14 Steps To Your Business Blog

I had a discussion with a friend who works at a corporate communications department. Maybe blogging could be something for us, they said in a meeting, but they didn't know and they weren't sure how to dig deeper into the question. I gave him this list of 14 steps, and I figured it could be interesting here as well. They were thinking about external blogs and that obviously influences this list.

I could add a #0 too: Just do it. Never mind risks, lack of resources, communications strategies. Never mind what you are supposed to do in the blogosphere. It is a new world, a new communication era. And it seems quite easy to get a new job these days...

I'm not sure that would be totally wrong. A lot of good blogs have started that way. But here's the more traditional approach.

1. Start using RSS for news, jobs or press releases
Well, this you should do even if blogging isn't for you. But if you are going to blog you need to feel comfortable with this form of publishing - get used to the fact that you will have, hopefully, a lot of readers that never actually visits your site. For many with a background in traditional publishing (e.g. many communications directors...) this could be worrying.

2. Thoroughly study what a blog is
You have to know blogs to be able to decide on whether or not to start one. And not just "know" them as a reader of 5 or 10 different blogs. You should do rather extensive research. What are the distinctive features of blogs? What blogs are there in your business? What do you think the audience likes or dislikes about them?
With all this done you will still need to find your own tone and niche, and this will depend heavily on who the bloggers are. But you will know what it is like out there.

3. Be specific with purpose
Absolutely no one will be happy if you start a blog because you can. You need, as you would with all other communication channels, be very clear on the purpose.
"We will start a blog because..."
Just remember that a blog may fill other purposes than you are used to. A purpose like "some of our sales people want a less formal and sales focused forum to share their knowledge" is a brilliant start.

4. Ask yourself, do you really need a blog?
Why on earth would you want a blog? For the purpose above maybe a series of seminars would work just fine. If you have done your research and now know your goal, it is time to ask yourself if it's worth it. Do you have the culture of openness and honesty that blogging will demand from you? Are there any business risks, and are you prepared to take them?

5. Ask yourself, do we have the resources?
Just one word: Time.
(If you want more words on this one, see what Gerry McGovern has said about the disadvantages of blogs.)

6. Co-ordinate with other communication channels
Nothing strange here, you would never start a new channel without discussing and outlining its relationship with all the other things you do. If you are going to blog maybe the e-mail newsletter should reference the blog? Or be replaced by it?

7. Who's the blogger?
The Department of Corporate Communications does not blog. No organizational unit does. People working there do. You of course have to find people that wants to, that wishes nothing else but to, blog. In most real life cases I have seen this has actually been the starting point, and those people have been the advocates for the blog in the process we're talking about here.

8. Make a decision on all aspects, features of blogs
Will you allow comments? Will they be moderated by you? Is Trackback a feature to offer? What RSS versions? Atom, too? Categories or not? A blogroll, maybe?
Make sure you know what all these small peculiarities of blogs are and if you think they will help you.

And then you need to take some more important decisions. What will you write about and what is absolutely impossible to write about? Will you for example link to competitors? Tip: If you say no to this, start at #2 again...

9. Choose which tool to use
There's a lot of tools to compare, but if you have done #8 you know what to look for. I hope this will become a good source of information.

10. Create a blogging policy
Again, if you have done #8 you know what to put in this - you can get some guidance from others.

11. Make sure the blogger(s) know blogging
Blogging is a skill. Not a very unique one, but a skill. The blogger must first of all know how to write, and he or she should know how the blogosphere works.

12. Launch quietly
Ideas and fine plans is one thing. But how does it turn out? Are the enthusiastic bloggers good enough to be very visible representatives of your brand?
I recommend you start low-profile. You could even consider to start behind the firewall or with a password protected blog.

13. Start doing subtle PR
Don't issue a press release stating you have a blog. You wouldn't be the first to do it, but it never seems appropriate. There are other means.

14. Success or failure? Decide on the future of your blog
It doesn't take more than two or three months, from my experience, to find out if a blog is good enough to deliver results. Have you been linked to by other blogs? Is anyone commenting? Do you get feedback from your target group?
You also know how much resources the blog really demands by now, which means you have all the information you need to make a long term commitment.
Or just give it up.

Posted by Fredrik Wackå Thursday, September 16, 2004
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