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Blogging is my front door. Since 2004, my blog1 has been where I post my ideas, both big and small. There’s no doubt that my blog is the most important marketing and PR tool I have as a professional speaker, writer, and advisor to companies. Even after more than a decade and some 1,500 blog posts, I’m always surprised at how effectively this tool helps me accomplish my goals.My blog allows me to push ideas into the marketplace as I think of them, generating instant feedback. Sure, many blog posts just sit there with little feedback, few comments, and no results. But I learn from these failures, too; when my audience doesn’t get excited about something, it’s probably either a dumb idea or poorly explained. On the other hand, some posts have had truly phenomenal results, quite literally changing my business in the process. I’ll admit that my ravings about the importance of my blog may sound over the top. But the truth is that blogging really has changed my life.The first time I shared my ideas about the new rules of PR, in a post on my blog that included a link to an e-book I had written, the reaction was dramatic and swift. In the first week, thousands of people viewed the post. To date, more than a million people have seen the ideas, hundreds of bloggers have linked to them, and thousands of people have commented on them, on my blog and others’ blogs. That one blog post—and the resulting refinement of my ideas after receiving so much feedback, both positive and negative—created the opportunity to write the book you are now reading. As I was writing the first edition of the book during much of 2006, and the six subsequent editions since then, I continually posted parts of the book, which generated even more critical feedback—many thousands of comments—that made the book much better.Thanks to the power of search engines, my blog is also the most vital and effective way for people to find me. Every word of every post is indexed by Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and the other search engines, so when people look for information on the topics I write about, they find me. Journalists find me through my blog and quote me in newspaper and magazine articles without my having to pitch them. Conference organizers book me to speak at events as a result of reading my ideas on my blog. I’ve met many new virtual friends and created a powerful network of colleagues.

As I write and talk to these corporate audiences and other professionals about the power of blogging, many people want to know about the return on investment (ROI) of blogging. In particular, executives want to know, in dollars and cents, what the results will be. The bad news is that this information is difficult to quantify with any degree of certainty. For my small business, I determine ROI by asking people who contact me for the first time, “How did you learn about me?” That approach will be difficult for larger organizations with integrated marketing programs that include blogs. The good news is that blogging most certainly generates returns for anyone who creates an interesting blog and posts regularly to it.

So what about me? My blog has gotten my ideas out to tons of people who had never heard of me before. It has helped me get booked for important speaking gigs around the world. I’ve determined that about 25 percent of the new speaking business I’ve brought in during the past 10 years has been either through the blog directly or from purchasers who cited the blog as important to their decision to hire me. Consider this: If I didn’t have a blog, you literally wouldn’t be reading these words, because I couldn’t have been writing this book without it.

Will writing a blog change your life, too? I can’t guarantee that. Blogging is not for everyone. But if you’re like countless others, your blog will reap tremendous rewards, both for you personally and for your organization. Yes, the rewards may be financial. But your blog will most certainly serve you as a valuable creative outlet, perhaps a more important reward for you and your business.

Why You Still Need a Blog in the Age of Social Networking

Before we go deeply into blogging examples and how-to, I want to answer a common question about whether blogs are still relevant. Social networking sites are excellent ways to market your products and services, and I will be discussing them in detail in upcoming chapters. Depending on your marketplace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Snapchat, or any of the many thousands of other social networks might be right for you. But for long-term marketing success for your business and your personal brand, you need a blog or similar permanent content site that you own and control.

The problem with social networks is they come and they go. You simply cannot rely on the companies behind social networks to be there forever. And you can’t trust that those companies will be active over the long haul to display your content in the way you originally intended (Facebook comes to mind here). Always remember, the social network owns your content on each platform, not you.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Google Plus launched in mid-2011 and became the fastest growing social network in history. However, in 2019, less than a decade after launch, the service shut down. All the content tens of millions of people had posted on G+ disappeared. That’s not the first time a popular social network closed. Several years ago, Twitter announced it would shut down its social video app, Vine. Rats. I had used Vine a number of times and found it to be a fun way to share six-second videos. But many people invested way more time than I did, some spending hundreds of hours creating and curating a social presence there. All that work was lost in an instant.

