Blogging is the single best way of generating sustained, quality buzz for your company. Done well, your company blog will create more awareness, customers, press, publicity and goodwill than anything else you can do.
So how do you create the perfect company blog?
Setting Up Your Company Blog
For starters, here are 4 tips for setting up your company blog:
- Make sure the blog’s design is very similar or identical to your website. This maintains continuity of your brand, and makes the blog easily recognizable. It also ensures the blog becomes a key part of your website (which it should be.) If your startup doesn’t have a site yet, or just has a placeholder site, then make sure your blog has a great design. Try and avoid generic, dull themes.
- Use a simple domain name like blog.company.com or company.com/blog. It needs to be under the company’s domain or its own, but not under a “generic” domain like company.wordpress.com or company.blogspot.com. Again, the blog needs to be a integral part of your website and brand. I would recommend using WordPress.
- Keep it simple – don’t overuse plugins, widgets or anything else. Don’t use Google AdSense or any other advertising (except your own), it just cheapens the whole thing.
- Offer email and RSS subscriptions. You can do both through FeedBurner.
Writing Content for Your Company Blog
Really, it’s the content that’s critical for a successful company blog. And in this case, a company blog is a bit different from other blogs because of the types of content you’ll be publishing. Some are the same (as with any blog), but not all of them. I’ve broken the content types down below:
- Thought Leadership. The best way to stand out from the crowd of company blogs is through thought leadership. Provide valuable, thought provoking content — your own ideas and those of the company — because this is the content that people will talk about, comment on and link to. This is the type of content that will build up your company’s brand more than anything else. It’s also the most challenging to write because it requires the most time.
- Industry News Summaries. You don’t need to be breaking industry news (unless it’s your own) but you do want to show people that you’re on top of what goes on around you. Summarizing industry news is easy; you’re probably tracking it all anyway, so it’s just a matter of reiterating it, linking to the original source, and when appropriate, adding your own two cents. The more you provide your own input, the better, because these industry news summaries can become thought leadership style posts (albeit more abbreviated.) The folks at Praized do a good job of this.
- Diggbait. Hitting the front page of digg is no easy feat, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t try. To do it well you need to understand what folks on digg (and other social media/bookmarking sites) want, and how to promote content successfully on digg. Company news or anything too related to your company won’t work, it will come across as “too corporate.” Think about a resource post or a controversial post related to a hot topic in your industry.
- Company News. These posts are important because they give you an opportunity to toot your own horn. Just don’t overdo it. But you can replace the “Press” section on your website with blog posts. You should also make feature announcements, or wet people’s appetites with upcoming feature news. Promote success stories. Use the blog as a way of communicating with customers about what’s important to them. If you get into trouble or screw up, use your blog to fess up and maintain goodwill. The key is to avoid a blog that’s about nothing but you. Yes, you and your company are interesting, but if your blog offers nothing but company news, the audience is not likely to stay engaged.
The best company blogs will always publish a combination of these posts, blending them in naturally. A great example is Signal vs. Noise from 37Signals. A more recent example of a killer company blog is from startup Path101. The rules of good copywriting and blogging still apply no matter what (i.e. link to others often, write strong headlines, etc.) but the diversity of content will help.
Promoting Your Company Blog
Make sure you do it. How’s that for simple?
Promoting a company blog is no different than promoting any other kind of blog — it takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it.
A few quick reminders:
- Link to your blog prominently from your home page (and the rest of your website.)
- Link to your blog from your email signature file.
- Mention your blog in email newsletters and emails that go to customers & prospects.
Some Final Thoughts for Your Company Blog
- Having multiple authors is a good idea. It helps spread the workload and let’s your audience see different sides of the company. All the writers are still actively developing the company’s brand, and it can actually make the company and blog feel more personal than if there’s a single author. (It also protects against a situation where that single author leaves the company…)
- Don’t feel obligated to write that often on the blog. Even once per week is enough to remind people that you’re there, alive and doing something interesting. Certainly, the more you write the more opportunities you have to build key relationships and keep people’s attention, but frequency isn’t absolutely crucial. Just don’t let the blog die off. (From a design perspective, you might consider hiding/excluding dates from the blog, so if you don’t post for awhile it won’t look completely dead.)
- Don’t oversell or market your company. Yes, it’s a company blog and you should use it as a sales tool, but don’t overdo it. If the blog becomes nothing more than a sales letter your audience will disappear. People read company blogs because of their interest in the company but you don’t need to sell them constantly.
There’s no reason a company shouldn’t have a blog. And for startups it’s the easiest way to build brand, recognition and buzz. It’s also the simplest way to maintain buzz long-term, which is so hard to do in a world where new startups are being announced every five seconds, and there’s so much noise.