It’s more than ideas. It’s more than marketing. Starting a corporate blog is a commitment and should be carefully thought-through before executing.

{grow} community member Tabatha Bourguignon told me she is starting a blog for her company, Sandy Bay Networks, and asked me about the steps to take to get started. Let’s all help her out, shall we?

The technology part of it — the right look, functionality and widgets — is not that big of deal when it comes to long-term success. You can make technology do anything you want, iterate and add widgets over time. However, you can’t make HUMANS do anything you want, and that is the most-overlooked  — and also the most important — aspect of starting a company blog from scratch. Let’s look at the practical political realties of building a company blog.

1) Assess the culture – Even if starting a blog is the RIGHT thing to do, it might not be the WISE thing to do if your company can’t sustain it. Are you built to blog?  I was working with a company that definitely could have used a blog and other social media tools to stand out, but the culture of the company (usually dictated by the person at the top) didn’t support it.  You and I are in the job of creating success with the cards we’re dealt, not wishing for another hand to play, so I moved on to other ideas. It is disastrous to try to implement plans that your company either can’t, or won’t, support at the top. If you have a resistant culutre, you need to re-trench and begin an education process, not dive into a kamikaze mission.

Another consideration is that company culture will set the tone of your blog. If you are buttoned-up and conservative, your blog will be too. If you’re customer-focused and passionate about your product, that will show through. So have a realistic expectation about the tone of the blog before going into it.

2) Align with strategy Blogging is a marketing function. There. I said it. Before all the PR folks jump down my throat (where did that phrase come from any way?) let me explain the rationale. Assuming you didn’t get a government bailout, companies must take money from customers to exist. There will be no media relations, no press releases, no employee newsletters if the money doesn’t flow. Marketing is responsible for bringing in more money, from more people, more often. Everything in the company directly, or indirectly, supports that. Including the blog. A blog is just another way to influence people to do something. What is that? What is the ultimate call to action? What is that blog driving for over time? If you can explain that, it will help you determine how you will …

3) Measure what you treasure – Well, you ARE going to measure aren’t you?  Of course you are. Without a measure of success, how would you know if you are doing better or worse? Or if you should spend more or less money on blogging? Or if you have the right people doing the blogging? Or if you are covering the right topics? Most important, when the budget axe falls some day in the future (and it will), and some outside cost-cutter visits your department and asks “what do you do?” you better have some charts to show how you are adding to stakeholder value on a daily basis.

4) Assess your resources– It’s time to get real.  You know all those people who are telling you they’re going to help you with the blog?  Don’t count on it! It sounds like a good idea but when it comes time to put pen to paper, many people can’t, or simply don’t deliver. What happens if key bloggers get too busy or don’t follow-through? What counter-measure do you have in place? If it’s not a compensated part of their job, it may not be reliable. How will you sustain the blog?

Also in the category of resources is assessing existing content that can be re-purposed. Get more bang for your marketing buck by using speeches, videos, slide presentations and marketing materials in your blog.

5) Look at the outside world. Talk to your customers and ask them what they would like to see on your blog. Just makes sense, but usually overlooked. What do your competitors offer? How are you going to be different?

6) Who’s in charge — The dreaded approval process is part of company life. Don’t fight it. Just make sure it is well understood before you start. You don’t want to start blogging and then have a whole new set of rules thrown at you.

7) Create a plan, then abandon it – Plot out your first 25 blog posts.  How does it align with strategy? Meet customer needs? Blend with management expectations? It’s a good idea to have some sort of a plan before you start, but don’t become too wedded to it. Don’t miss what is going on all around you and all the great story ideas flying at you every day!

Whew. That’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?  And I probably missed a bunch of ideas. Will you help make this a better post for everyone and all of eternity by adding your suggestions in the comment section? Thanks!

Thanks for the question Tabatha! Tabatha Bourguignon blogs at www.bantameant.blogspot.com and submitted this question through the recent B2B blogging webinar I provided through MLT Creative.

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