10 Ways to Feed Your Company Blog

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, Social Media

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of The Search Agents.   Since day one, I’ve served as the publisher of this blog.  And by “publisher,” I mean “the guy who has to get a lot of good content on the blog without having to write all of it himself.”

Early on, I compared the experience of starting a blog to a family bringing home a new puppy.    The first few days, everyone wants to play with the puppy and trips over each other to feed it and take it out on walks.   After a few months, the kids get a new video game, the parents want to go on vacation, but the dog still needs to eat.  Every day, twice a day.

I didn’t want The Search Agents to become an old, tired dog.  The kind of dog that looked like it hadn’t been walked in weeks and smelled like it hadn’t been given a bath in months.   The member of our family that no one talked about and everyone secretly hoped would just be taken to a big farm in the country.

Just like your dog needs to be fed, your blog needs new posts.  Ideally, each and every blog post will be insightful and of high quality.  But your blog can survive on the occasional table scraps and expired ground beef.    You don’t need to feed your blog two times a day, but you do need to author enough content to keep your audience engaged and build your following.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog of your own, here are 10 lessons I’ve learned to keep The Search Agents well fed and feeling young at heart:

  1. It takes a village. Take advantage of the fact that you have a company blog by getting everyone in the company to contribute.   If they work at your company, whatever their role, they can offer a unique perspective on something that somehow ties back to your business and customers.  Have them share it and don’t accept excuses for why they can’t write a post.  And the best way to do this is to…
  2. Make it easy. Some people blog, personally or professionally, and already know everything about blogging.  Others haven’t written a long-form piece since their senior year of college.  In either case, just get them to get their ideas down on paper.   I’ll take their content in any form – word document, e-mail, cocktail napkin, whatever.  Don’t make them load all their content into your admin site and click “submit for review.”    Just have them send you the content and offer to clean it up, spruce it up, and publish it.  And if that still doesn’t work…
  3. Buy a recording device. For some, writing in any form beyond instant message, texts, or tweets is a PITA. They have great ideas which they have no problem articulating in a presentation, client meeting, or over lunch.   Let them speak, use some speech-to-text translation service, and edit away.  In most cases, it means you’ll end up having to…
  4. Ghostwrite (but not completely). Every organization has their pundits or thought leaders.  And almost none of them have “pundit” as their job title.  They already have a day job and it consumes a lot of their time.  Asking them to write a blog post from scratch works some of the time, but not when they are busy.  Get them to share the main points with you, write it up in their voice, send it to them for review, and publish.  Maybe you’ll find the topic could benefit from additional perspectives.  In this case, you should definitely…
  5. Crowdsource. Whenever there’s a big news story, we all think it would be great to get our POV up on the blog, but no one has the time to actually write a POV for the blog.  When there is a big industry development,  you can either try to write the post yourself (hard) or send an e-mail out to 10 or 15 really smart people in the company, and ask them to give their quick reaction.  Write a short intro summarizing the industry development with a few links to more in-depth stories from mainstream publications, add in the commentary from your assembled panel of esteemed experts, and voila, another blog post.  You can see some examples of our crowdsourcing work when Microsoft and Yahoo! announced their search alliance. Before you start soliciting expert opinions, you may find the crowdsourcing has already happened, and all you need to do is….
  6. Eavesdrop over e-mail. Our company is not large, but we have a number of internal e-mail distribution lists.  I’m sure we’re not unusual in that regard.  And individuals will often send out interesting articles or research that is relevant to a narrow group of likeminded colleagues.  SEM editors will send out articles from the AdWords blog.  SEO account managers will send out interviews with Matt Cutts.   Without fail, these will lead to a long back-and-forth between the members of these distribution lists.  Usually the kind of stuff only an SEM editor or SEO account manager would care about. Team members will comment, talk about the author being way off base, or discuss how we can apply this to a unique client situation.   These e-mails usually conclude with the now tired, “my 2c”.    Well, isn’t that what a blog is supposed to be?   A bunch of people providing their “2c” on a timely and relevant topic.  Many times, I’ve been able to ctrl-c these e-mails, ctrl-v them into WordPress, edit just a bit, ask the original sender to serve as the author, and voila! another blog post.  Need another way to improve the quality and quantity of posts?  Look outside your walls and…
  7. Invite guest authors to contribute. Ideally, these guests should be tied to your business – either as consultants, customers, board members, or industry colleagues.   The guest author will benefit from some additional exposure and your blog will benefit from a broader perspective.  Just make sure they don’t publish the same post on their own blog to avoid any issues of duplicate content.   And have them stick to a topic that makes sense in the context of your blog.  One easy way to do this is to have them…
  8. Write about important industry developments. The corporate blog shouldn’t be a publication about corporate news.  We never re-hash our press releases or give a recap of last night’s happy hour or corporate retreat.  We have other owned assets to publish that information.  Treat the blog like a semi-serious, semi-independent publication.  But recognize that there are a whole bunch of other publications writing about the “big” news of the day.  Find something that’s getting a bit less coverage, but is of great interest to your unique market segment, and write the definitive story on it.  But…
  9. Don’t treat your blog like the New York Times. Set the content free.  Let your authors write about whatever interests them, as long as it can somehow be connected to your business, customers, or market segment.    Try hard not to “turn down” any stories and treat your blog like a germination zone of new ideas.  Some will be earth shattering; some will…have great opportunity for improvement.  In either case, the blog is a great platform to organize and develop anyone’s thoughts on a topic.  An average blog post could generate a really interesting discussion in the comments.  For most bloggers, you just need to get them to overcome their “blogger’s block” and contribute something.   And one of the best ways to do this is to…
  10. Get senior management support.  If you’re always going around asking your colleagues to write for the blog, you will get a bunch of valid excuses and promises to “write something next month.”  If your company President and department heads are actively “encouraging” their team members to blog, you’ll get plenty more contributions.  Plus your co-workers won’t think you’re being a pest.

Just like a family has one or two people that do the majority of feeding and walking of the dog, you’ll likely find a small group of contributors that do the majority of writing for you blog.  Make sure you thank these “power” authors and acknowledge their efforts.  At the same time, always recruit new talent, so your readers benefit from a variety of voices and your core contributors don’t get burned out.

What other techniques have you used to keep your blog feeling fit and looking fresh?

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3 Responses to “10 Ways to Feed Your Company Blog”

  1. Hey Alex,

    I really enjoyed reading this because it was very honest and insightful. It also brings out a real good point that not everybody is a writer or blogger. What comes real easy for one person can be a monumental task for another. I know this from personal experience when I was first asked to write a blog, I totally froze and did not know what to write, but you made it very easy by taking one of my emails and converting it into something that was of value to others.

    So, thanks for that.

    • Alec Green says:

      Thanks Rich. I agree with you that not everyone is a writer or blogger, but everyone has something to say. Some people can best communicate their ideas through long prose. Some prefer short bullet points. And some just prefer to talk. We just need to let people communicate in the way that feels most comfortable. That’s usually when the best ideas come out and the dialogue begins.

  2. Sorry Alec for the typo of your name.

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