Many people have said to me, “Blogs are dead.” Nonsense. Your blog, or similar informational site with content you own and curate, is never going to go away. If you have a custom URL, it’s your content real estate that you can own forever.

Unlike most social networks, the search engines index content from your blog—and that traffic goes to you. For example, people visit my blog every day from search engine hits on posts I wrote more than a decade ago! How cool is that?

Your content on most social sites like Facebook and Snapchat simply won’t appear in search engine results. (A notable exception is YouTube, which is owned by Google.) Don’t give all your content resources to the social networking companies, which can do with them anything they choose.

The rest of this chapter describes more about blogs and blogging. You will meet successful bloggers who have added value to their organizations and benefited themselves by blogging. I’ll describe the basics of getting started with blogs, including what you should do first—monitor the blogosphere and comment on other people’s blogs—before even beginning to write your own. The nitty-gritty stuff of starting a blog, what to write about, the technology you will need, and other details are found in Chapter 15.

Blogs, Blogging, and Bloggers

Weblogs (blogs) are a popular way to create content because the technology is such an easy and efficient way to get personal (or organizational) viewpoints out into the market. With easy-to-use blog software, anyone can create a professional-looking blog in just minutes. Most marketing and PR people monitor what’s being said about their company, products, and executives in this important medium. A significant number of people are also blogging for marketing purposes, some with amazing success.

I have found writing (and revising) this chapter to be a challenge because there is great variance in people’s knowledge of blogs and blogging. So with apologies in advance to readers who already understand them, I’d like to start with some basics.

A blog is just a website. But it’s a special kind of site that is created and maintained by a person who is passionate about a subject and wants to tell the world about his or her area of expertise. A blog is almost always written by one person who has fire in the belly and wants to communicate with the world. There are also group blogs (written by several people) and even corporate blogs produced by a department or entire company (without individual personalities at all), but these are less common. The most popular form by far is the individual blog.

A blog is written using software that puts the most recent update, or post, at the top of the site (reverse chronological order). Posts are tagged to appear in selected information categories on the blog and often include identifiers about the content of the post to make it easy for people to find what they want on the blog and via search engines. Software for creating a blog functions essentially as an easy-to-use, personal content management system that allows bloggers to become authors without any HTML experience. If you can use Microsoft Word or buy a product online from Amazon, you have enough technical skills to blog! In fact, I often suggest that small companies and individual entrepreneurs create a blog rather than a standard website because a blog is easier to create for someone who lacks technical skills. As the lines between what is a blog and what isn’t blur, today there are thousands of smaller companies, consultants, and professionals who have a blog but no regular website.

Many blogs allow readers to leave comments. But bloggers often reserve the right to remove inappropriate comments (spam or profanity, for example). Most bloggers tolerate negative comments on their blogs and don’t remove them. I actually like some controversy on my blog because it can spark debate. Opinions that are different from mine on my blog are just fine! This might take some getting used to, especially for a traditional PR department that likes to control messaging. However, I strongly believe that comments from readers offering different viewpoints from the original post are actually a good thing on a blog, because they add credibility to your viewpoint by showing two sides of an issue and by highlighting that your readership is passionate enough to want to contribute to a debate on your blog. How cool is that?

A Blog (or Not a Blog)

Before we look at some examples, I’d like to comment for just a moment on the term blog. The term sometimes carries negative connotations among people who have heard of blogs but do not make an effort to read them regularly. These folks assume that blogs are frivolous and without value. When I ask people in my live presentations if they read blogs, the show of hands tells me that half the audience does. I am certain that this number is wrong. Many more of them, I’m convinced, do read blogs but don’t realize what kind of content they are reading when they land on one. They usually find their way there via a Google search or a link suggested by a friend, colleague, or family member, but since they didn’t seek out blog content intentionally, it doesn’t occur to them that that’s what they’ve found.

