Web Strategy: How to be a Corporate Blog Evangelist

(Note: This is a repost from March 2006 when I evangelized blogs at my previous corporate employer. Early this week, I met quite a few folks at a Sales and marketing conference that will be undergoing this evangelistic process and want to support them via my blog. I wrote these tips while I was in the position, so I’m sure they are still relevant.

This was also on my previous domain, and it makes sense to bring it over here and tag it with ‘Web Strategy’, which I indicate as posts that I’m writing as a resource for the world’s Web Practice leaders.)

Depending on the company DNA, creating and growing a business blogging program may be an easy or a difficult task.

Evangelists have a tough job in front of them as the program requires high and broad corporate approval. Articulating a vision to adopt a two-way, informal communication tool is a challenge when the medium associated with ‘teens’.

Here’s some strategies that I’ve learned, not just from my experience, but from the dozens of other blog evangelists I’ve met at recent conferences as well as online.

1. Read Blogs
Certainly a ‘duhism’ (I met Guy last night, I guess he rubbed off on me) but you really need to know the communication style and medium that you’re attempting to enter. Read both popular blogs, as well as blogs in your industry. Learn how to find them using a variety of tools, listen to the conversation.

2. Start Blogging
Do a trial blog, it doesn’t need to be related to your industry. You need to be a blogger (even if you’re not going to be blogging on behalf of the company) if you’re going to give blog advice. You must understand the interaction, real time conversations, trackbacks, and how the blogosphere works. You don’t have to talk about your own market or products, and if you do it at home, no one will know.

3. Learn from the best
Either start reading, or befriend A-Listers. Yes, they seem intimidating but they’re not. A-Listers are a friendly bunch, and are Blog Evangelists themselves, they want you to become infected with blog-goodness. If you don’t have the time or resources, at least read their blogs and get their books. I know I’m the exception more than the norm as some of my blog friends included Rebecca Blood, Lynann Bradbury, Shel Israel, Robert Scoble, and now my new old friend Debbie Weil. Reach out to them, read their books, interact with their blogs, invite them to lunch.

4. Don’t accept blog advice from people that are not bloggers
In my experience, I’ve received radically different advice from non-bloggers, than from bloggers. Traditional marketers, advertisers, and larger media companies may have a different strategy from grass roots, guerrilla blogging. Unless they’ve been converted, they may set you on the wrong path –be very, very careful.

5. Get more focused in business blogging
Now that you’ve been reading about blogs, and have been blogging yourself, start immersing in the art of business blogging. Read business blogging books, attend blogging conferences, join blogging user groups, keep on blogging yourself. Learn some PR skills, writing skills, be able to articulate the difference between casual conversations from corporate communications. My journey started at the Blog Business Summit in 2005 and recently have attended the New Communications Forum. I’ve read Cluetrain, Naked Conversations, Weblog Handbook, and The Corporate Blogging Book.

6. Find a champion if your voice is not loud
If you don’t have a loud voice within your organization, find someone that does, ask them to be your voice, let them champion your plans. They are easy to spot, they are already passionate and vocal about customers –align with them.

7. Be able to articulate your vision
Likely, you’ll be asked to give a presentation, raise awareness, or provide a plan. It should at least include the following:

1. The web is important, and is used in most buying cycles, get stats for your market.
2. Customers trust other customer opinion above all others.
3. With blogs, customer opinion is easily published, and with search engines, they are easily found.
4. The conversation will happen regardless if you participate or not.
5. Even if you don’t participate, you must listen to the blogosphere.
6. Blogging is two-way communication, even if you don’t enable comments.
7. If you care about customers, then having an online dialogue will prove it to them.

8. Define the purpose for your blog
Clearly define what your blog’s purpose(s) is. When it comes to using blogs in a corporate situation it can be used in a variety of strategic deployments. I can think of at least one corporate blog that can match with each of the below purposes. Is it to:

1. Delight your customers (you better say yes)
2. Demonstrate corporate openness
3. Express goodwill
4. Thought leadership
5. Mitigate PR damage risks
6. Control the conversation in your market
7. Develop a product with customers in real time
8. Harness a rapid response tool
9. Casually release products and get feedback
10. Word of mouth marketing
11. Amplify a message
12. Competitive positioning tool
13. Delight your customers


9. Plan to measure these purposes, before you start blogging

I realize this is a controversial subject, but let’s get realistic folks, corporate blog evangelists WILL be asked “what’s the value”. Not all of your answers will include the ability to demonstrate numerical proof of improvement. Not every blog (see number 8) will be tied to cost savings or revenue increase. What are you going to measure? Understand how to benchmark against each specific purpose. Unlike other mediums like print, the web makes it easy to measure instances, activity, feeds and blog resonation.

10. Have a vision, Stay the course, don’t give up.

Show passion, demonstrate successes, learn, and grow. I learned that at least during inception that Evangelists may or may not have followers. It’s going to take a few months, even years to get buy-in, marshaling resources where none existed, and then demonstrating success. The rewards are very great –believe in it.

