How Much Blog -- and How Often? | Page 4
Fostering Corporate Buy-In
It's no secret that fear is a strong motivator (or de-motivator). In 2005, a survey of senior marketers indicated that "fear of losing control of the company message" and "worries about what employees would write" were two of the most-often cited reasons that companies had not launched a blogging initiative.
These fears do have some foundation. Google, Delta Airlines, Microsoft, and a handful of other companies have indeed fired irresponsible bloggers who had posted information that was confidential or proved embarrassing to the organizations they worked for. Of course, these few high-profile cases stand in stark contrast to the millions of bloggers who post regularly about employer-related issues without compromising the companies they work for. There are risks, no doubt about it, yet based on the statistics and our personal experience, we know that these risks can be largely mitigated through clear policies and diligent monitoring and feedback.
It's not unlike commercial jet travel. Strapping yourself into an aluminum tube and then letting the ignition of flammable gases propel you six miles up into the air could also sound a bit risky to the uninitiated. Combine that with the hope that the tube finds and gently descends to a perfect alignment on a narrow strip of pavement thousands of miles away, and it all sounds pretty crazy.
It's counterintuitive, but thanks to careful planning and engineering, flying is one of the safest things you can do. So is blogging—if you have the right people and the right game plan. The challenge is getting the fearful to understand so the process can begin.
Here are a couple tips that will assist you in your efforts to promote greater understanding of the safety and benefits of blogging.
Dooced (v.) — To lose your job because of your blog.
The term was coined after blogger Heather Armstrong, whose blog is called Dooce (www.dooce.com/), was fired in 2002 for her postings about her coworkers. Since then, others have been fired, including a Google employee and a flight attendant. In those cases, the blogger blogged what they shouldn't have, forgetting that the rules in the workplace are more rigid than the blogosphere.
Get a Champion
If you research the stories and case studies surrounding the initiation of blogs in various businesses, you'll discover that often a lone senior executive was the driver behind getting a blog launched. In Boeing's case, the driver was Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. For Stonyfield Farms, it was CEO Gary Hirshberg.
Consider targeting executives that have a leaning toward "guerrilla marketing" strategies. We've discovered that those who pursue word-of-mouth and other grassroots methods of creative promotion are more inclined to embrace blogging. Print or email the many articles in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Business Week, and The Financial Times that reinforce blogs as an effective and inexpensive promotional platform. Google your competitors that are blogging, and show how they're using blogs and where they place in search results.
One persuasive approach is to compare traffic trends of traditional sites versus their blog counterparts. Using Alexa charts to depict traffic patterns of sites your potential champion is familiar with, you can demonstrate how quickly blog traffic can match or eclipse their old-school equivalents.
Even when you have an influential champion working the problem, you can still expect some resistance. Christine Halvorson, Chief Blogger for Stonyfield Farms (The Bovine Bugle blog, shown in Figure 3.3), said at a blogging conference in 2005 that it was no slam-dunk for CEO Hirshberg to institute blogging. He had to convince reluctant marketing and PR teams that blogging was a good idea and it was going to be worth the company's effort. As it turns out, Hirshberg was right. Stonyfield's sales increased 25 percent over the last year, and has 750,000 subscribers to their "Moos Letters," a newsletter subscription service offered on their blogs.
Figure 3.3 Stonyfield's The Bovine Bugle blog offers updates from their organic dairy farm in Franklin, Vermont. Past posts include weather reports, factoids about the cows, and birth announcements.
Management guru Peter Drucker once said "effective innovations start small," and we think corporate blogs are a classic example of an advancement that fits this profile. Starting with a less-ambitious project is not only easier; it's also more likely to be approved.
The general rule is that once an organization starts a simple blogging effort and they begin to see the rewards, they're inclined to expand the program. This has been our anecdotal experience, and one that is also backed up by other statistics. The 2005 Guidewire Group survey of corporate blogging asked 5000 readers of CMO Magazine to respond to questions about their blogging activities. According to Guidewire: "No respondent reported launching a blog initiative that was found to be unsuccessful" and "No respondent plans to scale back or stop activity."
More proof of this comes from Stonyfield's Halvorson when she discussed the results of their initial blogging efforts with BusinessWeek for their May 2, 2005 story, "Stonyfield Farm's Blog Culture." The marketing and PR people "didn't know what a blog was," she says. "They were wary about what I was going to be saying that wasn't in their control. That was a year and a half ago." Later in the year, Christine was on a blogging for business panel at the BlogHer 2005 conference and told the audience that "I was at a brainstorming meeting with these folks last week, where we plan what we're doing for the next year.
By the end of the day, if I had a dime for every time I heard 'well, we oughta start a blog about that.' I'd be a rich woman. They all get it now." With this in mind, consider what we advocated in Chapter 2, "Determining Your Focus." Propose a small, low-risk "starter" blog. If you can launch a blog that wins approval and then document the results, you stand a good chance of eventually expanding the project into something more comprehensive. Boeing launched another blog, and plans to launch more, because of the success of Randy's Journal.
To figure out how much time, energy, and money will be required to launch and maintain various blog strategies, you're going to need to do your homework. If you've got a good picture of what's going to be required and how the project can expand, you will be more likely to receive company resources. You'll also be able to better allocate those resources when you do get them. In the next chapter, we'll help you understand what blog features are optimal for your mission, so that you can ultimately design a blog that fits your needs and budget.
"This content is excerpted from, "Publish and Prosper: Blogging for Your Business", authored by Steve Broback and DL Byron. The content represents pages 47 to 59, from the chapter, "How Much Blog — and How Often?". The book is published by New Riders, © copyright 2006 by DL Byron and Steven Broback. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. ISBN 0-321-39538-7).