I have been helping a few of our senior managers in a similar endeavor. From an implementation perspective, some of the following worked to help set them rolling:
- Helping them to identify different blogging triggers specific to their roles--e.g., leadership related posts, project updates, marketing strategy, change, etc.
- Preparing a blogging calendar
- Creating a couple of "templates"-- i.e., an outline with headers and sub-headers--may prove useful during the initial days (worked very well for projects and marketing update related posts)
- Sending reminders a couple of days before the post is scheduled to be published
- Enlisting the support of a few trusted and senior folks who can post comments on the post
Do let me know if you have any questions...
We've kept our blogging recommendations concise for execs, mainly because they don't have time to read through tons of material. Here is the basic list of best practices that we share with them. We also consult with them (or more often, their chief of staff) to expound upon these if needed.I've expounded on the list a bit, to include some things I would say directly to those who ask.
1. Blog about familiar topics. Sticking to familiar topics will keep your blog authentic, and that will come through and resonate with your audience. Don't be afraid to include observations of a more personal nature (to the degree you are comfortable)-- this will also lend to the authenticity of your blog. Many associates question whether executives really write their own blog-- give them a reason to believe it's really coming from you! Limit business jargon where possible, and know that using a conversational tone will make the blog more approachable.
2. Reinforce our company's core values. An authentic blog will itself reinforces our values of Openness and Integrity. Use your blog to demonstrate this, and wherever possible, to reinforce our other values as well.
3. Market your blog. This is not field of dreams-- a sustained marketing effort will help you build readership, reach a broader audience, and help generate conversation among associates.
4. Keep it fresh and regular. Decide on a frequency of blogging that works for you, and stick to it. Readers will get used to this cadence and will rely on it. Remember, extra blogposts are great, but less frequency will adversly affect your readership. Be sure to dedicate some bandwidth in your schedule for blogging.
5. Don't obsess over your R.O.B. (Return on Blogging). Knowing how many views your blog gets is great, but don't be discouraged if the numbers dip here and there. There is a natural ebb and flow to readership, and often times it is not related to you personally. There will be inherent value to blogging that is not easily measured. Blogging is a way to lead by example, and it will quite likely have a great positive effect on morale. If you really want to get at the root of the matter, I would suggest using focus groups to get feedback, rather than multiple choice type of surveys.
Regarding your topic of not obsessing on the number of views, it is extra important for people at this level to understand that not all views of their content are even going to get counted. People get copies via email, or read it in the Activity stream, or see it when they view the overall blog or in a widget that displays the full contents of a blog post. There are a variety of consumption methods that are not tracked. Be sure they understand this to help minimize the discouragement that can set in. I've found that even people who understand this can get frustrated, so even more important to increase awareness.
We have launched a number of blogs with senior management and the following have certainly been helpful:
Keep the posts short - No-one wants to read war and peace during a busy day, a couple of paragraphs is ample to get things going
Make sure the tone of voice is right - this is not 'Official Corporate' Comms so try and write with passion
Avoid ghost writing... - Coms team will probably have kittens to start with, but they'll get over it
Make sure you ask a question in the post - People should be able to relate to it and are then more likely to comment on, otherwise there is no impetus for dialogue
Post regularly - Don't leave it for months between posts, we have found a post once a week or once every two weeks is about right to keep the audience engaged, but the key is to keep postings regular even if they are not so often
Include a picture or video - This makes the post more interesting and you can refer to it in the message
Great Tips Alex,
We're going to blog about the Hot topics and popular sites on our Communities platform. I like your approach to keep is short but mix it up with graphics or pictures. We plan on doing just that but I was thinking monthly only because it will include some stats and numbers can be a turn off if not presented right.
Thanks for sharing,
Good tips, Alex. As one of those official corporate communicators, in our organization, we've made a huge push towards transparency and authentic communications. We typically advise against ghost writing (who has time for that anyways?) and it's been great to see most of our executives take the leads with their blogs and write in their own voices. We encourage them to be open and honest in their writing and to talk about a mix of business and personal topics to make stronger connections with employees. It's interesting though for us that this hasn't just been something that's happened since we had a social intranet - it's been a general shift in our approach to communications over the last few years, so it actually just made the switch to social a bit easier.
Great point on the importance of transparency, especially for those who want to get the most out of Social Media.
