Today I am talking about the new experiences running a hyperlocal blog has brought; from organising events, dealing with the mainstream media, learning to negotiate, community involvement to running a campaign, and I will share some hints and tips that will help you get your hyperlocal blog up and running.
Wake Green Park is a private estate in Moseley, Birmingham (map). It has approx 300 residents of varying ages, though there aren’t many children in the park due to the small sized flats. The estate is maintained by a private management company and we employ a full time gardener, a security guard and cleaners who maintain the communal hallways. When required we bring in other companies to help with maintenance, such as repairing potholes, fixing security cameras, tree surgeons and the like. We also have a Board Of Directors which is made up out of residents and who help make decisions about the running of the estate.
I had been online and using social media and blogs for a few years before beginning the Wake Green Park blog, but even so, running this hyperlocal blog has been a platform for learning.
First of all I had to choose a blogging platform. I opted for Google’s Blogspot, rather than the WordPress blogging platform. Both are free, but at the time I had limited experience with WordPress and I knew that I wouldn’t require any help with blogger. Although now I have used WordPress a lot more since, I can see the benefits to that blogging platform too.
When I first started the blog I was met with some initial resistance from the board of directors especially because I wanted to organise a picnic in the park for residents. Security and health concerns were raised, plus not everyone was comfortable with me talking about the estate in such a public way. I met with some of the directors and had a chat about the blog and why I had started it; to help bring the estate’s community together. I explained the blog was open for anyone to contribute to and have their say. This helped the directors to overcome any worries they had. As a compromise I have put a disclaimer on the blog saying the views express are mine and not those of the directors or the management company. With all of this I’ve had to brush up on my negotiating skills!
Through starting the blog I have now met the board of directors and know more about the work that they do. I have also had more contact with the management company and I am establishing a co-operative working relationship with them. I have invited the management company to use the blog as way of putting up their notices as well as the mail shots they issue. They haven’t taken me up on that offer yet, but give it time!
Although I have organised events before, they have been mainly done fully online and using social media to promote them. Also, with these events (mainly photography related) I knew I had an audience there that would be interested in them and would actually participate. I was taken a little out of that comfort zone last summer when I decided to organise a ‘Big Lunch’ in the estate. The idea behind it was it would be a good opportunity for all the residents to actually meet their neighbours, make some new friends, get the community spirit going and to have some fun. The estate can be a quiet place in as much that at times you would barely pass a neighbour in the corridor for months!
I had to make a plan on how I was actually going to execute this, knowing that not all the residents are online. When I started the blog I did a little leaflet campaign and dropped a flyer through everyone’s letter box. For the Big Lunch I went with a poster campaign. Through reading the blog post about the lunch a resident, who I had never met before, volunteered her services which was such a help! Together we planned which blocks of flats we would cover and put a poster on the communal front doors so nobody could miss what was going on. If I saw someone on the estate I would speak to them and tell them about the picnic, this met with varying degrees of enthusiasm I must admit! And there were a few party poopers who took down some of the posters, but not for long as I was quick to replace them!
So my picnic campaign was held online, and off line too, in a more ‘traditional’ manner. When the day of the picnic arrived I had no idea if anyone was going to come along and was very relieved when about 20 residents turned up, and brought food with them too. It was a fun summer afternoon and it served it’s purpose of a community event. Everyone said how much they enjoyed it and asked if I would organise another one this year.
Because of running the blog and the interest I take in the estate, the management called with an urgent request recently. Was I at home now? And could I do a live broadcast for BBC Midlands Today in 15 minutes time about the city councils lack of refuse collection? Yes and yes! There would not have been this opportunity if it weren’t for the blog.
Also, I appear to have become a point of contact for some residents when they have enquiries or complaints about the park. I try and help them or at least point them in the right direction if I can’t. I get an insight into what other residents are experiencing through their contact.
Another recent new experience that came about from running the blog is that I have actually looked at planning application for the first time. Through looking up the application online I could see that there were some proposed changes to the parking spaces on the estate.
I’ve learnt about community involvement, or sometimes the lack of it. I know some hyperlocal blogs with a thriving participating community behind it. I also know of some that, like me, would love more people to get involved, or at least write a comment now and again! Wake Green Park is a small area compared to other hyperlocal blogs (some say it’s micro local!), and with 300 residents, many of whom are not online, and I do struggle with getting involvement from other residents. It would be great if someone actually takes up the offer of writing a blog post. There isn’t much ‘breaking news’ on the park. It’s a quiet, peaceful and safe place to live.
People start hyperlocal blogs for many reasons. Some are proud of their area, some want to share stories and photographs, some use it as a platform to make changes, but they all do it because they want to.
Here are some things to think about if you are considering starting your first hyper local blog:
How are you going to get your blog online? Which blogging platform would you like to use? Do you need help with this? Then get in touch with Talk About Local! We would be happy to help you.
How will you publicise you blog? There are numerous ways to get your first visitors (that will hopefully come back and even get involved). Here are a few tips to help get you started?
- Word of mouth. Tell your friends and neighbours
- Are there any local free papers or magazines for your area? Get them to put a few words about your blog.
- Tell the press your news! There’s a new blog in town, it’s full of the latest news in your area, and you want people to share their views and stories!
- Consider a leaflet campaign. Design it yourself, or if you don’t know how, ask your friends and someone might be able to help. Target the residents in your area with your leaflets
- List your blog on Openly Localwhich is a hyper local directory. It’s free.
- Make contact with other hyperlocal bloggers. Perhaps there are others in your city that you can connect with and perhaps they will link to your new blog.
You might need some help with subjects to blog about, or want to keep up to date with what is being said about your area or local issues. Google Alerts will help you keep track of this. It’s very simple, just enter the words/names/phrases that you want Google to look out for and the latest updates on the internet will be delivered to your inbox.
Good luck, and I hope you enjoy hyperlocal blogging. If you need any help, get in touch and we will be happy to guide you on your hyperlocal journey.