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Corporate Bloggers: Angels or Demons?

Posted on Oct 1st, 2008
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    Incorporating a company blog into your social media and marketing mix can be a tug of war, finding both supporters and defeaters within the organization.

    At the MIMA Summit (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association) this afternoon, I attended a session discussing the pros and cons, along with the challenges a corporate blogger must overcome to represent the company and still make a connection with the blogging community.

    Valeria Maltoni is a blogger at Conversation Agent and Director of Marketing Communications for SunGard. Valeria kicked off the session with a discussion around how an organization can get started with social media and a company blog.

    As a business and marketing professional, we are tasked to find different ways to make a profit, find new customers, and build the company brand.

    In today’s Web 2.0 world, there’s a community out there filled with customers, special interests groups and business partners just waiting to be heard.

    Take a quick inventory of your online assets, most websites today offer users stagnant content with no potential for interaction.

    So, why create a corporate blog?
    –     To learn what your customers want
    –     Give your business a face online
    –     Bring the conversation inside the company

    A company blog opens the door to listen and understand what your customers are saying. A company blog is a platform to provider visitors fresh content and interact with community members.

    There is however, a fine line between company and community the corporate blogger must walk. The challenge is providing an open communication channel to engage the community while keeping in alignment with the corporation’s legal, brand, and business standards.

    We all wear many hats in our professional lives and the corporate blogger is no exception.

    To be successful, a corporate blogger must be the:
    –    Communicator (editor)
    –    Facilitator (community builder)
    –    Negotiator (marketer)

    Additionally, a good corporate blogger has attributes that contribute to success, and must be an active listener, an advocate for the company and an ambassador to the community.

    Trust is key in building a social media community. To build trust, you must be open in your objectives and transparent within your communications.

    How can a corporate blog be humanly authentic?
    –    The organization must know itself
    –    There must be internal & external alignment
    –    Create a platform and culture of passion
    –    By all means… always be honest

    Each interaction with the blog has the potential to be direct, relevant and memorable for the community members.

    If you are considering launching a corporate blog, first:

    –    Add listening to your ‘to-do list’ (understand the conversation before jumping in)
    –    Do a sanity check on content (can you produce content outside of marketing collateral)
    –    Align behind the effort internally (you will need internal support to be successful)

    Many companies considering launching a corporate blog have probably asked the question: What is the worst that could happen?

    Reality is; social media and blogging opens the door for customer feedback and opinions (both positive and negative). As a company, you need to identify and prepare your responses before diving in. Keep in mind that the most vocal customers are the ones who care enough to tell you how you’re doing.

    Valarie offered advice for organizations considering social media and a corporate blog:
    1.    Hire great people and get out of their way (give permission to represent the company)
    2.    Learn to celebrate the right things (launch is just the beginning)
    3.    Read that press release as a reporter would (content first)
    4.    Join a conversation already happening and contribute
    5.    Think humans first, technology second
    6.    Be prepared to address questions, in some cases fast (this is crucial in online time)
    7.    Give customers options to receive information how they want it (RSS, widgets = pull)
    8.    Provide customers a way to vote on your upcoming promotion
    9.    Get to know your customers
    10.    Start with beliefs (living and breathing reasons why)
    11.    Tell stories that transmit your beliefs
    12.    Surprise customers (in a good way), show appreciation

    Empower the community you’ve created. If you are asking questions and receiving feedback from your readers, be sure to moderate and post user comments AND your responses.

    As a corporate blogger, avoid:
    –    Getting defensive
    –    Being negative
    –    Posting spam

    Community is a balancing act and is uncharted territory. The challenge is finding the delicate balance between company and community.

    Valeria wrapped up the session giving us the bottom line: blogging is about creating a personal connection with the community.

    If you are considering adding blog marketing to your marketing mix, what are some of the challenges or concerns you are facing internally within your organization?