Corporate Blogging 101

Morecompanies are starting to blog every day, and I wanted to spend sometime providing my perspective on how to write a good corporate blog.

First,the why.

Somepeople still tend to think of blogs as a consumer phenomenon, a placewhere discussions focus on kids, pets, weekend excursions, and otherpersonal topics rather than serious corporate content.

Increasingly,blogs are becoming just one of the many channels in a corporatecommunications strategy, and there are a few sizable benefitsassociated with maintaining an active corporate blog:

  • Search engine optimization. One of the interesting side effects of blogging is that it can increase your visibility on search engines. I am not a search engine optimization specialist; however, the frequently changing content combined with the back and forth linking between blogs tends to boost search engine ratings. For example, if you Google Dawn Foster (a very common name), most of the first page results refer to me and almost half are links to my blogging activities.

  • Visibility. A blog gives company employees more visibility within the industry to showcase their expertise and talents. It is a good way to become known as a company with expertise and leadership in your industry.

  • Open discussion. Blogs help facilitate an open discussion between your company and your customers, clients, partners, etc. Some companies are reluctant to have this open dialog, but you should remember that people will have the discussion. Blogging simply gives your company a forum to participate in the discussions that already exist somewhere on the Internet.

Second,some background reading.

It isalways a good idea to learn from the pros, and a number of companiesare doing a great job of blogging. Here are just a few of my personalrecommendations:

Third,who should blog.

Somewould say everyone, some would say no one, some would say the CEOmust blog ... and they would all be wrong. Each company should selectthe "right" people to blog based on your company's uniquesituation. If your CEO hates technology, does not enjoy writing, oris otherwise unlikely to be a fantastic blogger, then she should notblog. Instead, find at least one person, preferably within thesenior management team, who is excited about blogging and have himstart the effort and be the primary cheerleader for the rest of theteam. In the case of Sun Microsystems, their primary bloggingchampion in the early days was CTO Jonathan Schwartz (now CEO).

Groupblogs are another good technique for many companies. It takes thepressure off of any one person and provides a diverse perspective. Google'sofficial blog has postsfrom across Google to provide updates on the newest Google productsand feature updates. JiveSoftware, a localPortland software company, also has a great group blog because eachblogger provides a unique perspective on the company with the CEO,CTO, VP of Engineering, VP of Marketing, and Director of ProductManagement each contributing regular updates about different aspectsof Jive products and related technologies.

Fourth,how often.

Thereis quite a bit of debate within the blogosphere about how often youshould blog. Ideally, you should blog nearly every day, which is mygoal on mypersonal blog; however,this pace is just not practical for many people. In most cases,weekly is fine.

Theimportant thing is to be fairly consistent with your pace. If youusually blog daily and have not blogged in two weeks, people mayassume that you have stopped blogging and unsubscribe from your feed.In general, if you anticipate being unable to blog for a period oftime, it is a good idea to post a notice about your upcoming absencefrom the blog with an approximate return date.

Finally,a few tips:

  • Be genuine. Write under your own name (no pseudonyms) and in your own words (no ghostwriting by other staff members). Even if you have a speech writer or PR representative who writes everything else, the blog should be written by the person whose name is on the blog.

  • Be transparent. I am not suggesting that you divulge corporate secrets, but you should discuss what you can openly and transparently. Acknowledge mistakes and never try to hide something. If someone inadvertently posts something confidential or inappropriate, deal with the issue openly, because in today's world of RSS readers and cached pages, disappearing posts generate more press than open acknowledgments about posting mistakes.

  • Solicit feedback. Use the blog as a research tool to get feedback on ideas and solicit suggestions from your readers. Comments are a great way to facilitate this interaction.

Bloggingis not going away anytime in the foreseeable future, and we shouldembrace it as an informal channel to our customers and otherinterested parties. Blogging is just another tool to be incorporatedinto your overall communications strategy ... you might even consideradding podcasts to the communications mix.