So you’ve read all the social media experts’ blog posts about blogging. You’ve explored the tools and picked your platform. You’ve talked your CEO into participating. You have a good feel from your customers that they would at least come read it once in a while. Now you’re ready to start your corporate blog.

[flickr style="float: left"]photo:202203524[/flickr]Unfortunately, being able to really answer the question of whether or not you are really ready can’t fully be answered until you dive in and do it. Two or three weeks in you’ll probably say to yourself, “Man! I wasn’t ready.” Fortunately for you, I’ve learned through experience with several clients, not to mention my own blog, what those oft-forgotten areas are.

What follows isn’t a sing-songy list of how to blog, but five practical questions to have answered before you even start. Having these nailed down before you launch will save you from some of the initial surprise and overwhelming as your blog gets its legs under it. If you’ve already launched and don’t have solid answers to these questions, then you may see where your blog is lacking and could use some refinement.

  1. Define an editorial purpose.Sure, this sounds obvious enough, but not many bloggers think of it until well into their blog’s life. I thought, “exploring social media,” was plenty for a mission statement and editorial focus early on, but it needs to be more well-defined than that. You shouldn’t go to bat with a blog with the intent of “engaging my customers.” You should polish it so that it reads, “Share inside stories about the day-to-day operations of our business through human eyes to enrich the consumer experience and engage them in a dialog about our company.”Yes, it’s wordy, but it gives you a bit of a litmus test and parameters around what you’ll post. The CEO telling stories of his son’s little league baseball game is through human eyes, makes a personal connection, but has nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of your company. If the above is your editorial purpose, don’t post it.
  2. Determine who owns editorial responsibility.Yet another entry under the category of “duh” that many people don’t consider. If you’re smart, you’ll have a group of people working on the blog, or at least providing ideas for blog subject matter. However, there needs to be a singular human being with the role of saying “yay” or “nay” to a blog post. The most frustrated I’ve ever been is when a group of us discuss several options, determine a post topic, then a senior level or other manager decides he or she doesn’t like the topic and orders us not to post it. In one instance, I’ve seen these orders come from a C-level manager who didn’t oversee marketing or communications.Whether it’s the social media or community manager, PR director, CMO or even the CEO, one person should be responsible for development of the editorial calendar, including keeping an eye on the future for timely topics, assigning topics to each writer, following up and enforcing deadlines, physically posting the material to the website and either moderating and answering comments or assigning that task to the appropriate people. Not clearly knowing who this is from day one leads to the ball dropping … perhaps on your head.
  3. Determine who your writers are.The social media manager often cannot, and frankly shouldn’t in most circumstances, be the only writer for the blog. Depending upon the size and scope of your company, there are different departments with different areas of focus. Your audience is probably interested in each of them to one degree or another.Develop a list of capable writers, have them agree to writing one post per month on their particular subject matter, then space out their assignments once you’ve launched. If you can find six people besides yourself to write, you can keep up a schedule of 1-2 posts per week with ease. The more people you have, the more frequently you can post, or the less frequently everyone has to write.
  4. Determine how often you will post.Any social media consultant will tell you that more frequent posting is better. It keeps fresh content rolling on your site, making it more timely, relevant and search engine attractive. But how often is often enough? Is it monthly? Weekly? Daily? Most people look at their resources, human and otherwise, for the answer. “If we only have one person handling it and the blog isn’t their only responsibility, we’d probably ought to keep it to once per week.” Not so fast.Instead of looking internally for the answer, look externally. Ask yourself this question, “How often do I need my key consumers thinking of me to improve my business?” If the answer is every day, provide the resources for your blog to have daily content. If once per week works, then there’s your answer. It’s not what you have that determines it. It’s what you need.
  5. Decide how you will generate ideas.Having a weekly editorial meeting for your blog is a good idea, not matter what. But if it’s the same four people sitting around the same conference table during the same hour each week, guess what the ideas will be. The same. Set up a schedule that brings in outside thinking, perhaps a monthly company-wide brainstorm or consultation with an outside firm or business partner. Better yet, solicit ideas from known readers of your blog. What would interest them?Whether it’s shaking up the standard routine or looking outside for inspiration, a blog that never gets freshened up goes stale. Remember the scene from “Dead Poets Society” when Robin Williams stood on the desk for a different perspective of the room? Do that often and you’ll keep the energy you had with your first few posts alive.

There are hundreds of good blogs out there that provide much more refined information that I can. I read some of them regularly just to keep my own blog from hitting down turns. These five reminders are practical applications of what I’ve learned through experience. (This is a subtle way of saying I have been involved with blogs that have not had one or more of these questions answered at the onset.)

Making these decisions after the fact isn’t bad – they need to be made, no matter when. But if you’re getting ready to launch, take a minute, write the answers to the five subjects down and make sure everyone agrees. It’ll make your blogging experience more successful and more fun.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Getting The Most Out Of Your Corporate Blog
  2. 7 Incredible Intelligent Ideas For Blogging More Efficiently
  3. Managing A Corporate Blog, Like HP’s
  4. 10 Easy Steps To Get A Corporate Blog Up & Running
  5. 5 More Corporate Blogging Tips

IMAGE: “Live Blogging At Woolfcamp” by Sue Richards on Flickr.

[tags]corporate blogging, blogging, blogs, tips, tricks[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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