"So why would I want a blog?" is one of the most common questions we hear from business people.

Simply put, blogs make it easy to communicate more effectively with the audience you care about. They're the easiest way to update a Web site, provide simple and effective ways of automatically organizing the content you create, and notify your audience when your site has been updated.

A blog can also allow you to collect feedback from that audience, either right on your own Web site or via traditional methods like email. Public blogs are a great complement to the communications technologies you already use, such as email newsletters, conference calls and mailings.

Now, if you're ready to jump in and get started, the following short checklist offers some essential steps you'll want to follow. But, first, the most important thing: There are no wrong answers. Blogging is all about trying things out and making adjustments along the way; still, these steps will get you going with fewer question marks:

1. Test the waters

Make sure you understand what a blog is before you try things out for real. Setting up a test blog of your own to gain experience is a good start. Clicking around some public blogs and leaving comments is another way to get comfortable with this medium.

2. Understand the ways blogs can be used in your organization

The key here is to understand your company's culture and begin with an area that requires the fewest changes from current practice. For example, use a blog to complement your newsletter.

3. Identify a small, well-defined area where you'll start

With any new tool or technology, don't over-promise. Pick a specific area of focus and define an achievable goal. Some common examples: "Increase the number of repeat visitors to our Web site by updating our blog at least twice a week," or "link to positive testimonials that we find in the blogosphere."

4. Set goals for the trial and educate stakeholders

This is important when you're bringing something new into an organization. Talk to everyone on your team who'll be contributing to or judging the success of your blogging project. Find out their vision and set their expectations about what you think you'll achieve during your blogging test.

5. Create a draft blogging policy

As you get started experimenting with blogs, you'll likely find a number of concerns having to do with communication, employee policy, and company culture—things that have nothing to do with technology. Don't wait until there's a problem! Anticipate this need, and tell your community you'll be revising the policy over time based on feedback.

6. Set up a single point of contact for questions

When questions come up—ranging from blogging policy to a simple "how do I do this?"—you'll want to define a single place that anyone in your organization can go to ask questions.

* * *

And this is just the beginning. Many companies also create private blogs, for use within an organization, to simplify tasks like project tracking, workgroup collaboration, or process management.

Inside your company, blogs take a place alongside knowledge management tools, portal applications, and email.

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Anil Dash is VP of Evangelism for Six Apart, which is sponsoring a series of half-day seminar and networking events to help businesses learn more about business blogging. Get more information or sign up.