Spotlight on business blogs – reasons to take the plunge

Sonja Jefferson

Want to be seen as an expert in your field? Traditionally, you had to either hammer down the door of a well-read industry magazine or tread the boards on the conference speaking circuit. Luckily for today’s consultants and professional companies, it is now far easier. If you want to take the first step on the ladder of thought leadership, start writing a business blog and reap the rewards.

In the last year blogs have become mainstream. They are everywhere: newspapers, radio stations, celebrities, politicians, schools and companies are all getting in on the act. But for many businesses, blogging can be a daunting prospect.

Why should I start a blog? What will it involve? How much time will it take? What should I say? Why do I need one when I’ve got a website? Will it open my organisation up to unwanted criticism? Will it really benefit my business? Have I got anything to say that the whole world wants to hear?

In this article I wanted to share my own reasons for starting a blog and offer up advice from seasoned experts in an attempt to dispel some of the misconceptions around blogging. Hopefully, this will motivate other consultants and professional businesses to take the leap.

No mystery – it’s just a communication tool

There is a mystery around blogging. Depending on who you talk to, a blog is either a self indulgent personal diary, a forum for the disaffected or the future of communication (blog or die!). No wonder many people are confused and a bit scared.

But, going back to basics, a blog or weblog is just a website with a twist. Blogs are different from conventional websites for a number of reasons:

  • It’s a matter of style. Traditional websites give information in a more formal sense whilst blogs publish personal opinion, normally in a conversational style.
  • Websites are about one-way information, blogs are a two-way conversation. They are interactive, connected and seek feedback from readers.
  • Blogs are easier to create than standard web sites. Created using instant publishing software they allow you to become an author quickly without much techie expertise.
  • Blogs are frequently updated, so almost always get higher rankings in search engine results than static sites.

A blog is a best seen as a personal publishing platform. It can contain important posts or innocuous personal ramblings of little interest to anyone but the writer; the platform doesn’t differentiate. It can be whatever you want it to be. It’s just another communication tool, a quick and easy way to get your ideas out there, and you can use it as you want.

And an immensely valuable tool at that

Blogs do have many different uses. Here are just a few examples I’ve come across:

  1. I want to communicate what’s going on in my company/school/organisation.
  2. I want to get my message out to a worldwide audience.
  3. I want to get press coverage without going down the traditional PR route.
  4. I want to educate my clients.
  5. I want to test my ideas and get feedback, to help me develop my proposition.
  6. I want to publish my opinions and stimulate discussion.
  7. I want to talk with my customers.
  8. I want to promote my ideas and sell my books.
  9. I want to market my services in a way that doesn’t alienate customers.
  10. I want to put a human face to my organisation.

A blog can do all these things for your business. How do you (or will you) use yours?

My blogging rationale

For me, my blog is the place where I write, store and show articles I’ve written. I have a website, but I wanted a place where I could post my ideas, show what I know, generate some interest and maybe get some feedback too.

I may or may not build a community of people who are so interested in what I’ve got to say they sign up for email updates and spread my ideas around the world. If that happens, I’d be delighted. But at the moment I am happy that I can quickly and easily publish my opinions, and send these on to my clients and contacts when relevant.

As to what I write, I take my lead from projects I’m working on or clients that I want to get an idea across to. I’ll write articles with a particular client in mind, relevant to a challenge they are facing (you’ll know who you are!), and I’ll take responsibility for sending these articles to them and others I think might be interested.

Already this approach has paid dividends. The Drupal article has just landed me one new project, and it’s only been up a week. I sent a link to one of my existing contacts who then understood how I could help him with his web project. That’s the quickest sales cycle I’ve experienced in a while.

Jump in

So why not take the plunge? Log on to Blogger or WordPress or Typepad, design your layout and start writing a blog. You can use it as you like and it’s a powerful tool. This blog is absolute proof that it’s easier than you may think.

If you want to find out more before you leap, The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil is a great place to start. As she says:

“This is not about being cool. This is about where everyone is going – online. This is where your customers will be soon, if they’re not already.”

What do you think?

I’d love to know about your reasons for blogging or not blogging (yet). Do please send me your feedback. 

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6 Comments

  1. I am commenting on this blog for two reasons: 1. I have never commented on a blog before and am intrigued as to how to do it and what is involved; 2. I am one of the clients that Sonja is referring to in the piece above.
    I guess my main challenge is to understand more about blogs, and how as a business we can achieve value from such an activity without it becoming a distraction or a complete pain in the neck that subsequently becomes forgotten about.
    Additionally I have to admit to being more than a little scared of what responses any activity will solicit – am I alone in this? Or should I embrace all comments good and bad about our business in order to acheive improvement (of course I know that I should adopt this stance, but lets face it knowing this and the practicalities of doing it are two difffering things).
    We are in the prosess of redeveloping our web site – an option is to devote a part of the site to a blog/forum/right to reply section. What form should this take, what do customers want from a function like this? Perhaps we should start our blog asking that question?!
    Yours confusedly of Sanderson!

