This week, I’ve been reading about corporate blogging for work. One of the many hot-to/how-not-to articles I’ve read is “What Corporate Blogs Could Learn from the Success of Personal Blogs.” The article notes that there are 6 things that personal blogs do which keep readers engaged and interested: they are infused with the blogger(s)’ personality, they have a clear mission or journey, they tell stories, they take risks and do not have to worry about red tape, they are bold and express opinions, and they have a clear “why.” This are all things that help readers find a connection and feel engaged:
- Personality: This helps readers find a connection. Ads and dry, professional speak doesn’t engage people. No one wants to read tired legal-speak and stuffy lingo. They want to feel like their chatting with a friend, colleague, neighbour or friendly stranger. Readers will be able to relate, especially if you have the guts to be honest and transparent.
- Missions/journey: Having a central theme (promoting a product/brand or ideology, sharing a personal journey, etc.) as the focus will give readers a reason to come back. If they know that you will likely be posting about a topic that interests them again in the future, they will be more willing to invest the time and effort to follow you. This doesn’t mean that you can only post about a specific product/idea, it just means that the main focus should have an easy to discern scope: Brand X, computers, crafting, quilting, etc.
- Stories: Story telling is part of our history and cultural records. It’s how we share information in a way that engages people. Telling people that a product is good doesn’t entice people nearly as much as showing what makes it good and how it affected you or someone else on a personal level. Or, in the case of things like crafts, showing the final piece is great, but people will be more engaged if you post progress, the reasons you’re doing it, and/or a tutorial.
- No red tape: Red tape is tricky business. Readers are smart and they will be able to tell if the writers are being stifled by too many editors and too much red tape. Yes, it makes sense to be careful about what you say on social media, but it’s better to lay out the rules at the start and trust your writers. Further to this, if there are current events or reports making news, you need to be able to post about them quickly in order to stay current. Posting about a relevant news story after 2 weeks of reviews and approvals means that you’ve missed the wave and your post may no longer be seen as relevant. You may also loss some credibility because it looks like you weren’t paying attention.
- Be bold: Don’t be afraid to have opinions. Clearly, you don’t want to express controversial opinions that you have no expertise in, but sometimes you need to step up and be willing to discuss new and innovative ideas or products that may annoy some of your readers. It’s ok with some of your readers don’t agree with you, that just sparks dialogue and discussion. Personal bloggers have the freedom to decide where the line should be drawn, but it’s harder for corporate blogs. These sorts of decisions should be discussed in advance. And, remember, being bold may simply be a matter of saying that the organization/department approves of or supports a particular product or standard.
- Why: As Simon Sinek pointed out in his 2009 TedTalk, what (what your product or idea is) isn’t nearly as important as why. People can get “what” from lots of other places, so you have to pull them in the sell them on the why: why should you care, why should you keep caring, etc. This is the sort of stuff that keeps people loyal to you. Or, at very least, it’s the sort of thing that encourages people to buy or support you brand/product. I work in information management. No one wants to spend money on information management until they have to, so we try to show people the why: how good policies and practices from the start can save time and money in the future.
What it really comes down to is this: Corporate blogs and personal blogs are both trying to sell a product of some sort. That product might be you (as a person, a writer, an artist, etc.), an ideology or cause, a brand, or a specific product, but it’s still marketing and PR. The biggest differences lie in things like risk aversion and red tape. Someone with a personal blog may be careful to avoid offending its readers, but the blogger’s more likely to express opinions because they don’t have a big boss or investors breathing down their neck and threatening job loss. People make mistakes and lots of corporations have made very bad decisions about what they shared online, but that can be mitigated without red tape. Before a blog is launched, the who, what, when, how, etc. should be documented and clearly understood by the writer(s). This way, the writers know what’s expected of them and, at most, they just need a second set of eyes to do a quick read through. This means that writers can write about things in a timely fashion and the corporation isn’t paying for several people at various levels to read and re-read a blog post before it’s even published (seems like a big waste or time and money to me). Of course, if you just have a blog for the sake of having a blog, you’re doing it wrong. That results in boring blogs with nothing but copied press releases and ads, which do not engage readers. You need to have a reason and figure out how you’re going to use the blog to engage people. Some corporate blogs seem to be about anything other than the actual product or service provided by the company, but the scope only needs to relate to the product /service and engages the readers. Maybe an airline will blog about vacation destinations, a hiking shoe company might blog about outdoor adventures, a grocery store could post recipes, etc.