To blog or not to blog: a corporate guide

07Jul10

This week, I want to have a quick chat about corporate blogs, as they’ve become an essential addition to many websites in recent years.

First I want to approach whether or not companies should really be blogging in the first place, and secondly (in a separate post), how to invent, maintain and manage the persona used for this purpose.

I have started to wonder how many companies really asked themselves before starting their blog, ‘why are we doing this?

A blogging kittenThere’s a whole host of reasons why a company might start a blog. They range from the potential search benefits (capitalised on by some companies who offer paid-for blogging platforms), raising brand awareness, getting their PR message out in a more digestible format, keeping readers up to date with news and last but not least, interacting with their customers.

These are all good reason to start a blog – but here are some points to consider before you get started.

  1. Don’t start a business blog if you can’t maintain it. As we all know, there’s nothing less professional than a business blog where the last entry is months or even years old, sat feeling sorry for itself in some long-forgotten corner of the site. This reeks of a company that can’t be bothered to maintain their own content, so what else can’t they be bothered to do? Straight away, you have given the customer a reason not to trust you.
  2. If you haven’t got anything interesting to say… don’t say anything at all! It might sound like a cliché, but most clichés originated from a place of wisdom (probably!). It’s so important to ask yourself; just because you think that lug nuts are super-interesting, and you could write endless pages of content about how brilliant lug nuts are; does that mean your customers are really interested? Or do they just want to buy lug nuts? (Why lug nuts?  I have no idea).
  3. Make sure you’re prepared to engage your readers. Not only do you have to maintain your business blog, but you have to respond to your readers who might leave comments. In most cases, unless you’re very trusting, you’ll want to moderate comments before they’re published. Often this won’t be an issue, but for a larger company, this sort of activity can take up a large chunk of somebody’s time. You can hope that the blogging community will chip in and do the question-answer work for you, but this kind of community can take a long time to build and can’t be relied on.
  4. Think about your tone. I’ll be covering this in more detail in another post, but still, give it a thought before you get started. Does your branding allow you to use a tone of voice that will be friendly and engaging to your customers? Will you be talking as a brand, or will you pick a front-person to be the face of your blog? If you can’t appeal to your customers’ emotions with a persona they can get on with, then they won’t be sticking around.
  5. Don’t just write for search. Search strategies are critically important to most websites in order to be successful. That’s why we pay professionals a lot of money to do it for us! But when it comes to blogs, while bearing search in mind, try not to let it lead your writing. People have become savvy to keyword heavy pages and will switch off fast. Write regular, compelling, interesting blog posts and keep your customers interested. As traffic increases and more sites link to you, your search rankings should improve naturally. However, I don’t claim to be an expert on search practices, but there are plenty of bloggers out there who are, so check them out for more advice!

Before you get started, just remember that someone has to write this content, upload it, maintain it, think of keywords, tag the posts, link to other blogs, moderate comments and respond to users. All of this takes time. Try not to underestimate just how much time it takes to do these things properly.

And just like any PR activity, your brand has to be maintained and protected. Joe Bloggs from department X may keenly volunteer, but if Joe Bloggs isn’t well versed on how to write for the web, hasn’t got any background knowledge of search practices, isn’t deeply ingratiated with your brand and tone of voice guidelines and doesn’t have a good knowledge of the subject matter, he probably shouldn’t be representing your company on the blog.

That doesn’t mean these things can’t be learnt, but a blog is a piece of marketing material just like any press release, advertising or customer facing site and should be treated as such.

Photo credit to Joyce-Rhiannon

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