    Reply
  2. Nick,

    Thanks very much for your response and I hear what you say. I think you are absolutely right to consider carefully what you want to achieve and how to manage the blogging process before you take the plunge.

    You’ve brought up a number of valid questions. I’ll give you my take on these below, but I will also seek out responses from experienced corporate bloggers and hopefully post their responses here, so watch this space.

    Here are some things to think about in the meantime:

    – Value to Sanderson = potentially great: a place to post your opinions and prove your expertise; a two-way conversation and closer connection with customers; the ‘human voice’ of your company; high search engine rankings too.

    – Time commitment: it’s true that it will take some effort, and this will need to be planned. But it doesn’t have to be you that does all the writing. There are some real experts in your company who have some worthy opinions waiting to get out there. Get a good blog editor to edit their articles?

    – How to manage responses/fear of loss of control: you can start in a controlled way by reviewing all comments before they are posted, but actually allowing and responding to some negative comment will make you more credible. It shows you have confidence in what you say, and gives you the opportunity to answer back.

    – How to lose the confusion: start reading other blogs on topics that interest you. Also try that book by Debbie Weil I mentioned above – it’s great.

    Hope this all helps. As before, watch this space for more on this subject.

    Reply
  3. For people new to the world of blogging, I always suggest that starting a blog is a terrible idea.

    There three steps to jumping into this world:

    1. Read blogs in your market space. Do that for a month or two.

    2. Comment on blogs as appropriate for a few months (like you did here Nick).

    3. Then (and only then) if you like commenting and feel comfortable with your blog voice, consider starting your own.

    David Meerman Scott
    bestselling author of The New Rules of MArketing & PR

    Reply
  4. To follow up on my comment. If you want to be a novelist, first thing to do is read a lot of novels. If you want to be a filmmaker, watch a bunch of films.

    If you want to blog, don’t start a blog without first understanding the world you are jumping into. (This is the biggest mistake I see. )

    David Meerman Scott

    Reply
  5. Speaking as a creative working in the web industry and an experienced blogger, I would ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” and take the plunge.

    Blogging represents one of the fundamentally new ways that businesses are now communicating with customers online. It displays openess and transparency which in turn promotes trust and furthermore encourages dialogue with potential clients, which can only be a good thing in my view.

    Plus it’s great for those search engine rankings.

    Iain Claridge

    Reply
  6. Here’s a comment I received via a question I posted on LinkedIn on this subject. Simon Daisley wrote:

    ‘Value is a very subjective term. What one person sees as ‘adding value’ another may see as ‘unwanted intervention’. The key lies in approaching your online relationships with as much respect as you would your personal relationships.

    After a week on holiday, I returned to 768 emails. Most of these I would regard as spam. About 20 of them were interesting, 2 were genuinely useful.

    Only I can determine what is valuable to me as an individual at any point in time. If a communication is not timely, relevant, compelling and/or useful, then it’s spam as far as I’m concerned – an annoying distraction. There will be other times however when that same content, which I considered spam last week, would now be invaluable information.

    I defy any mortal to say that their most precious relationships have never, at some point become an annoying distraction. “Dad, have you seen my trainers?”, “Can you pick me up from so-and-so’s house at 11pm?” You get my point…

    The good thing about blogs is that they are less intrusive than emails. If I don’t want to read someone’s latest words of wisdom then I won’t. If I do, then I will.

    This is why I prefer an email inviting me to read a blog, with a few choice ‘hooks’ to entice me, rather than the whole blog within email content. I have a choice, rather than having content rammed down my throat.

    If you don’t give me that choice – to engage or not to engage, then you aren’t even in the race, when it comes to influencing my thoughts, opinions and decisions. In the words of Mitchell & Webb “You mean nothing to me!”

    There are four blogs I read regularly (including this one now!). All of them are published by people I know personally and whom I respect.

    That is the key – people whom I know personally and respect. Blogs should not, in my opinion, be regarded as a surrogate for personal contact. It’s a cop out. A lazy way of communicating a personal sales message in a generic way. They can be a great way of stimulating dialogue and discussion and keeping people engaged in a subject, but not as an online newsletter. Save your energy and pick up the phone.

    The second question, of how to deal with negative feedback is easy! THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS NEGATIVE FEEDBACK. The only negative feedback is no feedback at all! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

    Be honest when you evaluate feedback. Forget your ego and be truly objective. It’s difficult, but remember you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Accept sometimes you will be an annoying distraction, and sometimes, hopefully more often than not, you will add value.

    Good luck!

    Simon

    Question Details:
    ——————–
    Corporate blogs – should small professional businesses in the UK take the plunge?

    Does anyone have any feedback for one of my clients who is considering going down this route?
    He wants to know:
    1) How to achieve value without it becoming an annoying distraction
    2) How to deal with any negative feedback you get
    I’ve written an article on this on my blog. See http://blog.sonjajefferson.co.uk.
    Do please comment and help my client out.

    Thanks Simon.
    Simon Daisley: http://www.profusioninternational.com

    Reply

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