Reprinted from the blog I wrote November 8th, 2010 for The Art of Project Management about the founding of the first-ever university extension blog. A look back and acknowledgement of the founding of my current business and this LinkedIn blog.
Five years ago I was working as often as I could with Kimberly Wiefling. She was my instructor of choice for teaching my on-site project management training classes. I loved working with her and periodically we would plot about some project we could work on together that would take UCSC Extension to even higher levels and bring the university additional positive attention.
UCSC Extension has many excellent programs but their Project Management courses and certificate program are the best in the region. How could we help position Extension as not only the provider of the best PM education Northern California but also a center for thought leadership in project management? How could Extension become the center of discussions about project management? The university was not involved with any social media at the time and very nervous about any SM initiatives. Kimberly challenged me to set up a blog where multiple PM Gurus, including many of our instructors, could spread the word.
Although one goal of the blog would be to promote Extension’s PM courses, Kimberly never allows her friends or clients to stop at anything so mundane. Our mission statement became to “establish UCSC Extension as a worldwide center of project management thought leadership, best practices, discussion and training.”
There were many obstacles along the way. The university’s IT department was completely overwhelmed with regular IT maintenance tasks and at that time had a very resistant-to-innovation director. Management was most concerned about what people might blog or comment in a forum where anyone could participate. What if they said something negative? Who was going to pay for this? Although across the country university professors and students were beginning to blog, no university was hosting a blog for business, other than as a calendar or repository of meeting notes. How were we going to provide content? Who was going to monitor it? Who had the time to do all of this?
Kimberly would challenge me with her usual “What would make it possible for this to happen?” I found an outside vendor who would design, host and monitor the site content generally. No University IT support would be required. I committed almost my entire marketing budget for the year to pay for this outside service. The most valuable marketing I could do for my onsite training department was in-person networking and I could just do more of that at no cost to grow my department’s revenue and use my budget for something more important – i.e. the blog.
I found wording on other sites that seemed appropriate for our terms and conditions and other legal language. I sought permission from the Marketing Director at that time to explore the blog as a low risk “pilot” project. Developing social media was one of the Director’s “nice to do’s” but there was no personnel or budget to move it forward. Allowing me to take the initiative would mean credit to the marketing department for having developed this innovative new marketing tool – the “first ever” university extension blog at no cost to the general marketing budget and, most importantly, they could place the blame elsewhere (i.e. me) if there was a problem. I was known for a deep commitment to the university and was regarded with a certain trust that I wouldn’t do anything to allow harm to its reputation. Kimberly committed to finding enough bloggers to write content. I committed to monitoring the site content seven days a week to ensure that nothing inappropriate slipped through the filters.
In September 2006 “The Art of Project Management” blog launched. The blog has been promoted almost exclusively by word of mouth and emails or links from Kimberly and me and our growing list of bloggers. Within 6 months the blog had several hundred readers. Since that time, there have been 74 bloggers who contributed 881 posts and 1,100 readers visit the site weekly. The blog has moved up the ranks in Technorati’s ratings and was once their featured project management site. There have been 105,000 visitors from 200 countries since inception and 3,200 click-throughs to the UCSC Extension site.
I left the university and I’m enjoying partnering and collaborating with inspirational people as I develop my own business. Kimberly’s always nipping at my heels with “What would make it possible for this to happen?”
*Update: The Art of Project Management blog has continued now for 12 years and the numbers of blogs written and visitors have continued to grow. Kimberly is now sharing her wisdom internationally and is still egging me on.