By Nathan Rudyk
(Update: This post prompted an interview on national business television on the Business News Network (BNN). Effective business blogging works! Check it out!)
Most of the Web sites we’ve built or contributed to in the last three years have included a business blog. CEOs of even the smallest knowledge-based businesses instinctively understand that their marketing communications mix is incomplete without a blogging program. That said, many blogging efforts flail, or outright fail after just a few months. How do you skip the pain and get to the gain? Here are some thoughts based on the market2world team’s experience building business blogging efforts that succeed – and a bit of desperate housewives lingo you can try out at your next company blogging meeting to spice up what might otherwise be an all-work/no-fun gathering.
Installing a blogging infrastructure is no sweat, provided you're wearing a revealing cotton number, and are using a technology platform that is hosted/requires little to zero I.T. involvment. We were partial to WordPress a couple of years ago (too light), have also built sites in using Awareness and Joomla (often too heavy), and now favour SquareSpace (just right) for most clients.
SquareSpace can either be a must-have fashion accessory to an existing Web site or better yet, if you are replacing an older, cougar-esque Web site to stop wasting time on HTML coding, it serves as a lo-calorie, inexpensive Web publishing platform that can carry your Web site as well as blogging content while your abs magically flatten. Then anyone in the company can update the site with zero coding knowledge, and of course, flatter abs.
The sweat in business blogging comes from content creation. Think team. Think Girl's Martini Night. It has to be fun. What doesn’t work is to pin one person as the “company blogger” and expect her to carry the can by blogging once or more a month on top of existing job responsibilities. With this approach the blog typically looks like a bikini-unfriendly site three or four months later, even with the best Web surgeons on the payroll.
We recommend striking a “blogging team”, including someone from the exec team (VP or above) to help establish topic areas each team member could cover, provide motivation-by-example (throw a meeting featuring whole grain crust pizza and salad followed by a round of smoothies, in place of martinis perhaps ...), and set schedules with attached carrots or sticks (free botox, shoe-shopping bans – whatever works for your situation).
If that all sounds too onerous, stop reading. If you’re still interested, here are the business reasons to blog:
- Higher search engine rankings
- Stronger thought leader leadership position
- A mojo injection with employees, customers and other stakeholders
- Better media desirability
Higher search engine rankings
For many tech companies, your brand is whatever google says it is. Due to market2world’s business blogging effort, as of this writing we appear in the top three Google natural (versus paid) search rankings in the world based on the keywords “high tech PR”, number one in the world on “cleantech pr”, and reflecting our Canadian client bias, number one and two in the world on “tech pr Canada”.
Stronger thought leadership
According to a 2008 TechWeb Research Report cited in a recent blog post by my colleague Jill McCubbin:
- Usage of blogs among IT and Corporate decision makers has increased 27% in the last year
- Executive IT Management (63%), IT Management and Staff (65%), and Corporate Management (64%) are all equally likely to use blogs for information to help them do their job
- 54% of blog users went to a vendor site for more info about product or service after reading a blog post
A business blogging effort provides you with an essential communications channel that the technology industry is increasingly consulting and acting on. By all means start there, but by no means stop at the nuts and bolts of getting across product or services offerings. Business blogging is a fabulous way to establish a thought leadership position, as Marketcircle's CEO Alykhan Jetha did last summer when he followed our advice to align his company with first Microsoft's, then Apple's news cycles.
Prior to the iPhone's official 2007 launch date - no doubt panicked that a million people had laid their money down without so much as touching the device, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer engaged in a concerted anti-iPhone FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) campaign. Like most of the Apple community, AJ was outraged, and we urged him to channel that into his blog. Based on the enthusiastic comments it garnered, we thought AJ's post was good enough to warrant its own press release. The release got picked up around the world by both mainstream media and bloggers alike - what we now call the "blogger boomerang effect".
Then we kept going. Taking on Microsoft inspired one of AJ's developers to spend a weekend writing a Web simulator of the iPhone called iPhoney. At the peak of Apple's hype cycle when people were LUSTING after the iPhone, we gave them the next-best-thing with the iPhoney simulator. We contacted as many Mac bloggers as we could in the few days we had before the iPhone launched, then sent the news out to mainstream media. The results were astounding.
