Blog Tips 4: Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto! (Image posted onFlickr by James Clark --

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto! Let’s tell our story…. (Image posted on Flickr by James Clark.)

This is the final installment of a four-part series on blogging. The full set includes:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Fulbright’s sponsors encourage the students and scholars who receive Fulbright grants to blog about their experiences. They want to publicize the Fulbright program, the work we (their Fulbrights) are doing, and the cultural nuances we are discovering. They want us to share who we are and what we learn. Why not generate as much good publicity as we can?

If you’ve gotten your Fulbright blog up and running, you are ready to publicize your work. (If, on the other hand, you haven’t gotten started blogging because you’re still feeling overwhelmed by technical issues, you may want to check out Daniel Piechnick’s Website Setup Guide 2013: The Dummies’ Guide to Setting Up a Website.)

Based on past blog tips I’ve posted, you may have determined what level of privacy you desire. This matters because everyone in the world will be able to see what you post on a public blog site.

You may have shied away from being very open or very public about events in your life, but even if you don’t want to be highly public about everything you do, you will probably want to your friends and family know about your blog. In one fell swoop, you can notify them of the blog’s existence and invite them to receive automatic emails of everything you post. (If you are using WordPress, you can find the tools on your Dashboard — just look for the “users” button and then “invite new.”)

If you’re feeling ambitious, you may want to invite everyone in your contacts list.

Today we've got new technologies. (Image downloaded from Tumblr --

Today we’ve got new technologies. (Image downloaded from Tumblr.)

And if you’ve decided to “go for the gold,” and to use your blogging efforts to full affect, you can generate a wide audience. The following tips can help:

  • Register with Google, Bing, and other search engines so you show up when people use them to search the web (WikiHow can help, as can the WordPress “Publicize” page).
  • Sign up to receive automatic mailings of your own postings (in other words, invite yourself to be a “user” so that the system will automatically email you a copy of each post). This is a good way to keep records for your files. Doing so can help when you go to compile formal Fulbright grant reports.
  • Once you receive an email about a post that mentions a person, organization, or business, forward a copy of it to those people. Doing so helps people know they’re appreciated and it increases interest in your site.
  • Forward a copy to other people you think would be interested.
  • Set your blog platform to automatically load notification of each blog post to Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and the like. (I’ve chosen to upload to Facebook manually, because I want the option to select which photo Facebook posts.)
And they can help us spread the word. (Image downloaded from Toastmasters --

And they can help us spread the word. (Image downloaded from Toastmasters.)

You can load notifications to your personal page in Facebook, or you can set up a Fan page for your blog. You’ll need the Fan page if you want to enable visitors (to a WordPress blog) to click “like.” Keep in mind that only people who have “liked” your page will see posts you stream to that Facebook page. As a result, I chose to stream posts to my own personal Facebook page which has far more “friends.” (And, thus, I’ve not yet made good use of my Fan page.)

Jonathan Kennedy (the spouse of a Fulbright) clued me into the value of using Facebook “likes” to tag businesses and organizations you want to become more involved with in your new Fulbright home. I subsequently realized that I could increase interest in my blog by posting links on the Facebook pages of those businesses and organizations when I mention them in a post.

WIth today's Internet you are always "On Air." (Image from National Publicist --

WIth today’s Internet you are always “On Air.” (Image from National Publicist.)

There are many good sources of help on line. For instance, WikiHow has a post about using social media to create interest in your blog. It recommends (and explains how) to:

  1. Interact with other blogs.
  2. Cross blog! (As in, posts links to your past blogs in your new blogs, which I frequently do.)
  3. Submit your posts and links to your blog on tools like forums, discovery engines, peer-sourced news feeds and social networking sites.
  4. Write great headlines and subject lines.
  5. Step back and analyze your blog as objectively as possible.
  6. Stay consistent. (As in, post frequently.)

Regarding search engine optimization, WikiHow discusses:

  1. Research “Search Engine Optimization” which is also known as SEO.
  2. Consider manipulating your content to include more key words.
  3. Link to popular blogs you like and websites relevant to your topic.

In signing out, I’ll mention one last, critical point about Fulbright blogging:

It goes without saying that in everything you do as a Fulbright, and particularly on the on the Internet, you’re a cultural envoy. Your job as a Fulbright is to facilitate and grow cultural understanding and respect. That means, of course, that you need to consider what you post from multiple perspectives and stay positive in what you post about your hosts.

