We often discuss the idea of “becoming a Health Activist” and how patients (and caregivers) go from empowered to advocating. That journey, itself, is unique to the individual but still has things in common across the board — and noting and drawing upon those commonalities is a great way to perhaps inspire others to become Health Activists, too. One of the ideas we’ve mentioned frequently is the concept of a Health Activist Mentorship program – where a more seasoned Health Activist would offer ideas, advise, and feedback to inspire someone who’s just starting off into the world of online health leadership. It’s a really great idea and, when I came across Julianna’s feature on her blog What The Jules called the “Blogger in Residency Program” – it was a true light bulb moment. I couldn’t help but see it as a real incarnation of that Mentorship. I contacted Jules to hear more about the program because I think it could be something that other Health Activists can bring back to their blogs and try as well. Here’s what we discussed:
What is your Blogger in Residency Program?
Jules: The Blogger in Residency Program is a chance for new bloggers (or bloggers who have not found a way to really get their blogs to “take off”) a chance to get their feet wet in the blogging world without worrying about the tedium that setting up a blog can require.
I have found that some people want to start a blog, and when there is a bit of fear in putting ones self out there, any roadblock will put a halt to the process. That tends to be human nature, but when we are talking about a blog in which we are going to expose our inner self to the public, we are more susceptible to accepting a roadblock and not moving forward.
The Blogger in Residency Program removes the roadblocks. The program takes this one step further and provides the new blogger with a mentor as well. If you can’t come up with topics, your mentor is there to help you. If you can’t find that unique voice for your blog, your mentor is there.
The Blogger In Residency program is more then just some space on a website, it’s about providing a safe place to create and grow as a writer for a month, to learn the ins and outs of blogging from writing and posting, to marketing.
Where did the idea come from?
Jules: I am a big music fan, and have been my whole life. Also, I have followed art to some degree. In both of these areas, residency programs are common. There are music venues that I enjoy that have musician residency programs that take in bands or solo artists for a period of time and give them a home to create and to play. Most specifically, I was inspired by the Hotel Cafe Residency: https://www.facebook.com/thehotelcafe and https://www.hotelcafe.com/
If bands can get residency, why can’t writers? And specifically, bloggers? It is even easier for us! The space is easier to come by and there are so many niches in health blogging that need to be filled.
This also goes hand in hand with three blog communities I am building. By developing bloggers with good skills, I can feed my communities if these bloggers fit the needs, and they wish to continue the work.
How do you choose who will be your Blogger in Residency?
Jules: Application to the Blogger in Residency Program is not rigorous. Other than my potential future need for a kidney, this is really about desire to write, and the excitement for the program.
I have a basic call to writers on the first page of my Blogger In Residency Program:
The Blogger In Residency program allows a new blogger, that may not have web space or resources to start a blog, with space to publish for a month without sacrificing creativity while making technical decisions. Or, someone just getting started that wants a mentor and a chance to get feedback from you, the Chronically Awesome community.
I hope you will read and comment on our Blogger in Residency posts. If you are interested in working with the blog team at WhatTheJules, and want to be a Blogger In Residency, please email email@example.com and tell us about yourself.
Neither April or May have been selected by this process. The April blogger, Kat (Alice in Chron’sLand) was chosen because she wanted to do the HAWMC for Wego and did not have a blog space, and also needed some guidance because she had not blogged before. I offered her both. This was when I got the idea.
My May blogger was hand selected. I was sitting with my friend Amanda (@lalupuslady) getting ready to do the #friendsofricki chat, and prepping for my PodCast “Chronic Chronicles” and we were looking at the different gifts that Chronically Awesome followers had sent me over the last couple of years. I showed Amanda a card sent to me by Kelli Clark (@kelsoopadoo) and also a photo she had put on instagram that was tagged for me.
That sent us to her blog and we loved it. We started tweeting it to our TL, but noticed she had not written a new entry in so long. I thought perhaps she needed some inspiration and some mentoring. She is young, in high school, and this excited me. I wanted to see her grow as a blogger and perhaps contribute to my WhatTheJules blogging team. If she could grow her own blog and on occasion send me a post, she could really make a name for herself and help a segment of the Chronically Awesome community that does not get enough attention.
