Friday, March 07, 2008

Corporate Blog Lessons

I got a question from Gabor the other day about my experiences in using blogs as part of a communications strategy. Here is my response. Looking forward to G kicking off his own blog now...

Blogs as a communication tool – the key thing is that they are a direct two-way conversation between you and your audience. You have no control over who will read or over who will interact with you but you can influence it.

1. Have a clear purpose – my purpose when I initially kicked this off was to find a way to reach a broad range of internal Telecom people and get them excited about the possibility of new ways of working that had the customer at their heart. When I've moved from this, I haven't had much traffic.

2. Make it personal – this is not about the company line. It is about the individual engaging in a direct conversation with an audience. So have some emotion, make it personal to you.

3. Invite comments – encourage it. The best blogs I read always end with an open question. It’s a skill I am still developing. Listen to the comments and respond. Interestingly most of my feedback is to my face rather than comments published. I think there is a culture where it’s not ok to say you read this stuff. Frankly I’d rather know that people think I am full of sh*t rather than just assume it.

4. Be genuine – no spin, no edits, no censorship. The person whose name it’s under should be the author. Don’t have it ghost-written. Only moderate spam and abuse.

5. It’s not all lollipops – having an open public conversation means that there are going to be some unhappy people. So to that end
a. Be selective about what you talk about – some stuff just isn’t cool – and you have to be use your judgement. Remember what you post is there forever. So no trade secrets or personal attacks. Keep other people’s identities anonymous unless they are ok with it. I think it’s ok to reflect on your part in a difficult work relationship – that’s not a widely held view.
b. Be prepared for negative responses – best case they are posted and you can engage in a conversation, worst case they are behind your back and you find out you’ve been reviewed without your knowledge as part of your performance.
c. Ideally have the concept signed off by your internal comms people – and make them aware that there will be negative reactions and that is totally ok. I didn't do this which caused some angst.

7. Build a rhythm – publish frequently and invest the time to do this. The best publish daily. Some political bloggers are on every hour. Frequency builds repeat visits and encourages people to comment as well.

8. Check your analytics – I use google analytics – I can see which stories get hit, from which networks and can tailor what I am talking about to suit. I can also see the dross stories so I know never to comment on Australian / NZ political stories with links to genetic engineering because even though I thought it was funny no-one who reads the blog does. And had nothing to do with my purpose but that leads to…

9. Experiment ! It’s ok to throw some variation in there – you can see if there are broader areas you can expand talking with your audience about.

10. Participate in the broader conversation – read other blogs, link to your sources, comment on other blogs. Paul Brislen at Vodafone does this really well – he promotes what Vodafone is up to, writes his personal blog and actively engages in conversations where people are complaining about Vodafone. It means customers are being heard and they like it – first step to a long lasting relationship.

So – blogs are for talking with your audience, not talking to your audience. If you want to control what your customers think and publish only good news stories it’s not for you. Do not do this if you think it’s cool or a new way to influence people and you’re not going to genuinely engage with them.

If you want to genuinely engage and take negative as well as positive feedback, then it’s a great tool.

Lance also has some great thoughts on this subject which I wrote about earlier.

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