One of the most important tools for a patient leader is having their own website or blog. For many patient leaders, their website/blog are one in the same. This is the place where they share their story, the place where they connect with other patients and caregivers, and keep the world updated with the advocacy work that they’re doing. Your blog/website is really the deep dive into who you are and why you tell your story.
The problem is that there are SO many different options when it comes to starting a blog that it can be very overwhelming. With this blog post, we’re hoping to make this process a little easier for you and get you on the right path to becoming the best patient leader you can be!
Don’t forget to check out our guide to being a patient leader over HERE!
Step One: Choose a Blogging Platform
It turns out that step one is probably the most overwhelming step in this whole process. Make sure to do your research, ask your friends for their recommendations, and don’t be afraid to sign up for 3 or 4 sites to check them out before to launch your blog.
Here are a few different options you can choose from:
Pros: WordPress.com is a free platform that is very user-friendly. Through WordPress you can set up a blog or a blog/website combination by setting up different pages in addition to your blog. WordPress supports video, image and text posts which means you are not limited to the types of information you post for your readers. For a small fee, you can set up a custom domain through WordPress. Instead of your website URL being thisismywebsite.wordpress.com it would be thisismywebsite.com. WordPress also has a free and easy to use mobile app.
Cons: WordPress.com is very limiting when it comes to customization. If you’re looking for complete freedom over the look and feel of your website, you’ll need to register through wordpress.org, which means you’ll also need to buy a hosting package and a domain. This is a much more advanced option, so if you’re starting out, it is probably best to just stick with WordPress.com
Pros: Tumblr is what is referred to as a microblogging site. This means the content tends to be shorter than the posts of a traditional blog. You can post on your own board, follow other bloggers, or search posts by keywords. Tumblr lets bloggers post various content, such as text, photos, pictures, music, videos, links and more. Posted content can be original or re-posted from others’ boards. The reposting feature is what makes Tumblr unique from other blogging platforms. If you’re tech savvy and know how to code, Tumblr is also free to customize, which is a huge perk if you have that skill set. You can also set up a custom domain to direct to your Tumblr site as well.
Cons: Most people use usernames on Tumblr which makes individuals often hard to find. Many bloggers will start their blogs on Tumblr and later switch to other platforms when they discover that Tumblr is pretty limiting in terms of layout, basic customization, and over all blog capabilities. Tumblr is more for sharing others’ content than chronically your own story. So, make sure you’ve picked your blog strategy before you choose a platform.
Pros: If you already have a Gmail account, Blogger may be a great option for you. It is owned by Google and you can link your account seamlessly. Blogger is probably the most user-friendly blogging platform available, which makes it a great pick for the new bloggers out there. Blogger offers users a dashboard to manage their blog, but it also offers the option to “follow” other blogs and puts them all in a reading list. That way all of your favorite blogs (that are hosted on Blogger) are located in one place! Blogger also offers a really simply drag and drop layout editor which makes customizing the layout of your blog pretty easy. A big perk to a Blogger blog is that you can buy your domain through Google and have it synced up to your blog very easily.
Cons: Blogger is not 100% customizable. If you’re looking for complete control, a platform like WordPress.org is probably your best bet.
Step Two: Choose a Name For Your Blog and Buy a Domain
Your blog’s name will soon become part of your patient leader identity! It’s important to pick a name that is meaningful to you and one that you’re comfortable being identified by.
It’s also important to think about your other social channels as well. It is worth your time to check to see if Twitter handles and Facebook pages already exist with the name you’ve selected. You want to keep your brand consistent across your different media platforms! So be proactive and do a quick search before you go and register your domain name.
Once you’ve picked your name, you will want to register it as a URL for you blog/website. You can register your URL through tons of different websites like Google, GoDaddy, or Register just to name a few. If you’re going to choose private hosting for your blog, you may want to see if you can purchase your domain through your host to make things easier.
Step Three: Pick An Angle
When considering starting a blog, there are many different angles you can take. After working with many patient leaders, here are three popular choices:
- Your Personal Story – You blog is simply an online journal to tell your story. You can chronicle your life, your treatments or anything that related to you and your journey.
- A Niche Market – The vast majority of blog are patient stories and these are incredibly valuable resources, but another important type of blog that exists is a niche market blog. Perhaps your blog is about fitness while living with Multiple Sclerosis, or nutrition and diet while living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Are you a yoga fanatic with Rheumatoid Arthritis? These are what we call niche market blog because they have a more specific focus than just a personal blog.
- A Combination – Your blog is just that; it is yours. You may want a mish-mosh of topics on your blog, or your focus may change. Feel free to use your blog however you see fit!
Step Four: Your About and Contact Pages
One of the most important parts of your future blog is your About page. It is so incredibly important to include an About page on your site to tell people who you are, your background and why you’re telling your story!
Use your About page to share your accomplishments, where people can find you on the internet and anything that is relevant to your story. On your about page, you may want to also share your contact information. Some blogs have a separate contact page, either location of your contact information is fine as long as you include it! We suggest creating a Gmail account that corresponds to your blog title, to keep your personal email account private. Many blogs also offer contact forms instead of listing your email address. It doesn’t matter how you put your contact information out there, just make sure it’s available!
Ideally you About page should include the following:
What is your diagnosis and when you were diagnosed
- A section that includes links to posts you’ve made on other websites or for other companies (Don’t be afraid to show off!)
And if you’re comfortable with sharing you treatments/medications add those too!
Step Five: Create Supporting Sites
Once you’ve established your blog, you may want to create a Twitter and Facebook Business Page to correspond with your blog. More sites makes the reach of your blog and information much greater and gives you more ways to connect with your audience. Facebook and Twitter are both great places to share your information and also gives your community an easier way to share you blog posts.
A word of caution: Creating these other sites becomes more places to manage and upkeep. Be sure that you have the time to devote to managing multiple sites before you create them. Many patient leaders select a main social channel and focus their attention on that one. Don’t feel like you HAVE to cover all of them. Start with one and see how it goes.
Step Five: Update Regularly
The key to being a top patient leader is consistency.
Patient leaders who regularly update their blogs, post on Facebook and chat on Twitter are the ones that have the most engagement and the biggest following. Patient advocacy is largely a word-of-mouth business. The more you’re out there, the more people will hear from you. And the more you connect with others, the more trust and credibility you’ll build in the community. Try to create a content calendar to help keep you blog updated and to give you ideas for the days when you’re having writer’s block.
Once you’ve completed these steps, don’t forget to join our network (if you haven’t already!) and send us an email with the URL so we can share it with our network! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackie Zimmerman is the Patient Leader Network Manager for WEGO Health. She is also an ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and Executive Director of Girls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has been blogging her IBD journey at Blood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community, and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page.