When your customers thank you in your blog and theirs, you’ve know you’ve chosen the right path.

I’ve got quite a few other business blog tips. Many of them I’ve published here, but some I won’t publish for a variety of reasons. Leave a comment if this resonated with you.

  • http://www.brandstorming.com Jim Durbin

    Excellent, excellent advice, Jeremiah. I would extend on your point about not taking advice from non-bloggers. If you are a company hiring someone to guide your blog strategy, or build your blog – make sure they actually have and update their own blog.

    If you work with a PR firm who contacts bloggers, make sure they know what they are doing – most still don’t.

    8,9 ,and 10. Spot on – Corporate blogging has to have a point – which means you should treat it like any other initiative, which includes a budget, a roadmap, measurable results, and support.

    Finally, something crucial for corporate blogging – don’t focus on the technology to the exclusion of anything else. The technology is the easy part – that’s why millions of people are donig it. Most companies build some in-house monstrosity that gets poor SEO, and then they fail to link it to the other companies, which means no incoming links.

    A blog without an audience is just a voice in the wilderness. If you aren’t part of a community, you’re not a blogger – you’re an online columnist with no readers.

  • http://thegarlandgroup.net Brad Garland

    Jeremiah,

    Would you also state that once you are established try and get your employees to become bloggers, too? It doesn’t really matter if they are blogging about the business specifically but blogging at all?

    Thanks.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks Jim!

    Brad, the point I was making was to get bloggers within a company, of course, this post is intended for corporate bloggers that add to the company.

    I think many employees can start their own blogs outside of the company and focus on whatever passion topic they want. In fact, the whole next generation of workers (Gen Y, Myspace gen) has already done that, and many have not even started working for these corps!

  • http://www.debbieweil.com Debbie Weil

    Jeremiah,

    Great idea to republish this on your new site/blog. What a fantastic resource! I will be pointing to it often. … one quibble, aren’t we “old” friends by now??

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Debbie.

    Totally, I’ll update that, it used to say I was anticipating your new book. Now I reference the real URL.

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  • http://www.darwinpr.com vince bank

    fantastic post. hard to use your voice when 1. your corporate client is conservative and 2. your copy is semi-awkward for seo purposes.

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  • http://contentcontent.blogspot.com kenobi

    I can’t stress the importance of the last point – don’t give up. By this I mean the need to keep an up to date blog. Many of clients are guilty of it, despite the damage it can do. There’s nothing more off putting than an out of date or rarely updated blog (or forum for that matter). It’s the equivalent of a client visiting your office for the first time and a bunch of tumble weeds roll across your front door.

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  • http://www.atraczion.com/blog/ marketing online

    Hi, Jeremiah. I find your site in Digg. First days september I published a blog and I am editing now. It´s about seo news for spanish users. For my experience I believe that is more important read professional blogs like it to learn and share knowledge.
    For example, my blog has 30 days online and I want to leave a tip for those who are initiated. The most important thing is the quality of news and style of writing, first. Do not worry about the visits, do not get mad. In my case, after the first month of writing, the visits began to appear regularly (80 per day), and even the average number of subscribers reached 4 per day.
    After this start, I understand that more important thing for the blog is the confidence that I offer to my users and subscribers. And this is our first and fundamental tool for promotion. First, we must think in user and visits come singly.
    As time goes on, I will share my experiences with you.
    Thanks Jeremiah for your advice.

  • http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/social-media-domination/0/0/social-media-domination Douglas Karr

    Hi Jeremiah,

    I see the advice to ‘start blogging’ and then ‘learn’ in that order a lot on the net, but I think it’s a strategy that can set you back quite a bit. If you can devise a strategy ahead of time for both acquisition (via Search, Blog Seeding, Social Network distribution, Social Bookmarking, etc.), you’ll find yourself getting an outstanding headstart on traffic. If you just ‘start’ and learn later, you could significantly dilute your target keywords and ruin your overall chances of getting better acquisition traffic through search engines. We actually engage our clients this way – create the strategy FIRST.

  • http://matinmed.ru Иннокентий

    Действительно, жизнь не может быть идеальной :)

  • http://vnevrologia.ru кpacoткa

    Конечно, я с подобным тоже сталкивался :)

  • http://florzemli.ru Всеволод Кузьмичев

    Приятно конечно думать, что остались действительно блоги в этой мусорке рейтинга Яши. Ваш – один из таких. Спасибо!

  • http://www.debbieweil.com/ Debbie Weil

    Jeremiah,

    Great idea to republish this on your new site/blog. What a fantastic resource! I will be pointing to it often. … one quibble, aren't we “old” friends by now??

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  • http://anytimeteas.com Brian H.

    Great tips Jeremiah. Love the couple mentions of sticking with it. Persistence is a an absolute must!

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  • Patrick Mutabazi

    Very good tips indeed. Never ever give up is a good message.