whether they are amenable to writing about your organization.
  • Create a Solid Pitch – When I’m working with public relations agencies and higher level organizations, it may often come in the form of a solid cover letter with an attached press release and/or pitch sheet. For smaller organizations, it’s usually a brief e-mail summarizing the highlights of the organization. (It helps to tie it into some event or milestone, like the 95th Street Red Line Station project or the Chicago Charity Challenge.) Either way, sending a brief pitch (and a short conversation via phone) usually helps me (as the blogger) provide the appropriate pitch/approach to writing it for the blog. Which leads to…
  • Create A Media List – Whether you create a high-end database or a simple spreadsheet via Microsoft Word or Libre Office, you should track your media contacts. Basic information should include the blogger’s name, e-mail, blog name, and URL, as well as unique monthly traffic for the blog. (For the record, One Cause At a Time receives 350 – 500 unique visitors per month according to Google Analytics). I would also suggest connecting with Public Narrative, an organization that assists nonprofits with communication and media and helps connect them with interested journalists.
  • Blogs help shape the story, not the spin – As a blogger, I try to write posts that encapsulate the best of technology, social change, and community-driven efforts throughout Chicago. Sometimes, bloggers like me get some of the fine details wrong, and I’m always willing to make corrections/clarifications. It is also tempting to use blogs as a way to generate “spin”, changing several details to provide an element of spin or make the blog post sound a little too promotional. (One small Chicago-based foundation, years ago, insisted on making changes that were different than what was discussed). Collaboration is key when working with bloggers since we straddle the line between “professional journalism” and “personal opinion.” (At least, that’s what I believe).
  • Ethical Bloggers Disclose When They Receive Complimentary Products – Whether I have received complimentary comics and books (as a pop culture blogger) or access to a conference, I have always disclosed when I have received free items and access. It’s not just out of a sense of ethics, but I am also bound by the FTC Disclosure Guidelines. (Worth a read if only because these guidelines also cover social media). Most of the time, that disclosure is relatively simple, such as A complimentary copy of this book was provided for purposes of review. My thoughts are my own.. When I have written books reviews for the blog, I have relied on the Chicago Public Library’s Interlibrary Loan service to find and acquire books (meaning no need to disclose). Otherwise, ethical bloggers opt to disclose when necessary
  • Always Ask For a Link to the Published Post – This may seem obvious, but this isn’t just for due diligence on the blogger’s part. In short, your organization and any blogger (including me) are looking for traffic and attention. Blog posts should be part of the “media mix” for any nonprofit or social enterprise, and that includes having it available for your organization’s marketing/public relations and other outreach efforts. (After I have completed a post, I add it to Google Plus (giving it greater weight), Twitter and this blog’s Facebook page). Having access is a given, and you have a right to using any positive media mention in your marketing efforts.

There’s obviously more to blogger outreach and relations which can be covered in a single blog post. Think of this as a great “starter” to get you thinking about your organization. We’ve been lucky to highlight some great community-based efforts over the past few weeks, and we have some great plans for the blog coming in the near future.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them below, or please feel free to use this form to contact me directly.

And thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

August 30, 2018 at 12:13 pm

The Thrill of It All: Five Years of Blogging

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C Now Blogiversary HeaderI’ll be honest, I’ve been so involved in the thrill of it all, I missed celebrating an important milestone: five years ago in August, I posted for the first time on this blog.

When I started co-writing Chicago Now’s Job Stalker blog, I saw it as a way to build upon my personal blog. I wanted to establish “thought leadership”, and after several months….well, I didn’t want to be “the blogger who’s always looking for a job”. However, thanks to my then-recent work with Netsquared Chicago (the thrill of it all had ended due to work and other issues), I decided that having my own Chicago Now blog focusing on technology and social change would be wiser, smarter, and more strategic.

And for five years, this blog has seen several changes in its scope. Early on, it served as a mishmash of posts about social media (one based on a Sherlock Holmes-themed presentation; the other earned a Twitter harassment campaign from a PR firm who used a sock puppet for comments), book reviews (the most popular of which was this review of The Little Book of Big PR), and “Meet Your Neighbor” highlights of local organizations. As I integrated social enterprise and mission-driven businesses into the blogging mix, I had to admit that this blog took on an identity of its own. Yes, technology and social change in Chicago are still the primary focus….but it’s not the only focus.

