15 Best Practices for Launching a Client-Focused Blog
Women are increasingly turning to the internet for answers to reproductive health questions, including unplanned pregnancy. In fact, a Guttmacher study between May and June 2017 found more than 200,000 searches were made, looking for information on self-abortion alone.
With so many people asking questions online, and groups like Planned Parenthood willing to answer, someone considering abortion may make their decision without ever contacting your center.
Google ads are essential to making your center visible in the online search for answers. But, did you know that providing relevant content on your website actually increases your organic (unpaid) visibility? One way to do this is to maintain a client-focused blog that answers many of the questions women and men are asking about unexpected pregnancy and abortion. Blogging also gives you an opportunity to showcase your centers’ expertise to clients before they walk through your doors, helping establish yourself as a trustworthy expert.
Here are some best practices on What and How to blog:
1. Keep it Client Focused - everything on your website, and especially your blog, should be aimed at clients. While sharing personal client comments (with proper confidentiality and consent) can be powerful, make sure they focus on the client’s feelings before and after coming to the center. The outcome of the pregnancy decision should never be the focus of a client-facing blog. This isn’t the place for feel-good “I chose LIFE” stories - save those for your fundraising copy.
2. Answer Client Questions - choose topics your potential clients are probably wondering about. Possible questions to answer would be, “When can I be pregnant?,” “Can I get pregnant while taking birth control?,” “What are the earliest signs of pregnancy?,” “Can I get pregnant doing X?,” “Should I get tested for STIs?,” “Is abortion safe?,” and “Does an abortion hurt?” Think about other questions you get on the phone or in the client room and address some of those. Don’t forget to use headlines that will capture a reader’s attention. For example, “The 3 Things To Do After a Positive Pregnancy Test.”
3. Use Clear Language - Avoid both watered down language and highly technical terminology (except where necessary for providing accurate medical information). Avoid euphemisms like “private parts” or “sleeping together.” Instead, use accurate, specific terms like “vagina,” “penis,” “sex,” "sexual intercourse,” “vaginal intercourse,” etc.
4. Cover Uncomfortable Topics - Writing candidly on topics like oral sex, anal sex, STIs and other issues related to sexuality and reproduction might be uncomfortable. But, this information is readily available online already - and most sources, if not crude or inaccurate, do not offer Christ-centered compassion, hope, and help. Answering your clients’ most uncomfortable questions demonstrates to them you are not only willing to be open and honest, but that you are also knowledgeable and trustworthy.
5. Keep it short - The longer your blog post is, the less likely someone will be to finish it. Keep your posts short (unlike this one :) ), upbeat and informational. A good limit is 500 words. If you feel that isn’t enough space to cover as much detail as necessary, consider including footnotes or links to additional posts where the reader can go for more information.
6. Include Keywords - The number one way potential clients will find your blog is through a Google search. And you can count on them not searching “pregnancy centers in my area.” Therefore, your blog posts need to include keywords and phrases that clients are likely to search. Below is a list of suggested words and phrases to include. Don’t use all of them in every post, only ones that fit. Ask yourself, “What would I search for to find this information?”
Possible keywords: abortion, abortion pill, pill for abortion, price of abortion pill, how much does abortion pill cost, am I pregnant, pregnancy symptoms, late period, signs of pregnancy early signs of pregnancy, miss your period, accurate pregnancy test, signs that you are pregnant, how do you know if you’re pregnant, how to tell if you’re pregnant, free pregnancy test, symptoms of being pregnant, symptoms of pregnancy.
7. Include a Clear Call to Action - The point of your blog is to bring in clients, so make sure every blog post contains an easy option for scheduling an appointment or speaking with someone over the phone! Prompt them to visit your center for a free pregnancy test, free ultrasound, free STI testing, or whatever other services your center may offer.
8. Share Medically Accurate Information - Anything you present as fact in a post should be backed by reputable sources. Additionally, any medical statements you make should be reviewed and approved by a licensed medical professional associated with your center. Publishing only medically accurate information not only demonstrates your expertise, but it also helps counter one of the most common claims made by abortion advocates - that pregnancy centers use outdated or incorrect medical information.