What’s more, too many people are still hung up with outdated, artificial demarcations between “mainstream media” and “blogs,” arguing that one is more legitimate. This leads to flawed marketing and PR strategic decisions.

This is especially true of many (but not all) public relations agencies whose representatives do their clients a disservice by focusing on one form of media over another.

That’s nonsense. The distinctions have nearly disappeared, and smart individuals and firms have already eliminated this prejudice.

Whenever this subject pops up, I’m prompted to ask a series of questions that I hope illustrate the changes afoot:

  • What is a blog?
  • What is an online news site, like the HuffPost?
  • What do we call it when a print newspaper like the New York Times or a television network like the BBC publishes an online news site?
  • What do we call it when readers can post comments on an online story from a magazine?
  • What do we call it when a reporter for the BBC maintains a blog?

Guess what? It’s all just media—real-time media in this case.

The Huffington Post is technically a blog. It is written on a blogging platform, so there is no significant difference between when I write an article for the Huffington Post and when I write a post on my personal blog (no difference but the size of the audience, that is).

The Huffington Post is a blog. But it’s one of the most important news sites on the web, with an Alexa ranking as I write this of 200. That ranking places the blog in the top 200 most popular sites of any kind in the world.

The Huffington Post is a blog. But it won the Pulitzer Prize in the category of national reporting for senior military correspondent David Wood’s 10-part series about wounded veterans, “Beyond the Battlefield.”

The BBC is mainstream media, but readers can comment on stories. Thousands do, just like on the Huffington Post.

The New Yorker is a magazine, but people can share links to stories within the magazine’s website, using widgets for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

The difference between mainstream media and the blogosphere has blurred, and this blurring has important implications for your business. When your buyers search Google or another search engine for information related to your business, they don’t really care if the top results come from a “news site” like the BBC, a “blog” like the Huffington Post, or your own blog or content-rich website. So you need to eliminate the bias.

When buyers ask a question on social media, they are happy when someone sends a valuable link to information on the web. They don’t scrutinize what’s recommended to them and dismiss the blog content and only read newspaper and magazine articles. They’re happy for an article that educates and entertains, wherever it comes from.

The best marketing and PR strategies must include creating your own content, including text, video, and images, and should also include strategies for getting noticed by important voices so they write about you. And getting noticed comes back to the content you create.

If you find in your company that you’re encountering resistance to starting a blog, perhaps you shouldn’t call it a blog at all. Instead, you could speak with your managers about starting a regularly updated information site or creating ongoing content for your buyers in order to help drive sales. I’d say this renaming could even apply to the links from your main site to your blog. Rather than a link on your homepage to “Our Blog,” you could link to the name of the blog (without using the actual word blog) or to something like “Our Industry Commentary” or “Our Latest News.”

Content is content, no matter what it is called. If you are creating valuable information to market your business, don’t let the term blog hold you back.

California Lawyer Blogs to Build Authority and Drive More Business

Mitch Jackson, senior partner and trial lawyer at Jackson and Wilson, uses his blog as a way to connect with his existing clients, to reach the marketplace of people who are considering hiring an attorney, and to provide information on legal cases to journalists looking for expert opinions.2

“We’ve been online since 1996 with our first site, and I started blogging soon after,” Jackson says. “I find it’s really important to post with the perspective of ‘How is this helping the client? How is this helping the customer?’ So instead of blogging about a legal issue or rule, that same blog post has to be written in more of a story fashion that immediately connects with potential clients and solves problems.”

For example, Jackson wrote a powerful blog post titled “How This California Law Firm Handles Bullying Cases.” The post was inspired by stories such as that of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who was bullied and terrorized relentlessly for months both online and offline. After texting a friend that she couldn’t take it anymore, Rebecca jumped to her death from a cement factory tower.