Flimerz explains "you can draw viewers by connecting with your audience." (Image form Flimerz --

Flimerz explains “you can draw viewers by connecting with your audience.” (Image from Flimerz.)

Anil Dash provides "A Blog About Making Culture." (Image from Anil's blog site --

Anil Dash provides “A Blog About Making Culture.” (Image from Anil’s blog site.)

Blog Tips 3: Finding your Blogging Niche

An image downloaded from Blogging Help

An image downloaded from Blogging Help.

This is the third of a four-part series on blogging. The full set includes:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Blogging can be a daunting task. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to get your self on track to a successful — and rewarding — Fulbright-blogging career. You can lay a strong foundation by considering: what niche your work can fill, what voice you will develop, what look and feel your site will have, and how you can get the most intellectual payback out of your own work. This blog discusses how.

Niche / Topic

Is there some subject you love to tell others about — or a unique perspective you can offer the world? (As your dissertation advisors would have said: is there a hole in the on-line knowledge base that you can help fill?)

If you’re a Fulbright, you likely have a specific area of expertise that you can help others understand!

There is a group of blog-writing Fulbrighters in Ireland this year. We all started by saying we’d describe our year-long experience. That alone is something of a niche… but being event more specific can give a blog more ump. We all sensed that and we each defined some sort of focus: design and photography (for me), language prowess (for Amanda Burnhard), and family growth (for the McDonald family).

An important consideration in defining your niche is that the straightforward diary approach necessitates posting a good deal of personal information (that is, if it is to intrigue a soul). So, when you think about it, you may decided you are more comfortable blogging about the subject you are teaching or studying during your Fulbright.

Know that if you’re teaching as a Fulbright, you’re already practicing the art of explaining ideas to a new audience. Why not break it down a little farther still, and post some intriguing concepts in a way that a general audience can understand?

If you’re researching as a Fulbright, this experience can help you learn to write in more interesting ways.

A cartoon about blogging, posted on the blog Ghost Stories and Haunted Places

A cartoon about blogging, posted on the blog Ghost Stories and Haunted Places.

In case you’re still puzzled about how to find your niche, the ETSY Blog Team recommends these simple steps:

  1. Follow your Passion! Write down topics that you would like to talk about, grab a pen and paper and list 20 or so activities and Hobbies that you like {Crafts,Photography,Cooking}.
  2. Narrow down your List! Would you be happy if working on this was your daily job? Do you have any particular skills or knowledge in that field? For Me, Love to write! It makes me happy! So I will write on my blogs for as long as I can.
  3. Access your Competition! As a mom Blogger myself, I can assure you that there are a lot of other “Mom bloggers our there”. That doesn’t get me down, It just make me want to succeed more and more with my blog. It makes me want to be Unique! To Write my own content and in my own way. I advise you to do the same!
  4. Know the Purpose of your blog! Is this your personal blog? Or Business? Are you wanting to make money from your blog? Or do you plan on making money in the future? {Coming soon a post about how to make money blogging}.
  5. Still Don’t have a Niche? Not a problem! I know a lot of successful blogs that write about something different everyday! There is nothing wrong with that! It’s your Blog so make it yours and write about what you are passionate about.

Voice / Tone

It’s important to identify who your audience is likely to be so you can work to engage them.  For me, knowing who I am talking “to” helps make the writing more fun. And, as The Blog Maven rightly asserts, “If you sit down to write a post and you leave your personality at the door, you’re selling yourself – and your readers – short.” I completely agree!

Note that your audience may grow and change over time (your blog’s stats feature can help you determine if it’s changing). That’s much of the fun of being a Fulbright. In the past couple months I’ve run into dozens of people — both in Dublin and at home — who have read my blog and want to know more about some topic or other that I introduced on it. As I said before: that helps me know I’m doing my (cultural-exchange) job!

By blogging regularly, adjusting your tone and pace, and determining what you and your audience most enjoy, you’ll find your own blogging voice. Will you, for instance, “speak” slowly and precisely or quickly and casually on your blog?

Tony Teegarden posted the following helpful advice, saying If you want loyal readers:

  1. Stand for something
  2. Provide good, quality content (helpful & useful)
  3. Be unique in your voice (delivery)

Some benefits of a unique voice are:

  • You attract readers of like mind
  • You become more engaging
  • You build more trust with your audience
  • You have a higher chance of turning readers into customers
  • You have a lot more fun doing it (enjoy the process)

Look / Format

Once you have determined your tone and favored subject matter, you can chose a blog template to match. Some template are designed for words — others for video, photography, or visual portfolios. This is your opportunity to coordinate the look, feel, and content of your site. I felt lucky to find a weathered looking template in green and blue that reflected the title I’d chosen, Ireland by Chance.

