With all that's been written about the opportunities, risks and "rules" of corporate blogging, I don't see a lot of value in rehashing all the conventional wisdom. If you're trying to figure out whether or how to launch a blog for your company, Debbie Weil has written a well received book that distills the important fundamentals of corporate blogging, which you can pick up on Amazon and avoid much of the confusing cross-talk and competing punditry on the Web.
What I do want to address are a few of the common complaints and frustrations that I hear from companies that have launched blogs, and have found that they haven't met expectations. They aren't getting a ton of traffic, few people comment on the entries, it takes a lot of time, and they're not really sure what to write about any more. So here are a few recommendations for getting a corporate blog on track. Notice how closely these relate to marketing fundamentals like brand positioning and messaging.
1. Choose a topic, or a narrow set of topics, to focus on. If you don't have a focus, it's like throwing seeds all over the place except in the garden patch you want to cultivate. Every once in a while something may take root, but if it's not related to your business objectives, you're wasting time and energy. One of the biggest payoffs of blogging is increased search engine positioning and traffic. So one way to help define your focus is to think about a few keywords or keyword phrases that you'd like driving traffic to your blog, and write about them. Use a little creativity and finesse to get those keywords into your blog titles, links, categories, tags and posts.
2. Take a stand. Review the topics you want to cover and try to find an angle you can be passionate and provocative about. If you don't give your readers something to chew on and debate, you can expect them to be fairly sedate. What's happening in your industry that's controversial? What sets your company apart from competitors? What dangers do you see facing your market? Again, keep your key topics in view; don't go off on a red herring that you're passionate about but that doesn't relate to your business goals.
3. Engage your peers. Chances are someone else is writing about the same issues. Find them. Comment on their blog entries. Put them on your blogroll. Write posts that trackback to their blog if they allow trackbacks. Write posts that engage or challenge them on a topic that matters. Go forth and get in the conversation; don't wait for it to come to you. If you're smart, you'll start paying attention to the chain of influence around the topics that are relevant to you, and start developing relationships with the influencers.
4. Engage your employees. Everyone has a slightly different take on your topic, and a different way of trawling the Web to find things you can link and leverage. Put together an editorial team of employees, and set a regular meeting schedule to have a brownbag lunch and discuss content. Assign people to cover keywords, or specific bloggers, and keep the team up to date on what's being discussed in the blogosphere, and where the opportunities might be today for linking and dialog.
5. Engage your customers. Nothing filters up good ideas and new content like talking directly to customers. Interview a few of your customers or partners and ask for their take on the issues. Ask them what they want to know about. Ask them what they'd like to see if they could look inside your company for a day. Don't "profile" your customers and assume what they would say, ask them and let them surprise you. Avoid the temptation to shape your customers words into a testamonial. If you want a glowing quote, ask for a quote. But use your blog to have an honest dialog on open ground.
6. Keep a positive perspective. Yes, blogs can be a lot of work. But if your topics are really aligned with your business objectives, then it isn't just about acheiving all the benchmark metrics you laid out on a scorecard-it's about keeping you, your company and your customers abreast of what's happening and what's relevant. Even if no one comments on your site and your traffic is abysmal, it's still one of the most effective instruments for staying tuned in to the conversation that shapes your market.
I'm sure I've missed a few points. What have you learned from your own corporate blogging program? What have I forgotten?