Search Engine Marketing: Should your company have a blog?
Blogging is a fairly recent phenomenon that has caught on fast in the corporate world, primarily because it allows businesses to have dynamic, real-time communication with customers and prospective customers.
In fact, a blog is one of the best tools at our disposal today for relationship-building within a corporate setting. It’s the fastest and most versatile method of delivering the latest communications strategies — streaming video, audio podcasts, photos, interactive contests and whatever is next around the bend — to your intended audience. These tools help the blog become the place to tell your corporate story differently, and with a definite personal touch.
Perhaps most importantly, a blog lets you invite your customer in to talk to you, to contribute to your efforts in some way, or to give feedback. In today’s marketing world, where consumers and B-to-B prospects want to be in the driver’s seat when they go on the Internet, this aspect of blogging allows you to “pull” people to your site to participate with you — and to do so on their terms.
Contrast this with the traditional marketing model, which is to “push” your message out to the masses and hope it affects someone, somewhere.
I got my start in corporate blogging at Stonyfield Farm, the organic yogurt company, on blog launch day, April 1, 2004. Stonyfield led the way in corporate blogging, but now the number of businesses — large and small — that have one or more blogs has grown exponentially. In fact, so many of the Fortune 1000 companies are blogging that their leadership has formed The Blog Council (blogcouncil.org) to support the activity.
Before beginning a blog, smart corporate marketers determine the answers to these questions:
• What are the goals of our blog?
• What kind of voice do we want our blog to have? Authoritative? Informal? Funny?
• What content will resonate with our readers and support our brand?
• What are the legal considerations to blogging?
• How should we invite reader feedback and how much of it should we publish or control?
• Do we have the resources to support the blog long-term?
• Who, how and when will post to the blog? Is training needed?
• How do we measure success?
There are many examples of corporate blogs that seem to have answered all of the above correctly. The best corporate blogs avoid the mistake of trying to use their blog to sell their products and services. For example, the folks at Southwest Airlines have a popular blog, “Nuts About Southwest” (blogsouthwest.com). It’s used to show us an insider’s view of the life of a pilot, or to talk about something as serious as their recent maintenance problems. That’s a good way to use a blog — not to promote a special offer or new product necessarily, but to let us feel knowledgeable about a brand, comfortable about its mission, its team, its commitment to our safety. When we feel knowledgeable and comfortable, we are more inclined to buy.
The Mayo Clinic is offering a blog that many of us can find of value, especially in this economy — its “Stress Blog.” It’s an excellent example of how to leverage a great, trusted brand to bring vital information to the public in a unique and inviting way.
Even the Los Angeles Police Department is using blogging as a tool that could only be described as a 24/7 press conference, complete with dire alerts when a criminal is on the loose.
All these blogs are about conversations, about letting the customer/reader “in” in a real, substantive way, or sometimes in a fun and frivolous way, while achieving a closeness that can’t be delivered in traditional advertising and PR. The reader is coming in at your invitation and does not expect to be met at the door by a high-pressure salesperson, but by an entertaining and informative host.
If you think a blog is another way for your company to sell, sell, sell or toot its horn, or if you want to do it because everybody else is, don’t go there.
But if you have something to say and if you have a great brand with an interesting story, start blogging. You’ll grow your relationship with current customers and introduce yourself to prospective customers.
Christine Halvorson is senior blog strategist for search engine marketing company @Website Publicity, Peterborough.