Apr 262009

At my firm Strategic Communications Group more and more of our client work is in the social media arena. Usually a piece of the strategy involves helping the client launch a company blog. This can be a very valuable tool for thought leadership, spurring conversation and awareness and eventually for producing leads that support revenue generation. My colleague and Strategic founder Marc Hausman wrote recently about what he calls the three stages of social media maturation here: http://tinyurl.com/cmg4xf

Over the past 12-18 months we’ve stood up blogs for clients such as BT, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Inmarsat and GovDelivery. These implementations have led to a short list of best practices and issues to address prior to launch. The technology platform is the simple part. There are more fundamental questions to answer before launching a corporate blog — you can’t just  “throw it up” and hope for the best.

Here are the issues most of our clients have grappled with (successfully) as they launched their corporate blogs.

  • Are you willing to take a stance? Many companies tend to be very careful with public statements, which is often a smart course. But middle of the road, consensus driven content doesn’t attract a strong readership. A company needs to be ready to take a clear position and welcome differing opinions.
  • Response time needs to be swift. Responding to breaking news can be a very productive source of timely blog content. But if the marketing content must track down a subject matter expert, who then has to get his or her comment cleared, that’s not going to happen fast enough. Companies need to designate approved commentators, and they need to be accessible.
  • Is everyone internally on the same page? Sometimes ownership of the corporate blog becomes a bone of contention between the IT department and the marketing/communications staff. Lines of responsibility need to be clear and agreed to prior to launch.
  • Reasonable and clear metrics of success.  These can vary greatly depending on the nature of the content and the audiences targeted. Consistent growth in traffic is usually the best indicator. Sometimes clients focus on the  number of comments, which are harder to garner due to the increased effort required of readers.
  • Finally, respect the time investment. At Strategic we have weekly calls with clients totally devoted the blog editorial calendar, and direct access the senior executive contributors as needed. If a company isn’t ready to dedicate the time and access required for quality content, they should reconsider launching a blog.

Here’s an interesting graphic courtesy of Matt Dickman at Technomarketer that illustrates some of these points well:

Blog Decision Tree

Blog Decision Tree

As communication professionals it is our responsibility to bring these issues to our clients early on and make sure they are successfully addressed. Companies that truly make the culture shift consider themselves as publishers, and bring that sort of serious consideration to their content.

With the decline of the technology trade media, quality corporate blogs can fill an important vacancy in technology coverage and become a trusted source of information in their specific market.

Got a story about a great company blog, or want to add to the list above? Please drop a comment or contact me directly.

  4 Responses to “Quality Blogging — It Aint Easy”

  1. While I agree that blogging is more complicated than people first think – once everyone is on board it’s not as complicated as the graph above makes it look. What you need are good writers with good ideas. There are ways to tackle controversial topics without getting the lawyers involved – you just have to be smart about it. I guess the hardest part for the client is the loss of control – and in many blogs that I read they haven’t given it up yet. Personally, I think a fake blog is worse than no blog at all. But when blogging is done right, it raises the bar for writing, messaging and presenting within and outside of the company. And that is always a good thing.

    • Thanks for the comment Aimee. No question a good blog represents a shift in how a company perceives external communications. And a bad one isn’t worth doing.

  2. Chris – you should check out eBay’s corporate blog, eBay Ink. Its one of the best company blogs out there, in my opinion, probably because eBay can answer “yes” to all the criteria above.

  3. Vanessa — thanks for the comment and suggestion to check out Ebay Ink. Nice blog, and I like how they personalize it by having Richard be the owner and the face.

    Do you have any favorite b2b or b2g corporate blogs? I’d be interested if you do.

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