In the blog post, Jackson shares several methods and suggestions to help people deal with bullies. In particular he focuses on the legal issues for those whose families are affected and how you can work with the police and perhaps hire a lawyer. As Jackson explains in his post, “What this post is about is how to come down hard on a bully and shut things down. It’s a no-nonsense approach to taking control and playing hardball to stop the bully from harming your child, or, if something has already happened, how to hold a bully legally responsible for his or her misguided and wrongful conduct.”

Jackson says that his ideas often come from interaction with clients. “A good source of blog material comes from prospective clients asking the same questions, and so we use that as an opportunity to turn it around and try to provide a detailed response,” he says. “The bullying issue started to get lots of attention a couple of years ago, and we took the time to put together that blog post. Now, several years later, we probably get two or three contacts a day on this bullying issue.” Because Jackson’s firm can’t help the vast majority of people who read the post and contact him, he has a list of resources he points people to for more information.

News stories are another source of posting ideas. Jackson likes to write about things that are on people’s minds. “It seems like every single moment, something happens on the news that has a legal angle to it, where I can share my two cents’ worth on the blog,” he says. “People with legal questions now turn to Google to get answers. Blogging allows us to be the firm that helps and provides solutions. It’s all about client engagement and meeting the expectations of the online consumer. Blogging allows us to do just that.”

Jackson says many members of the general public have an incorrect preconceived notion of who lawyers are. “Blogging allows us to show our human side and share our families and passions,” he says. “My blog is a digital resume for clients, referring attorneys, insurance claims adjusters, and opposing counsel to review and base their interactions on. They need to know we’re established, have a successful track record, and are willing to take our cases to trial. And reporters searching for information, interviews, and quotes land on blog posts and then [reach out to us].”

Jackson is one of very few lawyers who blog. Most businesspeople make excuses for why they can’t get involved in blogging. Not Jackson. “How can you not find the time?” he asks. “This is what’s necessary to connect with consumers, with potential clients today. This is what customers and clients are looking for. They’re looking for information. It’s an opportunity to strengthen the business, to strengthen my connections with existing clients and potential clients. It’s an opportunity that I’m not willing to let fall by the wayside.”

There’s no doubt that for Jackson and for many other bloggers, the effort pays off in new business. “We have cases right now, and we’ve had cases in the past, where clients have come to us because of a blog post that they read,” he says. “There are a couple of cases that stand out in my mind where, because of a blog post, the clients came in, retained us, and we were able to obtain seven-figure settlements and verdicts for the clients.”

Jackson uses his blog to help others and build relationships with his existing and potential clients, as well as the community and the media. He provides answers, resources, and solutions to the public. And it grows his business as a result.

The remainder of this chapter provides more information on blogging and how to understand blogs as a marketing and PR tool. Then Chapter 15 will be a step-by-step plan for you to create your own blog.

Understanding Blogs in the World of the Web

Blogs are independent, web-based journals containing opinions about anything and everything. However, blogs are often misperceived by people who don’t read them. Journalists as well as public relations and marketing professionals are quick to dismiss the importance of blogs, because they often insist on comparing blogs to magazines and newspapers, with which they are comfortable. But the blogger’s usual focus of promoting a single point of view is dramatically different from the journalist’s goal of providing a balanced perspective. In my experience, blogs are deemed bad or wrong only by people who do not read them regularly. In journalism school and on their first beat assignments when they begin their careers, aspiring reporters and editors are taught that stories are developed through research and interviews with knowledgeable sources. Journalists are told that they can’t express their own opinions directly but instead need to find experts and data to support their views. The journalist’s craft demands fairness and balance.

Blogs are very different. Blogging provides experts and wannabes with an easy way to make their voices heard in the web-based marketplace of ideas. Companies that ignore independent product reviews and blog discussions about service quality are living dangerously. Organizations that don’t have their own authentic and human blog voices are increasingly seen as suspect by many people who pay attention to what’s being said on blogs. But as millions of independent voices shout and whisper all over the Internet, certain mainstream media and PR people still maintain rigid defensive postures, dismissing the diverse opinions emerging from the web’s Main Streets and roads less traveled.

