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Style Manual

Blogs

Blog posts can help users solve common problems. Use clear structures and ensure content is accessible. Moderate comments if you allow them.

Find out if a blog will meet a user need

Create a blog if it will help people find and use government services and products.

Before starting a blog, do user research. Find out if people will use the blog and why.

Blogs can support user needs by:

  • detailing one aspect of a service or product
  • giving information about policy issues
  • highlighting innovations, research and best practice
  • inviting feedback.

Don’t use blogs for essential information that should be stand-alone content. Don’t duplicate information that’s available elsewhere.

Example
Curious about what goes on at the museum? These blogs give you an inside peek. [Blog posts focus on aspects of a service.]

Things to consider before starting a blog include:

  • What do users want to know about your organisation’s services?
  • Does a blog fit with your organisation’s content strategy?
  • What will a blog add that users can’t find elsewhere?
  • How will a blog fit with your organisation’s goals and its communications strategy?
  • Would it be useful to allow comments, and do you have the dedicated staff to monitor them?

The Australian Government publishes a list of government blogs. Use this list to check how other agencies use blogs.

Plan blog posts with a specific purpose and structure

Update the blog regularly. For example, aim for a new post once a week on the same day. But make sure you have something useful to say.

A blog post should solve users’ problems or answer their questions. Common places you can find information on these include:

  • user research
  • search logs
  • call centre and shopfront data
  • social media
  • web analytics
  • surveys.

Titles, headings and text

Help users find the information they need by following the guidance for:

Start with a title that helps users understand what the post is about. Include keywords. Avoid clickbait titles.

Write this

How to get mental health support

Leadership mentoring program now open

Tips for making a grant application

Not this

Need support? Here’s what you need to know

Become a successful leader

Get your application in now  time is running out

Break up your post with headings and short paragraphs. Order headings from most to least important. Cover one main idea per paragraph. Keep paragraphs to a maximum of 2 to 3 sentences so people can read them on mobile devices.

Use a warm and conversational tone in your blog posts. This will help you engage with the people reading the blog.

Example
Ever wanted to know what to do when hosting an ideas challenge? Our case studies open up a world of ideas and translate them into practices you can apply at work.

Accessibility requirements

Write clear page titles. This is the first thing a screen reader user will hear and should align with the first heading on the page.

Organise content with a clear structure using section headings. Clearly describe the topics or the following section in the headings.

Make sure all users can navigate through all content in the intended order, regardless of the technology they are using. Use the same navigation elements consistently across services.

WCAG quick reference:

Images and media

Include images in blog posts if they convey meaning or interest. Unless images are for decorative purposes, describe the visual information in alt text.

Include video or audio if they meet a user need and are accessible.

Accessibility requirements

Include images, video and audio on a page only if they meet a real user need. Make sure the contrast is sufficient for all users.

Prepare alt text for images. Follow the requirements for video and audio.

WCAG quick reference:

Copyright requirements

You must get permission (a licence) to use copyright material. This includes images, video and audio.

Some material is available under an open access licence, such as Creative Commons.

Read the government copyright rules in the Australian Government intellectual property manual.

Privacy requirements

Your organisation has obligations under the Privacy Act 1988.

Privacy is relevant whenever it's possible to identify someone. Treat things that can or might identify an individual as personal information. A blog might feature someone's picture as an image or in a video, for example.

When you handle personal information, you must comply with the Australian Privacy Principles. Personal information is any information that could identify an individual, in any format.

Call to action

Include a call to action at the end of your post. Examples of calls to action include invitations to:

  • take the next step in using the service or product
  • give feedback
  • get emails about new posts or news items
  • subscribe to a newsletter
  • get more detailed information on a topic
  • respond to a survey.
Example

To bookmark the topics you find most useful, visit Style Manual.

Promotion

Promote your blog post on social media. Tailor content to suit each platform.

Manage comments if you decide to allow them

Blogs can encourage dialogue with people who use government services and products. 

There are benefits in allowing comments. If you involve readers by publishing their comments, they are more likely to return to the blog. By responding to comments, you can increase engagement with the content.

Allowing comments on blogs also has a downside. Comments sections often attract trivial or hostile responses. You will need to moderate comments before publishing them.

Government blogs are official communication channels and speak for the government, so those who reply need to have the authority to make official comments.

A blog that allows comments needs dedicated moderators. It can become unmanageable if there are many comments.

Social media has mostly replaced blogs for the purpose of encouraging comments.

Information management requirements

Blogs that you create for the Australian Government become records. Records provide evidence of what your organisation has done and why. 

Managing and disposing of records properly is a requirement under the Archives Act 1983. You must follow your organisation’s information management requirements. Visit the National Archives of Australia website for information management standards.

Release notes

Guidance on blogs is new in the digital edition. It covers when and how to write a government blog, and how to manage it.

About this page

References

Australian Government (n.d.) Blogs, australia.gov.au, accessed 11 September 2020.

GOV.UK (2019) ‘Blogging’, Content design: planning, writing and managing content, GOV.UK, accessed 11 September 2020.

Kelleher T (2009) ‘Conversational voice, communicated commitment, and public relations outcomes in interactive online communication’, Journal of Communication, 59(1):172–188, doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2008.01410.x.

Murdoch A (21 September 2017) ‘Why we blog in government’, GOV.UK blog, accessed 11 September 2020.

New Zealand Government (2019) How to write for the Digital.govt.nz blog, Digital.govt.nz, accessed 11 September 2020.

This page was updated Tuesday 13 October 2020.

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