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A Guide to Corporate Blogging

Today Reem Abeidoh looks at Corporate blogging and shares 13 Steps Fortune 500 companies take to Create a Blog.

Corporate-BloggingImage by iDream_in_Infrared

In order to maintain a competitive edge, corporations are increasingly looking for opportunities to make them stand out. Although traditional media serves as a solid medium that disperses company messaging to the world, the trends of information consumption are evolving. After some initial hesitancy, corporations are slowly starting to realize that it is important to jump on the virtual bandwagon of blogging. This medium represents the missing ingredient that traditional media lacks: the ability to directly connect a company to its customers.

As of February 2008, 54 companies listed on the Fortune 500 have corporate blogs (source). I had the great honor of interviewing the social media gurus behind three of the top companies with blogs: Michael Brito, Social Media Strategist at Intel, LaSandra Brill, Manager, Web & Social Media Marketing at Cisco, and Tac Anderson, Web 2.0 Strategic Lead at Hewlett Packard (HP).

Below is the information Intel, Cicso and HP have provided me regarding how their companies utilize blogging to connect with their customers.

Why is Blogging Crucial to Corporations?

What is the first image your mind conjures up when a brand is mentioned? Is it the logo, the jingle on the advertisement or the experience you previously had with the brand? Blogging allows current and potential consumers to associate the brand with a face and a personality. It bridges the distant gap that has existed between the “inaccessible” company and the “average” consumer. Brito said, “It’s a way for us to appear less corporate and put a human face when we interact online. We believe people relate more effectively to other people instead of a logo or corporate brand.”

Additionally, the blog is a representation of the company’s values, beliefs, philosophy and direction. If they are involved in a medium that encourages a two-way conversation, it shows their consumers that they care about their opinions. Brill noted, “Blogging lets us communicate with our customers in a more personal and direct way. But more importantly, blogging gives us a much needed way for customers to communicate with us. Customers are able to interact with comments and potentially provide valuable feedback or insight that can be brought back into the business.”

Although direct interaction with customers is an incredible incentive, there are many other benefits to blogging. It has the power to position employees as thought-leaders in their industry, to assist in reputation management during crises; to build brand awareness and loyalty; and to increase brand visibility, traffic and links.

Steps Fortune 500 companies take to Create a Blog

1. Determine if blogging is a good fit for your company

There are many corporations that are seduced by the concept of blogging. It is important to examine the target audience and if a blog is a good way to reach them. Research the socialsphere to learn what your audience generally does online.

2. Determine if your company is willing to invest in a blog

Although blogs can be built on free platforms, it is important that the company is willing to invest money into customizing the design of the blog, hiring experts for training, allocating manpower hours for blogging, and so on. Jeremy Wright, CEO of b5media, noted, “A bad blog is worse than no blog. A dead blog is worse than no blog. But an engaging blog is one of the best things in the world that you can do for your business.”

3. Create a strategy

After collecting all the essential data and having the approval necessary to proceed, it is important to write a strategy that defines the direction of the blog and its purpose. Brill said, “The strategy answered the basic questions of why we were entering the blogosphere, what our goals were and how we were going to measure the results.”

4. Ensure that everyone is on the same page

It is important for all the key players to be aware that the company is launching a blog that represents a specific component of the company. Providing them with the strategy document or an executive summary will increase their willingness to contribute to the blog. Brito said, “In the corporate environment, it is important to get everyone aligned internally (i.e. legal, privacy &security, marketing, product teams, customer support). They need to be aware of the blog not only because they may want to support it, but also for approvals.”

5. Determine the Involvement of PR

Many blogs have failed because they were used as a forum to share news releases, commercial information, and white papers. However, if the PR department is knowledgeable about blogging best practices, this should not be a problem. There are many different perspectives on this specific topic. When asked if a company’s PR department should manage the blog, Brito said that their involvement in blogging depends on their knowledge of the blogosphere. A PR department that has extensive writing experience that would be helpful in crafting interesting posts.

On the other hand, some companies regard the PR team a corporate policy enforcer and as an “in-case-of-emergency” liaison during challenging situations. Brill shared, “PR department should manage the blog policy and should be involved if a legal issue were to come up.”

However, the PR team should never be kept out of the blogging team altogether. The company needs to decide which role they will play depending on their goals and strategy. Anderson said, “PR should be involved and part of the team but not doing the blogging.”

6. Select Bloggers

Before identifying the bloggers, it is important to decide if this blog will have a single voice or will have multiple authors. Cisco, HP, and Intel have multi-authored blogs. If the company has many products and services in its portfolio, then having many subject matter experts blog is a good idea. Brill said, “We chose a heterogeneous team of experts to make sure we had coverage in all of the areas our customers might be interested in.”

