Should we have multiple company bloggers?

It takes a lot of work to have a company blog and your approach is not a decision to be taken lightly.  Your blogging strategy will have a powerful impact on the direction of your entire social media effort.

Some of the best blogs in the world have evolved to support a number of corporate strategies.  And that’s where you need to start — assess the strategy, resources. culture, and capabilities of your company.  It’s almost trite to say “start with strategy” but it is ESSENTIAL and will save you a lot of pain later.  Let’s look at the implications of this decision by comparing three different corporate blogging strategies:

The multiple blogger strategy

A team of bloggers contributes content, with or without attribution.

Advantages

  • This is the most common approach because it fits well with traditional organizational structures, i.e. “the blog is run by our PR team.” So it’s usually the easiest route to success … and there is something to be said for that.
  • This strategy can also shine a light on the many voices and talents in your company. MLT Creative does a superb job of this, providing a blog that examines inbound marketing, research, and creative strategy by highlighting various experts on their team.
  • Multiple bloggers also distributes the workload and provides the best opportunity for frequent, consistent content.

Disadvantages

  • When you start a blog, all these people in the company will say “Oh yeah, I’ll contribute once a month.” They are big, fat liars.
  • Managing many moving parts and a content plan can be very complicated.
  • Being wedded to a schedule may make you inherently less flexible and responsive to external opportunities.
  • I have rarely seen a corporate blog with multiple bloggers that has been able to establish a real community.

The single blogger strategy

One person is the “face of the company.”

Advantages

  • If you have a company executive who is a natural communicator and voice of authority, it may represent a unique opportunity to differentiate your brand. What customer would not love getting a first-hand view from a well-known executive?  Bill Marriott blogs for his hotel chain. That is an advantage no other hotel brand can touch.
  • If your goal is to humanize your brand and create customer dialogue, your best bet is to have a dedicated blogger.  People want to connect and converse with a real person.  It is difficult to ask a question or comment when the author is not even identified.
  • It’s easier for a single person to develop a blogging voice and competency than an entire team.
  • Having a single point of responsibility is the most flexible and responsive situation that takes advantage of the rapid and real-time nature of the social web. It also assures that the job is going to get done.

Disadvantages

  • It may be risky putting all your eggs in one blogging basket.  What happens when your celebrity blogger leaves?
  • Funding a dedicated blogger may be impractical for most companies.
  • It may limit the scope and variety of content you deliver.

Hybrid approaches

Multiple, single bloggers — IBM has more than 50 blogs featuring individual superstar scientists and engineers. It is the best of both worlds since it features multiple voices but also creates emotional bonds with individuals.

Blogs segmented by market — An emerging best practice is to have multiple company blogs aimed at different demographics. These may use a combination of individuals and teams depending on the market.

Turn the blog over to stakeholders — Patagonia, Starbucks, and Fiskars famously use customers as their bloggers. This can create compelling content, external validation for your brand message, and a great opportunity for engagement.

The {grow} model — That would be me.  I offer a variety of content options in a format that could also be adopted by larger and more complex companies.  Here is my mix:

  • As the primary blogger, I establish a voice of authority and an emotional connection with readers that enables community.
  • I have several regular, paid contributors who provide diverse points of view.
  • I try to mix it up with guest posts from community members, videos, and cartoons to provide different types of entertaining content and a consistent publishing schedule.

Of course there are lots of other options and approaches and I’d love to hear your take on this in the comment section. What’s working, or not working, for you?

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting point;  “I have rarely seen a corporate blog with multiple bloggers that has been able to establish a real community.” 

    I think many times that companies are only blogging for the content creation for SEO benefit to their parent web site, and forget about the connections that can be made through the blog following

  • Why not give incentives for the “Best Blog of the Month”? Or, give incentives for the “Blog That Generates the Most Visitors”? Turn that disadvantage of multiple corporate bloggers into an advantage.

  • That might be a valid objective, or a step on the path toward social business. It’s not easy to transform culture! 

  • An interesting idea but I think it mught drive some wacky behaviors! : )   The authentic thing that drives comments is emotional connection with the author and the subject. Thanks Ryan!

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  • I think many of the disadvantages of a multiple bloggers strategy can be overcome:

    * Even though a blog features multiple bloggers, it can still be organized internally through a single point of contact, much like {grow}, actually, but with a less visible external main voice.

    * I’m not convinced that a blog should have regular posting schedule. Sure, a blog needs attention, but the target schedule could be set to a minimum level, say, one or two posts a week. This way, it is easy to respond to current events by making a third post on some weeks, for example. Same, if the contributors actually manage to contribute more than expected: just publish more posts.

    * I am a strong believer in attribution. A multi-author blog should clearly announce who wrote each post. This makes it a conversation instead of a talking logo. Perhaps it helps with community building too?

