People are now researching corporate blogs: what makes them effective, how to do it, etc. Answering someone else's questions on this helped me get clarity on my own thinking. [Children and coaches excel at this, but I made do with a survey.]
Corporate blogs are an interesting phenomenon not because they are blogs, but because of the characteristics of the communication:
- Uses a personal, not a corporate voice
- Shares information in a way that feels more like a conversation than a brochure. Stories, personal insights, and opinions, not just factoids
- If successful, are as much about the reader as the writer -- not unlike being a successful newspaper columnist. The best blogs are interesting in their own right.
- Characterized by honesty and authenticity -- both attributes that are often seen as lacking in corporate communication and marketing generally
Do you need to have a blog to have authentic communication?
No, of course not. You do need to have a culture that is comfortable with these characteristics, however. Consider the differences between Ikea and most financial institutions. Ikea's communications feel authentic, but I don't think they have a blog. On the other hand, they have so many raving fans that blog about them, perhaps they don't need a blog of their own.
There is a real risk of damage to a brand if a corporate blog is not well handled. Most of my clients are financial services related, and these corporations are characterized by high degrees of centralized control over communications. However, they could still have successful blogs. My suggestions would be these:
- Find a topic area that has enough content to stay fresh. You really need at least one new post weekly.
- Find an individual who enjoys writing and speaking and already does some of this in their role at work. If they are representing the company, they need to be someone who could give a media interview without asking permission, and senior enough that they can use good judgement in how they handle a topic.
- Writing takes time. You can't just add it on to someone's current to-do list.
Regardless of whether you have a corporate blog or not, you still need a blog policy to cover the employees that might want to have blogs of their own -- unofficial ones. There are lots of good ones around online that could get you started.
Honest communication and transparency are the critical elements in corporate blogging, not the format of the communication. Authenticity and transparency are becoming increasingly important to business and brands, and corporate marketing generally, and blogs tend to be good places to express these concepts. But you don't need a blog to have authenticity.