- Chris on Stonyfield Farm, Chris Halvorson
- John Cass on Stonyfield Farm, Chris Halvorson
- Nobelle.net on Appendix 5.0 Blogging Glossary
- Laurent Pacalin on Appendix 5.0 Blogging Glossary
Successful Blogs from the study
- Authors and Bios
- Blogger Interviews
- Blogging Glossary
- Blogging Research Methodology
- Blogging Success Study
- Choosing the Right Blogger
- Company Blog
- Company Culture
- Deciding to Blog or Not
- Generating Dialogue
- Interview Questions
- Online PR
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing
- Social Media Strategy
- Starting a Blog
- The Time Investment
- Top Content Strategies
- Top Habits
- Top Success Factors
- Writing Style
Company Culture Archive
posted: November 2, 2006 2:07 AM
Several bloggers we interviewed discussed how the issue of company culture was key to building a successful blog. If a company’s culture is warm and open, and a company is transparent about their blogging, this will come across in the blog. An audience and customers will then have a better connection with a company through its blog. In addition, a company will better convey its corporate message to an audience if that message is written clearly, and if the blog provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the company culture. A blog may change perceptions about a company’s brand, but in order for that perceptual shift to occur, a company must have a corporate culture that is worth promoting to the world.
Keeping a tight control on the flow of information from a company does not work well in the blogging culture. Many companies have a fear that allowing their employees to blog freely about their work will cause the company to lose control and put the company at risk. To the contrary, our bloggers found that having the ability to connect with their audience in a transparent way and engage in frank and honest discussion garnered more respect from readers and customers. Ultimately, a company should set guidelines for their bloggers, but then allow the free flow of information.
Heather Hamilton thought that companies should decide if blogging fits in with their corporate culture. Heather is the staffing manager for Microsoft’s marketing central sourcing team. She blogs to answer candidate questions and to reveal to candidates that Microsoft employees are real people with the same issues everyone else shares. If a company is apprehensive about revealing too much, or letting employees write on a blog without management control, then blogging may not be for that company. An analysis of the openness of a company’s culture has to be conducted before deciding to blog, as restrictions on openness could restrict the success of a blog once launched. Blogging can quickly demonstrate that a company is open and flexible. What an employee writes on their blog will reveal a lot about a company, also what an employee does not write will also reveal a lot.
Microsoft has not only encouraged blogging, but through bloggers like Heather Hamilton, the company has been able to change many minds in the industry about the willingness of Microsoft to be flexible and entrepreneurial.
Another blogger, Jeremy Pepper, described how Robert Scoble of Microsoft (who has since moved on from Microsoft) had really changed the impression of the company among its customers. Jeremy said, "I can say without any issue that Robert Scoble has given Microsoft a friendly persona out there on the Internet. He’s given a face to the organization that’s different than Steve Balmer or Bill Gates. He’s made it warm and fuzzy. It’s no longer the evil empire. It’s just, “Oh this is the company Scoble works for!” It’s – It helps take off the taint that the company has had." Jeremy went on to say, "He [Scoble] doesn’t talk about Microsoft all that much, but he is known as a Microsoft blogger."
We now know that a company needs to look inward at its corporate culture before that company can start blogging effectively. There needs to be executive support. Management must be willing to reveal the human inner workings of the outer corporation. There needs to be an understanding that blogging does not have to be controlled in the ways that some companies have traditionally tried to restrict dialogue. And, lastly, a company needs a culture worth promoting or revealing through a blog.
Discussing the issue of whether a company should blog or not, Jim Cahill at Emerson Process Management said, "you do have to look at the culture. If you are an organization that wants to keep an iron hand on the flow of communication, this might not be for you. Or, it might be an organization that is very firm in the information they want to go out and when they want it to go out. So if you’re a business that can’t deal with the change of flow in information it may not be for you. But if you look at the companies out there, I would hope there is enough latitude between the two extremes to cultivate at least some type of internal approach."