However, it is important to note that mutli-authored blogs aren’t the only direction corporations should take. Companies can select a specific employee as the sole blogger who communicates product-related updates, company news and industry views. Also, this is a good time to determine if the company wants the CEO to blog. Brito encourages top executives of smaller-sized companies to be the voice of the blog. Anderson added, “It depends on the goal of the blog.”

7. Train the Bloggers

It is true that anyone can blog, only a few can blog well. It is important to train the selected authors on blogging best practices, writing tips, and promotion. This is also an excellent time to share the corporate blog policies in place to avoid any problems in the future.

8. Writing Posts

There are some companies that work with their team to create an editorial calendar that makes it easier for bloggers to author a post without having to work on digging up an idea. Additionally, it establishes blogging frequency, which is crucial for reader retention. Other companies like Intel list out all upcoming events, product launches and post ideas. It is important to avoid including press releases and white papers on the blog. Brito says, “We are talking to real people with real personalities, wants, desires and passions; and it’s important that we treat them that way by paying attention to them. We show them the love and in hopes that they will love us back; and tell people about it too.”

9. Realize that the Blog doesn’t need a tone

When you have a variety of bloggers, the uniqueness of each voice will make the blog more interesting. Brito notes, “Everyone is different and one of our goals for the blog is to be real and personal: real people, real personalities and different points of view. Besides who would want to go to a party where everyone is the same (same tone, same conversation?)”

10. Editing

The company needs to determine if they will implement an editing process. Cisco and Intel do not require their bloggers to send their posts for editing before publishing. They are available if a blogger needs it reviewed or has questions. At HP, Anderson helps with editing, optimizing and formatting the posts. Depending on the sensitivity of the subject, try to avoid an editing process that is convoluted and time-consuming.

Possible Editing Processes:
Blogger > Editor > Blogger > Editor > Publish
Blogger > Editor > Publish
Blogger > Publish

11. Establish a Comment Policy

Blogs aren’t supposed to serve as company megaphones that push corporate messages out to the consumers. The purpose of blogs is to serve as a two-way conversation between the company and the customer. It is important to allow the readers to share their opinion on the blog. Circumventing that will lose readers. Additionally, bloggers and employees should be encouraged to post and respond to comments. This will keep the dialogue going.

At the same time, companies may have a strict policy against foul language and spam. The community typically understands when such comments are deleted. Cisco, Intel and HP allow positive and negative comments. In dealing with negative comments, Brill shares, “Most comments are published within a couple hours including negative comments. Negative comments are handled on a case by case basis- sometimes it is best to sit back and let the others in the community chime in and sometimes clarification maybe needed to set the facts straight. In other cases we engage the commenter directly to understand the negativity.”

12. Develop a Promotion Strategy

The blog might have incredible content, but it will not gain traction unless it is promoted. The target audience needs to know that the blog exists for them to visit it. Brito said, “It’s about equipping and training the bloggers to participate in the conversations that are happening of the corporate domain. Are they on Twitter, Friendfeed, MyBlogLog, and Facebook? Are they spending considerable amount of time building community within these channels and responding to relevant comments? And, are these tools talking to each other and pulling in feeds?” During the pre-launch phase, bloggers can begin establishing profiles, developing a presence, and building a network.

13. Establish a Measurement program

In order to show the success of the blog, the blogging team should establish key metrics that are important to the company. This may include views, comments, backlinks, RSS subscriptions, etc. Brito cautions, “Its common knowledge that 1:1 ration of posts to comments is a good benchmark for corporate blogs. While this may seem a bit low, it may be a good start.”

An additional step to consider is creating a monthly report that shows the level of success the blog is experiencing. The numbers can show key insights into what content worked well, the keywords used to find the blog, and the promotional efforts that drew in the most people. These learnings can be turned into monthly recommendations to the extended blogging team.

Reem Abeidoh writes on Social Media, Current Affairs, Marketing and More. Subscribe to her blog here.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Eric Hamm says:

    I love reading about blogging and mainstream businesses. This is just one more confirmation that blogging is not only here to stay, but the fact that we are at the bottom of a huge mountain of future potential.

    I like how to pointed out the fact that blogging can enhance the brand of a company. I’ve never looked at it quite like this. It makes perfect sense though.

    Thanks for sharing such an informative, interesting post!

  2. MLRebecca says:

    These are wonderful tips. I am definitely going to bookmark this post so that I can refer to it later. Not enough can be said for creating a strategy or a plan of action before starting a corporate blog. Develop a purpose and a schedule to keep content fresh and lively.

  3. IDoBlogs says:

    It’s amazing to me how many different approaches there are to blogging, from photos of the family cat to news from the CEO’s office. I thoroughly enjoy the diversity – great article!

  4. Thomas says:

    I like the concept of two-way coversation through comments. It something that I believe very strongly in, and don’t understand why many bloggers disable comments on their blogs.