    * An additional advantage: a multi-author blog is a low-commitment way for any individuals within the organization to try out blogging. If they find out that they really like it and are able to find the time, the company can hook them up with their own single author blog!

    The last point brings up an important idea: I don’t think a company should set up a blogging strategy along the lines of “We’ll run a multi-author blog.” Instead, the blogging strategy should be flexible, and include the procedures for adding and retiring blogs as needs and personnel change. I’m obviously thinking mid-sized or large companies here, for a small company or an individual entrepreneur the framework for supporting multiple blogs may not be that relevant.

    As you might guess from the above, I think a multi-author blog can be an important cornerstone of most blogging strategies.

  • All good points and certainly the way to go for most companies. Thanks for the outstanding comment!

  • I think it is tough for a company to coordinate their blogging activities with so many writers. Not many can manage it as successful as IBM or Dell. Perhaps companies should start by rounding up employees that are blog-literate and have them share ideas / thoughts. Having an open policy may help employees to open up to sharing on the company blog, too. The key should always be ownership, as long as the employees do not take ownership of blogging, they company should look into ways to instill ownership before blogging.

  • “They are big fat liars.” — Cracked me up because it is so true! I am guilty for sure, except I’ve lied to myself about how many blogs I can contribute to my *own* company blog. 🙂 Luckily I have a business partner, so the right mix for us (thus far) has been to toggle back and forth between the two of us. The pros are that neither of us bears the brunt of the pressure to deliver and because it’s just the two of us, we’re able to build a community, the cons are that it is still an aggressive schedule! 

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mixing it up a bit with some guest posts, videos, etc… I really love this blog — it is the only one I read every day — and I’ve enjoyed the guest posts, cartoons and videos that pop up from time to time. I think you’ve got a pretty good mix here. 

  • Absolutely. That is a heat observation Jan. All interested emplyees should have a chance to be involved. Tap into that passion!

  • It’s a constant experiment. It’s hard to get real feedback. Big difference between comments and feedback if know what I mean : )

  •  I’d much rather have a single member of staff taking care of the blog, bringing a sense of personality, than the corporate cheese of multiple bloggers blogging in a very neutral corporate tone. 

    A lot of the business blogs that have multiple authors I’ve come across are just to bland because no one is allowed to shine.

    A business blog is not just Press Releases 2.0, as any member of the Grow community will know.  So I’m all for personality, individuality and engaging content. If you can only get that with a single blogger, go that way. If it works with a group, that’s fine too. Just look at the big picture of how great your content really is.

  • Mark, Thanks for mentioning the MLT Creative “B2B Ideas @ Work” blog in this post. I’ve read the comments so far and it looks like there are differing opinions on whether to blog as a group or to build a blog upon an individual’s voice. The winning side of the debate may depend upon a company’s available resources and yes, strategy. In most cases, I think both sides willl agree that either approach is better than no blog at all.

    Speaking on behalf of our blog, we have decided to mix it up and have multiple people contribute. We have an assigned leader in Martine Hunter, our Creative Director of Inbound Marketing, a research and behavior specialist in Vann Morris and the rest of us contribute on various aspects of B2B Marketing. We try to make our content interesting to a variety of personas – from the CMO to the management and staff of any business-to-business marketing department.

    Although we may lose some consistentcy of voice, we do try to follow a set strategy and schedule and we try to achieve a good balance of quality and quantity of content. I also enjoy seeing a special contribution from those within the agency that aren’t frequent contributors because it engages more of our team in our blog.

    We aren’t nearly as progessive with our experiments as you are with {grow} but we do try different things and hope to continue with more variety. I’d like to have more guest blogs, more video, more case studies and more interviews for example.

    We’re working on it! Thanks again for the mention Mark. And thanks for boldly going where no blogger has gone before as often as you do.

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  • As I mentioned, I think you are handling it as well as anybody. Somehow, you have also been able to attract a lot of really good writers to your team. Is that luck or something you keep in mind during the hiring process?

  • I agree that from a management standpoint, it is MUCH easier that way, especially if you can evolve to a hybrid approach.  Great comment Jon!

  • Thanks Mark.  We are inherently fortunate in the type of talent we have on staff. Since we are a marketing agency it’s expected of us to have a good deal of creative talent but the ability to write is highly prized for sure.

    I think our secret weapon may be the fact we have a skilled editor for our blog submissions that helps free our various writers to be more free-form with their ideas.

    I suggest that if an individual or team doesn’t have a talented editor on staff, that it is smart to find one to either hire or contract with. 

  • Our company blog actually has 6 different contributing authors and 5 different categories for 5 working days of the week. We have a set editorial calendar and we haven’t had one person slack or miss their blogging deadline. Somehow it works for us here at Tribe, however, I really like the idea about guest posts. My question is this: why is it that you rarely see corporate blogs with multiple contributors fail to establish a real community? Is it because of the writing style? The difference in tone? 

