Crash Course in... Corporate blogging

Everyone's doing it - your competitors all run one, even your teenage children have one. So why shouldn't your company have a blog? After all, isn't it just a souped-up newsletter? Come on, take me to the blogosphere.

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Think strategy. Like any communication, a blog should have a strategic purpose, whether it's to establish thought leadership, invite feedback on new products or simply to humanise the organisation. The strategic need defines both the audience you want to reach and what the blog's about.

Something to say? Don't start a blog for the sake of it. 'There's nothing worse than a company that starts one only to discover the CEO isn't interesting and he has no time to write it anyway,' says Matthew Yeomans of Custom Communication, joint organiser of the Blogging4Business conference (4 April). Adds Alex Bellinger of blog consultancy Audacious Communications: 'It should be something you're passionate about.'

Start on the inside. 'We advise companies to do internal blogs first,' says Yeomans. 'Once you've established your comfort level, you can go external with it. Internal blogs are a fantastic way to share the pockets of knowledge and experience within the firm.'

Listen carefully. 'Blogging is about joining a community,' says Antony Mayfield, head of content and media at search engine marketing firm Spannerworks. 'You need to understand what a community looks like, how its dynamic works. So read and listen a lot before you start writing.'

Open up. 'You need to provide as open and honest an insight into your business as possible, and to be prepared for open and honest feedback,' says Bellinger. 'If you're just putting brochureware or corporate PR on your blog, you'll get ripped to shreds by other bloggers.' Remember, it's a conversation, not a broadcast. And when negative criticism is posted on your blog, don't delete it - answer it.

Be yourself. The style and tone of a blog should be informal and personal - corporate speak will drive people away. 'Just write how you talk,' advises Bellinger.

Make some rules. Blogs written by ordinary employees help show the human face of the organisation, but blogs carrying the company name are also an extension of your brand. So employees must only blog with permission. Set basic rules on what's off-limits - such as price-sensitive information. 'Trust your people, but get them thinking what their responsibilities are when speaking in public,' says Mayfield.

Get found. Your blog is pointless if nobody visits. The best ways to ensure it is found by search engines are to link continually to other blogs and websites, and to update constantly with fresh and relevant content.

Do say: 'Here's some amazing stuff we've discovered since the launch last year - I'd love to know what anybody thinks.'

Don't say: 'This month, I thought I'd share with you all a speech I wrote a few years ago on the subject of How to be a Winner.'

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