Remember that what is accepted as accurate medical information can change over time. Be sure that everything on your website is accurate currently, not just when it was first published. This may require an annual or bi-annual medical content review by your medical staff. Alternatively, Care Net website templates are available with accurate medical information verified by Care Net’s National Medical Director and Medical Advisory Board.
9. Give Credit Where Credit is Due - When referencing, paraphrasing, or quoting directly from someone else, always clearly cite your source. You don’t have to use fancy footnotes or endnotes - often a hyperlink and a quick “according to so-and-so” right in the text will do. This will protect you from copyright violation and also demonstrates your information is more than just your own opinion. This also shows Google that you are a reputable source of information for that topic. That being said...
10. Use Original Content - Create your blog posts using your own words. Don’t just copy other people’s content, or “borrow” large chunks of text from another source, as that is both unethical and usually a copyright infringement. Even if you do get permission to repost someone else’s content, do so sparingly as search engines like Google will often de-prioritize you in search results if your post is a copy of someone else’s. It is better to have fewer blog posts, all original content, rather than lots of re-posts.
11. Obtain Proper Image Rights - Finding an image for your blog can often be a last minute decision. It’s tempting to do a quick google search, grab the first result, and go. But using just any picture you find on the internet can get your center in serious trouble. The best option is to use original photos that you or someone at your center took and the center has permission to use. Permission should be granted by the photographer and the subject (if the subject is clearly identifiable). If the image is of a client, a release should be maintained in the client’s file. If you can’t source original photos, you can purchase rights to photos, or you can use online images, as long as they have the appropriate usage licenses.
Free online stock photos can be found at websites including Unsplash.com, pexels.com, StockSnap.io, and other places like Wikipedia Commons. Be sure to read and abide by licensing agreements. Some sites that license stock images also detail prohibited uses and a disclaimer that is necessary when using the image in relation to sensitive content (such as discussing STIs). If you use photos from the internet, be sure to double check the copyright and/or licensing agreement before posting.
For the protection of your center, all new employees (and existing employees who have not done so) should also sign a broad release permitting the organization to use their name and image in connection with the center's events and promotional opportunities. With this foundation in place, you can use your staff nurse’s first name and picture with her blog post about a medical question.
12. Establish a Voice for your Blog - As you write each blog post, consider the audience you are trying to reach and picture how they would want to receive the information you are sharing. Women and men who are making pregnancy decisions need information that is accurate, unbiased, and empathetic in tone. Avoid judgmental or condemning language, and steer clear of words with strong religious or theological connotations, like “sin,” “fornication,” etc. These concepts are best explained in the context of an existing client relationship.
13. Have Real People be your Writers - Your center blog is one of the first introductions clients will have to your center. By having individual staff members listed as authors, instead of an impersonal “staff writer,” potential clients will begin to develop a more personal connection to your center. This is especially important for medical blogs. Consider this scenario: a potential client reads a blog on the importance of having an ultrasound prior to an abortion. The client sees it was written by your staff sonographer. That information not only demonstrates that the author knows what they are talking it, but also lets the client feel a personal connection to the person they’d see at an ultrasound appointment.
14. Include Proper Disclaimers - While your center website should already have clear disclaimers saying you do not provide or refer for abortion, it’s wise to reiterate this in natural language whenever you explicitly discuss abortion procedures or risks. Similar informal disclaimers should be included in posts discussing contraception.
When writing about adoption, be sure to clarify your center is not an adoption agency and does not prefer or recommend adoption over other positive options, per Care Net’s Standards of Affiliation.
15. Have a Content Calendar - Whether you post multiple times a week or once a month, blogging is a long-term commitment. One of the best ways to maintain your momentum is by creating a content calendar with a schedule of when blog posts will be published, who is responsible for writing them, and what they are about. Calendars can be created for a year and content can be planned several months in advance, to make sure everything gets done without any deadline crunch time.
You may want to consider having multiple blog posts written before the official launch of your blog so you can stay a few weeks or months ahead of schedule. And, by spreading out the blogging responsibilities, you can ensure that no one person is overwhelmed. Staff, interns, and volunteers can all have a role in drafting and editing blog posts.
Free content calendar templates are available online, or you can make your own in Excel as well. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to make a content calendar - the best calendar is the one that makes the most sense to you or whoever is in charge of your center’s blogging!
Alatheia Nielsen is Center Content Manager at Care Net.