Learn from companies that do it well, what the benefits are and uncover the rules of internet engagement
Consumers chatter away all day about your products and services on blogs and in forums. How do you get in there with them and make your company’s own corporate blog more than a regularly updated press release?
1. Get into the ether. Start out by monitoring what people are saying about your company and products. “It was from bloggers themselves that our blog started,” says Bob Pearson, the vice-president of communities and conversations at Dell, which started its direct2dell.com blog in July 2006. “We decided to listen to them… we needed to monitor the internet better to find out when our customers weren’t happy.”
2. You don’t have to do it. A blog needs to be a logical step in the conversations you have with your customers. “Just creating a blog is like going into a pub and starting a conversation on your own. You don’t want to be the guy at the end of the bar talking to himself,” says Martin Liptrot, the managing director of Ogilvy PR, which has a blog called 360-degree Digital Influence (blog.ogilvypr.com).
3. Test the water. Amy Paquette, the executive editor of News@Cisco, the Cisco news website, says that it started with a high-tech policy blog in July 2005. “We put together a task force that included marketing, PR and legal [expertise] and we looked at what we wanted to achieve as a vehicle of communication,” she says. The subsequent blogs (there are about 12: see blogs.cisco.com ) were set up with the experience gained from that test blog.
4. A blog is only part of the mix. Forums and blogs go hand-in-hand. Allowing people to comment on your blog is fine, but giving them the chance to continue the conversation in a forum is more constructive. “Push communications don’t happen any more,” Liptrot says, meaning that you can’t just foist information on people and expect them to lap it up. “You want pull communications. It’s a mindset change for companies that have marketing departments that approve every word that is put out.”
5. Use your company knowledge wisely. Dell’s blog leader pulls in contributors from all over the company according to their expertise. Pearson says: “We decided that the blog should be egalitarian. Your job title is not relevant.”
6. Don’t overregulate. Bloggers need to be free to say whatever they like – consumers will not value what they read if they think it is corporate propaganda. “If only the six people at the top of the company are blogging, that would just be your corporate website,” Liptrot says.
7. Be structured. Dell has weekly editorial meetings to discuss how to respond to technology news. Paquette says that Cisco’s blogs all have guidance and policies: “We weren’t looking to police them. We wanted to make employees feel safe to talk.”
8. Have regular content. “If you can’t put something new up every day then you’re not ready to blog,” Pearson says. If you are not updating regularly, readers will stop checking back.
9. Monitor it. “It’s the behaviours that count, not necessarily the comments,” Paquette says, pointing out that not every entry into the blogs gets commented on, but the number of hits per entry run into the thousands.
10. Enjoy. Don’t force people into it, Paquette says. “We invite people with passion to blog.”