10 Steps to Achieving ROI (Return on Influence) Through Corporate Blogs

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Wired magazine once argued “that fresh, genuine voices have been drowned out by a ‘tsunami of paid bilge’, that blogs attract too many comments from net lowlife, and that the action has moved elsewhere.” Is there any truth in the notion that blogs are dead? I disagree. While it may seem like a “me too” approach nowadays when it comes to blogs (let’s face it just about everyone – your mom, grandmother, sister, priest, etc., has a blog), they’re alive and well. A blog can be very effective for companies in achieving ROI (return of influence, not investment) for your brand and thought leadership as well as building stronger relationships with your customers, garnering coverage, and connecting with the online communities at large. I’ll give it to you from an insider’s perspective – a real world success story on how we’re winning with this strategy.

 

We launched our corporate blog The Optimal Security back in January, not as a “me too” but for a couple of reasons:

  • To establish a voice for the company,
  • To create a dialogue with our audience, customers and partners
  • To humanize our brand and bring transparency,
  • To build awareness around the industry we represent and are passionate about,
  • And, to educate the market on key industry trends and challenges

Optimal Security Blog

To kick things off, we gathered our key stakeholders to strategize and started by asking ourselves why, how, and whether we had the right resources to start a blog. But first, we monitored and listened to industry blogs, analyzed competitors’ blogs, and started the initial framework. IBM was a good place to start in terms of understanding their use of its blog as a sounding platform and their social computing policies.

 

 

To get started, we did the following and this is what I would recommend:

  • To Blog or Not to Blog – understand your objectives and why you want to start a blog. Make sure this is something that you are passionate about and will support on an ongoing basis because it’s a commitment.  You can’t just divorce your blog.
  • Establish a blog team – recruit key experts and executives (including your CEO) to sit on the blogging team to provide expertise and insight in several different categories.  For us, we have our CEO blog called Pat’s Corner (where he blogs on emerging trends, topics, and thought leadership), Security Insight (for breaking news), and more solution specific areas (that focus on challenges and trends).
  • Define a Blogging Process – outline an editorial process and educate the bloggers on how the process works.  Someone needs to own it and make sure the content is approved before each blog gets posted so it’s within your company standards and message. 
  • Educate Your Bloggers – once you have a process and strategy in place, hold a team meeting to go over the process and how it all works.
  • Write Rich, Compelling Content – content is king and as my boss @cedwardbrice (http://marketinggimbal) says think like a publisher and create and publish good content.  This rule is the rule you should live and die by.  If you don’t have powerful content that people will want to read about, you’re doomed for failure.
  • Establish a Blog Team Email Alias – by having this email alias, it simplifies the communication process and keeps them in the know of what’s going on.   Also, as part of the process, PR and marketing should be tightly integrated with this overall process.  PR/Corp Comm should be constantly alerting the blog team on breaking news, industry trends, and key topics that should be covered in your blog posts. This gets me to my next point.
  • Blogs are Breaking News (as David Meerman Scott puts it) – integrate corporate blog with your Rapid Response outreach.   If you have outside agency, involve your PR team to educate them on the process , who your blog team members are and what they will be blogging about.  This is what we do with our team at Lois Paul and Partners.  When there is breaking news, a lot of times PR firms will push out a commentary. Take a two-pronged approach – blog about it, educate on the issue, define any mitigating steps, and push it out. You will be surprised at how the reporters respond. Some sample links of media coverage  as a result of blog outreach are below.  Trade pub reporters look to our blog as a go to resource.
  • Integrate Across Social Media Channels – leverage all your social media channels and promote it via Twitter, have your PR teams retweet it, have your employees spread the word via their SM channels, etc.  Reach across as many channels as possible to get the word out.  Leverage LinkedIn, a very powerful tool, to start a discussion around your blog topic. Great way to get the word out but also gauge different perspectives from the community.
  • Pimp Out Your Blog (again, David Meerman Scott’s terms) – keep the blog design simple and easy to navigate.  Include key things like About Your Company, Blogger Profiles, Categories, RSS feed, Tags, Other Favorite Blogs, and social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube Channel, etc. if your company has those channels available, promote it. Register with Technorati and link it from your blog.
  • Add to the Discussion (as David Meerman Scott puts it) – engage and link it.  Consistently monitor other influential blogs and provide comments and link it back to your blog if it’s relevant. Also, monitor comments on your blog and address it immediately.
  • Monitor and Analyze – constantly monitor share of voice on Bloglines, IceRocket, and Google Blog Search, etc. Monitor coverage and make sure you communicate this to your bloggers and your company to help build the momentum and educate your executives and employees on the power of your corporate blog.

