Most blogs are personal. Blogging’s beginnings are closely associated with personal sites such as livejournal. Thus, blogs have tended to center around a single personality, and that person’s emphases and interests. But as more and more people come to understand the power of a blog for leveraging client interest, that trend is changing. Corporations in particular now are taking part in the blogging scene, given that in many cases companies with blogs tend to attract half again as much traffic as sites without them.
Still, there is a sense of cynicism about corporations in the world. The greedy advertisers, the soulless profiteers – these images tend to stick with people even when they aren’t necessarily appropriate. Corporate blogs need to stop catering to this mindset, as well. Blogging is about communication. It is a dynamic medium. (That’s why blogging software comes with a comments function.) Yet so many corporations just use it as another type of newsletter or circular, not really taking advantage of the chance to break out and take advantage of the blogging ethos the way it was intended. So what are some ways a corporation can make its blog more credible?
First, Do No Advertising
Specifically, a blog should avoid the trap of trying to directly market things. Announcements must be limited to the main site, and advertisements are for the marketing department. The blog is about communication with the readers – readers who are tired of constantly being marketed to. Keep the direct marketing out of the blog.
This isn’t to say you must be silent about big projects. If your company gets a hot new app or is able to offer a really big new consumer service, it would make no sense to go utterly quiet about it. However, a blog is a tool for commentary as much as it is a presentation. Provide analysis, not advertisements. Explain a specific thing you find worthwhile about the new tool rather than regurgitating promotional materials. Share a story about last year’s corporate retreat and the effect it had. As a rule of thumb, give your readers something to discuss rather than something that reads like an announcement.
Stay on Message
Personal blogs can sometimes get away with scattered topics, but a corporate blog needs to establish some editorial guidelines. People come to a corporate blog for messages and discussion about the products and services the corporation is providing. A computer programming blog shouldn’t diverge too far afield, and a blog focusing on luxury lifestyles should always have content about high-class homes and parties.
This might seem like it clashes with the previous point, but in reality the two work together quite well. Once you have a message to stay on topic about, then you can focus on developing a distinct personality within that message. This is a large part of developing the conversation with your readers, for a number of reasons.
Let’s take our luxury lifestyles blog. We’ll assume it has two regular contributors and one monthly correspondent. The content is very clearly defined; contributors Allan and Becca must consistently talk about fine living from the perspective of luxury homes, and the correspondent covers social events. Within these guidelines, however, is room aplenty for specialization. Allan might have a passion for kitchen design and the ways it can make fine living so enjoyable, while Becca could have an abiding interest in architectural layout and the way it affects people’s quality of life. The social events writer probably has a passion as well, like a desire to focus on parties more than fundraisers. These areas of specialty allow them to let their own personalities shine through while still adhering to the editorial mandate of the blog.
Prepare to Talk
As mentioned repeatedly, blogging is about eliciting commentary, and this will include comments of every stripe. You’ll receive enthusiastic praise, well-reasoned criticism, insightful asides and more than your fair share of trolls, spam bots and the like.
This is why it is important to make an actual policy for comments that will be published on your blog. Having a policy in place ahead of time is a good way to avoid the criticisms and missteps that often plague bloggers unused to the, shall we say, frank commentary that the web can provide.
The best default is toward free speech. Allow people to comment mostly freely, within some clearly defined guidelines. Patent “trolling,” such as posts that say genuinely hateful or bigoted things or are intended simply to start an argument can be safely moderated away. However, allow people to post disagreements and disputes, and make it a point to respond directly to these. In fact, give disputes higher priority for comment, since responding to your detractors politely and clearly can give you a measure of credibility that simply sharing information with your admirers will not. That said, do not neglect your fan base either – show them you care about their interests by responding to their thoughts, as well.
Some Final Thoughts
Blogging is not a science – it is much more of an art. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, and all too often it goes off into strange places we weren’t prepared for. Give some thought to this, and accept that a little oddness is the price of working on the web. Be willing to relax and let your personality shine through, and you should be fine.