You know that a blog is an important cornerstone of your marketing, both for search and for social-media reasons.

In other words, consistently creating relevant and engaging content that's seeded with keywords will help boost your search ranking and help you get found by prospects.

It will also allow you to tell your own brand's story more richly and consistently than any other kind of marketing (like press releases or marketing collateral) or media (articles that appear elsewhere and are penned by others).

In fact, more than half of 1,100 North American B2B companies recently surveyed by MarketingProfs and Junta42 reported having embraced blogs as part of their content marketing programs.

Source: MarketingProfs and Junta 42, spring 2010

But here's the rub: Maintaining a blog that's consistently interesting and relevant isn't an easy task. It's a challenge to create consistently awesome blog posts, and it's a challenge to earn the attention of an audience.

How can you be heard above the noise? Why doesn't your blog have any comments? It's all hard work, right?

It's a lot easier to maintain a robust, active blog when you have many contributors—not just one person responsible for writing compelling content, day in and day out, rain or shine, in sickness and in health... (to completely mix metaphors). Have you ever written a regular column or regular blog? It's a lot harder than it seems. After you have a few hundred posts or columns under your belt, it's easy to burn out or struggle for something new to say.

One place to look for help is to your own employees—from throughout the organization, not just the usual suspects from Marketing or PR. For example:

  • Kodak's A Thousand Words blog is penned by a host of people from diverse departments: Kodak employees from across the company, and even former employees who loved participating in A Thousand Words so much that Kodak allowed them to continue writing.
  • The Barbarian Group lists "eager beavers" who contribute to its group blog.
  • I also like the friendly approach that the self-described "rag tag" bloggers take on The Frontier Group's blog.

Seeking posts from throughout the organization encourages content creators from different walks of life, which begets a culture of blogging. That's important for a couple of key reasons:

  1. Creating content that attracts people to you nurtures thought-leadership throughout the organization. A group blog creates a much more diverse and interesting blog for your readers, because the blog reflects the points of view of many, not just the perspective of one or two. So much of the knowledge and thought leadership that will make your blog a must-read isn't distilled into a single person in, say, the marketing department. Rather, it's contained in the views of subject-matter experts who work throughout your organization.

    Some of those people might be in Marketing, but they might also be in the corner office, or in Product Development, or they might be right on the frontlines in Customer Service or Sales. It's important to tap that expertise throughout the organization, because that's what's really going to put meat on your blog's bones.
  2. It helps your employees understand that they are ambassadors of your brand, and it vests them in a fundamental way in your business. Plus, it increases social sharing exponentially when your employees share their posts on whatever social platforms they participate in—their Facebook wall, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube (if it's a video post), and so on.

So how do you motivate your organization's employees to contribute?

1. Deputize a blog manager

You need one person for whom blog management is part of his/her description. The blog manager might well have incentive pay tied toward meeting stated blog objectives—such as traffic benchmarks, post volume, pageviews, further engagement (e.g., how many people downloaded a companion whitepaper or opted to learn more about your company?), or the growth of RSS or email subscriber numbers.

Without a single "owner" to take responsibility, participation in the blog is often scattershot and the results are inconsistent.

2. Make blogging a privilege

Blogging gives your employees visibility with your audience, and a forum for saying their piece. So be sure that you regard both the blog and the people who post there with respect. Posting on your blog should carry some prestige. That relates to the next point, which is to...

3. Make them Queen for a Day

I like the way the Adaptive Path blog gives employee-bloggers not just a byline but also a photo. The photo humanizes the post for your readers, certainly, but also promotes your employees in a more visible, thrilling way.

4. Support their social efforts

Communicate to all employees that your company supports their blogging and the expression of their views on social channels. Make it clear that you see the value in highlighting their talents, contributions, thoughts, and personalities in social networks, both to current and to would-be customers.

5. Create blogging "beats"

Just as a news reporter at the New York Times might cover health, or politics, or whatever, so too do "embedded bloggers" at Birmingham, Alabama-based Daxko's vibrant Daxko Nation blog. They cover specific topics that are relevant to employees and customers. So employee Anne D. might write primarily about travel, food, and drink because, as a Daxko trainer, she spends a lot of time on the road. Samuel K., who works in software development, would cover technology.

Of course, Anne might write about technology every once in a while, but providing a certain "blogging beat" can help encourage a framework for posting as well as ensure some variety for your readers.

6. Make it easy

Kodak's Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney, offers neophyte bloggers at Kodak's A Thousand Words a blog post template as a kind of crutch to coax out the timid inner writer.

Providing some sort of template isn't necessary for every blogger, of course, but it can give newbie or nervous bloggers the necessary "training wheels" for creating their first post or two.

7. Make it fun

Blogs create a unique opportunity to showcase the people who make your company what it is, and perhaps show a bit of their personalities and quirks—you know, the stuff that makes them human and interesting. I don't use that word "opportunity" lightly, because most company blogs are vastly underused as a way to talk to a vast population of customers or prospects directly in an engaging, interesting way.

Even if the goals of your blog are dead serious, it's good to lighten up every once in a while. Southwest Airlines consistently delivers fun on its blog. In the B2B space, Daxko Nation is a great example of a corporate blog with a sense of fun and personality.

Another blog that creates that sense of fun is maintained by PubliGestion, an ad agency in Port-au-Prince. Its blog is nascent, but so far I like the sense of personality it gives the agency.

8. Reward contributors

Reward frequent contributors to your blog. Bridgeline Software bestows $50 American Express gift cards to those whose post volume or quality goes above and beyond the norm, or provides smaller rewards (like a $5 Starbucks gift card) to encourage more general participation.

9. Remember that blogging isn't just about writing

Look for those in your company who have a love of video or a gift of gab and so might have a penchant for creating video or audio posts. I like the way OpenView Labs seamlessly integrates both audio and video into its content hub.

10. Communicate business results

Make sure your entire company understands how the blog fits into the larger picture: the role that the blog plays in your customer development and other efforts to grow your business. This is related to defining goals for your blog, certainly. But it also means that you regularly share about your progress toward those goals: how well you are meeting them, the growth of subscribers, what topics resonate with your readers, and so on.

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So what else might you add? Do you have a company blog? How do you encourage participation?

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image of Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author who recently published Everybody Writes 2. She speaks worldwide about how businesses can escape marketing mediocrity to ignite tangible results. IBM named her one of the 7 people shaping modern marketing. Ann is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a LinkedIn Influencer, a keynote speaker, mom, dog person, and writer.