Coporate Blog Content

03/19/2007

It's gonna be a bloggy kind of a week. From the great meet-up on with Josh Hallett and Atlanta blogs I'm heading off to Las Vegas to teach a session on social media, The Good. The Blog. The Ugly, for the American Marketing Association's Marketing Workshop and then off to NYC to talk at BlogHer Business and more happy happy blogger fun with CK and lots of awesome friends. 

Hugh_blogging_2 As part of the Marketing Workshop gig I asked the folks attending the session if they had any specific questions they wanted to discuss. Peter C. VanRysdam, 352 Media Group, posed an interesting one.

What is the relationship between corporate communication, industry news, and personal information that the employee should blog on?   

I had my ideas, however, I wondered what corporate bloggers would have to say; so I reached out to a few BBF (blogger best friends). These bloggers work with organizations ranging from healthcare, technology and consumer products to business-to-business. Their responses were insightful and I thought .. hmm .. this would be a great post.  Thanks to Peter for the terrific question and to the informal panel who agreed to share their thoughts with Diva's readers. 

Nick Jacobs, President of Windber Medical Center and the Windber Research Institute  -  Truthfully, I use Hospitalimpact.org for national and international policy issues.  I try to use windberblog.typepad.com for local issues and some diary type posts.  I use ourtownonline.biz  for humor!  So, my formula is more of that from a creative than an administrator.

Remi Adams, Director of Public Relations Homestead (CEO Unplugged Blog) - The answer to that question lies entirely within each, unique, organization; and I don’t think that there should be an “all size fits one” approach to social media within a corporate setting.

This question, however, also depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog. For Homestead, it’s thought leadership in small business and entrepreneurship, so the blog has little to do with the nuts and bolts of our core business and/or product offerings. It’s also written by a smart and savvy CEO, who is as good an information filter as they come. If you’re touching upon appropriate guidelines for employees, this should be based on individual circumstances determined by each organization.

Homestead, for example, doesn’t so much have a policy, as it has a culture that enforces or discourages certain behavior based on its values. You’re much less likely to have bloggers divulging private, internal information in unique circumstances like ours (for many reasons), then you would at a large, impersonal corporations in which employees feel disenfranchised. Blogs, in those circumstances, can be a difficult tool for corporate communications professionals, and would probably merit reasonable corporate guidelines.”

Merrill Dubrow, President M/A/R/C Research -  Not sure we have a strong position but to me opinions are opinions and don’t always represent the companies position. I wouldn’t want anyone to comment about clients, financials or strategy on a blog. My sense is every company is the same.

Christine Halvorson, Stoneyfield Farms - Since Stonyfield Farm was one of the few non-I.T. companies blogging back in 2004, we were feeling our way around and, sort of, making things up as we went along.  Once we got our rhythm in the blog world, we sort of instinctively felt we knew what to write--that corporate "messages" wouldn't really go over well with readers, that we had to tell a story, and we had to have opinions and a certain point of view in the world. 

"Industry news" is kind of tricky.  In the hands of a poor writer, it could be extremely boring.  In the hands of someone who really knows the industry and knows all the nuances, it could be a great read.  I think, at Stonyfield Farm, we felt that our readers wanted to know what we--as a company--cared about and what the broader world was saying about those issues (women's health, organic farming, global warming, saving the environment, etc.)  and so that's what I tried to focus on in the Stonyfield blogs.

As Chief Blogger trying to write and/or coordinate good content there, I also felt that nobody was really that interested in MY daily life, so blogging about it rarely happened, if at all. Instead, I offered my opinion on things relevant to the issues mentioned above. 

I don't think a person who is blogging for a company should blog about his/her personal life unless it is totally and completely relevant to the "story line" of the blog.  For example, if you are assigned to blog about the health care industry and your company's role within that industry, you need to find interesting, compelling content, yes, but that probably does not mean writing about your particular trip to the doctor last week, or your aunt's recent gall bladder surgery. Instead, write YOUR opinion about the state of health care reform today, or advocate that a certain piece of legislation be passed, or whatever.  Nobody cares about your aunt. (Okay, maybe they care, but not that much. )

On the other hand, there are certainly exceptions to this "rule" of mine. Nick's Blog is a great example of this. He writes about health care in big, general terms and in small, specific terms, and sometimes he just writes about his dog.  I think that's great! It gives him a personality and shows the person behind his medical center. 

