Julene Reese is the author of this blog post. She is a public relations specialist for Utah State University Extension where she writes press releases and creatively manages USU Extension’s livewellutah.org blog. Content for this blog is provided by local Extension faculty and specialists from across Utah. You can follow Live Well Utah’s research-based content across multiple social media networks: Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
A blog for Extension? Coming from an institution of higher education? Isn’t that a little casual?
Actually, it is casual, and that’s exactly why Utah State University Extension launched livewellutah.org last year.
As disseminators of information in higher education, we can get a little stuffy. And as a writer and editor, I have more than once been called a “fun sucker” as I prepare communications for media and print. Make it work for AP Style or other writing formats; take out pronouns, anecdotes and anything personal. Media and journals just want the facts.
However, our Extension marketing team began to realize there are people who WANT pronouns and personal experiences; they want a face behind the name. These are people who could help boost our brand and tout our programs in a new and personal way. They are bloggers, and they have tens of thousands of people who read their blogs. Generally a crowd under age 35, many of them have never even heard of Extension.
After attending our first blogging conference last year, we learned Utah is a nucleus for bloggers. As of May 2012, 35 percent of blog-reading or -writing moms in the U.S. were located in Utah. And the majority of them blog about food, home, family and youth activities. Bingo. Fits like a glove with our family and consumer sciences and 4-H programs.
We’ve found bloggers love Extension because we give them personal, relevant information that is research-based, so it lends credibility to their sites. It’s not just someone’s relative blogging about why kids should be active and involved. And Extension is about people. We know people love to come to our presentations to hear real-life applications of our information, and our blog provides a medium for them to receive that same personal experience online. Many of our FCS faculty members have written for our blog, and are the face behind the name – real people providing useful information that has worked for them professionally and personally.
As our bloggers help us get information out, we have tried to make it worthwhile for them as well. We’ve offered giveaways, gift baskets and free tickets to events when they post about us. This also helps our reach.
Our analytics tell us we had more than 1,700 views our first month, and a year later, more than double that at 4,200. These were mostly in the U.S., but also included international views. It’s hard to tell the full impact after just a year. A blog takes time to grow. But it’s clear we are on an upward trend and we are sharing with people we’ve never reached before, which is our goal.
We all have fact sheets, publications and research-backed information tucked into an archive somewhere. The blog gives us a chance to repurpose that information and make it interesting and consumer friendly. It provides another way to extend our reach.
Public Relations Specialist