Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Four Ts of Blogging

I gave a presentation last week on the new interactive online media that are changing the marketing equation: blogs, search, wikis, video, and other digital phenomena you need to know.

It should surprise no one here that I favour blogs as a big marketing play. Blogs are flexible, powerful, they add life to websites, they are loved by search engines, they serve niche markets in intimate ways, they deepen relationships – and some even drive sales. It’s a versatile tool you need to understand.

BUT – blogs aren't for everyone. I count four problems with blogging - four ways that blogging strikes Terror into the hearts of many businesses. Coincidentally, they all start with T.

Time: Blogs require time. Usually, executive (or key employee) time. Sadly, no one cares what your office temp or promotions assistant thinks – they want to hear from your top person or people. And that means you have to take time to think up subjects, to write, and to post.

Talent: To blog successfully, someone in your shop has to know how to write – or you have to hire someone to do it for them. Vague, unclear, ungrammatical and other bad writing will do you no favours.

Topics: Someone, somewhere, has to keep thinking up topics to blog about. In an ideal world, you would get so much feedback and so many comments from your readers that you would never be at a loss for content. But in the real world, you have to post two or three times a week – and you need to have something to say.

Thick Skin: Sometimes people will object to what you write. Some will use your blog as a forum for criticizing you or your company. You have to get comfortable with inviting critics into the tent. As Shel Israel and Robert Scobie say in their book Naked Conversations, you may be surprised to find other customers coming to your defence, which is a wonderful outcome. At any rate, you can certainly defend yourself. But bloggers have to be prepared for pushback.

Business is full of systems and processes and shortcuts that are designed to prevent important, time-pressed employees from committing to regular, ongoing obligations such as blogging. Blogging goes against all common sense in that it asks you to sit down, think and create.

Of course, that’s why blogs are so powerful in the right hands – and useless in the wrong ones.

(There is always the possibility of delegating blogging to trained professionals, such as PR people or outside writers. Purists scoff at letting other people blog for you, but I think it can be done. But you have to agree to work closely with your PR people – and you need the same commitment, the same ability to think and analyze, and the same risk-tolerance as if you were doing it all yourself.)

Make no mistake: the product is worth it - as an archive of company knowledge and experience, a search engine attractor, a relationship-building tool, and as an interactive mechanism for engaging customers and stakeholders in ongoing dialogue. But blogging's freshness and walk-on-the-wild-side creativity will create problems for many firms before they begin to see the light.

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