Bluestem Prairie writes for an audience, however small, that's been built since the blog began in 2006. Let me tell you what you should know about this "brand" before you approach it as a communications staff person.
At first, Bluestem Prairie assembled news digests about Tim Walz's long-shot campaign for congress across a huge district spanning several minor media markets (minor in national terms). I'd noticed that Walz was a bit of a force of nature, surrounded by an energetic, large, and young campaign staff willing to go the distance across the district, and so Bluestem began digesting the news in a district outside of any single major media market. It was fun to test some ideas I had about blogs in minor markets.
There was some original reporting but little editorial opinion. It was inherently a great story that grew as Walz and his campaign staff pulled off one of the most surprising upsets of that wave year.
Over the years, the blog has evolved largely into a place for editorial opinion about rural MInnesota politics, not just those of the First. And while it's opinion, I try to ground those opinions in research and some incredible sources throughout the state who've proven to be reliable. I also try for humor rather than predictable outrage, mostly because this stuff seems pretty entertaining to me, however upsetting Minnesota's political scene has become.
That's what the readers come here for. That's the brand.
What they don't visit Bluestem for are talking points and messaging developed in a focus group in Alexandria, VA or St. Paul MN, then honed by wordsmiths in a comm staff. It's perfectly fine for other bloggers, right and left, to feel that they are messaging for the campaigns, organizations or movements that deliver that content and copy to them. My readers can find that material at those locations.
Nor am I looking for strategic plans on what and how, in what order, Bluestem should post here or what I should tweet. If paid professionals or ambitious volunteers want to do that, good enough. It's not Bluestem's brand.
While many bloggers appreciate confidential conference calls, "access," and other perks that put them on your team, Bluestem isn't part of your team any more than the Wall Street Journal or the Clara City Herald is part of your team. Or your "partner" or anything such thing. Call me that and you'll probably hear something back that will hurt your gentle professional ears.
So, just as you wouldn't ask a reporter to listen in to an off-the-record, insiders-only strategy session or send a pitch list of what she might tweet and what language she should use in articles, don't invite me to such sessions or send me the "Hi Bloggers" checklist and agenda for supporting your candidate, policy, or end-of-session messaging strategy. I'm not part of a team. I'm a writer, taught by some of the most cantankerous and adorable Southern poets and novelists ever to pitch their tents in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Send me the press releases you'd send to the Journal and the Herald. Pitch stories if you want: I love to hear from you. That's part of your business--and as much as I can as a crabby old writer, I'll try to discover the story in the material you send me, weigh its import, then publish what I want.
Publicists who understand this do well. One of the things I've always respected from the Walz campaign was just that: press releases, media conference calls, and the like. Those who try to goat-rope me into something like a Japanese press club? Not so much.
The other pet peeve is advice on how to "frame" an issue. Come to me with "help" while dropping the name George Lakoff, and you'll discover that I have a metaphor for you. You won't thank me.
Image: Meridel LeSueur, a beloved crone.