Monday, November 10, 2008

Free. Free! Free? What does it cost to develop a blog?

Upon introducing blogging as a Planning project framework, government and non-profit agencies alike often pose the same questions to me. Looking past the long list of advantages over traditional Planning and community engagement methods the questions focus on “the cost” in the most narrowly defined terms. Those seeking monosyllabic answers are often disappointed that these overly uncomplicated questions require a more comprehensive understanding of an intricate set of elements, including: the project terms-of-reference, organizational structures, and available resources.

Of particular interest, and perhaps the most common questions, relate to decisions between utilizing free hosting and blogging tools and paying for proprietary site designs and management delivered by web site designers. To be most effective, incorporating blogging as a project platform for Planning involves designing an entire management and stakeholder engagement system. Free blogging services and those provided by web designers bring varying resources to bare and require different sympathetic assets from within an organization. The challenge is developing the most advantageous mix.

Based on honest internal assessments, organizations can determine which blog site development approach best suits their needs. When facilitating blog development I work with groups to evaluate their available assets with more than just rudimentary cost based measures. This includes determining if they have the following characteristics to support this innovative approach:
  • A change oriented culture;
  • People with the necessary skills to design the site;
  • In-house skills to provide content for the blog, and overall project management;
  • Time within work programs for blogging; and,
  • An organization that is willing to accept challenges to current project management and stakeholder engagement approaches.

While the results can be magical, there is no magic in blogging; it is what you make it. As long as a systems approach is used when incorporating blogs into Planning and similar projects, and they are structured with sufficient thought and assets devoted to crafting quality in content; procedural methodology; supportive stakeholder engagement techniques; and sound Social Planning methods, the benefits can be outstanding.

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