C Now - John Oliver

Sure, I wasn’t writing about the Chicago Cubs or the Blackhawks, or even general life-in-Chicago posts. Admittedly, I was the geeky, obscure blog amongst the crowd of more crowd-pleasing, popular blogs that might get cut-and-pasted by the Huffington Post. (And I have no desire to ever write for the Huffington Post; I have a strong desire to get paid for my writing.) My posts tended to focus on my secret past in tobacco prevention or working as an election judge. In an open letter, I asked John Oliver for an interview (and John, I’m still waiting to hear from your people). I realized the frustration of knowing that I can have anything I want, I just can’t have everything I want. Even when I’m writing about the thrill of it all in my professional career as a freelance marketing consultant/copywriter, or deciding to temporarily move in and care for my mother, there’s still something about all that which “fits” this blog.

(It helps that a conversation with one of my closest friends helped me decide that this blog could also focus on the experiences of a former social service professional as a client. After all, living under Governor Bruce Rauner means that there are plenty of concerns about Illinois’ economy. And let’s not forget that we’re also living in the Trump presidency….and it hurts me to have to type that. )

Yet I’m proud that five years of blogging has provided some personal high marks. For example, two posts in the past month – one focused on cybersecurity, the other on fundraising efforts towards Puerto Rico relief – have seen huge amounts of traffic. (And participating in Blogapalooz-Hour has allowed me to get away with writing posts like my desire to hang out with the Leverage crew, or how my sense of humor has saved my sanity. I’ve managed to carve out a small reputation as a New Pulp writer and have even added this blog to my LinkedIn profile. (In fact, some of my recent experiences as an author have sparked a desire to write more posts about digital piracy and how such crimes affect nonprofits…and thanks to this blog, I have the freedom to pursue that topic.)

Comics Code

Five years of blogging for Chicago Now (at least, with my own blog) has provided me with numerous rewards. Many of them have been tangible or professional, like review copies of books or complimentary passes to events like Cyber Security Chicago. But more have been emotional: the joy of sharing great community efforts to drive social change or the satisfaction of helping like-minded organizations get the word out. Even the challenge of writing a weekly post has its rewards…although that discipline took an extremely long time to cultivate.

The thrill of it all is apparent when I think of what this blog has accomplished: getting me to build a body of work as a writer. And although yes, I’m still seeking consistent freelance work, there is something to be said for being persistent in sharing my thoughts and perceptions.

And ironically, I’m looking forward to continuing for another five years.

Have any highlights? Questions or comments? Please feel free to leave them below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. (All comments are moderated). If you wish to reach out to me privately, please use this convenient contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 7, 2017 at 9:54 am

Blog Action Day 2015

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Every year, this blog participates in Blog Action Day, a global effort to drive conversation around a given topic. This year, bloggers are being asked to focus their Blog Action Day 2015 post around the theme “Raise Your Voice”, with a specific focus on blogging. In many other countries, there are efforts to silence dissent, to stifle free speech, and to bring visibility to critical issues. But this week, I’m taking a slightly different approach to discussing blogging.

In our current media culture – and especially in Chicago – we’re rather indifferent to the power of blogging, and that needs to change.  Immediately.

You may think that my statements are a bit self-serving – after all, I’m a blogger for Chicago Now (and have blogged personally for about eleven years), but blogging can be a critical outlet – many platforms are free, it’s a great way to establish a voice, and can be critical in driving conversation. Blog Action Day’s focus in 2015 is about challenges to bloggers, but I want to take a slightly different approach, especially when it comes to social benefit and social good in Chicago.

I think we should encourage blogging for both community-based organizations – and their constituents – as a way to raise their voices toassure they are heard, and more importantly, help develop stronger digital literacy skills throughout the metropolitan Chicago area.

Most non-profit and/or social enterprise blogging consists mainly around fundraising, marketing, or other functions ….but far too often,
smaller, more grassroots-based, smaller organizations lack even the basic resources. In addition, technology can be incredibly intimidating formany community residents. There can even be huge communication gaps between nonprofit/social benefit organizations, corporate/ business partners looking to develop partnerships, and residents/recipients of nonprofit services. In short, potential community collaborations are hindered not by larger forces, but by a fundamental inability to communicate with each other. Annual reports can be wonderful for a nonprofit, but community members can – and should – be given a greater voice outside of a two-sentence

And the most important thing – we need more diverse voices in blogging. One of the many organizations I collaborate with openly advocates for diverse voices in spectulative fiction – that a greater pool of diverse writers (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc) will result in a broader spectrum of fiction, but more importantly, a more diverse range of voices will be heard that were previously held back. As a great first step towards digital literacy, blogging allows for people (and organizations) to articulate their experiences in a way that they would not have previously had before. Moving towards digital excellence – the ability of underserved communities and populations to engage and use technology and digital tools – is critical for Chicago’s economic and community development, and blogging might be the best first step. (And if you’re not aware of all the great activities happening that are driving digital excellence in Chicago….you need to read this blog more often.)

Blogging isn’t a cure-all, by any means, but it’s a great first step….but many people are intimidated by the process. As part of Blog Action Day,
my goal will be to address some questions about blogging – the kind of questions that hold people back. Questions like:

How much will it cost to start and run a blog? – Some platforms like and Blogger are free to use and will host your posts. (WordPress also has a more full-blooded content management system – – where you would have to purchase
hosting, which means that another server would hold the actual files of your blog. For a domain (or the, most reputable domain registrars charge about $10 – 15/year. You would have to configure it yourself (or “tell the domain where your files are”), and that leads to our next question:

How will I do all this technical stuff? – Most platforms have an FAQ (or “frequently asked questions”) file that provides insight, or you can simply search on a question and find plenty of documentation files. (For example, click on the link for “how do I configure my blog domain?“)

But I’m not a very good writer – how will blogging help?  Can you take photos? Video? Blog posts do not necessarily have to be verbal, nor do you have to be a great writer. Blogging is about raising your voice and speaking your truth in your own way. If it means taking photos or doing a video blog (like Jay Smooth), you and/your organization have a way of standing for your truth.

Do I need to blog every day? No – you can do weekly or biweekly posts, but just blog regularly. (And yes, I do need to take my own advice, don’t I?) Carving out an hour a day to write can be a challenge….but it’s a challenge that brings great rewards.

Blog Action Day 2015 is focusing specifically on efforts to stifle those voices that are using blogs to be heard. Blogs are one of the more underutilized digital tools in getting the word out about the greater community….and my hope is to assist those voices in being heard.

Your thoughts? Leave them in the comments section below or join us via  Facebook. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Q & A With A Chicago Now Blogger: Extreme Parenting

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Chicago NowOne of the great advantages of being part of the Chicago Now blogging network
is the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of unique individuals. So when the opportunity came to participate in today’s “Q & A With a Blogger Day”, I eagerly volunteered….and when I received the name of the person who I was supposed to interview, I was a bit perplexed….her nom de blog is marycontrary, and she writes Chicago Now’s Extreme Parenting blog.

So how do I related this to tech and social change? I thought to myself. How can I sneak nonprofits into the mix without seeming….well, obnoxious?. But then I flashed back to a conversation I had with many who work for nonprofits. There is a slightly common reluctance on some agencies to engage in social media – more specifically, blogging – because of concerns about lacking authenticity. Balancing a sense of a nonprofit mission’s “voice” without sounding too formal or corporate – or even revealing too much about personality – can be a challenge in many agencies. As marycontrary and I talked over the phone, it became clear that there were many lessons nonprofits, social ventures, and other social change agents could learn when engaging potential advocates online.

(Note – I’m actually going to be paraphrasing from our conversation, since I want to respect her privacy. She writes about a variety of things, and you’re always welcome to click on the link above and check out her blog. There are some great, short pieces that are worth your attention).

C Now - Bloggingmary began her Chicago Now blog (and blogging in general) back in January as a way of improving her writing skills. Her children range in age from being old enough for a driver’s licence to being old enough to ride a bike. She writes about her own experiences, focusing on the extremely personal while simultaneously balancing a hint of anonymity. So I kicked off the interview with that question – how can individuals (and organizations) handle that balance of being authentic without losing sight of the bigger picture.

marycontrary’s response was that she writes with an eye towards discretion and respect for others. By nature, she is a painfully shy and private person, and she continually works towards a balance. Maintaining an emotionally honest recounting of her experience, while simultaneously respecting the privacy and rights of others in her life, has proven to be a challenge – especially for someone who considers herself soft-spoken and polite in real life. But it’s maintaining the emotional honesty of her experience – yet also considering how her words might affect others – is a key lesson for nonprofits looking to engage their audiences via blogging or social media.
Hey Moms - Find Online Resources

We also touched base very briefly on social media engagement, since marycontrary is looking to use social media as a way of building her online audience. Admittedly, I have a bit more experience as I engage via various channels both professionally and personally. Knowing that there are many people reading what’s being written, and risking a potential reaction, can cause potential anxiety. So the challenge is balancing an authentic voice (reminding people you are a human being) while being truthful and honest (maintaining a “mission” for the blog) while making sure that potential negative reactions can be handled.

