Content and Coffee: Web 2.0 – The writing style of your company’s blog

I was honored to speak yesterday on corporate blogging in DC, as a joint event put on by Merry Bruns and DC Web Women. The two other speakers, Scott Briscoe of ASAE, and Lorelei Brown of the Natl Association of Realtors, are both longtime bloggers and we had a great time sharing our experience on how the business world looks at blogging.

My talk discussed ways to create a community on your blog.

There are a few ideas that I always suggest to companies that are blogging. First, make sure your staff and friends are commenting on your blog. A blog with no comments gives the impression that no one is reading. And, a blog that no one is reading gets little blogosphere respect. In addition, a blog with comments is more inviting because the person knows that by adding his own comment, he’s joining a conversation. Of course, this brings me to the point that you should respond to your comments. It seems obvious to most, but by ignoring comments you are ignoring your readers. They deserve an answer, even if it’s just ‘you’re right’ or ‘you’re an idiot’.

Writing to reach
Engaging your readers is your most important job as a blogger, personal or corporate, and a boring blog is a dead blog. Take advantage of the multiple survey options you have, read your comments and ascertain what it is that your reader wants to get from your blog. When you find out, give it to them. Your blog should be so useful that the reader feels he *must* subscribe. Otherwise, he’ll get his information elsewhere.

And, if they tell you they want video or audio, don’t be afraid. A great podcast or vidcast can bring you reams of free advertising as the mediums are still young enough that people are excited when companies get involved (and for you marketing people, a new podcast is just another reason to put out a press release). Use it to interview others or put your own thoughts on the web. Either way, people are hungry for new media options.

While I didn’t spend alot of time on this one, it bears repeating. Make your subscription button the most obvious thing on your blog. RSS is still new enough that it’s not an automatic thought for most. Place your most important item in the prime real estate area of your blog.

I also discussed being honest with your readers. This is the reason I place my client list in the upper right hand corner of my blog. Of course next month when I start my new job in Berkeley, I’ll place my employer’s name there, but in the meantime, I have to keep those clients there so that you know that I am biased in those areas. It’s only fair for you to know that when I mention those companies’ names, I am going to tend towards happy thoughts, being that they are paying me. While I hope I would be able to give you an accurate testimony of their good and bad deeds, I’m afraid that noone is completely unbiased and I think it would be unfair to hide that info from my readers. Blog readers appreciate knowing this and they trust you more for your admitted biases. Think about the stink that would arise if I went about schilling for a particular company and never said they were paying me… Yikes.

This also leads me to mention quick ways to contact. Transparency means also making yourself available to your readers. This is why I have the Jaxtr option and the Mybloglog widget in my sidebar, and why I keep my Twitter status on the blog. Everything on this blog has a reason and most of it leads to my attempting to be as transparent (and reachable) as possible.

Tracking is always of major concern to corporate bloggers. When your job depends on keeping track of communications that you start and conversations you take part in, tracking those is of the utmost importance. I use Cocomment some, but I’ve found it doesn’t pull in all of my comments, so I’ve taken to using an old-fashioned spreadsheet for each client and keeping track of posts, emails, forum postings and comments on this spreadsheet. It makes things more difficult, but the burden of keeping up with this stuff is on me and I can’t trust a free service like Cocomment to do what it was not designed to do.

The other speakers
Scott spoke about his amazing success with Acronym, a community blog from his organization, the ASAE and The Center (an organization for those working for associations). Scott is someone who began as a blog reader and took his passion to creating a blog that people would love. His bloggers are mostly volunteers (ASAE members) and they work within a blogging guideline. He currently has 9 bloggers and their work is interesting, useful and just personal enough to make it memorable.

Lorelei spoke about mistakes. Her organization runs the amazing, so she certainly has credibility as one who can build and maintain a community. However, she found that blogging was not as easy as it looked. She shared some great insights about excessively moderating comments (tried it and it didn’t work), picking fights with much-loved people (might have worked had they allowed his followers to comment back) and design and professional speak (was boring and made people ignore the posting).

These speakers gave me insight into blogging for huge organizations made up of members rather than customers and the experience was more than worth the 4+ hour drive each way to DC.

The Panel
We also discussed comment spam, and I was shocked to learn that most people didn’t even know that it existed, much less how to handle it. Scott says he was overburdened by spam comments from the beginning and his captcha device saved him a great deal of time. I again told about how much time Akismet has saved me. I also talked with a woman who is moving her TypePad blog to WordPress and discussed the script options to move the content over. I know that when I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress the experience was painless.

Much of the questions revolved around tracking, marketing and how to talk on a blog, so I won’t rehash all of the stuff you already know. However, one question was really intriguing. There was a woman there that has been writing her own blog (her own domain) for the last few years. But she writes it on company time and speaks of her company often there. Her blog has won awards and her content is renowned as the place to go for her topic (nope, i’m not going to be more specific). However, she’s in the middle of leaving the company, that is likely going out of business. Her question was to the options she had in keeping her blog. Of course, I’m no lawyer so I couldn’t speak to the legality of this one, but since the company is floundering she may have some leeway. Otherwise I’d be inclined to think that since blogging was part of her job and because she did it on company time, the content probably belongs to them. Thankfully she has legal expertise and knows how to handle things herself, but was just asking to see what we thought might happen. I told her that I’d heard of bloggers fired, vloggers jailed and bloggers held legally liable for comments on their blog, but this one was a new one for me. I’m hoping that she’ll stay in touch and let me know how it goes. It’s probably one of the first instances something like this has happened.

Anyway, wanted to share with all of you how great the talk was. Hope you missed me 🙂

9 Replies to “Content and Coffee: Web 2.0 – The writing style of your company’s blog”

  1. Robyn, what fun to literally bump into this posting tonight-and I haven’t even properly thanked you yet for your wonderful, smart presentation.

    You knocked everyone out-we all laughed that we couldn’t write fast enough to take notes!

    I’m sorry you’re moving, as I’d love to have you back for my “Content & Coffee” again, to speak on other topics. My loss, but,er, Yahoo’s gain. It was my pleasure entirely to have you as a speaker.

    Cheers,and stay in touch,


  2. Thanks Merry. I learned alot too. While I’m bummed to be leaving such a great area (with great resources all its own), I’m sure things will be great in Berkeley as well. I’ll keep you posted and if I am ever going to be near DC I’ll shoot you an email 🙂

  3. Thanks for being a part of this panel! I attended and really enjoyed listening to your experiences, especially your ideas about creating community.


  4. I was referred to this by someone who knows about my back-and-forth thoughts about the suitability of blogs for companies, especially for those of us in management. I love technology, and I dread its hype.

    I personally think blogs are great for communicating as explained here. Managers are frequently advised to be out on the floor more, talk to actual customers. A company blog sounds like a great place for that exchange, and hopefully better products and service.

    However, I rarely see those in management actually author a blog. I see independent consultants use blogs as marketing tools, a form of personal branding. I also see non-management employees speak about where they work, what they do, etc. More people each day say if you don’t have a blog, you’re a nobody.

    When it comes to management, however, we’re expected to be even more guarded with company secrets. We don’t want to be seen as doing or saying anything that hints we might spill the beans. (Heaven help me if somebody Google’s me and sees I’ve revealed an unwritten rule of management.)

    Does it make sense for management to author blogs? To comment in blogs? How can management participate in personal and company blogging, if it’s even sensible?

  5. Greg,

    I see blogs as a great way to communicate for execs or mailroom workers. However, with the great responsiblity comes the greater reward. Yes, you have to watch what you say (keep your NDA in mind) but the PR and community rewards are out of this world!

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