Old fashioned travel diary posted on Bill Sharp's blog

Old fashioned travel diary posted on Bill Sharp’s blog.

Get More Mileage

Clearly, as a Fulbright, you’re an extremely busy person! You’ve got to find ways to get the most mileage possible from your time. I reiterate: You simply must get more out of this task than just meeting CIEE’s expectation that you build a blog.

It’s too good an opportunity to waste!

Please take the time to ask yourself upfront:  What do you want to learn?

I wanted to learn about writing for a popular audience. I also wanted to share what I’d be seeing, doing, and thinking with family and friends. I wanted to have a colorful record of my adventures — and perhaps a legacy of sorts.

Other Fulbrigters are at work creating their won legacies. One is using her Irish blog to practice their language skills and another to record her family’s development….

Amanda Burnhard‘s blog is called From Montague to Galway: A Blog about Our Year in Ireland, Studying the Irish Language. It gives her a venue to practice writing in the Irish language. She posts everything in Irish and then, below that, in English.

Amanda’s blogging helps her connect to the people she’s meeting in Galway. It also helps people back home understand her experiences living abroad. But more importantly — in the big scheme of things — Amanda and her husband Jonathan are helping preserve use of Irish language and knowledge of traditional music. Amanda’s blog thus represents a contribution to humanity’s knowledge base about the Irish-speaking parts of Western Ireland. How cool is that?

Leonardo da Vinci "Anatomical drawing of hearts and blood vessels from Quaderni di Anatomia vol 2; folio 3v"

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Anatomical drawing of hearts and blood vessels from Quaderni di Anatomia vol 2; folio 3v” (Image downloaded from Art Prints on Demand.)

Another interesting thing we can learn from Amanda (the Fulbright) and Jonathan (her husband) is how to use a team approach. Jonathan is active on Facebook and he brings their Fulbright-related experiences to that venue.  Amanda has chosen a more reflective working environment. She limits her social media activity to the blog. (Incidentally, Amanda posted a blog about staying at my apartment while I was out of town before Christmas, and an earlier entry that included a photo of Dave and me.)

Scott and Christine MacDonald developed yet another approach. Christine (the spouse of a Fulbright) is the one blogging about their Fulbright experience. Her blog is called A Year in Ireland. Christine’s blog provides a glimpse of what it is like to bring a family along on the Fulbright journey — something Fulbright Ireland encourages and endeavors to support.

In parting, I’d like to note that Leonardo da Vinci made regular practice of journaling. What an incredible legacy he left us in his journals!

So let us proceed boldly in our blogging adventures, my Fulbright friends, in hope that journaling will help us create a better world and inspire others to do the same.

A page from Leonardo DiVinci's journal, downloaded from Ashley Foden's blog

A page from Leonardo da Vinci’s journal (downloaded from Ashley Foden’s blog).

Blog Tips 2: Choosing and Adapting to Your Blog Platform

When you start blogging, you may feel like you have to stand on your head to get the software to do what you want.  (Photo from

When you start blogging, you may feel like you have to stand on your head to get the software to do what you want. (Photo from

This is the second of a four-part series on blogging. It’s the whiniest one, but I’ve decided that’s okay because I want to help you avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve experienced.  It tends to portray blogging as a pain (which it can be) without describing the joy it brings.  For that you’ll need to reference other blogs in the series:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Choosing a good blogging platform is very important. I can’t really tell you which platform is best (I’m an n of one as we statistics geeks say).   Although I don’t have broad experience in selecting blogs, I have had all too much experience adapting myself to the blog template (Motion) and platform (WordPress) I selected back in August.

Other blogs, such as App Storm, can help you compare popular platforms.

Overall, I wish I had tested a few different blog platforms and templates before I committed to one.  I jumped into using WordPress, and I have to admit: it’s okay. Very good, in fact, for something you’re getting for free.

Fortunately, some of the WordPress features I don’t like have improved with recent updates.  I am starting to feel more satisfied with the product.

