7 fundamentals of starting a company blog from scratch

If your company is making its debut in the blogosphere, follow these tips to make sure it arrives with a bang.

It’s more than ideas. It’s more than marketing. Starting a corporate blog is a commitment and should be carefully thought out before executing.

The technology portion—the right look, functionality and widgets—is not that big of deal when it comes to long-term success. You can make technology do anything you want, iterate and add widgets over time. However, you can’t make humans do anything you want, and that is the most overlooked and most important aspect of starting a company blog from scratch. Let’s look at the practical political realities of building a company blog.

1. Assess the culture. Even if starting a blog is the right thing to do, it might not be a wise thing if your company can’t sustain it. Are you built to blog? I was working with a company that definitely could have used a blog and other social media tools to stand out, but the culture of the company (usually dictated by the person at the top) didn’t support it.

It is disastrous to try to implement plans that your company either can’t, or won’t, support. If you have a resistant culture, begin an education process and don’t dive into a kamikaze mission.

Another consideration is that company culture will set the tone of your blog. If you are buttoned-up and conservative, your blog will be too. If you’re customer-focused and passionate about your product, that will show through. Have a realistic expectation about the tone of the blog before going into it.

2. Align with strategy. Blogging is a marketing function. There. I said it. Before all of the PR folks jump down my throat let me explain the rationale. Assuming you didn’t get a government bailout, companies must take money from customers to exist. There will be no media relations, press releases, or employee newsletters if the money doesn’t flow.

Marketing is responsible for bringing in more money, from more people, more often. Everything in the company directly, or indirectly, supports that—including the blog. A blog is just another way to influence people to do something.

What is that? What is the ultimate call to action? What is that blog driving for over time? If you can explain that, it will help you determine how you will …

3. Measure what you treasure. Well, you are going to measure aren’t you? Of course you are. Without a measure of success, how would you know if you are doing better or worse? Or if you should spend more or less money on blogging? Or if you have the right people blogging? Or if you are covering the right topics? Most important, when the budget axe falls some day in the future (and it will), and some outside cost-cutter visits your department and asks “what do you do?” you better have some charts to show how you are adding to stakeholder value on a daily basis.

4. Assess your resources. It’s time to get real. You know all those people who are telling you they’re going to help you with the blog? Don’t count on it! It sounds like a good idea but when it comes time to put pen to paper, many people can’t, or simply don’t deliver. What happens if key bloggers get too busy or don’t follow through? What counter-measure do you have in place? If it’s not a compensated part of their job, it may not be reliable. How will you sustain the blog?

Also in the category of resources is assessing existing content that can be re-purposed. Get more bang for your marketing buck by using speeches, videos, slide presentations and marketing materials in your blog.

5. Look at the outside world. Talk to your customers and ask them what they would like to see on your blog. This just makes sense, but it’s usually overlooked. What do your competitors offer? How are you going to be different?

6. Who’s in charge. The dreaded approval process is part of company life. Don’t fight it. Just make sure it is understood before you start. You don’t want to start blogging and then have a new set of rules thrown at you.

7. Create a plan, then abandon it. Plot out your first 25 blog posts. How do they align with strategy? Meet customer needs? Blend with management expectations? It’s a good idea to have some sort of a plan before you start, but don’t become too wedded to it. Don’t miss what is going on all around you and all the great story ideas flying at you every day!

Mark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions and blogs at grow.


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