I approached her with the idea and she loved it. And what I loved was that she had to get back to me to sort out the details because, she had PROM!!!! PERFECT!
I have a whole month now to work with her, to help Alice with marketing her new blog, and to find a June blogger.
What tips do you have for other seasoned bloggers who may want to start their own Blogger In Residency program?
Jules: I learned so much my first month. It was a blessing and a curse that the first month that I did this was HAWMC. It was exhausting.
1. Have a plan. Know how you are going to publish your blogger’s posts. Have this well developed before you start. Are you going to let them have access to your site to publish for themselves, or are you going to do it for them? I published Alice’s posts for her. My site is not a wordpress or blog focused site, it is a regular website. I did not want to confuse the issue. I knew Alice/Kat would be going on to publish her future blog in Tumblr and learning to use my site back end would only be a distraction. You have to consider these things.
This meant extra work for me. During HAWMC I was posting two posts a day.
2. Remember that you are a mentor, you are not writing the blog for them. There is a difference between proofing and editing and removing the creative choices they have made.
3. Do not leave your blogger stranded in the woods of the internet. Check in with your blogger daily, just ask them how they are doing. When they seem lost, give them your hand, give them tips about coming up with topics, or how to deal with writers block. Get to know them and their health focus so that you can help them over the hump. Text, email, DM, use whatever means of communication works best.
4. Market your bloggers blog along with your own. When you tweet your post, tweet theirs. When you put yours on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, wherever you send your links, send theirs. Be a role model of blog marketing, and show them what you have done so they can do the same.
5. Ease them into the transition. I have asked my webmaster to create an interface to my site that will allow my bloggers to post their own blogs to the site through the front end of the blog. I will always have my blogger in residency send me the first few blogs directly so I can go over them and help them with choices they have made, but then they will post on their own. I can’t kill myself over the time it took like I did last month.
6. Build the relationship. You will mentor your blogger with advice that is unique to you and the way you blog, that is for you to decide. Whatever that advice is, start your relationship with that conversation. Start with that talk. Tell your blogger about how to find the voice that will make them a success, that will make them the best blogger you believe they can be.
Any other insight into running a blog that might be helpful to fellow health bloggers?
Jules: So, I came to this very different world of Chronically Awesomeness (Chronic Illness) after 15 years in software. I was Vice President of Marketing for a software company. When I found myself at home and a consultant, the only thing I was still consistently doing was writing. I still live in my old world as a magazine columnist, technical writer, and I provide social media to a few companies (including the one I was VP for) in my “old life”. Now I am finding this life, and the gift my illness has given me, the gift of a voice for my community and the love for and of my community so much more rewarding. I had to become broken to feel whole.
Here is how I keep my Chronically Awesome Community running. It’s not a small thing, but it runs like a well oiled machine – we are happy even though we are sick. We are positive and we live daily to find the gifts that we have been given in this new life of illness. We find the awesome in everything. It sounds nuts, but we do it. You wouldn’t believe how many people have turned away from the negative of counting the diminishing energy points and learned that when you do something as a sick person, you should earn and be given credit for your awesomeness. It’s about teamwork. No one can navigate this path alone. WhenI says we, I can’t manage posting all of these blogs alone, Karen Vasquez (@karenovasquez) of WalkForCure the California Scleroderma Chapter (@walkforcure) helps me manage the blog portal: http://www.facebook.com/chronicallyawesomebloggers. And my weekly chronic illness “Chronically Awesome” PodCast http://www.facebook.com/chronicchronicles @chroniclepod http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/117602 is co-hosted by Gini Briggs (@growingthrupain) and Donna Kay (@healthierstay)
Thanks so much to Jules for sharing her great idea with us. Hopefully you found the information helpful and will consider taking a new blogger under your wing in a mentorship-style residency. It could be a great way for you to branch out in your advocacy – and take some of the weight off of yourself as a blogger when it comes to content-creation and writing schedules. It gives you the opportunity to try a new angle – that of Editor – and expand your mission. If you don’t already – be sure to follow Jules over at her blog What The Jules, on Twitter @julianna12369 on Facebook and Google+.