Many people prefer to box blogs into their existing worldviews rather than understand blogs’ and bloggers’ unique roles on the web. Often people who don’t understand these roles simply react with a cry of “Not real journalism!” But bloggers never claimed to be real journalists; unfortunately, many people continue to think of the web as a sprawling online newspaper, and this mentality justifies their need to (negatively) compare blogging to what journalists and PR people do. But the metaphor of the web as a newspaper is inaccurate on many levels, particularly when you are trying to understand blogs. It is better to think of the web as a huge city teeming with individuals, and blogs as the sounds of independent voices, just like those of the street-corner soapbox preacher or that friend of yours who always recommends the best books.

Should you believe everything you read on blogs? Hell, no! That’s akin to believing everything you hear on the street or in a bar. Thinking of the web as a city rather than a newspaper and of bloggers as individual citizen voices provides implications for all Internet citizens. Consider the source (don’t trust strangers), and find out if the information comes from the government, a newspaper, a big corporation, someone with an agenda, or some banker’s ex-wife who is just dying to give you $20 million.

Blogs and bloggers are now important and valuable sources of information, not unlike your next-door neighbor. Take them with a grain of salt, but ignore them at your peril. Just remember that nobody ever said your neighbor was the same as a newspaper. The challenge for marketers and PR people is to make sense of the voices out there (and to incorporate their ideas into our own). Organizations have the power to become tremendously rich and successful by harnessing the millions of conversations found in Web City.

The Four Uses of Blogs for Marketing and PR

As you get started with blogs and blogging, you should think about four different ways to use them:

  1. To easily monitor what millions of people are saying about you, the market you sell into, your organization, and its products.
  2. To participate in those conversations by commenting on other people’s blogs.
  3. To work with bloggers who write about your industry, company, or products.
  4. To begin to shape those conversations by creating and writing your own blog.

There are good reasons for jumping into the blog world using these four steps. First, by monitoring what people are saying about the marketplace you sell into as well as your company and products, you get a sense of the important bloggers, their online voices, and blog etiquette. It is quite important to understand the unwritten rules of blogging, and the best way to do that is to read blogs.

Next, you can begin to leave comments on the blogs that are important for your industry or marketplace. That starts you on the way to being known to other bloggers and allows you to present your point of view before you create your own blog. Many organizations cultivate powerful relationships with the bloggers who write about their industry.

You should work with bloggers so they know as much as possible about what you do. Finally, when you feel comfortable with blogs and bloggers, you can take the plunge by creating your own blog.

In my experience, corporate PR departments’ concerns about blogs always focus on issues of actually writing them. But if you’ve monitored blogs and know that there are, say, a dozen influential bloggers writing about your market and that those blogs have thousands of loyal readers, you can show a PR person the importance of simply monitoring blogs. Some of the more popular blogs have readerships that are larger than that of the daily newspaper of a major city. PR people care about the readership of the Boston Globe, right? Then they should care about a blog that has a similar number of readers. If you become known within your organization as an expert in monitoring blogs, it is a much smaller leap to gaining permission to create your own.

Monitor Blogs—Your Organization’s Reputation Depends on It

“Organizations use blogs to measure what’s going on with their stakeholders and to understand corporate reputation,” says Glenn Fannick, vice president of business operations at Dow Jones. “Reputation management is important, and media measurement is a key part of what PR people do. Companies are already measuring what’s going on in the media; now they need to also measure what’s going on with blogs.”

Text-mining technologies extract content from millions of blogs so you can read what people are saying; in a more sophisticated use, they also allow for measurement of trends. “You can count massive numbers of blogs and look for words and phrases and see what’s being said as a whole,” Fannick says. “You really need to rely on technology because of the massive volumes of blogs and blog posts out there. There is an unprecedented amount of unsolicited comments and market intelligence available on blogs. It is a unique way to tap into the mind of the marketplace. It is an interesting and fertile ground.”