Blogger: Jeremy Pepper
posted: October 28, 2006 9:43 PM
1.1.17 Blogger: Jeremy Pepper
Student Interviewer: AnneMarie Martel
Jeremy Pepper is one of the earliest PR bloggers in the US market. He started his Pop PR blog when he started his own PR agency. Now working for a larger agency he continues to write his personal blog.
Jeremy thinks that any company can blog, but a company needs to have either the right person or the right corporate culture. Jeremy went on to describe how Robert Scoble of Microsoft has really changed the impression of the company among its customers. Jeremy said, "I can say without any issue that Robert Scoble has given Microsoft a friendly persona out there on the Internet. He’s given a face to the organization that’s different than Steve Balmer or Bill Gates. He’s made it warm and fuzzy. It’s no longer the evil empire. It’s just, “Oh this is the company Scoble works for!” It’s – It helps take off the taint that the company has had." Jeremy went on to say, "He (Scoble) doesn’t talk about Microsoft all that much, but he is known as a Microsoft blogger."
Discussing the issue of what makes his blog successful, Jeremy said, “I think what draws the attention to my blog is my honesty.” And went onto say, “People know that I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. That I’m going to be out there. I’m going to be honest. I’m going to say what I’m thinking.”
Jeremy stated that that bloggers have to conduct a conversation with their audience, and that it’s important to reply to people who comment on a blog, to comment on other blogs, but not to comment for the sake for commenting, only when it fits in with a conversation.
Jeremy discussed how he thought that bloggers in the PR community should focus their blogging efforts on helping the PR community to improve their community. Jeremy thought that to be successful in blogging takes a lot of time and a thick skin and some passion.
Stone Creek Coffee, Tom Pionek
posted: October 28, 2006 8:11 PM
1.1.18 Company: Stone Creek Coffee
Blogger: Tom Pionek
Student Interviewer: Krista Grosser
Tom Pionek works at Stone Creek Coffee, a coffee roaster and retailer of specialty coffees. He has over ten years of Internet database marketing experience. Tom helps run the Stone Creek Coffee blog. Stone Creek Coffee has nine retail stores in the Wisconsin area.
Tom told us that the ability to change content on the website more frequently was a big factor in setting up the blog. Nearly everyone at the roasting plant can blog although employees at the retail stores don’t blog, as those employees are more often than not very transitory, and so Stone Creek Coffee prefers to have those employees blog who will write over time.
Tom thought it was important for the people in his company to blog, "from the heart and not try to put a spin on something." The employees try very hard not to make the blog seem very corporate by talking about their everyday work experiences.
As a measure of success, Tom tracks if his blog receives good feedback. Tom said the blog has generated a lot of publicity for the company. Other non-company bloggers had a big impact on the company blog by commenting and linking to the blog. Those links have helped with higher rankings on Google search terms such as “wholesale coffee”.
Tom said that he is trying to use the blog as a content generator for printed materials and newsletters. He reuses the posts in such printed material for customers.
According to Tom, the content that generates the most comments are the posts about the coffee and the unique properties of their roasts. Most of the content is about the product, stores, and community projects. One of the posts that generated the most comments was when one of their store managers left the company. Many well wishers to the store manager left comments on the blog.
Tom recommended that a company decide who is going to blog and have a schedule of content.
Stonyfield Farm, Chris Halvorson
posted: October 28, 2006 7:57 PM
1.1.19 Company: Stonyfield Farm
Blogger: Chris Halvorson
Student Interviewer: Krystle Randall
Chris Halvorson is famous in the blogosphere for being hired as a blogger for one of the first non-technology companies, Stonyfield Farm, a yogurt company.
Describing the inspiration for the Stonyfield blogs, Chris told the interviewer that the Howard Dean campaign in the Presidential election had a big effect on Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farm. After watching the benefits to the Dean campaign in the election, Gary wanted to use blogs as a way to connect with his customers.
