Seven Elements For Building An Effective Corporate Blog Strategy
We all know how popular blogs have become, especially in the past few
years. Millions of blogs are being created and read every day. As such,
many companies see the potential and are jumping on the bandwagon.
Unfortunately, an ill-conceived corporate blog strategy can generate
lawsuits, angry customers or employees and a bad brand experience.
Since I first started off in the search engine marketing industry in 1996, I've managed an ezine, so I know a little about publishing. Since then, I've also consulted with clients on their corporate blogs and newsletter strategies. Based on my experience, I've identified 7 key elements to developing a successful corporate blog strategy.
The first question I ask clients that want my help in developing a corporate blog strategy is â€œwhy?â€?. It's critical to understand the corporate blog's objective, as it directly affects the overall development, maintenance and promotional strategy.
A corporate blog needs to be unique, so find out what your competitors and industry pundits are doing, and do something different. The research will also help determine optimal design (branded vs. sponsored), content and format (daily vs. weekly, etc.).
When developing (or reading) a corporate blog, establishing credibility is key. Who is the author? What are their credentials? What unique perspective, experience or knowledge do they bring to the table?
Industry credibility is especially critical in the world of corporate blogging. If you don't have a well-respected senior executive or well-known industry pundit available to contribute regularly to a blog, reconsider your strategy. A well-written blog is always going to be perceived as more credible than a poorly written one, which is a factor that is often overlooked.
Typical corporate blogs are managed by one person. This one person may be credible and have a balanced perspective, but they may not have the time to thoroughly check facts or explore an idea or story to the full extent. That would be somewhat counter-intuitive to the principle of blogging. Companies can't afford to publish inaccurate content (see Liability below). Ensuring the editorial team has adequate resources to research and validate content will increase the corporate blog's overall effectiveness.
One of the biggest arguments I've seen consistently in favor of the power of corporate blogging, is the author's unique perspective. While I don't disagree that perspective makes corporate blogs interesting, it also has the potential to make them myopic, scattered and hasty.
There is a reason publications have multiple writers, editors and a publisher: to maintain standards and provide a more balanced perspective. If you want unique perspective, watch Fox News. If you want your corporation to have a credible, balanced perspective, support your corporate blog with a qualified team.
I've read articles that talk about how corporate blogs are going to usurp corporate Web sites in search engines, due to the timeliness of content. While that may be somewhat true today in search engines like Google, that may not always be the case. Blogs typically touch on a variety of themes or issues in a given day or week. Even with niche blogs, specific topics are rarely given more than 250 words, yet these posts are supposed to be more relevant than an in-depth 1,500 word article on a publication or corporate site. Not all topics or issues are timely and satisfy searchers with brief posts.
The numbers of companies enacting corporate blog policies are increasing. Sun and Microsoft are two notable companies that encourage their employees to blog. Don't be fooled though, as both have rather stringent guidelines and restrictions due to the potential for legal liability.
Corporate lawyers and HR dab the perspiration off their foreheads, hoping to avoid lawsuits created by inappropriate posts by employees. For marketers, the greater transgression is the potential to misrepresent the brand in ill-thought posts. To minimize liability, minimize the number of authors or external corporate blogs.
Far too often, I've seen companies enthusiastically launch a corporate blog, only to have it die off within months, if not weeks. What these companies don't understand is that a half-assed corporate blog is far more damaging to their brand than no blog at all.
Prior to developing and launching a corporate blog, make sure you've committed the appropriate resources for the long haul (I recommend a 6 month a trial period as a minimum). Even the best intentioned corporate blogs don't work out, but at least you will have given it a concerted effort.
It's important to develop quality content over a period of time to show stakeholders you take corporate blogging seriously.
The second most common fault in corporate blogging strategies I've seen (beyond maintenance) is promotion. Similar to a company Web site, a corporate blog requires promotion to be found and enjoyed. Beyond the more obvious forms of blog promotion: links from company Web sites and email newsletters, a corporate blog can be promoted a variety of ways.
Depending on the objective and audience, the marketing team should consider more traditional means (collateral, events, public relations, print advertising and direct response) as well as more progressive strategies (search engine and grassroots marketing).
As mentioned earlier, search engines currently rank blogs highly, due to their timeliness and relevance. Even after changing algorithms reduce the weighting of blog content in the future, a well-optimized corporate blog should continue to perform well in search engine results.
With thorough research, thoughtful planning and consistent maintenance, your corporate blog can become one of your most effective online marketing tools for generating brand awareness and preference. By addressing the seven key elements outlined above, you can all but guarantee a successful corporate blogging experience.
About the author: Kent Lewis is president of search engine marketing company Anvil Media, Inc.
He is an adjunct professor at Portland State University. Lewis speaks
regularly on emarketing-related topics at industry conferences like
Search Engine Strategies.
First Published on 24 October 2005