Unions that borrow blogs

We’ve seen a whole bunch more union related blogs over the last year, at all levels of the movement (check out the lists at TIGMOO.co.uk for many of them). But one thing I’ve noticed has impressed me in particular, and that’s the first attempts at cleverly using other people’s blogs to talk to members. I’m not talking about the Gen Sec posts that pop up on Comment Is Free every now and then, or the more mainstream political blogs, but something much closer to unions’ membership – the online trade press.

The first I saw was Unite AGS Tony Burke, who has started adding regular guest posts to the Print Week blog, as a sub-blog called Unite Viewpoint. Tony is in charge of the Unite print workers’ section, and this is a great fit – getting the union’s comment right into a paper which will be closely followed by Tony’s members, and much more importantly by workers in the industry who aren’t yet members of the union.

And thanks to a helpful comment she left on ToUChstone blog, I recently noticed UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield’s own blog as part of Public Finance magazine’s group blog. She has written some great articles that will be of a lot of interest to local government administration, positioning her as a recognisable expert with many potential members and other key people around her sector. UCU officer Stephen Court has also joined her on PF blog with a monthly article which gets combined into the wider blog.

The trade press are busily trying to build their online presence, and for many publications, this means instituting a blog as a way of adding more topical content and getting more direct contact with their readership through commenting. Offering help with this by contributing regular articles from the union’s unique perspective should be pretty attractive prospect to them as well as to you (don’t worry it’s not taking union journalists’ jobs. There’s no column inch limit to a blog, and in the current miserable climate for the media, helping boost the publication’s revenue very slightly through online ads is doing them a favour!).

Unions have written bylines for the trade press for many years, and it could be seen as a bit of a climb down to write specifically for a blog, which will (at least for the moment) have a smaller readership than the print magazine itself. I think you need to try both though. You can get more regular content in a blog format – you’ll only be allowed a magazine byline every now and then, and certainly not more often than the magazine is published – plus you’ll be stored on the site and searchable for much much longer. The implicit endorsement of the union as a serious player through inclusion on the magazine’s site could be valuable in impressing potential members that the union is a good step to professional development.

The same might hold for local media, where a Trades Council or union regional official might be a great addition to the blog team of that paper’s own blog – getting the union better known in the community.

If the blog you write for has an individual feed (as both these examples do), you could even integrate it onto the union’s site, Twitter feed or other channels in some way – building even more positive links with that publication, and a better working relationship for the other ways they cover your union.

So for those who don’t know whether they should set up a blog for their union at the moment, why not consider borrowing one instead?

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