Stonyfield’s blog is very well known in a number of blogging communities because of its early adoption of the corporate blogging. The company started with five blogs and reduced the number of blogs to two. We asked Chris why the company cut down on the number of blogs. Chris said, "We started out with five, I was the only staff person doing it and it did get to be a little too much to write and maintain five. We had five different topic areas and all along we considered it one big experiment. So, we put the five out there to see what works. We got rid of one because it never seemed to find an audience. It was sort of an insider’s view to the company, you know, I wrote about quirky little things we did as employees. We had a potluck today, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, or whatever it was and it didn’t really seem to find an audience which is in retrospect, understandable."
Chris explained that the company had a blog focused on the environment but it shut down because there was not enough time to write content for the blog. Stonyfield decided that it would be better to let other voices in the blogosphere take the lead on this issue. Chris said that while it’s important to conduct organic farming and support alternative energy, it is not the main focus of the company.
Chris explained that Stonyfield did not review or fact check content before she published it. Chris thought that lack of restrictions on what could be posted led to a very human voice for the blog. Chris spends about two hours a day writing the two remaining blogs. Chris writes all the content, except for the Bovine Bugle. The content for that blog is written by one of Stonyfield's organic farmers.
Stonyfield did want some measurement of success for its blogs, and wanted to demonstrate that the blog was building relationships with blog readers. Chris told us that the measurement for success for the blog was when a reader commented or sent a note to the bloggers.
One of the biggest success factors identified for Stonyfield blogs was the Stonyfield Farm blog. Jonathan, Stonyfield’s organic farming blogger, writes about whatever is happening in his life on the farm, during the calving season or maple sugar season. As one of the first consumer product company’s to blog, Stonyfield caught everyone's attention in the early days of blogging, they were watched closely to see what the company would do and how it would blog.
Chris told the interviewer that the blog was successful even though Chris did not write about yogurt more than three or four times in two years.
Chris did not spend a lot of time linking to other bloggers. However, she did monitor the web for mentions of Stonyfield on other blogs. She would correct any factual errors stated on other blogs and link to relevant websites.
When the blog first started in April of 2004, Chris used to write about politics and religion and other non-business issues. Those posts received a lot of comments. The company started a blog about strong women because the majority of yogurt eaters are women. One of the most popular posts was who readers thought would make the best women presidential candidate.
One of the Stonyfield employees, a father of a new baby, wrote a post about how messy his house was because of the time he and his partner were spending time on looking after the new baby. The employee mentioned that his family used formula and this caused some readers to write that Stonyfield endorsed infant formula instead of breast-feeding, even though Stonyfield did not. The post on baby formula received over forty comments. So many comments were made that it was almost to the point of being unmanageable for the company. The Stonyfield blog did not have a comment policy, and Chris decided to create one stating that if all points of view have been stated in comments Chris would not allow any additional comments.
Chris moderates blog posts for the tone of the comments. She does not let the blogs ever get very "nasty," which is something she has seen on many blogs about parenting where people will criticize each other for making different choices. Chris would also not allow comments that are factually wrong, such as a comment stating, "babies need to watch television in the first month of life." Chris would do some of her own fact checking or post the comment with her own comment stating that the issues raised have not been proven.
Chris spends a lot of time reading the news about parenting. Chris tied the blog content into Stonyfield yogurt products because the company was one of the first companies to put DHA in their yogurt, a fatty acid helpful for the brain development of babies. Chris would not try to pitch the product but ask questions around the subject, such as asking if people know about the importance of their babies eating DHA, and if they or their babies eat food with DHA in it. Chris said she tries to "raise questions in people's minds" or be provocative, by asking the question what do you think of this issue or that, to generate comments.
Chris thought it was important for companies to understand how blogs can be applied in their own marketplace and learn how a blog can be useful to their company. Chris thinks companies should not be afraid of their customers’ responses and that a company will need to dedicate enough resources for a company to be able to blog.
Appendix 5.0 Blogging Glossary
posted: October 28, 2006 5:32 PM
Blog / Blogging
A blog is a website that is typically driven by a content management system. The home page of the website features articles or posts in sequential order by date. Each post can be categorized and found through the side navigation of categories.
Blogging is the process of writing a blog article or post on a blog, or commenting on another blog.
