I received this great question from Josh Cantrell, a B2B blogger …
Who is my audience? Is it the people I want to sell to, or the people that will regularly follow our blog? How do I determine the blog’s “voice”? My writing style/personality may be different than the corporation’s. Do I do my own thing and just be myself or do I try write AS the business would?
Whether you have a personal blog or a corporate blog, your tone and voice will change over time, primarily as your knowledge and confidence grow. When you get right down to it, your “voice” is the key differentiator for your blog—it probably makes the difference on whether somebody even reads your blog.
I would define “voice” as the personality and style of your writing. Are you witty or buttoned up? Flowery or factual? A storyteller or a reporter? There is no good or bad way to be, as long as you are connecting with your audience.
In the business world, your audience must be defined as the people you are trying to influence. Your company blog should be aligned with your marketing and business strategies; otherwise, why do it?
A business normally has many audiences. Obviously customers—but also suppliers, employees, people in the community, even competitors. One emerging best practice is to have multiple blogs for your differing audiences. This is impractical for many businesses, so you should probably focus on customers—yes, the people you want to sell to.
Aligning your “voice” with the company’s can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. I’ve worked with blog startups at several companies, and here are the phases I see most companies going through:
1) Uptightness: At first, the company is tentative about becoming a publisher. Writing is tightly controlled, wedded to a schedule, and perhaps even approved by Legal.
2) Disenchantment: “What? We don’t have comments on our blog? What are we doing wrong?” Also in this phase you realize that all those people who said they would contribute blog posts were big, fat liars.
3) Realignment: Expectations come more into line, and a more realistic view of the long-term contributions of a blog emerges. Maybe you even have a small win: “Hey, a customer mentioned our blog today.”
4) Relaxation: Company begins to trust the content developers and the overall process. Content begins to be incorporated strategically into sales and marketing efforts. Maybe you even get a comment! The blog becomes cool.
So a voice does evolve, and hopefully over time it will become less press release-like and more human, accessible and friendly.
In the short term, if there is a disconnect between how you write and how they want you to write, you have to live with it. Change takes time, and let’s face it, if the company is paying you, they can ask you to write any damn thing they want, even if it sucks.
Here is another remote possibility. Your company might be right. Most companies are run by experienced, well-meaning people who want to do good work and who care about you, too. As I look back at my own career, when I was 25 I didn’t know half as much as you do, Josh. Worse, I didn’t know it at the time! Thankfully, I had patient bosses.
Hang in there. Most companies do get to that relaxation stage.