As a starting point, all marketing and PR people need to go to search engines and run queries on their organization’s name, the names of their products and services, and other important words and phrases such as executives’ names. I can’t imagine an organization that wouldn’t find value in knowing what’s being said on blogs about it or its products or the industry or market into which it sells.

More sophisticated marketers then start to analyze trends. Is your product getting more or fewer blog mentions than your nearest competitor’s product? Are the blog posts about your company positive or negative in tone? How does that compare with the ratios from six months ago? “It’s naive to think that what your stakeholders think is not important,” Fannick says. “Opinions are offered on blogs, and understanding the sum of those opinions is very important. You can’t just make decisions on what you think your products do; you need to make decisions on the perceptions of what people are actually doing with your products. Seeing the blogosphere as a source of market intelligence is now vital for companies.”

So become an expert in what’s being said about your organization on blogs. There has never been a better time for marketers to get a true feel for what’s going on in the real world. Bloggers provide instantaneous and unsolicited comments on your products, and this free information is just waiting for you to tap into it.

Comment on Blogs to Get Your Viewpoint Out There

Once you’ve got a sense of who is out there blogging about your company, its products, and the industry and marketplace you work in, it’s time to think about posting comments. Most blogs have a feature that allows anyone to comment on individual posts. Leaving comments on someone’s blog is one of the best ways to participate in a conversation. You have the opportunity to offer your viewpoint, adding to the ongoing discussion. However, it takes an understanding of blogs and blogging etiquette to pull it off without sounding like a corporate shill. The key is to focus on what the blog post says and comment on that. As appropriate, you can point to your blog (if you have one) or your website as your contact information, but make sure that in addition to contact information you provide some content of relevant value.

One of the currencies of social media is that when you participate, people find out who you are. When you leave a comment on someone else’s blog post, you can link to your profile on the web. All the blogging tools have a place where you can leave a virtual calling card, your own web URL where people who read your comment (especially the blogger) can find out who you are and perhaps contact you.

If you have a blog, then you’re all set—just include your blog URL in that comment field. However, most people don’t have a blog. What the heck do you do then?

I’ve seen many solutions, most very limiting:

  • Leave no URL (in which case nobody can find you).
  • Leave a LinkedIn or Facebook profile URL (this has limitations, because people must ask to be connected to you to see your full profile).
  • Leave a company homepage (this shows your affiliation, but nothing about you personally).

I’ve found an alternative solution that works very well. Create a public about.me3 profile for yourself and then use that as the URL that you point people to when you leave a comment on a blog or join a social networking site like Twitter. You can include a photo, a bio, and contact details. It’s really cool—and the basic version is free.

Once you’ve got a public profile, use it as your calling card all over the web. Here’s just one example: Link to your profile from your Amazon review page so the authors of the books you review can see who you are.

Bloggers Love Interesting Experiences

Many organizations have had success setting up blogger days, where influential people in their industry get the chance to spend all or part of a day with the company. In fact, any citizen journalist should be invited to attend, including those who have a video series or podcast show. On blogger days, guests are given information about new product releases, treated to lunch with employees, and perhaps given an opportunity to meet with the CEO or other executives.

For example, Christopher Barger, as director of global social media at General Motors, organized an opportunity for bloggers and other influential people to test-drive the not-yet-released Chevy Volt electric car at the South by Southwest conference. This event resulted in hundreds of blog posts and thousands of tweets.

Or consider the U.S. Marine Corps’s Marine Week, held at various locations throughout the year. I attended one in Boston where bloggers and members of the media were given an opportunity to take a 20-minute flight in a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The flight originated at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, went out into suburban Boston, flew over downtown, and returned. Unlike on commercial aircraft, we were encouraged to use our wireless mobile devices throughout the flight. It was very satisfying to live tweet while flying. I and many other participants blogged about the flight, generating awareness for the Marines.