  • Mark, My team and I started a corporate blog with multiple authors. We operate with the premise that authors drive the content/POV in their voice, and under their names.  We have a flexible editorial approach that lives broadly within networking technologies. 

    We provide both editorial “services” and an ambassador development program that helps authors focus on creating ideas that matter, provides them practical SoMe training that encourages them to connect on and off-blog – and become part of communities. We think these are important steps to becoming a social business – are about 10 months, and are really excited at the progress we’ve made and the wisdom to know we’re always a work in progress.

  • With the multiple blogger approach, is it generally better to assign out topics, or should one look to the bloggers themselves to generate ideas? Maybe it needs to be a hybrid of both…

  • Here’s an idea.  Have each blogger write out the headlines of the first 25 blog posts they want to write. Make them really reach.  Then compare the lists.  Is there a theme?  Is that theme aligned with the company strategy, or is there a potential problem.

    One thing for sure is that you want to encourage people to express themselves in an authentic and passionate way. Can that happen and the effort stays congruent with the mission of the company?  Better to have that discussion before you start.  That way, the employees are involved and can help you work through the strategy too.

  • The answer is simple.  Community is built on emotional connection. Emotional connection is built on trust.  It’s hard to build an emotional connection and trust with a revolving door of writers.

    Here’s a vivid example of this in action.  Last summer I went on vacation for two weeks and turned the blog over to an amzing group of community members. All are outstanding thinkers and writers.  During the time I was gone, The blog traffic dropped by half and blog comments by about two-thirds.

    When I got back, one comment wrote, “the guest bloggers were great, but they WEREN’T YOU! I come here for you.”  That sums up the problem.  Like I said, I would be hard-pressed to name a blog that has established a consistent and engaged community with multiple writers.

  • That is interesting.  I like that approach.

  • Wow, that really sounds like a model program Bill. Congratulations on this wonderful progress!

  • Yeah, I do know what you mean. Still, if the comments are all “great post….” and not contributing or participating, then you’d probably do well to tweak your delivery. The best posts (on any blog) are the ones that really get people talking — not just with you but also with each other. I love when that happens on here. 🙂 

    Our blog’s mission has always been to be more educational — to answer the questions we get all the time from customers using Online PR Media. Still, that can get stagnant and boring over time. Your blog has definitely inspired us to inject more personality and opinion into ours. So thanks. I think! LOL We’ll see….. 

  • I think a light bulb just went off in my head. I need to share it with my team! Thanks, Mark! 

  • This is what I am going for – Shine a light on the many voices and talents in your company. We have a great Pulse Analytics product, but I never want to lose sight of what brought us to the dance: Software development prowess. I hope to run blog/video series with our best developers, project managers, testers and business intelligence folks who happen to be leaders in their field.
    I just gotta get started rounding up the troops ;). Thanks for expediting me while you were in Denver.

  • You have SO MUCH potential here!  Excited to see how you move forward Brian!  Thanks again for meeting me in Denver.

  • My job is finished here. Love them light bulbs. : )

  • Wow, you made my day!  Seriously. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Your next interview by an executive recruiter will go like this:

    Recruiter: Do you blog?

    You: Yes

    Recruiter: Good

    Recruiter: How many readers per month do you have?

    You: 10k

    Recruiter: Can you get that up?

    You: I can try.

    Recruiter: What’s your Klout?

    You: 70

    Recruiter: Actually, my assistant checked that and you’re at 65.

    You: Duh! I was on vacation.

    Recruiter: Can you get that up by next week?

    You: I have no experience in the jet propulsion industry. Is that a problem?

    Recruiter: That’s not a problem as long as your Klout score gets back to 70.

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  • Anonymous

    Good gosh – late to the party, but a very timely post as I work on my company’s marketing plan/strategies (can you say “iterative”?)

    We have a blog. The company’s blog strategy has been “owned” by our research/practioner team. I’m new to our company, and am walking that fine internal culture line between “we know what our blog is/does” and being a change agent to drive more content creation relevant to decision-makers in our audience. That translates as changing the mix from “best practices, tips, and checklists,” to adding the information those with budget authority need.

    I suspect I will become “the voice of the business stakeholder” in this process; but how does a mild-mannered “jack of all trades” marketer like me become a reliable, trustworthy voice for those with significantly different roles and responsibilities? (Ideally, our customer stakeholders would be guest bloggers, but that is an area off-limits for now.)

    *sigh*
    Mark, I’d welcome your thoughts on this.

  • Anonymous

    Another quasi-hybrid approach is to have one writer/ghostwriter drafting each blog post for the company, but posting as various colleagues within the company. This approach shines a light on the “many voices and talents” in your company while developing one identity that people can connect/converse with. This may not be the best, most transparent approach for some companies, but it’s another creative option. 

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