Hopefully the things I’ve found will ease your own transition into blogging:

Upgrades — Although I love the look of the (free) template I chose, it has a couple of goofy features that I’m unable to change.  And even though I paid to upgrade to the Pro package, I’ve found I can’t modify the goofy elements while retaining the basic template design.  (I’d have to change the template all together.)  Of all the upgrade features I purchased, only the specialized domain name seems worth the cost in retrospect.

Generating Text — I enjoy the ability to start drafts, save them, and return to them later.  I have many partially complete files waiting.  On days I’m too busy to write, I can pick one of those up, brush it off, and use it to keep my audience engaged.  As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, typical blog readers expect frequent updates and they loose interest when a blog looses its zip.  I try to keep my blog zippy by keeping the entries short and always including images.

Blogging platforms. (Image from App Storm.)

Blogging platforms. (Image from App Storm.)

Regarding text, I could really use reliable spell and grammar check features within the online blog window.  If there’s a way to enable these in WordPress, I hope someone will let me know how.  I also haven’t figured out how to compose the text in Word and then copy it over without loosing the paragraph formatting.

So I compose in the WordPress window and, before hitting “publish,” I try to remember to copy the text into Word, locate errors, and manually correct them in the WordPress window.  I frequently forget this step, though, and discover annoying errors after I’ve disseminated the article.  Then I have to go back in and change them in the on-line version.  Unfortunately, the people who received them via email end up seeing the mistakes.

And, YES, I could edit more thoroughly.  But I only have so much free time available for blogging.  To keep my real work flowing, I find I have to accept more typographical errors in my blog than I allow myself in other venues.  Most of my readers are forgiving on this point.

Graphic Layout — Other than the spelling/grammar check issue, today’s WordPress is more user-friendly and has better graphic tools than when I started blogging in August 2012.  But if you’re a stickler for graphic composition as I am, you may still find yourself disappointed with various layout features.  I have trouble placing photos where I want them, but I find I get better results by writing the text first and then inserting the photos into the text.  I make a practice of previewing each draft multiple times to see what layout decisions are getting lost in translation.

Lately I’ve taken to using WordPress’s (new) gallery feature to insert photos.  It’s much improved over past versions.  Organizing, editing, and inserting photos is much easier these days!

My software sometimes makes me bend over backwards to get the results I want.

I feel like this when I’m trying to achieve pleasing layouts.  (Thank God for yoga!)

Capturing Photos — Photos add a lot to a blog.  My readers say they enjoy them.  Although I have a very nice camera, it’s cumbersome to lug around and it takes me a lot of time to download the cards.  Moreover, pulling out a professional camera tends to alter the tone of events.  People continue on more naturally when I use my tiny, unassuming iPhone camera.  That’s important when I’m part of the event I’m recording, and not just an observer.

Overall, my iPhone does a fabulous job for its size!  It also lets me include myself in photographs without much fuss.

Using the iPhone I can email the images directly from the “camera” to my laptop.  I size them down (to about 700k each) for the blog before I hit “send.”  The photos are good enough that I frequently upload them to WordPress without further editing.

Video — The iPhone also captures video well.  Unfortunately, I find that I must shrink the video files down for the blog (though perhaps they’ve upgraded this feature, too?).  Shrinking requires me to use extra software, and I have to send them back to the States, where my husband has appropriate software.  I haven’t taken to editing my video clips, and the ones I’ve posted haven’t gotten many views.  (I’ve heard people claim that posts with photos get more views than those with just text, and that those with video get far more.  But that hasn’t been the case with my blog — probably because my videos aren’t polished.)  If I were to start over, I wouldn’t pay extra for the capacity to post videos (although I would still pay extra for the unique domain name).  I’d simply upload the videos to a different (free) site, like YouTube, and link my blog to that URL.

Blogging Devices — I haven’t been successful at blogging directly from my iPhone or iPad as I’d anticipated doing.  The features have been too limited for my liking (architects are so darned particular!).  I believe that the iPad editing features have improved recently and may be well worth re-investigating.

Last Words — All this being said, I do enjoy blogging, reflecting, recording, and connecting with others.  I think I may keep blogging even when my Fulbright is finished and I no longer see blogging as part of my job.

I’ve been back home for Christmas vacation (for 2.5 weeks now) and I have to say that it’s been fun catching up with friends and family and answering questions they have about stories I’ve posted on the blog.

It always surprises me when I meet people in Dublin who know what I’ve been posting.  My readership there isn’t too far behind my readership in the States.