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What's the Process for Starting a Corporate Blog? How Long Does It Take? [Part 1 of 3]

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I'm surprised at how often I'm asked this question when putting on events or fielding general questions about blogs and emerging marketing tools. I mean, really, it only takes a few minutes to setup a blog, right? Well, we all know that's not true when you're working inside of a large enterprise, a non-profit or an academic institution where the decision makers are spread across disparate departments and buildings. These things can take time, and you need a plan.


Back in 2004, I created the mind map you see below (of course, it's been updated slightly since then, but the principles remain). I'm a big fan of mind mapping for laying out ideas, and in the case, processes. I've used this process (or some derivation thereof) since then to much success. Will it cover all of your needs? No, and your mileage may vary. However, it is decidedly comprehensive.

You'll notice that the map is split into 3 color sections, red, blue and green. Each one of them represent a different phase of the blog implementation cycle. Specifically, I call the phases 1) Investigation, 2) Creation, 3) Activation. Why these phases? Well, they actually come from a well regarded innovation guru, Gerald Haman at Solution People in Chicago. His creative brainstorming tool, the KnowBrainer (which I highly recommend and use often) is split into four phases: investigate, create, evaluate, activate.
So, let's take on the first phase of blog implementation. Which, by the way, can be a template / metaphor / roadmap for other technomarketing tools beyond blogs. Marketers fond of process will find some of the detail refreshing, while those that like to pursue projects unencumbered by the rigor of process or burden of thought, might find this unnerving.
Blog Implementation Process: Investigation Phase
Time to Complete: 3 days to 3 weeks, your mileage may vary
1. Determine Goals for Your Corporate Blog
Everyone tells you to define goals and objectives. Do you? By defining the goals and objectives for your blog initiative you will have a vivid picture of what success looks like. Do you want "more buzz", memes that spread throughout the industry, interviews with your favorite podcasters, fodder for weekly emails and whitepapers or whatever. If you're a Seven Habits fan, this is considered "beginning with the end in mind."
2. Assess Your Market for Blog Viability
Face it, some organizations have markets that they serve who could and will care less about blogs. Just because your CEO thinks it's cool, doesn't mean you should do it. If you can't at least do all of the following, there might not be much of a conversation going in your industry to tap into. That said, there's always the first-mover advantage working in your favor if no one's talking and you get the conversation moving. Try these steps in assessing the viability of blogging.
- Read and subscribe to other blogs in your industry, about your industry or the products/class of products/services you sell.
2. Competitive assessment - are your competitors (and you) being mentioned in blogs. Use Google Alerts, Technorati and search on posts (RSS feed driven in Bloglines) to check the 'volume' of what's going on.
3. Customer requirements - what are your customers asking for? More communication? Great! A blog might help. Don't know what they want? ASK them - great way to start a dialog, by the way...with questions.
3. Map to Overall Marketing/Communications Strategy
This is the easy part (sort of). Simply put, does blogging fit within your communication plans and can you build it into the rest of your integrated mix. What I typically do it look at an organization's communication plan and media mix, their editorial calender for whatever they're publishing and their marketing objectives and just start drawing lines on the whiteboard to where blogging can have a positive impact. It's best to get your marketing team involved in this and let the ideas flow. You'll be surprised how deeply blogging can 'penetrate' your communications plan and potentially provide ideas an content for other areas.
4. Risk Profile Assessment
This can't be overlooked. Ask yourself these questions (at a minimum):
- Have you ever personally used social media and what's your comfort level?
- What is your company's tolerance for risk (e.g., initiating new or untested marketing tactics, launching bold corporate initiatives, etc.)?
- How does your company normally react to negative commentary from the media?
- How uncomfortable would your company be advertising in a publication or on a web site that often contained editorial content critical of you, your company or your industry?
- Can your corporate culture sustain the 'openness' and 'transparency' that's often required when you blog as a company?
Once you've gone through this investigation phase, you should have a well-grounded perspective on how your organization might proceed into the blogosphere, or any other social media related space that requires the mindset shift that blogging sometimes does.
Well, that's about enough for now. Tune in to the next article, next week, when we'll look at the next phase of blog implementation, Creation.


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Dana VanDen Heuvel is an award-winning marketing blogger, author of the American Marketing Association’s Marketech Guide to Marketing Technology and Guide to Social Network Marketing and the creator of the AMA’s TechnoMarketing training series.Dana is a widely recognized expert on thought leadership marketing, social media, blogging, podcasting, RSS, Internet communities and interactive marketing trends and best practices and speaks at over 50 events each year on these and other marketing topics at industry and private client events.

Dana founded BlogSavant, one of the nation’s first weblog and social media marketing consultancies, which he is still active in. He currently runs The MarketingSavant™ Group, a thought leadership and social media marketing consulting and training firm that enables business-to-business marketers to leverage thought leadership marketing to reach and keep customers.

When he's not blogging or speaking, you can find Dana on his bicycle on the roads around Green Bay, WI or out at the park with his dog, Lucy.

You can read more from Dana at http://www.marketingsavant.com

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Comments

  • by John Gillett Thu Feb 14, 2008 via blog

    Thanks for the great info! Most blogs, including those of the corporate persuasion, appear to be a mish-mash of tips, trends and a few stats -- plus pictures of the department mascots. As corporate blogs continue to proliferate, those with a clear startegy and roadmap will be most successful.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Thu Feb 14, 2008 via blog

    Thanks for the extremely helpful advice in this post.

  • by Alissa Fri Feb 15, 2008 via blog

    Thanks Dana, this is very useful. I'm looking forward to reading parts 2 & 3.

  • by Harry Sun Feb 17, 2008 via blog

    Hello Dana VanDen Heuvel, I really appreciate your efforts towards making people aware of a corporate Blog, Well as the competition over internet is rapidly increasing, the importance of blog and interactive ways to approach visitors is making it's own place. But I have seen not only making blog and grabbing people to your website/blog is important but to make them stay their and proactively approach them is becoming the need of time. http://www.Liveadmins.com has come up with a innovative idea of greeting visitor and get them stay on their websites. I hope this online economical tool can make your sales double your sales.

  • by Toby Tue Feb 19, 2008 via blog

    Dana - Excellent. This is one of the most comprehensive models on how to "biz blog" that I've seen.

  • by nicole Sat Mar 15, 2008 via blog

    im doing a report on business blogs and was wondering if u have any tips or ideas of what type of information is appropriate for a business blog or podcast

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Sat Mar 15, 2008 via blog

    I am sure the next two installments of this series will help but I recently finished a book (recommended by Marketing Profs some months ago): The New Rules of Marketing and PR http://www.amazon.com/New-Rules-Marketing-PR-Podcasting/dp/0470113456/ref=p... It is not *just* blogs but the material on blogs I found to be very good.

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