Recently, I succumbed to the corporate blogging phenomenon by creating a CEO blog to communicate with my employees. I joined the growing ranks of CEOs and other senior executives who blog. You can see some of them on the New PR Wiki’s list of CEO blogs. For now, I’m keeping “I Was Thinking…” inside the company. If I decide it’s ready for primetime, you’ll be the first to know.
Whether it’s a CEO or company-wide blog, corporate blogging is gaining traction. According to SocialText, 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a corporate blog, including GM, Microsoft, Nike, and Starwood Hotels. Corporate blogs are usually a mix of corporate news, new product/services concepts, interesting trends, and personal insights shared by employees and executives.
Why aren’t more companies blogging? Is it fear about controlling the message? Tipping the hat to competitors? Opening up a legal can of worms? Finding an appropriate voice?
We asked ourselves many of these questions a year ago when we started working on Three Minds, our blog about experience design, which we launched last June. For the investment of our time and a $14.95 monthly TypePad subscription, we’ve built a respectable reader base and learned a lot about the art of corporate blogging.
If your company doesn’t have a corporate blog, you should seriously consider developing one. Coupled with your Web site, it’s a great way to create a dialogue with customers and employees.
With nearly a year of experience under our belts, I thought Troy Young, our EVP and chief experience architect, would be an excellent interview for today’s column. He’s Three Minds’ chief editor, chief tinker, and most prolific poster. Here are the key takeaways from our discussion:
- Designate an editor. Corporate blogs need an editor to monitor the blog and ensure posts pass whatever standards you set. It should be someone who’s a well-respected thought leader because that person will attract readers and ultimately bloggers.
- Don’t be too precious about it, but do have a purpose. Yes, a blog is a reflection of your company, but it’s a less formal communication medium so you should experiment, take feedback, and adapt your blog as you learn. Our brand’s promise is “Exceptional Experience” and, as an organization, we look at the world through that lens. Originally, we thought our blog would be an effective vehicle to share the thought-provoking conversations already happening inside the agency. Then we found it a great way to get a dialogue going outside the agency about more general design topics, too. So, we expanded our scope a bit. The posts are still about digital marketing but are more relevant to readers.
- Content is king. What makes a good post? An honest perspective; a fresh point of view (not a recycled observation from the blogosphere); provocative thinking about an issue, trend, or technology; and real news all make good posts. Good posts generate the most links in the blogosphere and drive traffic back to our blog in a wonderful virtuous circle. Readers don’t come back if the content is stale, though, so we try to have up to three new posts a day.
- Develop a content engine. It’s hard for just one writer to produce a lot of high-quality content. You’ll need help. A dozen or so people inside our agency post regularly on our blog. Plus, we converts to posts the best conversations from an internal e-mail alias people use to rant and rave about online experiences.
- Have an editorial policy. Some blogs allow people to post whatever they want. We have an editorial policy we share with people inside the agency that’s quite simple: if you wouldn’t be comfortable sitting around a dinner table discussing the content of your blog posting with your mother, your largest client, your best friend, your boss, and your mentor, then you probably shouldn’t post it. So far, this has been a great filter.
- Experiment, learn, and evolve. We use TypePad as our basic blogging engine. Now that Web tools are much friendlier to the non-technical, our editor and a few others have cobbled together a dozen or so different tools (search, RSS, analytics, etc.), most of which are free. This saves us from taxing our internal IT organization every time we want to change the blog. The Web itself is a constantly evolving medium, and we try new things all the time. If something isn’t working, we pull it off. If we can make a change within a couple of hours, we do it. If it takes longer than that, we implement the idea in phases. Ultimately, a blog is a journey, not a destination, and should evolve as your readership changes and grows.
- Make it a core part of your marketing strategy. At first, our corporate blog was an experiment. We kept it quiet as we built the foundation. Then, we added our blog address to our marketing materials, e-mail signatures, and main site. Today, we dedicate half of our home page to it. As people link to our blog and we link to theirs, our presence in the blogosphere grows. Organic word of mouth is always best in the blogosphere.
- Be patient and watch your audience grow. When we started, we had tens of hits a day, mostly from inside the agency. Traffic is growing steadily, thanks to increased citations from others, e-mail list growth, and RSS feeds. Now, over 3,000 people read the blog every week with staffers representing only 15 percent of the total. Visitors come from all over the world; if you watch the stats, you can see them cascade through the day from Europe to America to the Far East.
Corporate blogs are the new faces of business. Customers, employees, and those interested in your business want authentic dialogue, real insights, and a fresh perspective. Give it to them with a blog.
Mark is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.