  5. Blogging Is The New Media. The Revolution

  6. Interesting. I wrote an 80+ page ebook on how to start a business blog without consulting anyone and it pretty much has these exact steps in it. It’s nice to know there are certain best practices arising out of the growth of corporate blogging.

    Very practical post!

  7. Sheila says:

    Darren -

    Nice basic guide.

    I’d like to expand on the comment bit. There are two things that really frustrate me with corporate blogs and more often than not lead me to unsubscribe and stop reading all together. Those issues are:
    - not continuing the conversation in the comments. Often it seems that corporate blogs perceive blogging as just another avenue to push their message. Though many offer a method for readers to comment, the corporate bloggers rarely engage in the comment conversation. That’s not continuing the conversation. If they aren’t interesting in continuing the conversation, then why did they start the conversation?
    - requiring people to register to comment…comes across as corporate paranoia to me.

  8. DJ Francis says:

    Great post. I covered some of these in my 21 Considerations Before Your Business Starts A Social Network (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?):
    http://onlinemarketerblog.com/2008/07/22/21-considerations-before-your-business-starts-a-social-network/

    I always worry about the businesspeople who want to just at every new shiny object. These are usually the same folks who want an ROI for every damn interaction. Doesn’t jive…

  9. frank says:

    Thanks for sharing the insight and feedback!

    This is great information for me as I work towards getting a blog launched where I work. It definitely gives me some things to think through and use in getting buy in.

    __
    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  10. Heidi says:

    Thanks for this article, it was very helpful to me. I’m working on starting a blog for my ‘day-job,’ and the material I’m working with is not what I’m most personally familiar with. I’m going to be working on a strategy to get the people who are actually out there working and have the answers writing, with me editing and keeping the blog updated regularly with other content that I can work with more comfortably.

    Not to mention trying to get the name out there in the blogosphere through twitter, LinkedIn, and other media …

    Heidi

  11. Reem – you mis-quoted me!!! jk…

    Great write up. You hit the nail on the head!

    Michael

  12. This is an excellent primer on getting started — the RIGHT way. So many people just jump in and learn the ropes as they go. That’s the quick way but sometimes the painful way. Where was Reem when *I* was getting started?

    An excellent replacement for “Blogging for Dummies” which is now going for $0.01 (used) on Amazon by the way. This post is clearly worth twice or three times that amount! :)

    Scott

  13. Roger says:

    Good job! A great article to read about blogging!

  14. Cory O'Brien says:

    Love this quote: “A bad blog is worse than no blog. A dead blog is worse than no blog. But an engaging blog is one of the best things in the world that you can do for your business.”

    Many companies underestimate the impact that a well written blog can have, but even worse is when they underestimate the time/effort that is involved in creating a well written blog, and just jump in unprepared.

    The blogging world is ready to embrace companies that are willing to get on the field and play ball, but it’s still important for those companies to know and follow the rules, so hopefully posts like this serve as primers to get an internal conversation going about how to run and maintain an engaging and well-written blog.

  15. Ryan McLean says:

    I dont think I will ever be in a fortune 500 company. But if I ever am then this post will come in handy

  16. Reem Abeidoh says:

    @Ryan McLean Just because Fortune 500 companies use this approach, it doesn’t mean that small to mid-sized companies can’t as well. The same rules apply. At the end of the day, the blog represents your company and you want it to be represented well! You might have different metrics for measurement, but ultimately the process is very similar. :-)

  17. Tumblemoose says:

    I’ve posted about this as well. It’s hard to imagine any company that wouldn’t benefit at least a bit from having a corp. blog. At the very least, I don’t believe it could hurt – unless a ton of money is thrown at the darn thing without researching benefits.

    Thanks for the comprehensive view of this.

    Cheers!

    George

  18. Vagmi says:

    It is not only important to emphasize on the facts of blogging to the outside world but also blogging internally within the organization. Large organizations tend to get into silos of functionality. Getting information between groups becomes almost impossible. There is a vineyard where people network and collect information but its not searchable. I have had more engrossing and passionate coffee corner conversations about ideas than I have put in the company’s idea management portal. The key here is instant gratification. When you present an idea to a colleague in a coffee corner you get immediate feedback and opinion. This is what a blog does on a much larger scale. Blogs coupled with social bookmarking and discussion sites like reddit/digg/hackernews make it a very efficient platform to stay updated and know about things that matter.

    So in conclusion, I would emphasize more in internal blogs to foster transparency in addition to external blogging to maintain a more human face to the business ecosystem.

  19. Johan says:

    We have started a channel sales blog which we are using to inform potential clients about channel sales in general. On our product website is obviously completely focussed on providing information about our prm software but we found that not everyone knows what this involves and the blog gives us the complete freedom to elaborate on the subject.

