Over the past decade, the blog has morphed from a personal diary into the most dynamic element of a website. It, or a manifestation of it, now constitutes the core of every brand website in the world.
Blogs have become so mainstream that creative types will do anything to avoid calling it a blog: "It's a magazine." "No, it's a newsroom." "Eureka, it's a journal!"
People, listen up. It's a blog. And no matter what name you give it, the corporate blog is the backbone of your brand messaging.
And it requires constant upkeep of plugins, features, images, tune-ups... oh, yes, a proliferation of engaging content, too.
That's where the contributor model comes in. For organizations, the blog is no longer the voice of one person. It's the voice of many telling the story of your brand.
The persona of the blogger has evolved, too (though some may still be creating content in their underwear). An authoritative voice—with online influence in your vertical—is essential to the reach and amplification of your content.
How do you juggle the demands of keeping your blog current and on message using the contributor model? Start with these four fundamentals.
1. Hire a blog manager/editor with mad skills
This person needs to be able to edit with an eagle eye, write concisely—everything from excerpts to social metadata, titles, captions, and bios—and create images on the fly (or have a damn good sense of what looks good and what doesn't if you don't have a staff designer.
In addition to having mastered the publishing process, they need to be proficient with blog software, plugins, and editorial calendar management.
Blog managers also must be able to curate content internally (within the organization) as well as hunt down external writers with a voice and audience that are aligned with your brand (more on that shortly)—and negotiate topics, payments, and deadlines.
Above all, your blog gatekeeper needs to be so well versed in your brand messaging and voice that he or she is able to explain it clearly and convincingly.
2. Identify the top voices within your target market
You need writers who not only craft authoritative, brilliantly engaging posts but also intimately understand your industry and have a flock of content-hungry followers ready to snap it up.
Influencer marketing is more than a buzzword, it's the key to a successful blog. Yet identifying these key influential writers has been a crapshoot.
Content marketing agency iAcquire recently answered the challenge with a new metric called the ClearVoice Score. (Disclosure: I'm ClearVoice's content curator.) Powered by an intelligent search tool, ClearVoice provides an author index of the world's top content producers, including topic, frequency of publishing, number of sites contributed to, and the extent of social sharing of the writer's content.
Translation: as a brand, you get to identify the right voice for your blog.
3. Give your blog audience a real face
We once created a specific persona for a client campaign: Her name was Lisa; she was in her 40s, she liked nice things, and she was on a personal journey to rediscover herself; she was also blond and a bit on the plump side (according to the stock photo associated with her profile).
She was actually me: I was the walking poster child for this client's target audience. For campaign inspiration, the creative team simply had to glance across the office to see what I was wearing, eating, or reading (The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte... I know, I'm like a walking cliché).
Creating personas of your blog readers is imperative to developing strong blog guidelines. Give your target audience personas a name, age, level of education, personal traits, and their professional challenges so that you can help resolve them.
Giving your blog audience a face helps you with topic development as well as guidance to your contributors.
4. Develop contributor guidelines
Speaking of guidance... if you don't ask for what you want, you're not going to get it. Think of your contributor guidelines as the ultimate love letter to your contributors in that it inspires them to write compelling, sharable content. Include specifics such as style preferences, word counts, required media, and so on, but focus primarily on describing the voice and tone of your blog.
You'll obviously negotiate specific \themes and story angles with each writer, but include a general overview of topics and encourage your contributors to look for ways to craft a mix of evergreen and leading-edge topics. Posts should always focus on giving the reader valuable information—even if that means giving away a trade secret or two.
The ultimate goal: giving your contributors solid guidance on how to converse with your audience in way that has readers contributing to the conversation, sharing posts, and coming back for more.
Finally, use the guidelines as an example of your voice and tone. Copyblogger's guest post guidelines are an excellent example. They are written in the very voice and tone that they look for from contributors.