Seth Godin said it best when he said: “Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t.” Don’t just push out your screaming marketing messages.  Make it interesting, compelling, educational, and thought provoking.  Engage with your audience and write about what they want to read about.

Now, do you think blogs are dead? You be the judge.  Tell me what you think?

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Comments

  1. Really great post. Humanising your company by generating stories around the brand, developing a platform to lead and participate in industry debate, and driving SEO, is where the value lies for me.

    I believe that there are absolute tangiable ROI benefits in terms of SEO and industry leadership, but it requires a long term commitment.

  2. Chris Hewitt says:

    Thanks for the commentary Cindy…great actionable list.

    How would you take the spirit of the more ‘corporate’ concepts on the list and apply them to someone using blogging as a method for building their personal brand (P.ROI – Personal Return on Influence)?

    For example, rather than a ‘blog team’ maybe an individual has a blog ‘board of directors’…reviewing, challenging, and refining concepts.

    • Great question Chris and I can always rely on you for that. I’ll use your blog as an example http://whatdoesmarketingreallydo.wordpress.com/ – while the steps are tailored for businesses, I should have also included some things on personal blogging and how to get that off the ground. This is going to be my next blog post on building your personal brand through LinkedIn and blogs. But you are right – it’s all about building that influence whether it’s for your business or for you. At the end of the day, while your job may be to market and promote your company, you also need to invest in your personal brand because it’s all about me 2.0 (as Dan Schawbel put it). I’ll keep the suspense going until my next blog post. Thanks Chris.

  3. Kathleen O'Brien Thompson says:

    Great post! I definitely do not think blogs are dead, and your insights are spot on (in my humble opinion).

    What a perfect example of what a blog should be.

  4. Hi Cindy,

    I would say that blogs are not dead…and I really enjoyed what you wrote.

    I may be a bit off in my thinking, but I think of a blog as part of social media, not outside of it. It’s definitely not a corporate website, nor is it traditional media.

    In retrospect, as the newspapers decline, some information from data miners shows up on their, or someone else’s, blog. I think that it will be a source for information.

    J

    • Thanks Jlo0312. Appreciate the comment. And I agree with you. Content is king and with the emergence of Web 2.0, we have to think like publishers and think of ways to publish great content that can be synidcated across all social media channels.

  5. This is very useful information as we all seek effective means to convert the passion for our business into into a relevant message for our market. Thanks for a great article.

  6. I agree that blogs are not dead, but I do think people should understand that they serve different purposes depending on the company or individual publishing them.
    Some are used to reach out to a very specific group of customers, or as part of a new business marketing campaign to demonstrate knowledge.
    There should be no conventions with blogs, other than that they provide engaging, valuable content that starts a dialogue with readers.

  7. Valerie Curl says:

    I guess I’m just an old marketing broad ’cause what you wrote in this blog is exactly what I’ve thought a corporate/company should be – what it was meant to be; it’s raison d’etre.

    However, a bigger problem exists: getting senior management, and most particularly the CEO, to buy into the plan and become a regular contributor. While younger CEOs (<50) probably will buy in much more easily, the older group may have a much more difficult time accepting the idea of producing a regular blog. So, the question is how do you get management not only to buy into the idea of a regular blog but to become regular contributors?

    • Great question Valerie. The key thing is education and demonstrating how blogs can be effective. You can’t just build it and expect people to follow. You have to cultivate / foster a culture from within and this shows in the content you put up. We struggled at first but we started with getting our key experts in place to demonstrate the power of blogs through key examples, articles, industry stats, etc. I put a presentation together that showed how blogs can be used to communicate and syndicate great content. And how this was used to help bridge the company and the community, build better relationships with our customers, analysts and media. Getting that initial buy in is tough but once you can demonstrate this to your senior management, it’s up to the owners of the blog to faciliate the conversation and keep the bloggers informed. Share stats, goals, industry news, and coverage on an ongoing basis. Keep the bloggers engaged and informed on how you’re promoting their content. But when I say sell the value, it’s not just building the company brand, it’s about building that personal brand for the experts who are blogging. Dan Schwabel is the master at this but it’s all about the Me 2.0 and that includes your senior management. Thanks for the comment. Let me know if you would like me to share the blog presentation.

