[Updated on 22nd Aug 2014]
Corporate blogs are powerful weapons in the marketing arsenal. There is one caveat, however.
You need to do them correctly.
Mess up your blogging and you would be wanting to rewind and get back to the days when all communications with outside were routed through the PR department . A website with a sucky corporate blog is worse than a website with no blog.
So what are the pre-requisites for a corporate blog?
Corporate blogging 101
The basic aim of a blog is to connect, mainly using text, with your core audience at a different level than the rest of the website content. You get to write in a lighter, more informal tone. You get to make jokes. You get to introspect, to muse and to predict how things are going to change.
In short, a corporate blog transforms your company from a faceless, remote and monolithic enterprise to a bunch of people with emotions and feelings.
So when you are setting up a corporate blog you need to make sure that certain rules about conventional marketing copy are ditched. To make your job easier here is a checklist of some best practices concerning corporate blogging
- Have blogging policies in place and get it approved by the management. This document will outline certain high level goals associated with your blog like content strategy and target demographics. Consider a comment moderation and response policy too.
- Shun the legal department approved precise copy which goes out in press releases or internal communications. That said, don’t say anything patently false.
- Don’t make the blog look like a shiny manual or help doc. Many readers are going to be non technical.
- Keep up a regular schedule. A blog which has its last post 4 months ago is not only sad, it projects a very bad image of the organization.
- Your corporate blog is an integral part of your website. Don’t host it on free blogging platforms like Typepad or WordPress. Not only does it make you look cheap you also lose out on SEO benefits
- Blogs are human to human interactions. Don’t have the name in your author field as Admin. Put something like Greg or John.(If the blogger goes by Zbigniew that’s cool too).
- Make it easy for people to share the blog posts by using tools like FB share buttons. It takes 15 minutes and a copy paste operation to set up these tools.
- Respond to comments as quickly as possible
All this is not particularly hard to do. Yet so many companies who jump into corporate blogging mess up their game. For instance
1. Alcoa’s Typepad blog
Alcoa is, according to their website at www.alcoa.com, the world leading aluminum producer.
Unfortunately they haven’t been able to show the same expertise and authority in their blogging. They have a main blog (I assume) at www.alcoa.typepad.com whose name is Cransberg Says and a tagline Blog by Alcoa’s of Australia Managing Director Alan Cransberg.
So what happens when the MD is replaced? And why Australia?
Alcoa has a bunch of blogs that target different niches- recycling, automotive, consumer electronics and aerospace, among others. The URL scheme is like this: www.alcoa.typepad.com/recycling.
But guess where I found out about them?
Not in a place like the navigation bar where these sort of links are supposed to be found. I had to do some digging and found their RSS feeds listed along with other RSS feeds in a separate page.
It’s almost like they were trying to hide that they have 6 blogs.
In an alternate universe: There would be a link in the navigation menu which will take the visitors to each of these blogs. The blogs will be hosted not on Typepad or any other third party blogging platform but on their own server.
The blogs would also be interlinked, with copious cross linking to get more SEO juice. And last but not the least, the blogs would have the same design scheme as the Alcoa website.
[Updates: The blog posts are current but the navigation is still broken- there is no main link to the different Alcoa blogs from the homepage.
The Typepad blog has been abandoned since Dec 2012 but blogs in other verticals are more or less updated, even though the posts themselves are not reader friendly. From the RSS feed on the main page the blog rolls leads to site in the respective niche (The recycling blog will take you to a site focused on recycling)
The homepage is a mess and posts are around 300-400 words, many of them with no pictures in small font.
It’s almost as if Alcoa didn’t want people to read their blog posts, especially from the main website]
2. All My Sons Moving’s all-over-the-place blog
All My Sons is a moving company. When you need to move your home or office from one location to another you give these guys a call, pay the bill and sit back. No hassles, no worries.
While that should be the core message pushed by their corporate blog at http://allmysonsmovingblog.allmysons.com/ (they have it hosted on their own server, so that’s a plus point) upon reading it one gets a sense that the company hasn’t really thought through this whole blogging thing.
Most of their blog posts has the word “movers” in the headline, along with names of places- Orlando, Nashville, Phoenix, Cincinnati etc. I guess that’s smart from the point of view of SEO and localization.
But many posts have nothing to do with moving? “Orlando Movers impressed by Whole Foods” has zero information that can be useful for someone considering moving services to or from Orlando.“Nashville movers anticipate iPad2 Release” might have been an informative post about how movers use iPads except it is not . And as for “JFK footage surfaces” post no case is made for why this snippet about rare TV footage of JFK’s last night is in a moving company’s blog.
In an alternate universe: The content of all blog posts will have something to do with moving. They would provide useful important information to people who want to move (to be fair there are posts on this blog that fulfill that criteria). They would talk about costs, how to save on moving, how to pack well and what to leave behind during a move.
