The answer to “why blog?” really does depend on who is asking it. A young budding poet might want to show the world his or her mastery of alliterative verse while a tech geek might want to engage in a global community that spends its time developing a certain kind of code.
Here’s a few of my answers to the “why blog?” question to companies, associations, pressure groups or even individuals operating in Brussels and trying to show their take on issues that affect them and which they want to influence.
Authority and expertise
As with any type of communications, blogging is a platform to showcase your side of the story and your expertise, and again, as with any type of communications, if you have a good story, solid arguments, and you communicate effectively, you become engaged in a debate that you may very well influence and indeed shift.
However, in this respect, blogging does not really differ from an article or a position paper. What makes blogging different? It’s the format, and what that entails for the type of content you can publish, the frequency with which you can publish, and how it allows you to engage with your readership
The format: post length
Although you do want to adopt an editorial approach so as to ensure some consistency, posts can be whatever you want them to be. Five lines referring to an article elsewhere online or a far longer opinion piece. This really does expand your options when communicating, as you’re not restricted by the length and format that memos, press releases or position papers are expected to have. What’s more, you don’t have to rely so much on journalists and whatever their twist on your story might be.
It’s probably the ability to publish short posts that’s most novel. In the past, say someone published a report that backs up your side of the story, but you’d just sent a press release (or didn’t think it really warranted one), it would be difficult for you to inform your audience of the report. With a blog though, you write a short post with a link leading to it, no questions asked.
The format: immediacy
Linked to this is the immediacy of blogging. Crisis? Communicate as soon as you’ve sorted out your strategy to deal with it. Your opposition has published something that you strongly disagree with or distorts the truth? Get your take out within minutes rather than days.
The format: the “real” you
Perhaps most importantly though, is how you can communicate in a blog (if you know what you’re doing.) You can drop the corporate speak. A typo doesn’t make you appear incompetent. You can ask questions if you like. Result? Blogging makes the blogger appear less detached, or more human if you will (the “human” factor is the biggest cliché in social media, but it’s true – read a post by Tom Watson MP and ask yourself if your impression of the man is the same as it would be if you were reading a quote in a paper). This is really important in an age where everyone from a politician to a CEO is expected to be patently open, honest and transparent.
The format: engagement
Strongly linked to the above point is interaction, or engagement. If you blog as you’re meant to, people will be able to comment on your content and ask questions. This stokes fear in many traditionalists: “but we’ll get inundated with negative comments and people will realise that we’re not that popular!” Wake up. They know you’re not popular already (if that’s the case), and allowing people to voice their opinions, developing relationships with them and actually answering their questions is a fantastic opportunity, not a threat.
Reach the press
Under no circumstance am I saying that press relations and getting your stories published in traditional media is not important. It is important, but even in this respect too, blogging matters, as journalists increasingly look to blogs when researching stories and looking out for opinions and soundbites. Just google journalists+blogs (or even journalists+twitter) and you’ll see what I mean. Think a journalist that might write about you will only read your press release when you’ve got a good blog with plenty of top-tier material? Think again.
Dull but important. A blog is great for SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, meaning you’ll appear fairly high in google search rankings if you do a few things right. Does this matter? YES. +90% of people surf via google and never look beyond the first page of search results. Appearing there is absolutely paramount.
Here are a few good old and new eBooks and posts on blogging best practice and blogger relations:
- 9 Things To Think About When Planning An Executive Blog
- Brian Solis’ The Art and Science of Blogger relations
- Pro-blogger’s guide to corporate blogging
- Chris Brogan’s best advice about blogging
- The business value of blogging
If you’re keen on seeing how other organisations blog, have a look at the Fortune 500 blogging wiki: