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How to sustain your corporate blog

Posted in all posts by coleman yee on May 18, 2008

A client recently asked me to give a presentation about blogging – how to make blogging successful in their organization.

I didn’t have to convince this client that blogging is an important medium with great potential – they already believed it. In fact, they’ve already made a number of attempts at different forms of corporate blogging.

Except that most of these efforts eventually fizzled out, often because the bloggers eventually became “too busy”.

This problem is common among many other organizations I’ve dealt with. They’ve tried out blogging, sometimes with great fanfare. But the results have turned out disappointing. The blogs, hardly updated, and mostly uninteresting, mostly fade slowly into oblivion.

Corporate blogging isn’t an easy and straightforward matter, if you want it to be successful and sustainable. It’s not just a matter of setting up a blogging system, and convincing some volunteers to contribute.

Sustainable corporate blogging needs to be approached systematically, with the following factors accounted for, otherwise it will be just a hit-and-miss affair

Intrinsic motivation of blogger

Is the blogger motivated to blog? Or are they just an unwilling volunteer?

I’m not talking about extrinsic motivation here (“I want to blog so that I can get a raise”), but intrinsic motivation. The blogger has to believe in blogging, that their voice through blogging can make a difference to the organization.

Don’t even bother if you don’t have an intrinsically motivated blogger.

Ability of blogger

Just because a blogger is highly motivated and enthusiastic about blogging doesn’t necessarily make them the right person to blog.

Can your blogger write in an engaging manner, or are they effective sleeping pill substitutes?

Your blogging efforts (and your readers, if any) will soon doze off if it’s the latter.

Sociocultural support

Your motivated and competent blogger does not blog in vacuum. They are affected by their peers and colleagues.

Is your blogger eyed with suspicion and disdain? Do they become the butt of “harmless” jokes at the water cooler? Or is the blogging role encouraged and admired by colleagues and peers?

If your blogger does not get social support from co-workers, motivation will soon wilt.

Top management support

The corporate blogging effort probably has top management approval, but how strong is it?

Is the blogging project some stealth project that top management can quickly denounce if something goes wrong? Or are they fully behind the effort?

If the blogger wants to interview the CEO, does the CEO welcome the interview, or is the CEO “too busy” and puts the blogger on hold? Indefinitely?

Top management’s actions towards the blogger speaks volumes about their attitude towards blogging, no many how much lip service they give. And their attitude towards blogging often cascades down to the rest of the organization.

If top management fully supports blogging, then the rest of the points should come quite easily.

Resource support

If the blogger requires additional resources for blogging, such as a digital camera, does the blogger get it? Is there a real and reasonable budget allocated for blogging? Or must the blogger beg, borrow, or steal to get necessary resources to support the blogging effort

Time

Blogging – quality blogging – takes a lot of time. Is blogging an additional responsibility for the blogger? Or is the blogger relieved of some other responsibility, so that they actually have the time to blog?

This point is so obvious, but yet it’s almost always overlooked. We somehow expect bloggers to keep blogging consistently, in addition to their normal work, and despite their already-packed schedules. Unless your blogger is wildly passionate, obsessive, or slightly insane, you can expect the blogging frequency to decrease.

Extrinsic motivation and accountability

Congratulations if you’ve met all the previous criteria – your corporate blogging efforts already has a very good chance of sustaining, even without this point.

Extrinsic motivation is how the blogger as an employee rewarded for their performance in blogging. (What “performance” means in this case is another matter.) Is blogging among their KPIs? Is their performance bonus tied to their blogging performance?

Closely related to this is accountability. Who is accountable to ensure the blogging performance? Who is held accountable for non-performance?

Many bloggers reading this might balk at this last point, since they’ve only known blogging out of pure passion, and think that extrinsic motivation and accountability might kill the passion.

It would, if this was the primary motivation.

I would emphasize that extrinsic motivation and accountability should be put in place last, only after all the preceding points have been put properly in place.

Once the preceding points are in place, extrinsic motivation and accountability then becomes an additional and official recognition of the blogger’s role. Just like every employee should have the extrinsic motivation and accountability for whatever their work is.

Conclusion

When you hire someone to, say, be the salesperson of your product, you find someone who likes sales, who can sell well, and you put in place structures to support their sales activity.

Corporate blogging should not be treated any differently from any other kind of work activity if you want it sustainable.

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7 Responses

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  1. weekee said, on May 20, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    2 questions. Are they clear on the reason for blogging and have they evaluate other possible ways to achieving what they want?

    Is it a case of mapping a problem to a solution or just trying to use a solution for the sake of it?

  2. coleman yee said, on May 20, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    For a lot of corporations, blogging is a way to let outsiders know what’s going on within the company. Other ways could be used, but blogging is often one of the most cost-effective ways. It helps that blogging is a popular medium too.

    But those are certainly good questions to ask. Some don’t even see it as a solution for anything – they just do it because everyone else is doing it.

  3. Mark White (BBB) said, on May 20, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    For me, there is the planning phase is the part which all too often goes astray and which should cover all of the areas that you mention together with what the company wants to achieve with the blog and who they are trying to attract with it.

    The other element is that, all too often, a blog is treated in isolation within the company rather than as part of a larger set of activities. If the blog is designed to market the company or enhance the branding them link it with the other activities which are looking to achieve the same. If it’s part of the Customer Service or Product Development then again, make sure that it is part of the process not stuck out on a limb. In that way, there is support and more often than not, multiple posters which will help keep the passion going and the blog flourishing.

  4. sherms said, on May 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I agree about the Time issue:

    “Blogging – quality blogging – takes a lot of time. Is blogging an additional responsibility for the blogger? Or is the blogger relieved of some other responsibility, so that they actually have the time to blog?”

    Some may hold view that the blogger’s having “fun” blogging and that it’s not as taxing as the other work, and thus, not see the justification of letting blogging replace part of the original workload.

    Of course, they probably don’t realise the amount of thought, research and editing that goes into a post, especially crucial if it’s corporate blogging as you become an extension of your company’s repuatation as well.

    _________________

    I was also wondering did the organization try collaborative blogging? i.e. your blog voice consists of a few members rather than a single person. I would think that would help alleviate the sociocultural and frequency/time problems, as well as increase motivation as they support one another.

  5. coleman yee said, on May 26, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    @Sherms: good point about collaborative group blogging. Google’s blog might be a good example of this. However, you probably still need someone to drive the blogging effort, like make sure that there’s a constant stream of posts.

  6. Reena said, on June 23, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    nice post. maybe it is time to get your own domain now. just added u in my twitter

  7. Lam Chun See said, on September 26, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Time is definitely the issue for smaller companies. In my case it’s worse becos I am a sole proprietor; and my biggest competitor is my other blog 😦


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