Within weeks there were more than 145,000 Google search results tracking worldwide blog and mainstream media press hits for iPhoney, with tens of thousands of them leading back to Marketcircle. AJ instructed his dev team to release the project to Open Source, and iPhoney continues to create leads for Marketcircle as developers around the world translate it into different languages, download and use it to test their Web sites on this HTML version of the iPhone. Even the most desperate housewife will appreciate this kind of action.
A mojo injection to the communities that matter
Either you have mojo, or you don’t. If you don’t, you know it’s harder to get dates. Much harder. Every company has several communities that matter, and that need to know or believe more to accelerate your business. There are reseller partners who need the rapidly evolving inside track on your value proposition based on your last successful sale. Employees who need to know their management team members are inspiring human beings with a true passion for the business versus a bunch of overpaid stuffed suits. And customers or other stakeholders who want to be assured that they've banked on a winner.
A great example of a client who bottled some essential mojo in his blog is Mike Darch, Executive Director, Global Marketing for OCRI (Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation). On a week-long economic development mission to China and Hong Kong this Spring, Mike blogged nearly every day, and included digital photos of the people he met and places he'd been while he systematically knocked down the myth that China's an inaccessible or somehow immature market for Ottawa's 1800 technology companies.
The 100 or so people back at Mike's OCRI office were able to follow his progress as it happened versus trying to pin him down at the water cooler for a rushed between-meetings version after the fact. Employees from companies that accompanied Mike on the trip and government bureaucrats that paid the tab were also able to follow Mike's Asian delegation as they did their work. Now several months later Mike's posts, and the knowledge he imparted in them, are a vital, in-the-moment archive of a successful economic development effort. Mike’s mojo is off the charts.
Better media desirability
As well as better search engine rankings, thought leadership, the je ne sais quoi of corporate mojo, an effective business blogging effort makes company executives and product/services offerings more desirable and accessible to both mainstream media and other bloggers. Desirable and accessible is the desperate housewife mantra, is it not?
In preparation for GO EXPO 2007, an important oil and gas industry trade show, the sales and marketing team at dominKnow Inc. worked with market2world communications to develop a “conversation strategy” to help gain media visibility in the burgeoning oil and gas industry. The strategy focused on twinning blogging with traditional PR outreach to create dialogue about dominKnow’s e-learning software and services with prospects, journalists, bloggers and industry experts.
To get the conversation started, Chris Van Wingerden, dominKnow’s Vice President of Training Services, began a series of blogs on the labour shortage in the oil industry and how e-learning could help solve the problem. Within a week of Chris’s first blog entry, dominKnow was — you guessed it — ranked at the very top of Google searches for many important keywords related to e-learning and the oil and gas industry.
In conjunction with Chris’s blog entries, market2world executed a PR campaign with the same clear messaging on e-learning and the oil and gas industry — which resulted in major press hits including a television spot on the Business News Network (BNN), a podcast interview on Everything Oil and Gas and several trade press hits in publications such as the Oil and Gas Magazine. In all cases we directed media to Chris's blog posts, and in all cases reporters and producers thanked us for the insights and learning industry observations on training challenges in the oil patch that could never been contained in a typical two-page press release. Those press hits validate dominKnow as an important player in what last year was a new vertical for the company.
This year Chris is going back to Canada's oil patch where we'll announce a very exciting new partnership for dominKnow, but this time, he's flying into Alberta as an industry player with established media connections. And yes, he'll be blogging, in a most desirable, accessible way.
To wrap up what has become a rather long post, I'm going to invoke some more desperate housewives lingo that might cut through in a meeting where you're trying to initiate or improve a business blogging effort. Doing it right will, guaranteed, make your Google rankings HOT, your thought leadership HARD, your corporate mojo MASSIVE, and your media desirability clock in at ELEVEN. What desperate housewife, or tech company CEO, doesn't want that? Blog on!
(Nathan Rudyk is President and CEO of market2world communications inc., Canada's tech PR and product launch agency.)