Archive for September, 2006

Vendors, competitors as sources for your corporate blog

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

When you talk to your vendors, they usually have fresh angles or new products or services to talk about. Nothing wrong with sharing that kind of information with your blog readers. In fact, sometimes you might even want to invite a vendor to submit a guest post when it has something significant to talk about. The vendor will love you for it, and your readers will mostly likely enjoy hearing news and announcements about services, products or equipment that’s relevant to their world.

And as for competitors, you’re up against each other in any case. If you find out they have a better product than you, as the famous Microsoft Scoblizer blog says, you might as well link to your competitor’s site. Sooner or later, the people will find out anyway. That’s a tall order in our old way of thinking. And it’s not a snap even with today’s trend towards enlightened attitudes.

The key is to BE PRESENT and BE HONEST on your blog. It’s about being authentic and responsive. These words are semi-foreign to the business world of old, but they’re becoming more and more important in the new global, virtual world of today. You can’t hide, so you might as well come clean.

Talk about the good things

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

This fascinating Forbes account tells how billionaire Sir Richard Branson has given $3 billion to former President Bill Clinton’s global initiative for renewable energy–all the profits from his airline and train business.

Few businesses are in a position to make such an astoundingly large donation. But you don’t have to give on a scale like that to write about how your company participates in charitable activities, or even about various things you do to help your employees. Your corporate blog readers want to know about how your company “is” in the world. Talking about the good things you do is one of many ways to let them know.

The voice of your corporate blog

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

When you decide to set up a corporate blog, think carefully about the person who will write it. You don’t want your blog to sound like another PR piece–it needs to be personal. As one corporate blogger put it, blogs augur “the death of the official voice.” So if you have your corporate communications people do it, let them know that you approve their using a human, informal tone–anything else will simply not accomplish the goal of humanizing your company and making your blog into the powerful marketing communications tool it can be.

The blog author should be a single individual (in some cases it might make sense to publish a small-group blog). The writer must care about the subject and the people for whom the content is intended–which means your customers, employees, vendors and prospects. When it comes to handling difficult topics, being ready to face up to challenges without flinching is critical. Honesty is essential (you don’t have to give away critical information, of course).

Since nothing ever goes away in the blogosphere (that’s what this wild and wooly new world of blogging is called), and people all over the world can always find things out about your company–for good or for bad–this is another important place to let ethics and integrity be your guide.

It’s a serious commitment to write something good two to three times a week. If you, the CEO, want to blog but you’re not sure how you’ll sustain it—-get help from an experienced blog writer who knows how to ask questions that will help you access all your knowledge and wisdom.

Business blogging as a business

Friday, September 15th, 2006

Several years ago I introduced a colleague of mine, Anita Campbell, to business blogging. It wasn’t long before Anita, successful business consultant and former CEO of a small wired division of Bell & Howell, jumped into the fray and created a whole business–now a series of businesses–out of her blog. Her marketing savvy and penchant for researching how all the latest tech phenomena would boost her blog’s visibility–plus the fact that her content is always of superior quality (small business trends is just one of them) have made her a beacon of light to those who aspire to leverage this technology with their entrepreneurial spirit.

And speaking of beacons, thanks, Anita, for mentioning Blog for Business in your very nice interview in the Akron Beacon Journal. Just goes to show you what you can do with technology when you bring all your business acumen to bear.

Sign of the times – talk about ethics

Monday, September 11th, 2006

When you see a story like this one–Worried CIA Officers Buy Legal Insurance–it’s a perfect opportunity to talk about ethics in your corporate blog.

How do you draw the line in your company at what’s acceptable and what’s not? Is it okay for an employee to ship a widget with a defective whatsit if it’s only a little damaged? If a customer is angry or unruly, what are your staff members empowered to do to defuse the situation? Are you 100% satisfied that all your employees know what they can and cannot do–or is that something you’re working towards?

Customers love perfection, but they know it’s not always possible. So try being open about the challenges you face–write in terms of the positive things you do to overcome the obstacles. Use your blog to reassure customers that your company is continually working in their best interests. In most cases, you’ll find the reward in customer loyalty and appreciation is worth the risk.

IBM's VP Bob Sutor blogs

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Today let’s take a look at one of the high-ranking executives who blogs (or at least approves the content)–Bob Sutor of IBM.

Note the disclaimer at the top–this blog is Bob’s responsibility and doesn’t necessarily reflect IBM, blah, blah. Good thing to say, just as radio and TV do. Bob is IBM’s Vice President of Standards and Open Source, so he’s got more the air of the modern about him. After all, open source oozes “fresh and new” (even though it’s been around forever) and is not something most of us who’ve known the company for decades would normally associate with IBM. We don’t think of it as a trendsetter–not since Microsoft and Apple came along anyway–but a strong survivor.

In any case, this blog is part of IBM’s Developer Works section, so the audience is expected to be programmers and other geeks. Content looks like a lot of recycled press release material interspersed with observations about his family and hobbies (you can tell right away when it’s one of those because you actually want to read it… ” ).

And you’ll notice that the posts here are only partial. When you click the link to “read more,” it takes you to Bob’s “open blog” on a different site. So in effect Bob is recycling the content from one blog onto another–great way to maximize the search-engine-optimization power of your blog for more than one site. Create fresh content in one place and use it to add fresh content elsewhere–workfree. Why not?

Also like the fact that every time you click on Bob’s open blog, you see a different photo of him! Keeps it interesting visually.

IBM may not be a trendsetter, but it has always known a good thing when it comes along–and corporate blogging is one of those things.

Use the search engines

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Yeah, it’s not easy to find good blog material when nothing that’s going on in your company is fit (or at least ready) for publication. So what do you do? Use the power of the search engines.

Let’s say you make widgets, and quality of the widgets is very important to your readers. So it makes sense that various aspects of the manufacturing process–for example, how you make the dies that form your widgets–might be interesting to your readers as a way to demonstrate how you maintain quality. Now you don’t want to give away your trade secrets, so you decide to write about what it takes to be a good die maker.

When you search “die maker” on Google, you get a list of sites that are bound to stimulate your imagination. First up is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics telling you everything you wanted to know about about the occupation. Next up is entry on “tool and die makers” in the wonderful online resource called Wikipedia–the largest compendium of knowledge ever created in the history of the world. It contains multimillions of entries compared to the moderate number that all of printed encyclopedias can encompass. Naturally, because it’s a free-open-source resource, not everything is perfect, but there’s so much information about so many things you’re bound to find some good stuff.

Another thing you can try is the free trial at Wordtracker (that’s a popular site that helps you find related keywords and keyphrases for your search engine optimization efforts).

Go here and sign up. Then experiment with the program to see what it tells you about frequently searched phrases that are similar to yours. You may or may not learn something depending on how well the phrase you search relates to popular terms. But at least you can get ideas to free associate with and possibly come up with other topics of interest to your readers.

Our global store of knowledge is vast. The Internet has given us easy access to it. It’s truly a time to be happy about how easy it is to learn new things. And luckily, the Internet has also been the breeding ground for this powerful new tool for sharing knowledge–the corporate blog.