It’s one thing to set up and manage a contributor blog, but when it comes maintaining the excitement and the quality, a blog with multiple contributors can hard to keep going for the long haul. Especially when your contributors are busy bloggers themselves! But here are a few methods I’ve used to help maintain the momentum on the contributor blog I’ve managed for over 6 years.
1. Give clear direction for post topics.
“What should I write about?” is the most common question I get from guest authors and contributors. A lack of specific topic ideas seems to be one of the primary things that keeps my contributors from writing consistently.
Set loose weekly or monthly themes.
Setting loose themes for each month generates lots of ideas and brainstorming within my team at Kindred Grace. We talk about books all month long every March, and have an annual link-up topic for readers to join in every October. In between, we come up with monthly themes that vary from year to year (though we always try to love on our singles during February!).
Maybe you’ll have one day per week where a specific topic is discussed (like the Smaller Bloggers series on Thursday here at Allume) or a clearly defined theme for each month like SheLoves Magazine. Just make sure your contributors know whether or not it’s okay if they write a post that is off-topic for the month (I failed to make that clear in the beginning and had one contributor who often didn’t write because she couldn’t fit her writing inspiration into that “box”!).
Respond to specific readers.
Most contributor blogs receive a lot of emails with questions from readers. Few of us have time to answer each email individually, but often, an email or more personal comment will spark a post idea. When I receive an email on a topic that is particularly close to the hearts of specific team members, I’ll forward it to them and ask if any of them feel led to answer personally or with a post. Whether the post is written as a Q&A, or just responds to the general idea of the reader’s question, it’s answering a specific need within our readership and is usually very well received. And when a writer is floundering in the sea of ideas, writing with a specific person on their mind and heart is often the making of a very powerful, personal post.
2. Have more contributors than posts per month.
“But how often do you want me to write?” is the second most frequently asked question among my contributors and potential contributors. For the busy women who make up the majority of blogs I read, writing has to be fit in around life, work, and motherhood. Few women who are not writers by trade feel comfortable making a firm commitment to writing one post per month: even the most dedicated contributors have emergencies or months when the well of words has run dry.
My team has appreciated the freedom to write as the Lord gives them words. Combining a firm monthly submission deadline with the grace in the knowledge they do not have to write a post each month has worked well for us. But in order to give them that freedom, I’ve found it works best to have more people on the contributor team than there are post slots per month.
Ask for easier commitments.
Maybe your contributors would be willing to commit to one post every other month — that simply means you need to double your contributor list! Some months, one contributor will write more than one post. Others, everyone is brimming with ideas and we have an overflowing post calendar.
And when one contributor is extra inspired on a topic that doesn’t fit the month’s theme? I keep those posts ready for the months we’re lean on time and inspiration — they are ready-made filler that I don’t have to go looking for.
3. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
It’s easier for me to say yes to a poorly written guest post because I need a post and don’t want to say no than it is to go out and find a quality contributor. But if I don’t take responsibility for the quality of the content on our contributor blog, then it reflects badly on everyone who writes there — including me.
“God has given you a [platform] to be able to speak to so many others. It is so important that you are discerning in what you put out there, because you will be held accountable for those words. We want to point people to Jesus… I don’t take that lightly.”
–Ruth Schwenk in “Building a Successful Contributor Blog” at Allume
Get good at saying no.
It’s a hard balance between encouraging budding writers and lowering the quality of your blog by accepting guest posts that don’t fit or are poorly written. The first screening of guest posts requires the ability to say no. Maybe you can hire an editor or VA who will be better suited to the decision of which posts are worth keeping. But it’s a post by post decision that has to be bathed with a lot of prayer. When I’ve had that nagging feeling that I shouldn’t publish a post — at least without some edits — and have done it anyway, I’ve always regretted it. However, other times when I haven’t been able to find a good reason to say no — even though I really didn’t like the post — it’s been used powerfully in the lives of the readers (much to my humbled surprise).
Ask for a guest post before ask them to contribute full time.
I’m too quick to ask someone on as a full time contributor the moment they are recommended to me. I’ve found that it’s always safer to ask someone to guest post a few times before you express interest in a long-term commitment. Not only does it give me an opportunity to see their unedited posts, how capable they are of following our guidelines, and how we work together, but it gives an opportunity to see how they interact and resonate with our readers as well.
Be willing to edit.
I raised my hand in Ruth Schwenk’s session on “Building a Successful Contributor Blog” at Allume because I wanted to know: “Do you have to edit some contributor’s posts much more than others?” Her simple answer was that yes, some people required a lot more editing than others, but it was okay, because she had asked them to contribute their unique message. I’ve learned that my choice is simple: I can do some hard editing work (often times exercising more editing freedom than my editor would) or I can let a piece with a lot of passion and potential remain unpublished. Some months I don’t have the time to invest; others I can tear the post apart and put it back together and send the author the edits so she can see and learn from the difference. But whenever we edit beyond simple grammar and punctuation, I always run it by the author before final publishing!
Remember that less is more.
I don’t read many blogs that publish something every single day — I don’t have the time, and neither do most of my readers. Whenever I start getting stressed out about a leaner month, I remember what a friend told me once: her husband’s favorite blog only published one or two posts per year. Some weeks, we publish on Tuesday and Thursday, others Monday/Wednesday/Friday. And some months — usually the ones I was worried and started really praying about — the Lord fills up five days per week with posts for His glory! But whenever I start feeling like we’re publishing more posts than I myself can get read, I try to step back the publishing schedule. Because in the noise of social media and blogging, less is often more.
“As new media make the Internet more crowded, quality will be the easiest way to get through the noise.”
-John Mark Reynolds in The New Media Frontier
The beautiful thing about contributor blogs is that there is power in numbers — you can make up for each other’s ebb and flow. With a whole team of people who are passionate and excited about its potential, a contributor blog can actually be easier than a personal blog to maintain for the long haul. It’s all in the way you maintain it and the One giving you the momentum.
What helps your contributor blog keep going for the long haul?
Thanks for sharing,