Lost in the overall deluge of social media and other online tools is the lowly blog. But blogs are still one of the best ways for corporations to get their message delivered. And before you call me old school, consider that blogs are undergoing a bit of a renaissance as the linchpin of a communications strategy.
A longitudinal study of the Inc 500 for the past several years by Nora Barnes’ team at UMass/Dartmouth shows that blogging is on the rise, at least last fall when they did their most current survey . It showed that 44% of the Inc 500 are using blogs, compared to only 37% doing so the year before and 23% of the Fortune 500.
What this data says to me is that the smarter startups are returning to blogging, especially if they can complement blogs with other tools to shape their message. This is what I have been doing for many years, and if you are still reading, you probably agree with me. Indeed, my own methods have worked where I complement my blog with email newsletters, Twitter, Facebook and RSS pointers to this content.
When people ask me when did I begin blogging, my answer is lot like what Bob Metcalfe says when people ask him when he invented Ethernet. Do you want the date when I first started using WordPress to publish my posts (January 2006), or when I first began my Web Informant series of essays that I published via email and the Web (September 1995)? Either way, I have been at this awhile.
Blogs are great ways for corporations to become their own publishers and buy e-ink by the barrel. The blogging software has gotten easier to use and more powerful. However, a lot of what makes for a great blog has nothing to do with technology and is more of a mindset and about proper workflow and building the right team. Think of it as putting together all the pieces of a great publication: you need sales, compelling content that is updated regularly, good editorial management, attractive art — and did I mention readers?
But really, what is at the heart of a great corporate blog is being able to tell a great series of stories. In the past year I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of conferences and be the blogger-on-the-ground. Here is one series.
It is great fun, but also a lot of work. I have seen how different companies have worked with me and how they have approached their blogs first hand. Here are some things that I have learned over the years.
First, not all stories have happy endings. Don’t force the situation, and readers like learning from your mistakes and failures as much as your successes. If every story is about some big customer win, the blog will be boring and not going to have any credibility.
Second, you need more than one voice. Mix things up a bit and involve multiple writers otherwise it gets tiresome. While some of the best blogs are from a single POV, the corporate blog needs to be inclusive.
Next, have a solid workflow setup before you bring your team to cover an event.How are the stories going to get written? Who is providing the pictures or video recordings? Is someone going to do a copy edit (I know, a luxury now)?Workflows can mean the difference between content that is posted error-free and within moments after the event happens, and content that is a mess and takes days or weeks to straighten out.
Speaking of which, try to be in the moment. This is the Internet people. Don’t post a story weeks after something happened. The power of immediacy is compelling in and of itself.
Next, make sure you combine the blogging software (and most of us now use WordPress, but there are others) with complementary tools. For example, I like to use email newsletters as a way to bring in a core audience. If your company still doesn’t do this, now is the time to get on board. And there are better story-oriented tools such as Storify (here is one collection for the posts that I did for the Mendix conference last year ).
Finally, feel free to experiment. Bring in some oddball ideas. Have a roving photographer; ask your customers or competitors to contribute, post a longer piece with some thoughtful analysis.