Corporate blog realism…

Morgan McLintic recently wrote about an enterprise software firm who were canning their corporate blog because they didn’t have time to publish stories every day. Morgan counselled him that:

“The point I made to him is that a corporate blog doesn’t need constant maintenance and daily posts. Just regular updates as and when the company has something new to announce or when there’s a specific topic it has a fresh opinion about. He felt that to be valid the blog had to be a destination news site which visitors would return to regularly. Instead, all it really needs to do is provide an additional channel of communication. If you haven’t got anything to say – don’t open your mouth.”

It’s an interesting point. As the number of corporate blogs grow there needs to be some clear planning in what you are hoping the blog will achieve – and part of that is some realism regarding how many readers you will attract and how long it will take.

Corporate blogs are about communication
There are a host of reasons why you (or your clients) should look at the possibility of publishing a corporate blog. But besides benefits like search engine optimization and becoming a reference for the media, the first objective of the corporate blog must be focused on building a new and often more effective communication channel with your audience(s).

To ignore this single primary objective will adversely effect your blogging efforts.

It takes time
Building an audience for a corporate blog takes time – and as more blog appear it will likely take longer. Build a realistic promotion plan around your corporate blog. Promote it via your website, promote the content via your newsletters and e-mail signatures and reach out to other blogs, journalists etc. where relevant. By all means measure the success of your blog but be realistic.

Measure it
Blogs provide a range of measurement tools, use them. Measure visitors, RSS traffic, in-bound links etc. These are great indicators into how well the blog is communicating and attracting an audience.

The single most critical piece to a corporate blog is the content. Everyone has opinions, use those opinions to provide context to your market. You don’t have to be funny, witty or even controversial (though sometimes all three help), but you do have to provide honest first person perspectives. If visitors are getting value and information from the blog, they’ll keep coming back.

The most common stress I see associated with corporate blogs is the perceived need for new posts every day. That is a misnomer. The important thing is that you establish a regular pattern of entries. For example, Richard Edelman posts just once a week. It works because people know he only posts once a week. Yet while the rest of the PR mice (me included) are scuttling around firing posts out, Edelman’s blog is probably the most widely read (with the exception of Mr. Rubel).

The key is establishing how often you won’t blog :-). Also with the growing adoption of RSS, people can subscribe and be alerted when you’ve posted an item making concerns about the volumes of posts less important.

Make it interactive
Corporate blogs provide a great opportunity to engage your audience in conversation. Too many blogs don’t solicit comments or feedback. Look at ways your blog can engage with visitors. Run competitions, propose new product functionality and ask for feedback. These are all useful interactive activities that will help build an audience.

The key point here is that corporate blogs are a fantastic resource when used in a realistic manner. Put together a plan for your blog. Establish realistics goals and resources both internally (number of posts etc.) and externally (number of readers etc.) and measure your progress.

If all you are doing is using your blog as a surrogate press release distribution mechanism, I wouldn’t bother.