Members of the UW community are increasingly expressing themselves in blogs about their interests or professional matters. University Week will occasionally feature brief profiles of these blogs and their authors. This one’s a bit different: in honor of Homecoming, we look at the UW Alumni Association’s Blog Down to Washington, written by Derek A. Belt, UWAA’s communications and media relations specialist.
Q: How long have you been writing this blog, and how did it get its start?
Blog Down to Washington launched in mid-August and we have been working on it since March of 2010. We wanted to launch with a healthy backlog of stories so that visitors would see upon first glance that it was a deep resource full of strong stories and great UW links.
Last year, I started graduate school in the UW’s Master of Communication in Digital Media and gained an entirely new perspective on storytelling in the digital age. Our team at the Office of Alumni Relations and UW Alumni Association was doing amazing work marketing events and services for members and the broader UW community. But we weren’t always circling back to tell the stories of how these events actually went. How was the speaker? What was the impact? It became clear we needed to close the loop and communicate the full story and not just the promotional angle. That said, our website was not equipped to manage this new wave of content. We felt the blog would be the perfect complement.
Q: Who is your intended audience?
Our primary audience are alumni and friends of the University, but it’s really intended for anyone who has a connection to the UW — sports fans, patients, parents, etc. Our goal was to create a home for UW stories and links, a place where people can learn something new, talk to each other and communicate directly with our staff. It’s an opportunity to learn what our audience is interested in and for them to converse with the UWAA’s volunteer president, travel director, magazine editors and more. So far, we have seen a healthy and public dialogue happening around the latest UW news and events.
The blog is also intended to support the UW units and our colleagues across campus. As the alumni relations team, we are uniquely positioned to include stories and links from the Foster School of Business, College of Education, Husky Athletic Department, etc. We really want to tell stories that are interesting to UW alumni, and that includes faces and places from every unit on campus. There is information about UWAA member benefits as well, and to include those stories alongside the big-picture UW profiles and links only increases the visibility of the UW Alumni Association’s membership program, which is obviously one of our team’s core objectives.
Q: Tell some of your experiences in writing a blog.
I was a newspaper reporter for several years prior to joining the UW staff, and I still freelance to keep myself busy. I love to write and I love to gather — it’s what I do. Blogging for the UW combines what I’ve been trained to do and what I am focused on here. The UW has been a big part of my life, and for me to play a role in the UW’s storytelling evolution is such an amazing opportunity. As a communications professional, this really does combine the best of both worlds and I am proud of what our team has accomplished thus far.
I love meeting people and making connections. I enjoyed profiling Samantha Rund, the UW graduate who is hosting the new UW 360 show. It’s rewarding to help showcase a colleague’s work such as David Domke’s perspective on what a communications department of the 21st century should look like. And it’s meaningful to connect with The Seattle Times and share Jake Locker’s take on why working with kids is the best thing that ever happened to him. It’s the reporter in me gathering content and writing stories, and it’s the digital media enthusiast in me that’s trying new and exciting ways of doing it. Like I said, it’s the best of both worlds.
Q: Do you have any plans for where you’ll take the blog in the future?
We’ve just wrapped up our launch phase and are thrilled with the statistics. Blog Down to Washington is one of the most popular sections on our website and has given us a new tool to communicate with alumni and friends. Now that we have this system in place to produce and showcase our stories, we can work on moving them into the website’s editorial calendar.
This gives each piece another way to reach our audience and breathes even more life into the blog. I encourage all of the communications staffers out there to consider Blog Down to Washington when sharing your stories. I am just an e-mail away. We started this project to better communicate our own stories and to support the wonderful things happening all across campus.
We’re off to a great start, and I’m excited to see where we can go from here.
Do you know of a blog written by a member of the UW community that would be of interest to UWeek’s faculty and staff readers? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.