And obviously, our conversation turned to that very subject: what happens when someone responds to you in anger, or disagrees with what you’ve written? This actually happened to the both of us – for me, it was a sustained attack via Twitter (mostly false accusations of spamming) but for marycontrary, it was a series of angry comments which were taken down in response to a particular post. Handling difficult situations that arise is key – very few people are ever quite ready for strong reactions, and every blogger struggles with that eternal question of “What if people don’t like what I’ve written?”
CNow - Skyline

In both our cases, we were able to handle it through either pulling the offending comments or reporting offensive Tweets. (Ironically, the Twitter users who were reporting me as a spammer were…..obvious spam accounts, and in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service). For nonprofits and other formal social change organizations have a variety of options, ranging from crafting a formal social media policy to creating a public relations “escalation plan” for such a contingency. For many independent bloggers, it’s taking a standpoint that we create from a place of courage – that we share our experiences without worrying about repercussions, but that we are mindful that we are respectful towards others. (Or in other words, writing about things as being personal without being personal about it).

Our talk was brief, but I am grateful to marycontrary for her time – sometimes, it is easy to fall into a mental silo, and believe that any blogging efforts are done in a vacuum. It’s easy to forget that part of why anyone engages online – whether writing blog posts or tweeting – is that it’s finding that community of supporters, advocates, and other like-minded people.

We should really do this again. Seriously, Chicago Now, let’s make this an annual event. I received a great deal of insight, and at the very least….it’s one less post to worry about.  But what are your thoughts? If you have opinions or insights, please feel free to leave a comment below. In addition, you are always welcome to visit and join us on Facebook, as well as  contact me directly via this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

June 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm

B Is For Blogging

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Blogging is the one social media activity that drives consumer and user recommendations. It is probably the “easiest” of all social media to master….and yet, many non-profits and social benefit agents are intimidated by it.

Yes, blogging is a challenge – creating unique essays and written content on a regular basis seems daunting, especially when done in balance with other online and offline activites. So as part of a semi-occuring feature on this blog, we will focus on strategies and recommendations that can allow people to feel more comfortable in using these challenges. And so, without further discussion, let’s move into the “Bs of Blogging”.

  • Be Prepared – With many blogging and web site platforms (such as WordPress, Blogger, Weebly, and Squarespace) available to users, it may be wise to do some research to find the platform that works best for you and/or your organization. (After all, blogging takes consistent time and effort,
    and the platform that makes it easier for you to maintain that consistency is the one that is the “best” platform). You also might want to pick up a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style as a way to brush up on grammar and proper punctuation.
  • Be Consistent – Whether you post daily or weekly, try to stick to a set schedule of posting to the blog. Blog posts may take anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half to write (based on content, finding appropriate backup links, etc), and the strategy should be that even if you only post once a week at the minimum….you or your organization is posting consistently.
  • Be Personable Yet Professional – For some, social media is a way to demonstrate that you are a “subject matter expert”. For others, the important thing is to be “human”. In all social media – even in blogging, and especially when you’re posting on behalf of an organization – you need to mix
    both qualities. People want to feel as if your organization has a “personality” of sorts (in marketing, this may be referred to as a “brand experience”), but it is also important that you write in a way that makes your organization stand out. If you are blogging on behalf of a non-profit and/or social venture, you
    understand precisely what the organization is about, and you have an opportunity to place your best foot forward
  • Be Willing To Research – Once you are blogging, you may read and/or hear terms such as “RSS”, “Search Engine Optimization” and/or “Blogger Disclosure Guidelines”. There are plenty of free online resources that can help educate and inform your practice. (Hubspot is a great example, containing numerous resources on a variety of social media and marketing channels).
    Don’t be afraid to spend some time researching and learning – most of these resources are written in plain English, and quite honestly, will provide great value in your efforts.
  • Be Visual – Whether you embed a YouTube video or photo to liven your post, increasingly research is finding that visual media drive engagement and exposure. Feel free to stay text-based if you must, but to make your posts more vibrant, attaching visual media helps insure that people read your post.
  • Be Sociable and Relatable – Once your post is live, it now becomes a great resource to inform others about your mission. Share it on your social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. (Don’t be so quick to dismiss Google Plus – that channel provides greater visibility for search). And since your organization is looking to be personable and professional, this becomes another way to maintain that consistency of tone.

Hopefully, you now have a basic how-to in terms of thinking about blogging, and are hopefully motivated to begin considering it. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them below, or you can send me a note either via Linked In or my web site’s contact page. And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

March 11, 2013 at 9:21 am