I work in a similar corporate environment where they push transparency and I think it's a sincere effort with-in my own team. I have worked in corporate most of my career and it's refreshing to see this. I notice the difference when smart management practices true transparency. I lucky where I am right now to see this from many of our own management. I've seen plenty of BS in the past when you are asked for feedback and it is like talking to a brick wall. If you really want people to trust and be motivated to succeed, transparency is a must.
It's all about building good relationships and chemistry to succeed and that did not start with social media, it goes way back to smart business practices.
More great perspective from Alex McKnight and Tracy, thanks.
I've compiled my own thoughts and the contributions above into a single document. Thanks for the help! I'll share it here too:
Thinking of blogging on Buzz? Great, get typing! Anyone on Buzz may blog. Just look for the link on the right side of your Buzz profile.
While that's all you need to do to get blogging, here are some tips that can help make your blog a destination for your colleagues to find important, relevant and timely content:
- Review the Community Rules, both the legal parts and the "how to be a good citizen" parts.
- Identify the basic content strategy of your blog. What topics will you write about? By sticking to familiar topics in your area of expertise, your blog will be helpful to others and convey a sense of authenticity. Talking about topics you know and are passionate about will resonate with your audience.
- Know your content triggers. What prompts you to blog? External news, leadership messages, new projects? Develop a way to capture potential topics you may come across during your day.
- Develop a general calendar. Blogs are best when you get in some sort of rhythm, as then your audience will too. Plan how often you will post, jot down some general "fall back" topics, and do your best to meet that timetable. It may be hard in the beginning, but keeping time on your calendar and having a list of potential topics will help fill gaps and make it easy to do even when you're busy. Sporadic posts will more likely reduce your audience than the occasional light post. Set up time on your calendar to write, and include reminders to keep you on track.
- Plan your audience. If you're serious about your posts, then start letting your colleagues know about your blog. Getting your managers on board and getting them to reply to a post is a great way to add legitimacy and weight to your posts. And get everyone else ready to reply to, like and share your posts.
- It's ok to add personal observations. This is YOUR blog. Adding personal thoughts and experiences make it even more genuine. Your colleagues can get the business jargon from many other sources, but only you can share your perspective.
- Keep it conversational. An informal sharing of insights makes it easier for you to write as you don't need to create gospel, and it is more likely to get others involved and adding to the conversation.
- Keep on topic. While it's great to hear your own voice on your blog, make sure it's still pertains to business. It also doesn't hurt to review your posts to make sure they are reinforcing the company's values. Blogs are a great way to talk the talk, or however that old phrase is supposed to go.
- Use different content types. Add images and the occasional video blog to keep your content fresh and polished.
- Don't ghost write. Ghost writing has more negative potential than it's worth. You don't want to lose credibility with your audience, so it's important they know the posts are your thoughts. And as a blog post, it should be concise and in your voice. Every post doesn't need to be a traditional polished message from Communications. If you struggle with that, then you may want to go with short messages, or maybe start with status updates/microblogging until you get a feel for the message and the medium.
- Go ahead, ask a question. It never hurts to pose question to your audience as this invites replies and further interaction.
Market and Measure
- Don't be afraid to market. Just because it's an internal blog, doesn't mean you don't have to market it proactively. Follow other bloggers as they're likely to follow you. Find about opportunities to get your content highlighted on the home page or inside related groups.
- Watch your readership, but don't sweat it. You're blogging because you have something to share. There is inherent value in your content that can't be measured quantitatively. People may be consuming your content in ways that are not measurable, such as email, status updates or even live discussion. You may see peaks and valleys in your readership, but take the long view on its value and contribution to the organization.
And finally, enjoy yourself! Blogging is one of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise and leadership, and one of the only ways to expand your sphere of influence outside of your own organization and hierarchy.
You can also start out by getting them comfortable with updating their status regularly. This is an easy, quick thing to do (with some suggested topics and a calendar even, as above) and gets them familiar and comfortable with the tool. Before they know it, they'll be wanting to write and share more ... and can quickly move to a blog to do so.
These are great tips as I'm currently consulting a new employee on setting up an entire site. I will ask them to share their experience on the job so far in a space so they can get more comfortable. I did this when I first started and it's a great way to get familiar with the tools. My initial challenge was explaining what a "tag" was so I certainly have my work cut out.