A blog aggregator is a website that lists a number of RSS feeds from any number of blogs. The aggregator features headlines or text from the RSS feeds of the blogs that are aggregated within the blog aggregator.
Blogger or blogspot is a blog publishing system provided by Google.com for free to any Internet user.
An informal term for describing the whole community of bloggers on the web, the term is also used to define a particular community such as the PR community of bloggers or PR Blogosphere.
Comments / Commenting
Blogs are a design of website that allow a lot of interaction between the writer of the blog, and the blogger’s audience. A comment dialog box allows a blog reader to make a comment on a blog post. Due to the increasing volume of comment spam, many bloggers moderate their comments before publishing them.
Podcasting is the process of creating an audio recording and syndicating that content through an RSS feed.
RSS or really simple syndication is not as you might think an example of stick man cartoons being syndicated through national newspapers but the syndication of one website’s content to another website or RSS feed reader.
Bloglines.com is an example of a web based RSS feed reader.
The advantage to the visitor who is using an RSS feed reader is that you know if the content on a website or blog has been updated without actually visiting the website. RSS feed readers are designed in such a way that the visitor can review a large number of feeds all at the same time. Some people have 50, 100, or several hundred feeds in their feed reader. The design is much more efficient than email, in that typically an email user does not know when they are going to receive an email, for example a monthly newsletter, but with RSS the visitor can ask for the content when they are ready to receive the information. RSS makes the process of monitoring content updates much more efficient. An RSS feed can be used by a visitor or website to request for updates to a website on a periodic basis or when a visitor returns to their feed reader.
What’s interesting is that the demand for content from publishers increases with RSS, instead of cursing more regular email newsletters than once a month, an RSS feed reader might begin to question the same content provider’s ability to produce content when they are not writing every few days.
The marketing opportunity is that your customers will be more likely to read your content, as you can break up the content into chucks over time, and also the RSS reader is able to see more content then they could ever do before.
SEO / organic SEO
SEO or search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a web page in order to increase the chances of the web page appearing at a higher ranking in editorial listings on a search engine.
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN feature two types of listings, editorial or organic listings and sponsored listings. Organic listings are those web pages listed in a search engine, which are ranked without sponsorship by a search engine. Organic SEO is the process of attempting to obtain a higher listing in the organic section of a search engine.
Technorati.com is a search engine for blogs and RSS feeds. The company developed the idea of tags.
The best way for a blogger to alert another blogger that she has mentioned her work in a blog post is to use a trackback. Trackbacks send a notification to a blog that another blogger has written a post about their blog article. To send a trackback, a blogger has to copy and paste a trackback URL from a blogger’s article into the ping field of a blog content management system. Once the blog post and trackback ping is published the blog content management system notifies a ping server that the page has been updated. The ping server then notifies the blogging system of the blog from the original trackback that a trackback has been sent from another blog. A trackback link will then appear underneath the post on the original blog.
There is an increasing amount of trackback Spam from malicious blog Spammers, and so many blogging publishing systems allow bloggers to monitor trackbacks before deciding whether to publish the trackback.
Search engines give higher rankings to those websites that have more links from relevant websites. Trackback Spammers send trackbacks to obtain more links in order to get higher rankings on search engines and receive direct traffic. The correct etiquette in using a trackback is to reference in your post a blog post where you wish to send a trackback. Commenting in your own blog article about a blog article on another blog where you wish to send a trackback will increase the likelihood that a blogger will publish a trackback on their blog.
Successful trackbacks, like successful blog marketing, can only be achieved if a blogger understands that he is having a dialogue with other bloggers. Merely targeting other blogs for links will not only get your trackback deleted but may also give you a reputation for Spamming amongst your industry’s community of bloggers. Don’t send a trackback unless you wanted to comment indirectly through a trackback on a blog post, or you wish to reference some information provided by a blogger’s article on his blog. Only send a trackback if your post is relevant to the other blogger’s article. Lastly, definitely do not randomly send trackbacks to a blogger’s article when your own article does not even reference their post, or has nothing to do with the content on another blogger’s blog.