Is your company built to blog?

Every company is getting into blogging it seems but somany people seem to be struggling with it   What would you guess the biggest problem is?

Not enough content?

Not enough budget and/or resources?

Poor writing skills?

No, not usually.  These are the obvious aspects of the care and feeding of a blog but many organizations overlook the ORGANIZATIONAL requirements to successfully execute a blogging strategy. Your company has to have the right culture to sustain a blog.

If your company blog is floundering, keep reading. You might see something familiar!  Some signs that you company may not be built to blog:

  • Corporate culture mis-match — You need to build your strategy around the realistic capabilities of your company culture.  As grandma used to say, you have to deal with what is, not what you wish for.  If your CEO simply is not going to blog, deal with it.  If he is not going to tweet, forget it.  Move on.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, you just have to adjust. Your culture is your culture. Your blog isn’t going to change it.  But your blog can probably conform to your situation and still have an impact.
  • Lack of executive sponsorship— On a related topic, if you’re counting on a “grassroots” effort to establish a company blog, you’re setting yourself up for problems.  To be successful in the long-term, you must have support from the top. Why? That’s the person with the purse strings and resources. That’s the person setting the strategy.  And if a blog doesn’t fit in the picture, you’re vulnerable. If you need to sell your boss on the concept, you might start here.
  • Lack of executive engagement — To really build community, you need your executives to be involved in the planning of content and engagement of your audience.  Some executives will relish this opportunity. Others will hate it. If your boss is in the second group, you need to lower expectations. I’m not saying executives actually have to blog … but they have to be involved.
  • Unwieldy politics. Every organization has politics.  But when everybody is trying to own a piece of your blog, watch out. If you find that Legal, HR and the janitorial staff demands to approve your blog, it might be a sign that your company is just not built to blog. Remember, the beauty of the social web is an ability to react.  Pages and pages of blogging and content guidelines might be a sign of trouble.
  • Unrealistic expectations — … and her brother “impatience.”  It takes time to connect and build an audience.  If your boss is making your employment contingent on the number of blog comments you get, it might be time to leave : )

Any of this sound familiar?  What are your experiences with corporate culture and blogging success?

Illustration: toothpastefordinner.com

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  • My experience is that internal blogs, say, operating as part of an intranet usually attract more attention within a company than if they’re public. Then you have to juggle all the egos, attitude, etc.

    Strangely, I’ve noticed that public blogs aimed at the company’s customers often don’t elicit the same kind of interest or response from within. That said, there’s often more pressure to deliver on comments, traffic, etc.

    Any corporate blogging initiative needs to have goals defined from the outset. Resources need to be in place to achieve these goals and there needs to be some kind of analysis in order to track the efficacy of your efforts.

  • Mark

    @ Jon — Agree, well said!

  • Great post…Rome wasn’t built in a day. Except in the mind of over achievers! Ok let me go read this blog to myself again. I might need to print it out and put it in my back pocket *wink*

  • Mark

    @Natasha … or hand it to your boss : )

  • Jenn Whinnem

    I’ve had some experience with internal corporate leadership blogs, and each of these is spot-on, especially the piece about culture. It’s so important to keep the culture in mind when defining what success for the blog looks like. For example, if someone defines success as receiving lots of comments, but the culture is closed and/or punitive, you’re probably not going to get those comments. If the company’s downsizing, very often employees will vent their frustrations on whatever channels are available, including the blog. Cognizance of the culture will help create realistic goals (to say nothing of blog topics!).

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  • Sometimes the biggest problem is that a blog isn’t the right solution for the prospective audience.

    I’m assuming we’re talking about customer-facing blogs here as well as the intranet ones that Jon and Jenn reference in their comments.

    I’m in the middle of a new biz pitch for a high-end wealth management firm. They want to get more “Web 2.0.” They’re not thinking crazy like twitter or anything, but the idea of a blog has crossed their radar.

    Though it might potentially mean a lovely recurring assignment for me, I can’t – in good conscience – recommend a blog as an appropriate strategy for their business. It doesn’t make sense for their audience. The bulk of the demographic we’re talking about probably doesn’t even know what a blog is, nevermind an RSS feed. Better, in this case, to go with an upscale email newsletter.

    To echo what Jon said, it’s critical to have goals for the blog (internal or external). Blogging for blogging’s sake is only permissable if you’re doing it just for fun … and most companies I know don’t do stuff just for fun.

    😉

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @ Jenn Excellent perspective. I personally don’t have much experience with internal blogs so this is a great contribution to the discussion. Yes, I think the same issues would apply.

    @Jamie Great leadership and good judgment on your part. But in a case like this I sometimes wonder if there is notan opportuniy to establish thought leadership by being the first in the competitive space with a blog? It does sound like the newsletter is the way to go at least in the short-term.

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  • Jen, thanks for sharing this.

    I agree with these comments but Deborah Drake did a nice guest post here why corporate blogs might fail in getting great content regularly.

    ==> http://commetrics.com/articles/blogging-best-practices-content-consistency-and-congruency/#comments

    In it she also suggests that it is difficult to get colleagues to come through on time with their blog posts.

    The comments suggest what can be done to make sure it happens.

  • @Mark – That and some light SEO benefits (I don’t ever see myself writing a blog that is strictly for SEO) were the original reasons behind potentially recommending a blog, but when we started working through the overall strategy (which involves on and offline tactics that are traditional, experiential, and social), I had the darndest time figuring out WHO would read the blog. As a blogger, I find few things more tragic than a blog with no audience, which is why we decided to shelve the suggestion … for now. Believe me, if I can figure a way to work it in to the client’s advantage later, I will! 😉
    Thanks for asking the question.

  • Mark

    Urs – Thanks for the contribution and for taking the time to comment.

    @Jamie — Sounds like a good strategy, but I would also suggest that every blog starts with no audience : )

    If you are going to develop the content for a newsletter any way, couldn’t you leverage that work on a blog too? Don’t see any risk in it and at least you get the SEO benefits, especially if the competition has nothing.

  • @Mark – You make a good point about having to start from somewhere. Leveraging the same content across a blog and newsletter is actually something we’re considering, so that might be our first baby step into blog land. There’s also a potential opportunity to localize the content (the bulk of their market is geographically constrained), which could provide ample opportunity for “digression” topics that would offset the heavier stuff. Could actually be fun – just need to measure the value against the other tactics we’ve got planned for the budget. You know how that goes, I’m sure! 😉
    Tks for the dialog on this today. Great to toss ideas around.

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  • Once again, great points. We have discussed blogging and I have cautioned that you can’t just blog to blog. There must be buy-in and commitment. I never put it in terms that the company must be built to blog. Nobody (except me) on the executive team is blogging, tweeting, or engaging anywhere on the web. We are just not built to blog.

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  • Our business hired me to take care of the blog. They’ve done a great job of not making me walk through a lot of red-tape to publish and initially execs gave me some concepts for blog fodder (…well for about two out of the 100+ posts I’ve written so far).

    The glass half full, after about a year of blogging, our leadership is figuring out that what I do for the company is more valuable than they anticipated. It’s (finally) starting to look like we’ll have active participation from others in the company aside from myself.

    Our company was only about halfway built to blog. After a lot of time and patience, I think we may be about there.

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