The content of a blog really has to be tailored to the specific audience you are trying to reach. When I advise corporate blogging clients today, that's my first task with them--to have them be very, very clear about WHO they are writing to and WHY. Once they know that, the content follows rather easily.

Tim Jackson, Masi Bikes - It is my personal belief that all of those items can blend together and not confuse things too much or send the wrong message- IF done right. I blend all three and sometimes it isn't quite the right combination because I get off the target and ramble a bit. That said, I believe that has been one of the factors to the "success" (if you will) of the blog. People have developed a relationship with me through the blog, so the blend of personal, industry and corporate info seems to work.

As for other companies, it really just requires that companies define what kind of relationship they want to have with the readers of the blog. If they want to just make announcements or share news, then they shouldn't blend in personal info, as it might confuse that reader. Maybe they want to use the blog as a way to get product ideas/ feedback.

A blog is great for that too and it has been my experience that people are very willing to help you shape their experience- if you ask them and then listen to them. If they are looking for a more interactive and "personal" relationship, then I say let it all hang out! Obvious exceptions include being offensive, insulting or otherwise acting badly... but that should go without saying.
 
Rick Short, Indium Corporation - As far as a blogging STRATEGY, we certainly have coordinated and detailed plans and activities.  I am trying to pull them all together while the playing field changes and while our wild new ideas proliferate.  It is very fun!

Let’s establish a few of my firmly-held beliefs right up front:

  • Marcom consists of both internal and external communications.
  • Bloggers must exhibit some personality.
  • “News” is most effective when it has a personal element.

You can see where this is all heading.
“Corporate Communication” is targeted at the outside, as well as the inside, world (customers, co-suppliers, and employees). Blogging is one form of corporate communication.  There are two types of blogging: 

  • Officially on behalf of the company 
  • Personal and private
  • “News” can be targeted exclusively internally, or externally.
  • All forms of communication are USUALLY better if they contain a compelling personal element.  They simply are more engaging.
  • People are ALWAYS responsible for their content, whether they are dialoging professionally or privately.

As a company director, I can not control what people do in their personal lives. They are free to say whatever they wish, in any format or style they desire.  But I ALWAYS advise people to start their activities with a GOAL.  My exact words are, “Always begin at the end”.  Describe the following:

  • Exactly WHO
  • Did exactly WHAT
  • After receiving your message WHEN
  • Such that you are ecstatic with the results

Goals can be simple (eg: I want people to get a chuckle out of a funny personal foible that happened to me over the weekend – establishing the fact that I am but a mere mortal.)  Or, they can be complex (eg: I want to gain customer loyalty, first looks, and new opportunities for sales by helping customers consider my technical and customer support teams to be the best in the world.)  No matter what the goal is – always begin your communications with the goal put down in writing.  Then, work toward it, concisely.

Our goal is to establish our company, and our personalities, as trusted, bona fide elements of every single potential customer’s and partner’s decision process.

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Comments

Hey Toby, can't wait to see you at Blogher. This post is outstanding - and one I'm going to send to some local folks who are still a bit confused about blogging. I like the way you tapped into corporate folks who blog - we (you, me, Debbie Weil, etc) know why WE blog and why THEY should blog, but my beliefs are definitely tainted with... well, my beliefs.

This post reveals reasons to blog that non-bloggers can more readily relate to. I especially like Rick Short's answer.

Posted by: Yvonne DiVita on Mar 19, 2007 10:37:50 AM

Once again I get lumped in with some really, really smart people... I don't know how that keeps happening.

Thanks for asking me to participate.

I do believe that much of the common thread here is that you have to know your audience or at least identify who you want to reach and that a personal element does frequently improve the content/ experience for the readers.

Again- thank you.

Posted by: Tim Jackson on Mar 19, 2007 1:40:14 PM

Wow, this is some great info! I think the prevailing arguement is for commentary on industry goings on with a personal flair. I certainly don't want to just throw press releases up there, but rather talk about the cool things we might have going on from my perspective.

Thanks again for all the great feedback!

Posted by: Peter VanRysdam on Mar 19, 2007 10:38:17 PM

Grreat post Toby. Writing you a mail just now :).

Posted by: Rajesh on Mar 20, 2007 5:28:43 AM

I am impressed with this post.
You really covered every aspect of blogging from personal, private or business point of view.

Great post.

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