    • I would make the arguement that perhaps CEO’s are not the right people to blog anyway. Two years ago the model of great corporate blogs started with Jonathan Schwartz of Sun and ended with Rick Waggoner of GM. We see what happened to those people and their companies. Business Blogging is a lot less about thought leadership and a lot more about stories. For a business those stories are the ones about the problems you solve for customers. If you agree that most blog traffic comes from first time vistiors and most of that comes from Search…..what problems are your vistiors trying to solve? The macro-economic state of the world automobile marketplace, or…..the comparative advantage of a Jetta TDI vs Prius?

      Employees make the best bloggers because they are close ro the customer. Richard Edelman says that employee bloggers are 5 times more credible than CEO bloggers.

      http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-best-practices/0/0/people-dont-trust-ceos-they-trust-employees

      Groudswell author and Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff said this well in his paper: Time to Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas:

      http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-best-practices/0/0/time-to-rethink-your-corporate-blogging-ideas

  8. Good start, but what about demand generation as a goal. Keep in mind that marketing has a responsibility to build relationships that are mutually beneficial.

    There are lots of ways to build relationships other than by having visitors comment….but because so much business blogging talk is focused on keeping your visitors on the blog or coming back to the blog.

    Isn’t this a disservice? Most blog visitors are first timers right? I’m not sure of your individual stats, but generally a business blog can expect between 65% and 95% of their traffic. Granting that, shouldn’t a least one of the main goals of business blogging be conversion?

    I posted on the benefits of converting blog traffic to an email relationships this morning:

    http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-for-businesses

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s true – blogs are powerful – if you look at the stats of web traffic and how much time people spend on websites versus a blog, the difference is staggering. I commented back on your LinkedIn post and hope that answers your questions but yes, blogs do play a critical role in your overall deman gen efforts. While you may not be pushing out products you’re using the platform to educate, inform, and serve as a go to resource for industry related breaking news, trends, and challenges. This is a great platform to build trust with your readers, and in turn, you hope they will check out what your company does. Thanks again.

  9. Great post Cindy.
    Blogs are not dead. They provide a powerful outlet for company to provide their point of view across a wide variety of issues.

    In addition as we see traditional media outlets fall by the wayside I can see a day where we see corporate branded media as primary sources of information. Is Cisco Eweek that far off? I don’t think so.

    Already we see journalists flocking to companies as the push for content become paramount. In the digital age marketing is about publishing. Those companies that publish with regards to adding value to their customers buying cycle will not only build a stronger dialogue with their customer base but also build a collaborative ecosystem to drive co-innovation.

    To one readers comment of not getting the CEO or older folks to partake in the conversation. You can’t force anyone to converse when they don’t want to. Social media is about driving a conversation and companies must realize that they no longer control their selling cycle. The buyer does. Once they realize this they will understand they can’t control the message either. Fostering this understanding will require identifying stewards and champions that embrace the new tools of digital conversation to start a dialogue and then educate the rest. In time hopefully most companies will learn. Those that do not will fail.

    Blogs are just the beginning. Nuff said.

  10. Cindy, I agree that blogging is not dead and your “10 Steps for Achieving ROI through Corporate Blogs” post goes a long way toward explaining why. Microblogging tools such as Twitter offer tweeple the chance to share links to helpful resources, which is great as far as marketing yourself and drawing followers. Ultimately, you become recognized as someone who knows how and what to research for the benefit of others. However, writing a blog positions you not only as someone who can point others in the right direction but as an important destination in your own right–by delivering helpful resources to colleagues, customers and potential customers. I think the waxing popularity of microblogging has also unfairly pressured bloggers to keep posts brief. I, for one, would spend as much time as I need to read and absorb the content of a valuable, well-informed blog post (that’s also why I read articles!). A knowledgeable blogger should not compromise content due to concerns about length. Your 10 Steps to Achieving ROI post will certainly help me develop my new blog, and I will no doubt return for some more great advice. Thanks. Joe

    • Thank you Joe for the kind words. I’m no expert and I can only apply the things and reference to the strategy and execution that we’ve been able to successfuly do. It takes a village but as long as we’re willing to dip our toes in it and get it going, I think that’s a great start. I’d say blogging isn’t for everyone, only those who have the passiona, focus, and dedication to do it. Someone who wants to share their insights with other folks. Good luck on getting started and if you have any recommendations for topics. please feel free to contact me at cindy.kim@lumension.com.

      Thanks,

      Cindy

  11. Thanks for the link in your blog post. Great write up by the way. Great minds think alike.

Trackbacks

  1. […] To blog or not to blog, that is the question. Jump to Comments I just finished reading a blog about company blogs. That is, what companies can and should do regarding blogging. All of the […]

  2. […] company should have a blog because it’s not about the return on investment (ROI), but about the return on influence within your industry. By adding your voice through a blog, you’re putting a face to the company […]

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