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The Rev. Eradio Valverde, Jr. from the Southwest Texas Annual (regional) Conference multi-tasks while listening to the May 4 plenary session at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

The Rev. Eradio Valverde Jr., from the Southwest Texas (regional) Conference, multi-tasks while listening to May 4 plenary session at 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

A view from the floor: Delegate blogging

By Crystal Caviness*

When it comes to General Conference, the details often can be found in blogs.

“There is always great big picture and news coverage of the events of General Conference,” says Steve Hustedt, “but what we found in 2008 and 2012 was the conference had a real desire to understand what the delegation itself was feeling and experiencing.”

Hustedt oversaw blogging for the Desert Southwest Conference during two prior General Conferences, a role that he believes is an important extension to General Conference activities. As the conference’s director of communications, he invited General Conference alternates to share their perspectives on the daily events for the Desert Southwest Conference blog.

Hustedt, who now works in the Upper New York Conference, is planning to blog, as well as add in social media elements, during the upcoming General Conference activities. His successor at the Desert Southwest Conference, Christina Dillabough, says she plans to continue the tradition with a conference blog for the 2016 event.

Blogging, a popular online platform, is a simple way for a writer, aka blogger, to offer viewpoints while also soliciting feedback from others.

For anyone desiring to start his own General Conference blog, following are resources and tips for creating and maintaining a General Conference blog:

Keep it simple

Free blog-hosting websites, such as WordPress and Blogger, offer steps for getting started. Choose an URL that is simple and can be easily associated with General Conference. Free templates allow for some design personalization. Avoid bright background colors and busy patterns for easier readability.

Mix it up

Expand blog posts beyond text. Photos, videos and audio enhance the message. Posts can be as simple as a photo or as in-depth as an explanation of General Conference legislation. Blogs traditionally are written from the author’s viewpoint, but researching and soliciting varying viewpoints of the various topics can give a blog value as a resource.

Encourage feedback

At the end of posts, ask open-ended questions to encourage comments. Avoid controversy, but foster friendly discussion and be open-minded to different views. Monitor comments and respond to comments and feedback when possible.

Make it easy to find

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means adding keywords to your headlines and text that someone might use when searching for your blog. Optimizing your blog with keywords maximizes its position in search engines, ensuring you gain more visitors.

Work together

Inviting other members of your General Conference delegation to join you as guest bloggers, and asking if you can do the same on their blogs, will broaden your audience. This will also provide members of your conference with different perspectives about General Conference topics.

Launch and promote your blog

Experts say that January or February is a good time to launch a General Conference blog. By early 2016, many delegates already know what some of the key issues will be. Blogging about these topics helps to educate your conference in the months preceding General Conference. Once each blog is written, but prior to publishing the blog, having someone else proofread your blog for clarity and typographical errors is always a good idea. Also, discuss with your conference communicator about promoting your blog on church and conference websites, Facebook pages and through emails and newsletters.

Find more information on our Resources for General Conference Delegates page.

*Crystal Caviness is a public relations specialist at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee.