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What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting

April 2006

What are the benefits of corporate blogging?

When done correctly, blogging can be extremely valuable to a company. Here are some ways blogging can be advantageous to a company:

1. First and foremost, corporate blogging can create transparency to a company. It allows you to talk to your customers in a more casual environment about your industry and products. Obviously, the blog posts should not read as sales pitches in order to achieve a certain degree of transparency. When written in a casual, yet passionate voice, it's easy to engage customers and offer them a person behind what could otherwise appear to be a large, faceless company.

In Steven Warren's article entitled The Benefits of Corporate Blogging, he says that passion is what can make a blog so great. "Passion sells. People will read and follow you if you are passionate and really love what you are writing about. A passionate blog will reach more people than any high-dollar ad campaign." By an employee using their own passion and enthusiasm, it can really bring something to a corporate blog.

2. Search engine optimization. "Search engines love blogs," says Mark of Web Watching. Because blogs have a lot of text, offer constantly updated content, and are often link heavy, they are easily found by search engines.

3. New content being made readily available at a fairly regular rate. With RSS readers, it's easy to stay on top of your favorite blogs. With a corporate blog, it's the best way to reach a lot of readers quickly. Your brand can stay fresh in your customer's mind.

It's also an easy way to update content regularly without having to fuss with HTML or the actual webpage itself.

4. Instant feedback and communication. If a customer has something to say or ask, it's easy to do it in the comments of the blog. It's also a good way for a company to deal with criticism and other crises. The blogger can instantly respond, which can prove that they are genuinely interested in communicating with customers and bettering their services or products. It can change overall perceptions of a brand.

5. Getting linked to and promoted by other bloggers in the community. Links are really important for search engine optimization. Bloggers often reference and link to other blog posts, so by having a blog it's a great way to get links.

Please tell us what you would add to the list.

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Filed under: FAQ

Posted by on April 28, 2006 11:17 AM | | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

Southwest Blog Takes Off and Hits Some Turbulence

I applaud Southwest Airlines for being the first airline to engage into the blogosphere with thier Nuts About Southwest Blog. I think the site looks great and it may become a model for future brand name blogs. However, as with most forays into blogging by big businesses, the site is gathering some constructive criticism. It's coming from Shel Israel for not being engaging enough, from Robert Scoble for being too "safe" and from my colleague John Cass for burying this customer service disclaimer in their obscure "User Guide".

One final disclaimer -- the Southwest Blog is not the forum to address personal Customer Service issues. All of us have "day jobs," and we simply don't have the resources through this blog to resolve individual concerns. Even though this is not the forum, Southwest is eager to resolve your concerns. Our Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards folks want to assist you, and you can contact them by...

I would like to weigh in on the customer services aspect of this discussion. Of course Blogs should be open and ready to respond to comments, but I think the constructive bloggers out there should remember that airlines already have very elaborate customer service systems. Do you think this blog would have ever gotten off the ground if the blog evangelists selling the idea to Southwest leaders said "if we're going to blog then we have to reconfigure our customer services departments so we can respond to all the potential customer inquiries that come in through the blog"? In the case of an airline, or a car manufacture I don't think the blog is the place for that anyway.

Built in Customer Service is a great aspiration for a blog but I don't think it's a realistic expectation for the first batch of brand name corporate blogs. Rational people know how to complain to an airline. You walk up to the ticket counter; you call the toll free number or go to the website. If your claim is valid they do what they can to keep you happy if they don't they know that you have other choices. If it is not taken care of sufficiently there, then a blog may be an ok place for the irate to vent and have a soapbox but should we really expect large companies to portray their blogs as a customer service vehicle?

Now I'm not arguing the blogs can't be great customer service vehicle. I believe that blogs could be a great STRATEGY for Southwest or any company to consider IF one of their primary goals is to build or revamp its customer service system.

All that being said, Southwest should do a better job communicating their commenting policy and be prepared with some strategy for directing inquires to the appropriate Southwest resource (be it a phone number, web site, FAQ, email address or even a previous blog post).

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Filed under: Blogging Strategy

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 27, 2006 6:07 PM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

Blogging Strategy By SCOUT

Hi Folks, I just updated our Blogging Services page with a new section outlining the blogging strategy that we provide to corporate blogging clients. I think this might be helpful to use as a checklist for anyone interested in developing their own corporate blogging. Here it is. What do you think?

Blogging Strategy

A formal custom strategy and plan will be developed upon company approval based off of your SCOUT blogging assessment. Your strategy and plan will include the following elements:

Blog Strategy Overview – Executive summary of the strategy for your company highlighting the key goals, tactics, and measurement standards.

Designated Bloggers – An overview of the bloggers who will be posting and their administrative privileges. This section of your strategy also provides a profile of the types of people from your organization who would support your company’s overall blogging strategy.

Blog Description – The formal written description of your company’s blog(s) and its mission.

Content Focus – The content focus describes the various topics that the blog(s) will cover on a frequent basis. An abstract description for each recommended and agreed content focus area will be available in this section.

How often should bloggers post – Your bloggers will be provided with coaching on the posting frequency. Your post frequency strategy is determined by the assertiveness of the stated goals, available resources, and the scope of the agreement with SCOUT.

Content Review Process – This provides all parties with the agreed upon protocol for posting to the blog. The goal is to provide the highest level of content scrutiny without sacrificing the voice of the post or the ability to post an entry or comment in a timely fashion.

Blogging Policy – An outline of the limits to what can be written on the blog, what is expected of all bloggers, what topics are off limits, as well as basic rules and guidelines for engagement in the blogosphere.

Comments Policy – A publicly posted policy outlining how your company will filter and or respond to comments and trackbacks. The general guidelines are to post all comments and trackbacks as long as they are not inflammatory or obscene. Your company can also reserve the right to prevent overly promotional posts or spam.

Employee blogs: Internal and External – A posted guideline regarding internal or external company blogs. For example, you may authorize your employees to run their own “external” blogs as long as they follow certain guidelines, list a disclaimer, and link to the official corporate blogs with a designated image or line of text.

General Employee Consumer Generated Media Policy – We will work with you to set up a general employee consumer generated media posting policy. If even your employees don’t blog, it is important to let them know what can be said about your company on the web while they work for you.

Blog Marketing Plan – Based upon your marketing goals, we develop your strategy for generating awareness and reaching your marketing goals for your blog. The blog marketing plan will provide an overview of your blog SEO and PR goals, which will offer quantitative goals to achieve with the number of articles.

Blogger Relations Plan – How we intend to promote your blog with the key influencers in your space, addressing who we will target with comments, and trackbacks,.

Blogging Technology and Hosting – The recommended technology solution for your blogging needs.

Blog Design Recommendations – Design guidelines and recommendations.

Training Schedule and Participants – Training for your designated bloggers and affiliated team members.

Implementation Timeline – A living document outlining the implementation process for your custom strategy.

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Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 25, 2006 5:15 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Marketing People of Albany New York: Network and Learn about SEO

I'm really looking forward to a speaking next month (May 11th 2006) at the New York Capital Region Chapter of the American Marketing Association. They have graciously asked me to come out and speak with them about SEO Blogging and Podcasting. The event is dubbed Tag it. Blog it. Podcast it. And reap the rewards. If you are planning to attend this marketing event, I invite you to start firing your questions at me. I've also listed a few questions for you at the bottom of this post.

If you're going to be in the Albany NY area on May 11th, please stop in and say hello. Here's a taste of the areas that I will cover during the 1.5 hours session.

1) Why (and how) your web site can be a great source of new business

  • Most buyers use search engines (Google or Yahoo) to find new products and services
  • Most forms of advertising are an interruption. Exception... searchers are actively seeking information.

2) Three keys to successful search engine marketing

  • Relevant content - provide your visitors with a wealth of info pertaining the keywords and phrases that they are most likely to use in a search
  • High quality links - links are like votes , develop backlinks from high quality related websites
  • Index-ability - make sure your website is assessable to search engines

3) How corporate blogging can improve your search engine rankings

  • Blogs are great for search engine rankings but the way to get the SEO benefits is by becoming a great blogger
  • How to become a great blogger
  • Analyze your company's blogging opportunity
  • Monitor what others are saying about your business or industry
  • Monitor the blogs and bloggers that are attracting your audience and add to the conversation.

4) What is podcasting

  • example of a podcast

Questions for the audience:

  • When you search do you tend to click on the sponsored ads or the organic listings? Do you know the difference?
  • How do you begin your research into a big purchase (personal or business related)?
  • Have you considered corporate blogging as a possible strategy for your business? If yes why have you chosen to pursue or not to pursue blogging as a business strategy?
  • Do bloggers influence your industry?
  • Can you name any of the blogs that are popular in your industry?
  • Do you or any members of your immediate family own an Ipod?

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Filed under: Search Engine Optimization

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 18, 2006 5:22 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Learning from what's in the tool box of top bloggers

We're living in an age of information overload. Knowing how to sift through the streams of information for gold nuggets without breaking a back is the skill that we all need to learn and develop. No doubt, the next generation markets (who are now in high school and college), will be measured by how efficient they are at filtering and responding to information.

When it comes to searching the web, the best at it are possibly the top bloggers. Top bloggers have an uncanny ability for uncovering the stories and discussion that their audience will eventually care about. They do it by sifting through piles of information usually while maintaining their day job. Therefore, knowing how top bloggers efficiently zero-in is a valuable lesson for all of us.

