Archive for August, 2006

PIck a headline

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

When you’re looking for ways to put valuable content into your corporate blog, sometimes you need look no further than the nearest headline that’s delivered to your inbox.

The reason?–because all businesses experience similar challenges. When the headlines are about how a megacorporation like Schering-Plough has to pay $435 Million for admitting multiple violations of the law, the topic you might want to address in your blog that day is corporate ethics. The angle you can take is about how your company handles difficult challenges such as the temptation to market a product that’s not up to par. What do you do in a situation like that?

If you don’t know the answer, it could be the start of a valuable internal discussion with your staff–everyone from your executives to your frontline people–about what the company’s values are and how you expect staff to live by them. You might even consider telling your blog readers about the process you follow.

That’s the kind meat that makes a blog powerful. The trick is to write about it honestly and appropriately. Email me with questions.

Corporate blogs: Not for every company – yet

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Before you dismiss the idea of a corporate blog, consider the benefits. But equally important, before you dive in headfirst, remember the demands that publishing a corporate blog puts on you and your company/brand. As Peter Blackshaw at ClickZ Experts says:

“Successful blogging rests on devoted principles of interactivity, informality, real-time listening, rapid legal review, and the ability to process feedback in a timely manner. Most companies and brands just aren’t there yet.”

The commitment to a corporate blog is nothing less than a commitment to cultural change–visible vs. incognito for all the sides of your company. Vulnerable vs. defended. Glass house vs. brick walls.

More companies will begin to adopt this philosophy when they are able to see that those who do so not only succeed but in fact thrive on the change. That revenues don’t just stay steady (who wants to undertake such a vast and seemingly risky change only to stay where you are?) but grow significantly. Fortunatley, ClickZ is in the business of measuring this stuff, so watch their reports.

Best corporate blogs are open

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Excellent post by a Forrester Research blogger Charlene Li about what makes for a successful corporate blog. I bet you’d never have guessed that she’s talking about generosity.

How the heck does being generous relate to writing a corporate blog? Giving sound advice, sharing news and information and insights, being free with links to other sources, and so on are important components. To build even a small network of loyal readers it’s essential to do all those things frequently.

Then she writes about how Dell’s new blog is functioning. Here’s a good read on how they’re using their ability to moderate comments (control what people add to your blog posts):

“…80% get posted, 18% get redirected to customer service, and only 2% are deleted because they were ‘off topic.’ And most importantly, they are directly addressing areas of key concern like customer service problems, bloatware, and yes, even the famous “flaming notebook”.

That’s another secret to a successful corporate blog: talk about what customers really care about, even if it doesn’t reflect on you all that well. And then, of course, address those concerns head on.

It takes generosity, and it takes courage. Not for the faint of heart is it to undertake a corporate blog. For many companies, it requires a re-thinking of the entire corporate culture. Generosity, courage, and trust are among the keywords for companies that want to succeed in the new millennium.

Corporate blogs tap customer expertise

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Sometimes when you’re publishing a corporate blog, the person in charge just plain runs out of ideas temporarily. That’s a good time to consult with other experts to get a fresh perspective.

You can tap experts within the company. You can talk to some of your vendors. You can even talk with one of your customers about a particular issue they might like to see addressed. As long as you have customers, you’ll have no shortage of experts on your products and services!

Let’s look, for example, at a widget company. Say your blog writer writes about things like how the global labor situation affects your manufacturing processes, the need for building reserves of qualified workers, and so on–these kinds of things would also make good customer newsletter stories. Always, of course, with the precaution that such topics are handled in just the right way.

Now one day your blog author is stumped. This could be a good time to have him or her call a couple of your best customers and ask them what are the most important issues for them on an ongoing basis. If it’s delivery times, there’s a good topic. Ask them to describe the best experience they’ve had with you on that issue. Then ask them to tell you about a time when it wasn’t perfect–and then talk about what your company does to address that issue.

That’s what building trust is about–addressing both the good and the bad openly. It worked for IBM in the mid-20th century. The story goes that they didn’t actually make the highest quality computer equipment in the world at that time. But if you had a problem with their equipment, they’d parachute a team of troubleshooters onto your front lawn to help you address it. They’d kill you with service.

Your corporate blog costs a lot less to run than a team of parachuters, but you can use it just as effectively to impress your customers.

Count on your emotions

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

Yes, it’s been thought, said, and demonstrated for most of history that people make decisions emotionally rather than rationally. Now the new science called neuroeconomics is putting hard scientific evidence behind the theory.

Found the link to this story on the Heartmath newsletter. (I’ve written before about Heartmath here.) Their Freeze-Framer feedback system helps you get your heart into what they call “coherence”–a condition that’s dramatically positive for your health, your creativity, and your frame of mind.

But the key is that this information is a powerful reason to set up and commit to publishing your corporate blog. “People store memories of emotions,” says the article. If you can keep your readers engaged with stories, you’re creating emotions that they’ll remember when the time comes to buy something from you, to increase the share of business they give you, or when they want to learn something new about the types of products and services you provide.

Positive memories among your customers and prospects about your company can come from corporate blog stories that are delivered with feeling from your own heart and with thought about the feelings of your readers. Neuroeconomics is building the case to give you permission to tap your genuine emotions in your business strategies.

In my book, it’s a wonderful time to be a business person.

Cutting costs is good blog stuff

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Your corporate blog can be a real bear. When your brain just isn’t registering something worth writing, what do you do? You can’t let it go too long. or you risk losing your readership. So let’s examine one of the tricks you can use to jog yourself.

One way to break your “writer’s block”–and yes, it’s very similar to what professional writers run into at times–is to just start writing. Sometimes the very act of starting to think “out loud” (well, on paper at least) can get your brain going in the right direction. After all, you are an expert in this area (if you’re not, you’d better have good resources who are), so your brain is full of knowledge. And sharing knowledge is what the best blog entries are about–no matter what the subject.

Say you’re a manufacturer who makes widgets. Yesterday you wrote about how the global market was affecting your supply chain–and thus the customer’s price. Today your brain is blank. Well, what about what happened down in parts today? Did your parts person face a new challenge today? Did a customer demand something unusual? How did you handle it? Did you make a decision that couldn’t be avoided? Did you think of some way to get around additional cost and still make your customer happy?

Remember, when you think about things like this, understand that savvy customers are GLAD when you think of ways to save money. Because if you’re the ethical business person they believe you to be (and they believe that in spades when you write a blog), they know that when you keep costs down, you can pass along the benefit to them by not raising prices. Everybody in business knows that keeping costs and prices down is big.

Your customers are smart. They’ll love you for thinking creatively to save money. Tell ‘em about it in your blog when you do.