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
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?