Having a corporate blog is a great way to connect with your customers, but unfortunately, not all companies get it right when they first launch their blogâ€¦ and not knowing how the blogosphere works is a public relations disaster in the making. While a blog can enhance and build your relationship with your customers, doing it wrong can have the opposite effect. Do you really want your company’s blogging faux pas to wind up all over the blogosphere? Not really, but corporations have stumbled repeatedly when trying to find their blogging voice, not to mention blogging policies to deal with problems that will pop up along the way.
Is your company ready to take the seemingly big and scary step into the world of blogging? This advice will help you make sure you and your company get it right the first time around… and you will soon discover that starting a corporate blog really isn’t as scary as your PR department (and maybe your legal team too!) is making it out to be. Here are twenty best practices for starting your corporate blog.
Designate or hire someone whose role within the company is blogger. If no one is designated, the blog wonâ€™t get updated. If it is someoneâ€™s job, that person can be responsible for updates, monitoring comments (if necessary). And I cannot stress enough the importance of hiring someone who already has an active blog. He or she will know the ins and outs of blogging etiquette that will save you headaches later on when your brand new blogger makes a major gaffe that ends up being talked about on the blogosphere.
Does your blogger have celebrity potential? It is even better if your chosen blogger is comfortable dealing with the public, as corporate bloggers often become the celebrityâ€™s of the company, the personality that visitors or customers recognize. So it is even better if that blogger is someone who can â€œmeet and greetâ€ at events and conferences.
Update regularly, at least once a week, preferably more. And if you will be away for any length of time, stockpile some entries that will go live while you are away. Your readers donâ€™t need to know you are sipping margaritas on the beach, and when you still have blog entries being published, they will assume you are hard at work!
Donâ€™t rah rah yourself. A blog is not a platform to tell everyone how wonderful your company is. If you are constantly talking about how great your company is or what fantastic products you have, people will stop reading because no one likes a sales pitch disguised as a blog. Look at things related to the industry, tidbits of news, or other things your readers would find of interest. Resist the temptation to talk about your company in every entry.
Find your voice. Most popular corporate blogs have an easygoing tone to them, very different from sales copies or press releases the same company sends. Entries should be written in the first person and should reflect personality and opinions. Donâ€™t be too wishy washy on any topic.
Read other blogs in the industry intensely. Follow at least 30 blogs (more if they are updated once a week or less) and get a feel for how the other bloggers handle the topic area. Not only will this help you see what others are talking about, but it will also give you the opportunity to become much more familiar with blogging as a whole, even if you have never blogged a day in your lifeâ€¦ yet!
Proofread! Yes, most people assume bloggers proof read, but reality is that most of us donâ€™t before we hit publish. But when it comes to corporate blogging, you are creating an image, and you donâ€™t want your image to be one of misspellings, typos and grammatical errors. And you donâ€™t want the grammar police bloggers to stop by and comment on it!
Do â€œinsiderâ€ pieces. This could include â€œa day in the life ofâ€ a certain employee or job within the company; some little known fact about the company or something in the companyâ€™s history; look at an employee who does something phenomenal in off-time, such as training for the Olympics; or the group of employees that knit preemie baby hats for hospitals during their lunch hours. This helps give a human face to your corporation.
Write your own perspective on stories in the news related to your company or product. Did someone use your product in a unique way that ended up saving a life? Did an astronaut take one of your products into space? Make sure it isnâ€™t all rah rah, but more look at interesting news your customers may not have seen in the press.
Enable comments, even if they are moderated. You will need to develop a comment policy, but be forewarned that deleting negative comments can actually lead to worse publicity than if you simply allow the comments to go live. You might decide to remove â€œYour company sucksâ€ but allow negative comments that have facts behind them, such as a customer explaining a poor experience with your product or company. But be sure to follow up any negative comment as quickly as possible with a company responseâ€¦ readers will be able to tell very quickly if it is a case of sour grapes or if the commenter had a legitimate issue.
Respond to comments to keep the flow. If you respond to many of the comments, either providing answers or more details, you can easily keep the flow of conversation going, and encourage those readers to come back to the same entry multiple times. And a lively blog with plenty of comments will attract many more readers than a slower blog with no comments.
If an entry is related to a certain area within the company, be sure to get input from that department before posting. They might have something interesting to add to the blog entry that is worthwhile adding. And with a little encouragement, they will be much more likely to keep an eye on it when it goes live and maybe even post a comment or two in response.
Post length doesnâ€™t really matter. Not all blog entries need to be wordy with 1000 or more words. In fact, it is better to do a series of short entries that keep your corporate blog active than doing one large one every couple of weeks.
Make sure people know you have a blog. Link to it from your site navigation. Announce it in your newsletter. Tell your employees about it. Include mention of it when you send press releases. Alert analysts, industry watchers and journalists that you are now blogging.
When news hits the fan. When you start your blog, develop a policy in place of how you will handle any negative press. Did an executive get caught doing something bad and itâ€™s being splashed all over CNN? Did share prices drop? Did a product result in a death? If the unthinkable happens, it is best to have a plan of action in place so you know what to do and time isnâ€™t wasted deciding on how to handle it. Will you address it head on? Ignore it? Deflect it with something good about the company? These are all things you should consider so if something does happen, it is being handled in accordance to the company vision, not the knee jerk reaction as it happens.
Ask the legal team what topic areas they would like to review before you go ahead and blog it. This will save a lot of headaches in the future. Likely topics that fall into this category include lawsuits, anything related to earnings, particularly for public companies, and posts about anyone leaving the company where the situation is not so amicable.
Donâ€™t let the PR or legal team write for you. If legal or PR writes your blog entry, it will be dry, high level and boring. And if itâ€™s boring, the readers wonâ€™t return. So make sure you stick with your voice and avoid letting PR or legal put words into your mouth.
No smack talk allowed. If you smack talk your competition, or anyone for that matter, you are just handing out the invitation for many more bloggers to talk smack about you. And if enough bloggers are discussing the fact you publicly dissed a competitor, the media sniffing the story out wonâ€™t be far behind and the angle they will go for will make you â€“ not your competitor â€“ look bad. A few mottos apply here â€“ if you canâ€™t say anything nice, donâ€™t say anything at all and if you play with fire, expect to get burned.
Watch your referral logs. Who is talking about you? If someone blogs about you today, you will want to know no later than first thing tomorrow morning, if not today. When you know almost immediately that someone new is linking to you, it gives you the opportunity to potentially discuss it in your next blog entry.
Be link happy. Too many corporate blogs have rules than only allow them to link to their own site, or perhaps other sites or companies owned by the same parent corporation. But when you link to others, then they notice you talking about them in their own referral logs, and they might just take notice of you when they might not have noticed you or known about you before you placed that link on your blog. At the very least, get approval to link to specific sites, such as the top dogs in your industry. If you fail to link to the important players, people will notice and you could potentially lose credibility.
By following these twenty best practices for corporate blogging, you have made your journey into blogging much easier for your company.