ACR’s blogging expert explains the difference between good and bad blog posts

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As social media’s influence in radiology continues to grow, specialists and imaging societies such as the American College of Radiology (ACR) have started using blog posts more and more to share insight and spark discussion.

Julianna Czum, MD, a member of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR) editorial board, has played a central role in helping the ACR embrace this fairly new communication platform. She launched the journal’s blog, JACR Blog, and serves as both its editor and its primary author.

Czum, who is also the division director of cardiothoracic imaging at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and an assistant professor of radiology and cardiology at the Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, New Hampshire, spoke with Radiology Business about the impact of social media and how to differentiate a good blog post from a bad one.

Radiology Business: Can you tell me a bit about your day-to-day responsibilities with the JACR’s blog?

Julianna Czum, MD: As “blogger-in-chief,” I am the author of the majority of the blog posts, writing on a variety of topics. I can be inspired by a specific JACR journal article, a thought-provoking podcast, an impactful ACR initiative like Imaging 3.0 or an event. Sometimes, it’s more about people, such as blogposts about diversity or burnout, but still ties to recent content in the journal or an ACR commission.

As blog editor, I review guest blogger submissions, suggest revisions, find other content they can reference or link to, help identify an appropriate image to accompany the text and identify dates to post content. I’m fortunate to be supported by a talented and tireless group at ACR Press. They helped identify and solicit guest bloggers as we were starting up and, to this day, review content for final edits and get the content posted for every single JACR blog post.

Blog posts and other forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter keep gaining popularity in radiology. What do you think about this ongoing trend?

Social media is a reality of everyday life. Whether you use social media or not, you must acknowledge its wide-ranging and accelerating impact.

Like other people, radiologists are not only using social media in their personal lives, but also increasingly in their work to share information and connect with their colleagues. How radiologists use the various social media platforms continues to evolve.

Do you have advice for anyone in radiology who may be interested in contributing to a blog, whether it’s the JACR’s blog or another one altogether?

If you’ve only written research manuscripts until now, then writing a blog post is like learning to ride a bicycle: It may be awkward at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. I learned this first-hand, as I had never done any blogging prior to this.

A blog post is as much about the unique voice of the writer as it is about the content. If you can write solid “Introduction” and “Discussion” sections to research papers or other forms of expository writing, you can write for a blog. Take a topic you are knowledgeable or passionate about in your everyday practice of radiology. Now, imagine you are discussing that topic with a colleague or friend. You may incorporate a combination of evidence-based knowledge, something you’ve recently read in JACR, and your personal experiences and opinions into that conversation. Use that as a springboard to writing your blog post. And a catchy title or pithy summary statement never hurts.

So the short answer is: Just do it! You’ll receive helpful feedback and encouragement.

Because it is connected to a scholarly radiology journal, we do ask that a blogger’s content have some relationship to content in JACR and/or ACR resources or initiatives. JACR blog is not a general medical blog. Although our community is ever-expanding, the blog remains centered on radiology and emphasizes the four pillars of JACR: health services research and policy, clinical practice management, training and education, and leadership.

The JACR’s blog recently went through a significant update, making it much easier for writers to submit content. What can you tell me about that change?

Up until now, blog post authors received a solicitation from someone involved with JACR. These authors would submit their materials to me via email. Subsequent communication about the blog post between author, editor, and ACR Press staff would also occur via email. The process was clunky and cumbersome, so I wanted to improve it.

More importantly, in an effort to encourage more people to contribute to the blog, I wanted the JACR blog submission process to not be “invite-only,” but instead have open submissions like the journal, where people can submit their content online at any time.

Now, the same manuscript submission platform used by the journal itself can be used to submit a blogpost. There are blog-specific author instructions posted immediately below the ones used for journal article submissions. The software is straightforward and easy to use.

Just like submissions to the journal, authors will receive automatic notification that their material was successfully uploaded and will subsequently receive an editor’s decision to accept or reject the material. Or the author will be asked to make revisions.

Since you’ll be seeing author submissions as they come in, I have to ask: What makes a great blog post? What makes a bad one?

Let’s start with what makes a bad blog post. It can’t come across like straight expository writing, where information and explanations take center stage and people just read the article, with no other engagement typically expected between author and audience.

In a good blog post, the author’s voice enriches any informational content by offering a unique style or personal perspective such that the reader gets the sense that they are, in effect, being invited to the beginning of a conversation. A reader may then wish to engage in that conversation on social media, click on some of the provided links to explore the topic in depth or revisit a JACR article they’ve read before. And now, with the open online blogpost submission process, I hope more readers will take the opportunity to continue the conversation by submitting their own blogposts on already-posted topics or start new conversations about topics or articles we haven’t yet explored.