In this two-part series, I analyze the steps for planning and implementing a corporate blog. The first article, on planning a blog, examines the key decisions on subject, mission, audience targeting, market survey, blogger selection, securing of a corporate champion, and the "go" decision.
The second article, on implementing a successful business blog, dissects the steps of selecting development tools, working out a content plan for launch, making a debut, developing a style and personality, handling responses, monitoring consumer discussion on your subject, and enjoying the process.
Herewith, eight tips for planning a business blog.
Tip #1: Pick your subject
"Passion" is the litmus test of blogging. The most successful business bloggers are knowledgeable about their subject. More importantly, they are passionate. Usually, they are evangelists. It's the combination of insight, passion, and good writing that attracts followers.
Tip #2: Define your mission
What purpose is the blog to serve? What is it to accomplish? What problem is it to solve? What gap is it to fill?
"Renown" and "revenge" are major motivators for independent business bloggers. Many business bloggers hope to become recognized as a thought-leader, which in turn may lead to monetary rewards. Others use blogs to attack industries, companies, or adversaries.
In corporate blogging, the mission should be at a higher level. Potential missions: Increase company credibility, improve reputation, improve customer service, enhance customer interaction, give customers behind the scenes "feel" of company culture, provide communication back channel, create openness, showcase innovation, air business issues, build trust, create an early-warning system, and more.
Tip #3: Identify your target audience
Whom do you want to attract as readers? What are they interested in? What needs do they have? How can you get their attention? What service can you perform for them? How can you build a relationship with them?
Inevitably, the initial audience will be other bloggers who are passionate about the subject. Gaining their respect is a key first step in achieving popular success and fulfilling your mission.
Tip #4: Survey the landscape
Who are the current bloggers in the subject space? What is the positioning of each? What are their positions on issues? What is the "personality" of each blog? How will you position yourself in relation to these "competitors?"
Scour other blogs within your subject area. Review their archived content, get a good grasp of their mission and positions and agendas, and get a feel for their online personalities.
Tip #5: Recruit your bloggers
Selecting an individual to be the "star" of your corporate blog is probably the most important decision. Almost by definition, individuals—not companies—write blogs. An ideal corporate blogger possesses most of the following attributes:
- Authentic subject-matter expert
- Passion for subject
- Strong opinions
- Solid writing skills (preferably with flair)
- Plays well with others
- Available time
- Commitment to blogging
- Corporate loyalty
- Respected by peers
- Reacts calmly to others' outbursts
- Sense of humor
Bloggers often self-select, starting their blogs without corporate prompting simply because they want to. Microsoft, for example, is reputed to have over 3,000 employee bloggers. The wisest approach is to guide and nurture those individuals without imposing. Many will find an audience—and their blogging is likely to redound to benefit the company. You can let employees know that you follow their blogs by reacting offline and informally to one of their posts.
Tip #6: Refine your subject/mission and differentiate your blog
Based on the landscape survey and you choice of individual to do the blogging, you'll need to refine your subject/mission. How will you differentiate your blog from others on the subject? In marketing terms, what's the "positioning" for your blog? Is it the critic? The expert? The gadfly? The helper? The linker? The reference? The innovator? The idea person? The soother?
Successful blogs have both a viewpoint and a "voice." What are yours? Importantly, both voice and viewpoint must be authentic; phoniness is a certain blog-killer.
Tip #7: Recruit a champion
Corporate blogs need high-level support within the organization—a powerful, well-placed executive who will unwaveringly defend the blog when the proverbial stuff hits the fan (or when company attorneys start raising their inevitable objections).
Tip #8: Pull the plug or start implementation
At this point, you'll want to consider abandoning the notion of developing a corporate blog if you haven't been able to...
- Define an appropriate mission
- Find an appropriate niche in the subject space
- Identify a focused target audience
- Identify an individual who has the knowledge, passion, personality, writing skills, time and commitment to be the blogger
- Get the support of a corporate champion
It's a go? Start ramping up your implementation strategies and tactics, which we'll discuss in the next article.
- The Inside Story on Company Blogs
- Attack of the Blogs
- Why there's no escaping the blog
- Do's and don'ts of corporate blogging
Business Blogs for Reference:
- Micro Persuasion by Steve Rubel
- Seth Godin's Blog
- Your Guide to Corporate Blogging (Sweden)
- Jonathan Schwartz—Sun Microsystems
- Debbie Weil—Consultant on Business Writing and Blogging
- KDPaine's Media Measurement Blog
- Julie Woods—Cymfony Marketing Insight
- Bob Lutz—GM Fastlane Blog