Friday, December 5

Keeping Clients Engaged: On Blogs

"Once you help a business start a blog, how can you teach the business to sustain it?"

This conversation seems to come up frequently enough. It has come up during my last couple of speaking engagements. Alan Weinkrantz asked it during Gylon Jackson's show. Lee Odden addressed it among five reasons business blogs fail. And Seth Godin included it in his e-book Flipping The Funnel.

"Faced with a semi-blank page, most people write stuff that is either boring, selfish, or indecipherable. Most bloggers quickly lose interest and their blogs wither away," says Godin. "But if you give people a template, you’ll discover that they can thrive. Give them a hole to fill, and fill it they will."

Godin's right, and it goes beyond blogging. Many employers and clients appreciate communicators who help them keep up on industry news and trends. (It's also a good practice, ensuring that we, as practitioners, look beyond the communication industry and invest time in the industry or industries we serve). In many cases, doing so will also provide the author or authors some fresh content to source, share, or offer up with an opinion. Of course, I also like and have employed Odden's idea to assign multiple authors to a business blog, thereby ensuring that no one person is tasked too much.

Every communication tactic deserves a contingency plan.

One contingency we've implemented successfully for several clients is to allow for one "generic" author account identified by "staff" or some other moniker. While it won't work for everyone (eg. it wouldn't work on this blog), it does work elsewhere.

A staff account allows for non-attributed postings, guest posts, or a communication specialist to write a post based on multiple sources within the company that is not clearly associated with anyone specific. Sometimes, such an account can even be used to help guide other company authors as they become familiar with communication or simply to ensure the company can maintain a consistent publishing date when no other posts are available.

The end result is a sustainable blog, primarily because this contingency prevents one missed week turning into two weeks and then three missed weeks from turning into "we haven't updated in so long, it's not worth saving." In fact, from what we've seen, it also removes any obligation from the client, making them much more inclined to contribute content without a set deadline.

I appreciate not everyone gets excited by the idea of "unattributed" postings. However, it seems to work well as a contingency or as an alternative when a definitive single author isn't warranted (eg. does the CEO really have to author a post about a workshop or a roundup of ten news articles?). Besides, while there is demonstrated value to helping some executives engage in social media, the set objective should never be to transform them into full-time "bloggers."

They have other responsibilities too.

3 comments:

Jay Ehret on 12/7/08, 6:20 AM said...

Rich, I think one of the keys to business blog sustainability begins at the birth of the blog. Is there at least one person at the business who is passionate about it and willing to schedule and commit time to write? If people aren't used to writing, it's difficult for them to get into the habit of writing consistently. One suggestion is to ask the business to write at least four blog posts before they even launch the blog.

terocious on 12/7/08, 10:21 AM said...

I think another reason folks become disenchanted with their business blogs is that they do not have a clear set of parameters as to what is ok to write about and what is not.

In the last several days I have been setting up a blog for my Home services business and I have decided that as a sole proprietor I am building my own brand. Therefore it seems to me that I can write about a pretty broad spectrum of topics because I am the connection between the client and the work. Just how broad remains to be seen and this whole theory will need testing out but I do know the one thing I do not want to do with my new blog is to box myself in. This post for me was timely as ever. Thanks Rich.

-Barry

P.S. One thing new business bloggers have going for them is that a blog in its early days does not yet have any type of following so they are free to tweak away at the thing live before they start promoting it to their clients. That's what I am doing. :-)

Rich on 12/8/08, 9:30 AM said...

@Jay

I would agree with that. Depending on the client, I've sometimes written those first four for them as sort of a benchmark or guide to get them started.

Writing consistently is a skill set. And writing on demand can be even more daunting for those not used to it.

@Barry

I agree with that as well Barry. For businesses especially, one has to consider the overall communication strategy and set some sort of parameters.

As this blog is connected to my company, I reign in my topics to communication, which is an especially broad topic. Most in my industry remain narrow, with the exception of those heavily entrenched in communication (they write about everything).

I think you're making a wise choice not to allow yourself to become too boxed in.

It's also interesting to me that you'll be inviting clients only after it's established as some businesses benefit mostly from existing clients on the front end. (I started this one the same, though I advise many to bring their clients with them first).

Keep me posted on your efforts.

All my best,
Rich

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