I interviewed Martha Sauchuk, Senior Marketing Manager for Digestive Disease Week ®, which is a huge healthcare conference sponsored by four allied societies: The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, The American Gastroenterological Society, The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. The DDW is its own entity, which manages the conference, and for which we did some consulting on their conference social media planning. One of the projects we suggested was a conference blog, and the team did a truly amazing job with it (with no extra help from us!). I wanted to showcase it here on SocialFishing for you, so here’s an interview with Martha about the blog that I hope you’ll find interesting.
The DDW® meeting blog looks fantastic. I’m excited to ask you some questions about the process of developing the blog that might help other associations who are thinking about the value of setting up a blog specifically to help promote their annual conference.
1. Apart from the obvious “promote the meeting” goal, did you have other objectives for the blog? We note that in your very first post you specifically address the idea that it will provide content for people who can’t attend the conference, for example. How important was that consideration?
Very important. The reality is that not everyone can attend. For doctors who are in solo practice, time is money and leaving their practice for several days can be a financial burden. Those in group practice may be more flexible, but someone needs to stay behind to cover emergencies for the colleagues who are travelling.
Even for those who do attend, DDW is a huge meeting and it’s impossible to do everything. People will inevitably miss something they wanted to see and the blog can help fill in some of those holes.
Finally, we hope that people who didn’t attend this year will see the great content that is being presented and decide to attend next year!
2. Let’s talk technology (which is often the easy part, right?) What platform did you choose to host the blog and how did you come up with the design? Any specific desires or objectives from a “look and feel” perspective?
We chose WordPress because it’s free and easy to use. As for design, we recently rebranded the meeting and rolled out a new look and feel for this year. The blog was designed according to our new visual standards. It features rotating images for the most recent posts, which echoes one of the main design features on our new website, www.ddw.org.
3. DDW is managed by a group of several associations who work together on the huge Digestive Disease Week® conference. How did you manage the different roles of each association in terms of providing content for the blog? Is there a specific schedule for posts from each group?
We try to give each society an equal voice on the blog. Some have more active contributors than others, so the distribution of posts is not strictly equal, but it’s a good mix. We started out with an editorial calendar and a schedule of posts by society, but a lot of our content is from guest bloggers and the editorial calendar approach didn’t allow us to be flexible and work around their schedules. Now we post the content as it comes in and the less-structured approach is working well.
4a. Are you inviting members or speakers to guest blog? Is there a specific ratio of staff blog posts versus member blog posts?
We try to have as many member blogs and as few staff blogs as possible. Our members are physicians, and pieces written by other physicians resonate best with them.
4b. How have you developed the list of people who will blog?
First, we reached out to the early adopters: people in the field who are active on social media and who have their own blogs. Then, we contacted DDW invited speakers. Since 2011, we have asked them to send videos of themselves describing their presentations; these go on our YouTube channel and now also on the blog. After that, the four societies asked their program chairs and officers to blog about the program highlights for this year.
Finally, we sent a call for guest bloggers to our Twitter followers and added a permanent “Become a guest blogger” button next to each post.
4c. How do you manage the submissions?
All submissions come through me. I accept them in whatever format is convenient for the author. Some people like to email their blogs while others prefer to log in directly to WordPress. I edit everything for things like grammar and punctuation and post them as soon as possible after they come in.
5a. Do you have categories for different topics?
Attendees have told us that there are four things they want to do when they attend DDW and those actions became our categories: Meet Colleagues, Plan Ahead, Explore Sessions, Discover the Host City. We added a fifth category, Watch Videos, because so much of our content is in video form.
In addition, each post is tagged with key words. Check out the tag cloud at the bottom of the blog.
5b. On content strategy – what types of content are going on the blog?
A lot of the content is previews of educational sessions. These include both written summaries and videos in which the presenters talk about their research. We also have tips on how to plan your trip, from both a meeting logistics and a sightseeing perspective, and general information about how to use social media.
5c. How are you managing the editorial calendar from a topic perspective?
We are fortunate to have guest contributions that cover a wide variety of subject matter. While sometimes we have to space out the content—one week we received eight videos—overall, the mix of topics takes care of itself.
6. How will you track and measure success for the blog?
WordPress has built-in metrics. We can track and measure site visits, visits to specific posts, search term referrals, click-throughs and more via the Jetpack feature.
8. Any surprises so far?
I expected the blog to take a lot of time, but it took a LOT of time. However, it has been worth it to grow our social media presence.
Thanks Martha! We can’t wait to see how the blog grows even more next year. Over to you – any questions for Martha about building a new conference blog? Please post them here!