In an interview with a publication, I named 3 main things that are essential to consider before your firm starts blogging:
1) ID your audience(s). You have to know exactly for whom you are writing in order to keep it relevant. Blog readers like relevance over general info, hands down. If you're considering multiple audiences, that's a big sign you should be considering multiple blogs.
2) ID your writers. If you're solo, that's easy. But if you're a larger firm, you'll probably benefit from having a small team of authors so that you can spread the wealth (i.e. workload). Also, it's extra fun to collaborate with others. If you're thinking your team doesn't always operate as a team, this can help in that direction. More important than having partners write blog posts is having people with a little fire in their belly about blogging. Hint: this probably means non-partners!! Without the fire, the blog will no doubt fizzle. Why not tap into the generation that GETS social media and let them do what they do well and integrate it into their professional lives.
3) Authenticity and Trust are key. Recognize the requirement for authenticity and transparency in blogs (and all communications these days) and trust your people to "be appropriate." Don't create a specific "corporate blogging policy" but do revisit your whole "corporate communication policy" and make sure it applies across the board defining appropriate and inappropriate behaviors for web content, e-mail and telephone conversations, written correspondence, articles, speeches, etc. Don't single out blogs--they are just another form of communication.
Once you get past these three, you've got some prep work to do. "Don't dive in cold," says Amy Gahran, a conversational media consultant. Amy offers some great tips on how to prepare before jumping into the blog waters.
After you decide which groups you will engage through your blogging (or even to help you decide which), do the following to prepare:
- Figure out where those groups already spend time online and go where they are.
- Search blog search engines like Technorati and IceRocket to find blogs that are already succeeding in attracting attention from your core communities.
- Explore other types of online media -- bulletin boards, e-mail lists, wikis, virtual environments (such as Second Life), and citizen media sites (such as YourHub.com) to find good matches. Web sites of local or regional mainstream media also can be useful to watch if they allow comments and foster public discussion in your core communities.
- Create a short list (just 3-5 blogs or other sites) that you should start reading on a regular basis.
- Follow their existing conversations - don't just read the posts, but read the comments to understand the community, [see who the players are, and find more links to related blogs.]
- Participate in these discussions. Take the time to leave comments on blog posts or forum threads, and respond to others' comments, always being positive and helpful.
- Don’t be ‘salesy.’ That is, don’t blatantly pump your business or agenda. When you join the public conversation, your guiding motive should always be: ‘What value can I offer this community?’ Abject self-promotion almost always backfires.
If you do these things (especially the managable suggestion of following 3-5 blogs) you dramatically increase your chances of success when you begin your own blog. Test the waters and get to know your group. Not only that, but you'll learn a lot of good stuff and make good new contacts in the process! Amy says:
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own blog yet -- or even if you don’t have much of an online presence. The point is to start right now to build a constructive, helpful, credible reputation among your core communities. If these people get to know you first as “one of them,” they’ll be more likely to keep listening and talking to you when you launch your own venue.
Definitely don't be self-promoting on people's blogs. Frankly, you won't need to be. Just by contributing to the conversation, sharing your mind, you increase your credibility. Don't undermine it with a pitch.
Her post also links to advice on strategic commenting. Be sure to check it out.
Hat tip to Kevin O'Keefe for pointing me to Amy's blog with his post: Listen to Niche Blog Discussion Before You Start to Blog.