The Rise of Corporate Blogging
Company websites need to be updated constantly to keep people coming back, and corporate blogging has become one popular way to hook them. "It offers a platform to show thought leadership and communicate views on industry issues," said Hoffman Agency CEO Lou Hoffman. "More than one-way communications, these views can trigger dialog across a company's ecosystem."
08/03/12 5:00 AM PT
When Google withdrew from China, it didn't send out a press release or hold a press conference. Instead, it announced the news on its corporate blog. This move proved to be a "milestone event for corporate blogging," said Lou Hoffman, CEO of The Hoffman Agency.
"Even though the Google corporate blog mainly covers Google-centric issues, they offer fresh takes and stay away from cheerleading," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Also, the writing is often in the first person, which gives the posts a personal touch."
Blogs aren't just an option for corporations -- they're increasingly a necessity, according to Paul Salvaggio, director of marketing services and technology for Backbone Media.
"Corporate blogging should be the foundation of any content marketing strategy," he told the E-Commerce Times. "When done right, corporate blogging enables customers and potential customers to engage with your brand much more effectively than traditional marketing channels. Such engagement at the top of the funnel has a greater impact farther down."
Blogging also gives business leaders a chance to showcase their thoughts and ideas.
"It offers a platform to show thought leadership and communicate views on industry issues," said Hoffman. "More than one-way communications, these views can trigger dialog across a company's ecosystem. The end result is people perceive the company as smart, engaged and plugged into the community."
Blogging also benefits the company as a whole, he argued.
"On the intangible side, corporate blogging puts a face on a company," Hoffman said. "By sharing information about the person or people contributing to the blog, the outside world gets reminded there are real human beings at the other end of the transaction. As the blogger or bloggers develop their voice, there's the opportunity to show a company's personality."
Finally, through incorporating SEO strategies, corporate blogging can attract eyeballs, he pointed out.
"By developing a keyword taxonomy that complements the SEO strategy of the main website, you can bring incremental yet relevant traffic to the site," Hoffman explained.
Blogging That Works
Effective corporate blogs must offer as much value to readers as they do to the company itself, said Salvaggio.
"The effective corporate blog has one central goal -- to connect with the target audience's interests, needs and pain points," he noted. "If you can achieve that, you'll end up engaging with your audience and finding a loyal readership."
Blogs need to focus beyond the organization's perimeter, suggested Hoffman.
"Another key to success comes down to me-versus-you," he said. "A corporate blog should emphasize an outward perspective as opposed to writing company-centric posts."
Blogs should be updated at least twice a week and be run like any other outward-facing media, Hoffman recommended, with an editorial schedule that includes both planned topics and has the flexibility to cover breaking news.
Think of blogs as a conversation, Salvaggio advised.
"The effective corporate blog does not need to be a complete information resource," he said. "Rather, it should jump-start the conversation and spark an interest in the subject matter and your brand. Ultimately, it should serve as a key lead generator and a gateway to long-term client/customer relationships."
"The content should be shareable," Schaefer told the E-Commerce Times. "It doesn't do a company much good if the content is not ignited in a way that gets it to move through the Internet. So you need a network strategy as well as a content strategy."
For all of their potential positives, corporate blogs do come with some dangers. Chief among these is that out of concern over endangering the brand, they can become too plain and fail to engage a wide audience, according to Hoffman.
"By the time the brand police are done squeezing, the blogger sounds vanilla, which defeats the purpose of the blog," he said.
The content of a blog must be as engaging as any mainstream media site's, Hoffman observed.
"Many companies think the middle of road is the safe ground, when just the opposite is true," he said. "People go to corporate blogs because they want to hear opinions and get a different slant on the world. The middle of the road is dull. Given a choice between dull and entertaining, people will choose entertaining every time."
Part of creating effective content involves choosing -- or training -- an effective blogger.
"Just because someone is a brilliant thinker doesn't automatically mean the person will be a brilliant blogger," said Hoffman. "Companies should provide training to their staff contributing to a corporate blog."
Companies must avoid merely rewording press releases, aiming instead for an engaging voice, Schaefer emphasized.
"The hardest thing for a company to accomplish is creating a personal, human voice on a blog," he said. "There is a strong tendency to broadcast press releases and sell, because that is what they have been conditioned to do for decades."
Starting and maintaining a blog, though, is worth the effort in the long run, Schaefer maintained.
"There is only so much you can accomplish with a tweet or a status update," he pointed out. "The rich content of blogs is really the engine that drives most social media strategies."