Here are a couple of very helpful posts by a top blogger, B.L. Ochman . In her first post, How I Keep Up With It All: My Top Blog Research Tools, she outlines some tools and techniques she uses. In her second post, Top Bloggers Share Their Favorite Research Tools, she asks other bloggers such as Doc Serls, the co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto to share their tools and techniques.

I highly recommend these posts for college professors and high school teachers looking to prepare their students for tomorrow's competitive workforce environment.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 14, 2006 2:37 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Measure twice before your cut into corporate blogging

Once a company decides to blog it's natural to want to put up a blog and start blogging, but it's important to measure twice before your cut into corporate blogging. Ted Demopoulos over at Blogging For Business highlights a nice post by Shadowbox Studios that gives some down to earth advice on how to Develop Blog Strategy First. I really like how the author of this post, Patrick Dodd has offered a sampling of his Goals and Objectives.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 14, 2006 10:33 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Blogging ROI Proof is for Pansies

Healthy debate is good for Corporate Blogging. However, it highlights the challenge that blog evangelists are facing when educating marketing folks and CEOs. Most people aren't buying the coolaid without some Forrester report that undeniably proves ROI for corporate blogging. Proof is for pansies (smile).

No - proof is great. Last July we published findings of a 72 page Corporate Blogging Study that surveyed over 90 bloggers about what they're getting out of blogging. This year we're working on a new blogging study with Dr. Walter Carl and his students at Northeastern University.

Anyway, if a company wants a simple answer for how and why they can institutionalize blogging, they're not going to get it waiting around for proof about how other companies are doing it. Lazy marketing directors and their CEOs want to take their budget and spend it on a guaranteed return. I'm a lazy CEO too. I'd love to spend short money on big return. Show me something other than blogging that can help me get better search engine rankings and links, and boost sales, improve thought leadership, extend traditional PR and generate press coverage, strengthen relationship with my customers and help me build better products.

The thing lazy people have trouble with is that successful blogging is an oblique way getting potentially fundamental business returns. It takes a while to understand why this is true and it also takes an investment of ones time and money to develop a viable case for institutionalizing it or not. I am certain that blogging is not right for every company. However, companies just need to explore their potential opportunity and develop a justifiable strategy before they hold their nose.

Remember that it took mainstream corporate America's marketing departments several years to realize the value of search engine marketing. Does that mean that pay per click advertising was not effective before the days of enlightenment? No. Advertising in Google and Yahoo was really cheap in 1999 (about .05 cents per click), but arguably just as effective. Since 1999, CPC rates have increase at 35% per year. Over the last four years, the big advertising budgets poured into search. Average search advertising CPCs are up around $1.61 today. Need proof for that. Check out Google stock market valuation.

The point here is that blogging strategies are new and different. Blogs deliver a lot of intangible benefits. It's kind of like the old case for PR vs. advertising. Editorial coverage in a trusted media is more credible Advertising is spin. There are not many college courses in Blog Marketing now just as there weren't many courses in online marketing back in 1995 or even in 2000. Blogging and podcasting is the new new thing. Savvy businesses that want to see what it can be all about for them need to weigh investment and risks vs. rewards and make a call.

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Filed under: Blogging ROI

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 11, 2006 3:14 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

Who should blog in a company?

Anybody in a company can blog, but not anybody in a company necessarily should blog.

An employee in any position could potentially be a good blogger, as long as they have something interesting to say. PR people, product developers, CEOs, and VPs are all examples of employees who could blog.

Marketing and salespeople can also make fantastic bloggers, as long as the blogs don't sound too "salesy." Blog posts should have a casual, personable voice and should not read like advertisements.

People who want to become a corporate blogger should be prepared to:

  1. Communicate with both existing customers and potential customers.
  2. Commit to posting regularly.
  3. Set aside time to read other blogs in the industry.
  4. Receive and respond to feedback, both negative and positive. It reflects well on a company if they are willing to engage in correspondence.

In elise.com's post Blogging for Business, she says that "Sometimes the best spokesperson for a business is a company's President, CEO, owner, or VP of Something Important", although she adds: "the best person to blog for your company is someone with a deep knowledge of your products, someone who likes to talk with customers and won't get unduly defensive when the feedback isn't all positive, and someone who likes to write, and writes well."

Elise is right on the money there; no matter what title the blogger holds in the company, above all he or she needs to be a good communicator.

Susan Solomon at www.marketingprofs.com suggests in her article Whose Blog Is It Anyway that mid-level managers blog. She finds that CEOs and executives in larger companies "don't provide the bare honesty expected of a decent blog" due to stockholder's perceptions." She also mentions that mid-level bloggers won't make great bloggers if their blog posts wind up being submitted through "layers of approvals". This is very true, mostly because it will lose part of the voice. Blog posts should not read as standard articles or press releases. She recommends that some clear-cut guidelines are laid out beforehand, so the company's bloggers can follow them and not have to go through different people to approve their blog entry before posting.

Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by on April 10, 2006 11:03 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Turning golden boys of blogging into whipping boys

There's a new game to play around the office --- pelt the champions of blogging because they don't have ALL the answers. Big companies are looking for the simple answers and the proof that blogging will mean ROI for their business. Are we turning the messengers from golden boys into whipping boys? At a recent educational event hosted by Amazon for Amazon employees, Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon asked Naked Conversations authors, Shel Israel & Robert Scoble, to "tell me why customers would get a better Amazon product if we would institutionalize blogging at a wider scale around Amazon." Judging from Vogels recap, the "golden wonder boys" answers fell short.

Quote from Werner Vogles Post, Naked Answers: "This was my approach with challenging Shel and Robert at our lunch meeting. I wanted them abandon their fuzzy group hug approach, and counter me with hard arguments why they were right and I was wrong. Instead they appeared shell-shocked that anyone actually had the guts to challenge the golden wonder boys of blogging and not accept their religion instantly..."
Quote from Shel Israel's Post, Amazon's CTO Retorts: "The Amazon people who prepped me for this meeting, had just said Amazon wanted to hear about blogging and why they should do more of it. I don't often avoid confrontations, but this felt pretty much like the wrong forum for butting heads with our host's executive officer who was behaving like he was locked and loaded for bear hunting..."

Mr. Vogles, I think your stance was a little brusque but it is provocative. I think you've asked a very intelligent question and it shows that your number one concern is the Amazon product. Interestingly enough, I did a search on your blog for posts containing the following terms and came up empty; Marketing 0, Public Relations = 0, Sales = 0, SEO = 0. I don't know if you're familiar with the Macromedia Blogging Case Study, but I think that's a clear example of how blogging can help a company build better products. Of course every company is different and what worked for Macromedia will not work for Amazon. You seem like a smart guy who understands how to blog.

Here's my advice if you're listening. A little research assessment and creativity could go long way. I would recommend researching Amazon's blogging opportunity with an open mind and including marketing, add PR, SEO, sales and brand reputation into your equation. How much of an investment of your company time or money would that be? Give it about 200 hours. Look at the bloggers influencing your customers. Look at bloggers who uses your services. Estimate the search marketing value of Amazon blogging. Evaluate all the opportunities where bloggers mention Amazon or competing brands by name. Think about what (dare I say) an even closer connection with your customer would mean in terms of better products, customer satisfaction, client satisfaction. I think all of these are examples of data that could lead you and some strategic folks at Amazon to concoct some possible blogging and blogger relations strategies. What is the potential risk for Amazon? What is the potential return for Amazon?

Quote from Robert Scoble's Post, Much ado about blogging (Scoble, you didn't answer the question): Where I gave them stuff like "blogging doubled sales at Stormhoek winery, according to its CEO." Or "Munjal Shah, CEO of Riya, says blogging is very important to his new company." Or "Axosoft raised more than $14,000 in just a few days with nothing more than a few links on some blogs." Or "Foldera got more than one million signups for its service in 17 days by doing nothing more than talking to six bloggers." Or, a tailor in the UK saw his sales go up by 10x by doing a blog. That probably wasn't well enough communicated, or it wasn't the kind of answer that would convince Werner. That means I need to go back and do some more homework or at least learn to communicate better while being interrupted by an executive with strongly formed opinions.

Putting the gossipy threads aside, this post by Scott Karp on Publishing 2.0, trying his hardest not to be an "Old Media defender" gets into the heart of the issue by asking What Is the Quantifiable ROI of Corporate Blogging? Scott's summary is...

Now you can argue that corporate blogging makes intuitive sense just like brand building makes intuitive sense. But, rudely stated or not, big corporations have every reason to question whether the risks of blogging (which Howard Rice outlines well -- via Nick Carr) outweigh the potential rewards.

Scott raises a good point in this, corporations should "question" whether the risks are worth the potential reward. That's a responsible way to approach corporate blogging because part of the equation in corporate blogging is risk. However, equating blogging arguments to brand building arguments sells blogging a bit short. Maybe the anecdotal evidence offered by Scoble isn't enough for a serious C level professional to "institutionalize blogging" but I think the fact that blogging is providing some very measurable benefits for some companies, is enough to warrant a serious assessment of the opportunity.

Blogging is a strategic decision that has many possible implications. Amazon CTO Vogles is asking a serious question 'should we institutionalize blogging here at Amazon'. It's not up to your customers, and it's not up to industry facts and figures, or even A-list gurus in from whirlwind tours to answer that question for Amazon. If you want actionable information about the opportunity, then Amazon should conduct a unbiased assessment of the opportunity / risk and then use it to make a justification to decisively go one way or another.

Here are some other blog posts that are worth a read on this topic...

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Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 5, 2006 12:23 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)