U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

Starting and Running a Blog (Text Version)

Below is the text version for the sixth podcast in the Introduction to Standards Podcast, Starting and Running a Blog.

Welcome to the Introduction to Standards Podcast. I'm Elizabeth Spencer, and today I'll be talking about how to start and run a blog. You can read more on the Web site in the Web Content Guidelines, under "Blogs."

Blogs are one of the social media vehicles that anyone on EERE can use if they need one. But before you run off and start one, you need to know a few things.

First, a blog is like any other project. You have to have a plan. A good blog is a living, active blog—you need a constant stream of content. You need regular writers. You need a schedule. You need an idea of how you'll keep it alive for a sustained period.

First, here's how you start a blog.

So, before you do anything, you should email Drew Bittner at the Department of Energy and tell him why you need a blog. A short explanation is fine. The idea is to make sure you aren't duplicating anything that is already being done.

For example, if you want to do a consumer-facing blog, you might consider guest blogging on the Energy Savers blog instead. It has been around for years, has a large following, and is already established. Drew will help you with that decision.

After that, you need to write a charter, just like you would for any other Web project. To help with this, we have a special blog charter. You can find it in Web Content Guidelines, under Blogs. Fill that charter out and send it to the Project Review Team.

Afterwards, making a blog is like any other project. You need to design and build it.

Building is simple. EERE has a standard blog hosting environment. All blogs go in the same template and are hosted at eereblogs.energy.gov.

Design is also simple. Since all blogs are in the same template, they all look the same. You can customize the color scheme and the banner. Your designer can do whatever they like with these elements. The only requirement is that the banner must have the EERE logo and the DOE seal in it.

There are a few pages that are required on all blogs. One is the Standard Blog Disclaimer page. This page needs to be linked somewhere from the main page of your blog. It describes EERE's universal policy on responding to, posting, and deleting comments, its approach to links, and its privacy policy.

That's it! Once you have your blog approved, designed, and built, you can go to the Project Review Team and get approval to go live.

So that's how to make a blog. Now I'd like to talk a little about how to keep it running.

With blogs, you must plan for some amount of regular, constant maintenance. Blogs are a living thing—Unlike a Web site, you have to check on it weekly. You have to post regularly. "Regularly" usually means at least once a week, though it varies based on your topics. If you can't sustain this, think: Is there another blog on EERE that has a similar goal as yours? Maybe you can be a periodic guest blogger on another blog instead.

But you also have to plan some time every week to moderate comments. Most blogs only get a few comments a week. Some very popular ones, like the Energy Savers blog, can get dozens a week. You need to have someone schedule some time, every week, to review, delete, or approve comments. And when you get valid comments, you need to have a plan in place to respond to them.

Otherwise, only one other thing is required: Please make sure your Program Director knows about your blog. They should know what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how you're doing it. They should know what your editorial process is. We don't want to have any blogs on EERE that are run without the program's knowledge!

That's it for the requirements. That's the hard part! The rest of these are suggestions.

On pretty much all of the EERE blogs, we moderate the comments. That means that when someone writes a comment, it doesn't show up on the site immediately. It has to be approved first. We suggest you do this on your blogs, too.  Otherwise, you are going to get a lot of spam.

And one other thing: This is obvious, but please be courteous! If someone asks you a question on your blog, you don't have to respond. But if you do, respond courteously, calmly, and with data—Not opinion. The best response to a question is a link to a page or a report that has the information they need.

Remember—You're representing the U.S. Department of Energy. Don't say anything you might regret!

And that's it! In our next podcast, we'll be talking about something pretty straightforward—how to link to PDFs and native file formats. So see you next time!