At a recent digital marketing conference, I met an online marketing director for a B-to-B company. She was sold on the value of blogging, and even had a company blog — hooray! Her complaint was that she couldn’t get people at her company to blog, and when they did, they wouldn’t write about what she wanted.
“What do you want them to write about,” I asked. “The company, the product and what it does,” she answered. Aha, I thought, there’s the problem.
There is no better way to make your blog tedious, redundant, self-defeating and finite than to make it about your company and your products.
Blogs give anyone the opportunity to publish what they want, whenever they want. Many businesses see this as an unlimited opportunity for pushing out their message and they turn their blog into a company cheerleading channel. No one wants to read that. It’s like being cornered at a business mixer by some overzealous salesperson that can’t stop talking about their product. Totally tedious! Run for the exits!
If your company has a blog, you obviously have a website. That’s where you tell people about your company, the product or service and what it does. Chances are, you’ve also got a plethora of other marketing collateral and programs. Making your blog into yet another platform for pushing your marketing messages is redundant.
It is also a missed opportunity.
Blogs, with their potential for interaction and sharing, are a social medium. They present an unmatched opportunity for your company to make friends and influence people by sharing industry knowledge, alerting people to new ideas, weighing in on best practices, exploring industry trends and providing useful advice. If you are not blogging with this in mind, you are just creating more marketing collateral.
If you want to see good, effective blogging, no one does it better than the Moz blog. There you’ll find volumes of useful information on search engine optimization, social media and website management, contributed by hundreds of bloggers, with only a rare mention in passing of any of the company’s suite of SEO and social media tools. If the blog didn’t live on their website, you might not even know they had anything to sell. But because it does, it’s self-evident. No need to hit people over the head with it.
Whether you use or even like Moz’s tools, there’s no denying their stature as a trusted source for all things SEO. All that goodness accrues to their brand, creating raving fans and rabid loyalty. Turning your blog, and your bloggers, into corporate shills is will have the opposite effect and make your efforts self-defeating. No one trusts a shill.
Not only do you sacrifice trust, shilling makes your blog finite. You will run out of topics very quickly. How many new ways and people can you find to rake over the same material again and again? You will sap the energy and enthusiasm of your bloggers and make your blog feel stiff and forced.
Worse still, your blog will be unfit for social sharing—another missed opportunity. I just had this happen to me the other day: A client was invited to submit a guest post to the blog of a Fortune 500 company well known for investing heavily in social media. Score!
After responding to this nice overture, we editors agreed to study each other’s blogs and find posts to share or republish to our own blog sites. Since this company is a partner we are both interested in many of the same topics, so I expected to not only find several of their articles we could re-publish, but also some others that we could share with our followers on our social channels. Sadly, almost every post was so promotional there was nothing that was fit to either print or share.
My advice to my fellow trade show attendee and to other marketers struggling to feed the blog beast is this:
Make your blog informational, not promotional. Forget you have a product to sell. Pretend you don’t even work for your company. Pretend you are sitting at the dinner table with a favorite niece or nephew, or a friend who is up and coming in business. What wisdom and expertise do you have that could be helpful to them?
Give your bloggers those marching orders and some general editorial guidelines and then turn them loose. Let them write what they want. Keep in mind, good writing has passion and voice and that comes from writing about what you know and what you care about. Let them have a voice, let them experience their authentic thoughts being read and shared and discussed and they will come back for more.
Trust that anyone who is good at their job and talks to your customers, partners and prospects every day is in a position to know what is relevant to them. If there is a big disconnect between what your bloggers want to write and what marketing wants them to write, maybe it’s not the bloggers who are the problem.