The blog will also have an open comments section. A blog which does not let people comment is like a bicycle without pedals- useless and not worth the effort needed to maintain it.
[Updates: Their new posts talk about falling prices of realty or other economic trends that can be implicitly connected to moving. However the posts all seem to taper off, and the tie-in in often half hearted.
Besides, it would be good if they followed best practices like adding images or other media to their posts and used something like Disqus as a commenting platform. ]
3. Open Skies blog, frequently AWOL
Here is the thing about flying planes and running airlines- the people who do these jobs need to be dependable. And I am pretty sure that the good people working at the Open Skies are professionals, doing their jobs just fine.
But the corporate blog does not contribute to this impression of dependability. The URL of the Open Skies corporate blog is http://blog.flyopenskies.com/ and while the content is topical and useful it’s not regular. If you were to look at the blogging frequency here is how the posts came out since Jan 2010-Jan 8, Jan 20, Feb 2,Feb 9,Mar 12,Apr 25,May 25,Jun 18,Jul 2,Jul 27,Aug 19,Sep 9,Nov 29,Dec 1,Dec 1,Dec 22,Feb 1.
Do you see a pattern in the posting dates? I don’t. Some months go without any posts (Oct,Jan) while others (Dec) see as many as three, and two posts on the same date (Dec 1). If one post is in the beginning of a month (Sep 9) the next post seems to sneak in at the fag end of the next month (Nov 29).
The company is going to tank if they operate their flights like this.
In an alternate universe: All posts would be published regularly, keeping a preset schedule in mind which will be set depending on the resources available. The frequency can be anything reasonable but it will be religiously adhered to.
When people comment on the posts the author or someone from Open Skies would respond to each one of the comments, where possible and in accordance with the comment response policy.
The blog would also make it easy for people to share posts on social media by installing FB and Twitter buttons.
[Updates: The blog is gone. It does not exist and the above URL redirects to their homepage. I hope it was a well thought out decision and not just because they ran out of patience]
4.Invacare’s funny language
Passive is bad,whether it’s behaviour or voice. While I am not sure if Invacare is passive as a company(they need to make profits to stay in the black so I guess they are active) they sure display a fondness for the passive voice in their blog over at http://www.invacareconnects.com/.
When I read the Invacaare blog I don’t feel like I am in a conversation. The tone comes off as weak and the language makes it seem like the blog authors are treading on eggshells and trying very hard not to stand out. How else would you respond to language like this?
Invacare announced today that it will be bringing its history of healthcare innovation to the first-of-its-kind Medical Mart project in Cleveland, Ohio. The Company has signed a letter of intent (LOI) to join the project and the partnership was formally announced during ceremonial groundbreaking festivities today.
That’s PR or formal media speak. This sort of language looks good on a press release or a newspaper story about your company. On your corporate blog where you are attempting to engage with your customers one on one this is disaster. It’s bores people and chases them away.
Blogs are places where one person talks to another and I am sure that the Invacare people don’t talk like that with their colleagues or customers in real life. So why this off-handed and disinterested tone?
In an alternate universe: This blog will have a more direct conversational tone and informal language. The reader will feel that she is engaged in a conversation with the author over coffee instead of reading a media report by a business reporter.
[Updates: I am quite impressed by the general change in Invacare’s blog, though some posts relapse into the old PR speak syndrome. An example of a very good post is about how vets are preparing for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
This post has a human interest angle, is totally conversational (it’s actually in an interview form) and actually inspires you. It makes you feel something, which is what any content should aim at. Kudos, guys!]
5.Old Spice’s abandoned blog
Last I checked Old Spice was in business. They have a knack for social media too: do I need to remind you of the Old Spice Man series of videos that went viral?
Which is why it is interesting to see that its blog at http://www.oldspice.com/blog/ appears to be abandoned, left for dead. The last post was on Nov 19 2010 and after that everything is quiet. Quieter than the Western Front.
So maybe you have done an analysis and determined that blogging is not going to be a good fit for your business? Fine- not all businesses needs a blog (personally I think Old Spice can do well with a blog but that’s another post for another topic).
If so, why keep the thing alive? It makes you look like distracted teenager who has forgotten about her old toys once she sees a shinier one.
In an alternate universe: The blog would be taken off if an exhaustive analysis determined that it was not contributing anything to the big picture. That, or the last post would be a notice which stated that it was being discontinued but the blog was kept online because of <insert appropriate reason like valuable user generated content.>
[Updates: Old Spice has yanked their blog. The only social media channel clearly highlighted is Instagram. It makes sense, though they can do a lot better than 24,000+ followers.They are concentrating more on videos, with a link to the Video page right in the nav-bar.
Their videos are still quirky and create buzz (the Get Shaved in the Face Terry Crews spot, for example went viral) so it’s a smart decision to focus on their core strength ]
Have you come across corporate blogs that seem to have lost their way? How, in your opinion can they be fixed? Comments are open- have at it.
Image courtesy gagilas.