If you don’t have a hot toy to give people rides in, you can still organize a dinner for bloggers to meet with executives at your company. Or perhaps you can invite a small group of them to a special webinar for the exclusive announcement of a new product offering. Some companies offer sample products to influential bloggers. These outreach programs are critical to providing bloggers with the information and sense of connection that will help them tell your story for you.

How to Reach Bloggers around the World

Global technology PR agency Text 100 examined the communications preferences of bloggers across the globe. The agency’s web-based survey was designed to clarify bloggers’ relationships with PR people and corporations. Some of the findings in the survey of 449 bloggers from 21 countries are worth noting as you contemplate how you will engage with bloggers. The good news is that more than 90 percent of the bloggers surveyed welcome contact from representatives of companies in the area that they write about. However, the way that you approach those bloggers is important.

“Bloggers are united in their desire for distinctive content, particularly around new product developments and reviews, feedback on content posted on their blog, and interviews with key people,” says Jeremy Woolf, global social media lead for Text 100. “Photographs are the most frequently used form of supplied content, followed by charts and graphs, and video.”

However, Woolf says the study reveals that the bad habits of the PR profession don’t work in trying to pitch bloggers. “PR professionals are failing to read the blogs and truly understand their target bloggers’ communities,” he says. “They seem to expect bloggers to post corporate material, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the medium and the very reason why bloggers blog.”

There’s no doubt that the vast majority of bloggers welcome contact from organizations. But to be successful, company representatives need to treat bloggers as individuals and to provide them with valuable information that complements the work they’re already doing on their blogs. Don’t just blindly send them corporate press releases, which are ineffective at best and may even diminish your organization’s reputation with the people you’re trying to reach out to.

Do You Allow Employees to Send Email? How about Letting Them Blog?

Chapter 15 presents everything you’ll need to know to start your own blog. If you already know that you are ready, feel free to jump ahead to learn about how to decide what to blog about, what software you’ll need, how to find your voice, and other important aspects. If you’re still considering a blog for yourself or your organization, you might be hesitant because of fears that blogging isn’t right for your organization.

As I work with companies to help develop a blog strategy, I see much consternation within organizations about the issue of allowing people to blog (or not) and allowing them to post comments on other people’s blogs (or not). It’s been fascinating to both observe and participate in the debate about blogs in the enterprise. Just like the hand-wringing over personal computers entering the workplace in the 1980s, and also echoing the web and email debates of the 1990s, company executives seem to be getting their collective knickers in a twist about blogs these days. Are you old enough to remember when executives believed email might expose a corporation to the risk of its secrets being revealed to the outside world? Do you recall when only so-called important employees were given email addresses? How about when people worried about employees freely using the public Internet and all of its (gasp!) unverified information?

It’s the same debate all over again today with blogs and other social media. On one side of the corporate fence, the legal eagles are worried about secrets being revealed by their employees while creating content or commenting on blogs. And on the other, there’s the feeling that much of the information being created today is not to be trusted. Corporate nannies want to make certain that their naive charges don’t get into trouble in the big, scary world of information.

Well, we’re talking about people here. Employees do silly things. They send inappropriate email (and blog posts), and they believe some of the things on TV news. This debate should be centered on people, not technology. As the examples of previous technology waves should show us, attempting to block the technology isn’t the answer.

So my recommendation to organizations is simple. I’d suggest implementing corporate policies saying such things as that employees can’t sexually harass anyone, that they can’t reveal secrets, that they can’t use inside information to trade stocks or to influence prices, and that they shouldn’t talk ill of the competition in any way or via any media. The guidelines should include email, delivering a speech, writing a blog, commenting on blogs (and online forums and chat rooms), and other forms of communication. Rather than focusing on putting guidelines on blogs and other social media like Facebook and Twitter (the technology), it is better to focus on guiding the way people behave. However, as always, check with your own legal advisors if you have concerns.

