Note from Beth: Last spring, I had the pleasure of meeting Ashley Boyd,Campaign Director, for MomsRising.org who told me about Joyful Funerals. Ashley and her colleague Anita – as well as the whole team at Momsrising does a fantastic job of reflecting after each campaign on how it could be improved. They recently held a blog carnival and are sharing some reflections.
Guest Post: A Virtual Party with a Purpose by Anita Jackson & Ashley Boyd, MomsRising.org
Regardless of the tool we’re using, the team at MomsRising is committed to deepening and broadening the conversation around public policy issues that impact families in our country. Our website’s blog – which now has over 280 bloggers who publish up to 25 posts per week – has been a powerful tool in our work to create cultural and political change on a range of topics related to family-friendly policies, flexible work and parenting.
With our blog firmly established as a valuable source of content, we are now developing strategies to further leverage our blog to support our policy goals. Over the last six months, we have begun to use the “blog carnival” tool as a way to highlight content within the context of a specific policy campaign. Blog carnivals have provided a way to focus attention on an issue at a strategic moment and provide a resource that can frame an issue for policymakers, advocates and the media.
In September, we held a blog carnival to highlight the new consumer protections rolling out that month as part of health reform. At a time when some elected officials and candidates for office have threatened to block or overturn health reform, we are working to highlight the positive impact health reform has already had on American families. Because research reveals that many Americans continue to know little about reform but their opinion about it improves dramatically after learning more, we decided a blog carnival highlighting facts and personal story would be an ideal tool in our campaign.
Below is a brief outline of our blog carnival effort, including the questions that we are exploring as we move forward. As we continue to use this tool, we are eager to hear from our colleagues about what lessons you have learned about how to plan and execute a blog carnival or similar effort.
MomsRising Health Reform Blog Carnival – September 2010
MomsRising planned a blog carnival and social media bonanza to mark the 6 month anniversary of health reform and to celebrate the new consumer protections rolling out. Our way of doing blog carnivals includes not only links to external posts but also individual cross posts in full on our own blog, which are also linked in the carnival. This way, we can spotlight voices on our blog and give policy partners multiple outlets for their articles; get many conversations going on individual posts on our site; and encourage folks to stay on our blog to learn more.
- To increase positive messaging about health reform from diverse voices
- To build capacity for social media in policy partners
- To inspire parents to inform their communities about health reform through their blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter and one-on-one communication
- To reach out to bloggers in the health care field
- To grow our membership
- Tweet about the carnival to traditional media
- Tweet it to Members of Congress
- Tweet each individual post/cross post as well
- Tweetchat with high profile person (Fran Drescher)
- Retweet high profile tweets
- Post about it on Facebook
- Traditional media release on the blog carnival
- Publish a post about the blog carnival on the Huffington Post and other top blogs/outlets
- Share about the blog carnival and its resources in the comments section on dozens of individual blogs
- Personal outreach to Latina mom bloggers to request posts
Published 25 full cross-posts on the MomsRising blog from policy analysts and mom bloggers, including on high-traffic sites such as the Huffington Post and Daily Kos 
Posted 32 links to blog posts and articles raging from policy analysis to personal stories
Strengthened social media ties and internal relationships with policy partners, including eight full cross posts and several tweets and retweets from those partners
Added a couple dozen new bloggers to the MomsRising blog, including policy partners with whom we regularly work and whose voices would be welcomed on our blog
Spread the word through comments sections of online news stories; these comments became major referring source to our website for that week
Increased the diversity of voices on our blog through direct outreach specifically seeking their voices to blog; added10 new Latina/o bloggers with well-established Twitter and blog followers
Many new diverse Twitter followers– also meant new folks in our comments section.
Took the time to educate new bloggers about our issues; writing blogs on the topic revealed some of their own gaps in knowledge (great because it also reflects the likely gaps in knowledge of their audiences, who can now be educated)
Continuing to leverage the great content by reposting the links in separate blog posts covering the various categories in the carnival (eg, a separate post highlighting links on children’s coverage; a separate post highlighting immediate changes in healthcare; etc)
What Needs More Work & Strategic Thought
Still haven’t figured out how to properly “cold call” external bloggers who write on related issues but haven’t engaged on the specific topic yet. What’s too much info? Too little?
What are the ways to get our members to share the blog carnival as a valuable resource on a topic?
How can we maintain the new bloggers (engaged through the blog carnival) in an ongoing way?
How and to whom can we continue to promote the blog carnival information as an “evergreen” resource?
How can we measure the “results” of a blog carnival, particularly it’s ability to influence key audiences like policymakers, media and other advocates not focused on the issue?
Ashley Boyd is a Campaign Director with MomsRising.org and has spent more than ten years experimenting with different ways to engage the grassroots in discussions about public policy