Friday, March 23

Blogging ROI: ADWEEK

ADWEEK said it all about blogs.

"Despite all the talk about how companies need to have a dialogue with customers —it was brought up yet again several weeks ago at the 4A's Media Conference by Procter & Gamble chief marketing officer Jim Stengel—only a handful of CEOs, outside of the technology industry, are blogging."

So why is this? Debbie Weil points to the Forrester's report, which revealed 60 percent say the ROI of corporate blogging does NOT need to be quantified and/or tied to the bottom line.

Why the heck not?

Maybe I'm just feeling melancholy because I wrapped up my last class this spring, but I'm feeling disgusted by the folks driving the social media bus (and I don't mean Weil; she's actually very good). By in large, the bus drivers all agree that social media is a tactic not a strategy, but then they run around and pitch it as a strategy and wonder why the CEOs are not creating social media budgets. Well, against the wishes of my partner who says I give away too many ideas, I'll tell you why.

Blogs are not hammers. They are 5-in-1 tools.

I learned about 5-in-1 tools when I worked part-time as a colorologist at Sherwin-Williams (the guy who matches your paint color to a pillow case) while trying to start my then freelance writing services business on a monochrome Mac Classic and a fold-out kitchen table in a one-bedroom apartment. (My, how things have changed.)

5-in-1 tools are cool because the blunt edge can be used to open a paint can and, in a pinch, it can double as a flat-head screwdriver to tighten or loosen screws. The sharp edges are useful to remove paint. And the pointed edge can be used to get into the crevasses and remove a lot of debris. There are many other uses; all you need is imagination.

That's what selling blogs is about. After you get past the ridiculous term "blog," you have to identify where the technology might be best applied for that specific company. If you do that, the ROI becomes easily measured.

Unfortunately, communication-related professionals (advertising creatives, public relations practitioners, etc.) are running around saying CEO blogs are the first step. That is not going to fly, so give it up.

Blogs don't have to be about CEO insights (though that may be useful for some companies) and, in some cases, they probably should not be. Instead, the application of a blog is best determined on a case-by-case basis. Like what? Here are a few ideas ...

I'm working on three Web sites right now where the client balked at blogs, but loved the idea of a news feed instead of scrolling word files.

The general concept is that the news feed highlight "box" will appear on the front page of their Web site with the latest three items. When clicked, they will go to a blog page that is seamless from the rest of the design. There's the mysterious example of a social media newsroom that targets both social media and traditional media. Oh, and there will be no comments, but "labels" will help journalists find related releases.

Even better, because it is a hybrid for traditional media and social media (and customers), the client won't have to be as sensitive to the rules of "newsworthiness" when they post. The releases that are newsworthy can be sent to traditional media and social media as applicable with a link to the "newsroom." Those that are not will simply appear on the blog.

Or how about this? When you add up the expense of a face-to-face executive meeting, some companies will invest six digits per hour. So if you can cut out even one executive meeting, you've more than paid for a private, secure executive blog that will enhance executive communication so the HR people know what the communication people are doing and vice versa. It's better than e-mail and provides a history.

Or what about this? Create an internal employee-only blog on an intranet that engages employees in real time and encourages them to give feedback so you can capture all those great ideas that never make it past the front line.

Or what about this? A blog that is really a living FAQ page. So rather than be static with the most common questions and answers on a PDF that was created by the best guess of communication people, you can begin to capture questions in real time and have the answer, linked by labels and search engines, for anyone else who happens to come along.

Or what about this? A joint or cross-linked internal-external blog between corporate human resources, recruiters, and maybe corporate communication so everybody can stop arguing about budgets and work together for a change.

Or what about (fill in the blank)? Give me a company to evaluate and I'll be happy to consult on how they might best apply this amazing 5-in-1 tool. For some folks, I'll even tell them how to potentially earn bucks on their blog. It's not that difficult, er, well, maybe for some people...

I suppose that is the real question. Why aren't communication-related people getting it? Because for years and years, they have created mini-ecosystems where marketing, advertising, public relations, investor relations, internal communication, government affairs, community relations, and half a dozen other supposed specialties are so segregated that they are all fighting over the same limited, and perhaps shrinking, budget.

Simply put, the people who will win in the years ahead are pragmatic generalists who see strategic communication as the means to shape a corporate message based on the company's business model and then deliver that message by perhaps overseeing those various specialists who have grown too comfortable in their roles as tacticians and fooled themselves into believing departments should jockey for leadership in order to have more influence over the real strategies of a company.

In the future, I will hazard a guess that the communication industry (as I call it) will not consist of designers, copywriters, public relations specialists, etc. but rather communicators because that is, and has always been, the real function of the job.

If you need real evidence that these titles are getting in the way of progress, take a hard look at how social media is being developed. It's apparent with different sub-industry people trying to apply this 5-in-1 tool to their specific sub-niche without looking outside their own area of speciality, leaving CEOs confused, unconvinced, and wary about missing the bus.

Maybe they would not miss the bus if more communication specialists would stop trying to make companies conform to a tool, but rather make the tool work for the company. If you ask me, if anyone starts to do it right, then social media might actually produce tangible results or, better yet, ROI. If not, we're going to be wallowing in discussions about whether social media is worth it or not for the next decade.

Okay. Sorry for the interruption, you can all go back to the important task of twittering. I have a meeting to go to on this very subject.



Debbie Weil on 3/26/07, 9:21 AM said...

I love your 5-in-1 tool concept for blogging.

Rich on 3/26/07, 11:31 AM said...

Thank you Debbie.

I've been looking around at a lot of "blogs about blogging" lately, and became a new fan of yours.



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