Some organizations take a creative approach to blogging by saying that all blogs are personal and the opinions expressed are of the blogger, not the organization. That seems like a good attitude to me. What I disagree with is putting in place draconian command-and-control measures saying either that employees cannot blog (or submit comments) or that they must pass all blog posts through the corporate communications people before posting. Freely published blogs are an important part of business and should be encouraged by forward-thinking organizations.

Not Another Junky Blog

Tania Venn is director of PR at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, the largest full-service professional junk removal company in the world. She oversees a team that creates content with a focus on reaching customers who may not think that they need a junk removal service. “Once they hear about what junk removal could do for them and how it could impact their lives, they become interested in our service,” she says.

Venn and her colleagues work to identify the kind of information that would be valuable for buyers as they create content for the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? blog.4 They then use their Facebook page and Twitter feed (@1800GOTJUNK) to let their followers know about new posts.

“We think about what’s relevant,” she says. “That could be tips and suggestions for people on getting their space back. It could be about decluttering. We also focus on environmental sustainability: what happens to the stuff we haul away and creative ways to reuse junk.”

They also create timely content (I’ll talk more about this technique in Chapter 21 about newsjacking). “When the holidays are coming up, we’ll post about making space to have your in-laws over and making room for new things you might get as gifts,” Venn says. “And with New Year’s, everyone has resolutions. We know that the top 10 New Year’s resolutions include ‘getting organized’ and ‘simplifying.’ We also look at what’s trending. For example, there is a trend called ‘trashion,’ where people make fashion out of trash, so we’ll write about that.”

Because it is written for buyers, the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? blog focuses on people’s real junk problems, rather than egocentric advertising messages. “We know there’s an emotional component to getting rid of the stuff that you have,” Venn says. “Our customers have an emotional release and an amazing magical feeling of ‘That crap is not there anymore’ when their junk is taken away. They don’t realize until it’s gone how good it feels. We hear it time and time and time again from our customers. So we build that into our blog because it’s what customers are looking for.” The 1-800-GOT-JUNK? business is a franchise model, so the content they create also appeals to franchisees who learn about clever ways to market in their local area.

When you focus on buyers’ problems as you create content, you’ll often write about something that doesn’t relate to what your organization actually does. This is true for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? as well.

“We might talk about how to set up your own garage sale,” Venn says. “That wouldn’t get us business necessarily, but we’ve got the experience and we can share that with people. We know that readers may not be able to afford our service right now, but someday they will be able to. They’ll have learned something from us that can help them out: something that can help them get rid of some of their junk, but they can do it themselves.”

Venn knows that the content published in the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? blog and shared on Facebook and Twitter is working because she uses analytics to measure success. “I look at how many people view our blog on a daily basis and a weekly basis,” she says. She also pays attention to any content that becomes particularly popular with readers. “We’ve learned that we need to create content in order to be recognized on the web. It’s a way of engaging with customers. It’s a great way to get information directly to whom you want to reach rather than going through the media.”

Get Started Today

There’s no doubt that every organization should be monitoring blogs to find out what people are saying about it. I find it fascinating that most of the time when I mention a company or product on my blog, I do not get any sort of response from that organization. However, maybe 30 percent of the time, I’ll get a comment on my blog from someone at that company or a personal email. These are the 30 percent of companies that monitor the blogosphere and react to what’s being said. You should be doing this, too, if you’re not already, because you’ll instantly be ahead of 70 percent of your competitors.

It’s also clear to me that in most industries and product categories, early bloggers develop a reputation of being innovative. There are still opportunities for first-mover advantage in many blog categories. Once you’re comfortable with reading and commenting on blogs, get out there and start your own! Chapter 15 contains all the information you’ll need to get going.

Notes

  1. 1davidmeermanscott.com/blog
  2. 2jacksonandwilson.com/blog/
  3. 3https://about.me
  4. 4blog.1800gotjunk.com