  20. Juanne says:

    Could Haarg hide a new corporate blog? or it’s just a good looking & corious blog ?

    regards

  21. Thank you for the tips, this makes a great piece that I can refer clients to on the merits of blogger for business. Most companies are just starting to see the benefits however just do not know where to begin.

    Thanks again,
    Matt
    http://twitter.com/itstrue

  22. Douglas Karr says:

    Great post – and you should not forget that there are companies out there, like Compendium Blogware, who take on all of this effort for you! Every single step you mention here is part of our ongoing service to the bloggers who utilize our platform – as well as an incredibly simple interface. I hope we can interest you in a demonstration of the application – it’s quite a platform.

  23. CoolProducts says:

    Awesome article. Does anyone know of any links or articles where mainstream business magazines or news papers have discussed corporate blogging? I am currently working on a research paper about marketing in the social networking realm. Thanks.

  24. Tressa says:

    I recently wrote an ebook called a Beginner’s Guide to Branding yourself online, http://www.traffic101.org. I agree that not enough companies have blogs, so they look very impersonable and aren’t able to convey a brand image easily. By adopting to a blog, a corporation looks more personable and friendly, and might open up a whole different area of customers.

    Great reminder.

    Tressa
    http://traffic-101.blogspot.com

  25. CoolProducts says:

    Since blogging is still relatively new to me I had no idea that major corporations were turning to blogging as well. This is very interesting and correct me if I’m wrong, but it could help out the blogging industry as a whole quite a bit.

  26. Great post! I really like how you pulled everything together. Thanks for involving me!

  27. Pam Gazley says:

    Thank you for this insightful entry. I launched a corporate blog back in November but have had a lot of trouble getting bloggers to sign up to blog or maintain the posting momentum. Although I introduced the blog with a formal plan, I’m realize now that it was geared toward trying to get agreement from the executive team that Progress Software needed to start actively blogging. I think I missed out on the most important part… a marketing strategy plan for the bloggers. This post presents ideas on how I might market the benefits of blogging for the “blogger” and for the company.

  28. Thanks for pulling this all together. As always, it’s a great resource but I’m not sure if a company really needs to hire a blogger as opposed to have the copy writing staff help … as long as it’s not the IT department.

  29. wow, nice post but bit lengthy, It’d be better, if you have posted them in parts ;-)

  30. mymoen says:

    I like the concept of two-way coversation through comments. It something that I believe very strongly in, and don’t understand why many bloggers disable comments on their blogs.

  31. Ted Murphy says:

    I think that a corporate blog can usefully be positioned as a fight for your rights out here on the Internet. You should tell the company that the blog is only half the story — the other half will be your efforts to SEO the blog posts. After all, the majority of keyword searches hitting a large company’s website will be generated by copyrighted terms. Anything you can do to capture more shelf space out here for your company is valuable. Perhaps necessary.

  32. I’m the blogger for the Queensboro Shirt Company, and I really like your post. After about two months blogging, we are hitting our stride. I wanted to comment to a couple of specific things in your post that I have found work well for us.

    Editing-I have an editor. Her name is Jen, but I call her The Evil Eye. We have shortened it to “The Eye” to be nice. She is a great editor–checks for punctuation and grammar, and to make sure that I have somehow related the blog post to Queensboro. (Sometimes I like to go off on strange tangents.) Our writer/editor relationship is such:
    I write->The Eye edits->I put it in WordPress->Our boss makes the posts live. They give me pretty free reign with topics as long as I stick to our overall strategy.

    Promoting-I was slow to jump into this because it takes a lot of time; however, now that I am more active posting to forums and blogs, I have seen a big increase in traffic to the blog, as well as incoming links, so I can definitely say it is worth the time. Plus, I learn a lot from reading all of the other blogs and forums and their comments. (Thanks to all of the others that take the time to comment!)

    Recruiting Writers-We have had great success here at Queensboro by involving guest bloggers. We have had Customer Service, Shipping, Logo Services and other staff contribute to the blog. It is a good chance to showcase the talents and skills of all of our staff including and beyond their daily job functions. One of the highlights of being a blog contributor is that Heather, a member of our Creative department, draws the contributor a sketch of themselves to go along with the post. It is our little “blog signature.” By involving all of the staff in one way or another, we put actual faces to our company.

    Come visit! http://queensboro.wordpress.com

  33. Sin says:

    These are wonderful tips.
    I like the concept of two-way coversation through comments.
    and..
    i think SEO for corporate blogging will rank this #1…
    :D

  34. Ramakrishna says:

    I really liked you post and the information shared in this website will be useful for all types of bloggers who want to know best practices used in the blogosphere. I will be visiting this website for more updates on the best practices followed in creating a corporate blogs….Thanks