People talk a lot about passion, and for good reason. Without passion, nothing happens. For me this applies to every life endeavor: building a company, nourishing a relationship, raising kids — or driving a social media program.
Whenever I’m lucky enough to work with a company with passionate bloggers and content creators, I know the deck’s stacked in my favor; things just tend to fall into place much easier.
But unbridled passion by itself isn’t enough. Like a wild racehorse running around a track-it needs to be managed, channeled and sustained.
Here’s some suggestions, based on my ups and downs working with giants like Cisco, HP, and Sprint and many smaller firms.
- Recruit motivated bloggers: Sounds simple, but many companies try to shoehorn people into this who don’t have time or interest. The challenge in any organization is getting people’s time and attention, training them and channeling their energy. You need to cut through all the inertia and make your program a priority-no easy task. There’s always something more urgent than writing a blog post-so find people who’ll find ways to do it anyhow.
The 80/20 rule seems to apply here-20% of the people I recruit end up doing 80% of the writing. That’s why I cut to the chase and focus on the motivated ones. Of course, I’ll work with John the VP blogger (they’re paying me for this, right?), but I’m really trying to find the employees who truly want to blog-the hidden corporate gems.
How to tell? Ask around-managers, friends, colleagues. Who would be a driven blogger? Then interview the newbies: Why do you want to blog? What are your interests, passions? Position it as an opportunity (it is) and…
- Outline a clear roadmap and call to action. What are you asking people to do? Why should they give up their precious time to work with you? Program communications is critical. When I was driving a new editorial/social media program at HP, I spent the first 2 months traveling the giant company and presenting to key stakeholders and future bloggers, selling the dream, getting their buy-in. Arm yourself with metrics and case studies. You need to present a strong case and clear roadmap-where is this going, how do they fit in?
- Listen: To inspire and direct bloggers, you need to get inside people’s heads, find out what makes these people tick. You might find they want to influence certain industry conversations and build their group’s brand. Then you can tailor your work with them to help; now they’re blogging to reach their goals, not just because it’s interesting or the senior execs blessed it.
- Set up a system: Too many companies never get out of the gate because they lack an editorial system to drive social media content. Treat it like a digital magazine, with responsibilities and deliverables. Develop an editorial calendar and weekly meetings so you can keep the bloggers on track. I also launched monthly and quarterly meetings to discuss the big picture, present data and explore what was working, or not.
- Highlight successes, build camaraderie: No one likes to blog into a void, or alone. Work with the new bloggers to generate comments-and then respond. Help them plug into other conversations by commenting on other blogs. Acknowledge the good posts in your weekly meetings or maybe even little awards (I used to give out Starbucks gift cards to the best posts of the week or month). Look for other ways to build team spirit and camaraderie.
- Nourish: Training programs are critical, so new bloggers can quickly feel comfortable and quit struggling. Think about how you can teach them to “think like a blogger”- to write fast, conversationally, effortlessly. Keep it simple and short: they don’t have to write a major essay or the best blog, just a good blog (read: The Seven Habits of the ‘Just Good Enough’ Marketer).
- Follow up: Even spirited bloggers can run out of steam, so work closely with them to nourish the enthusiasm. Find out why they’re slowing down (workload, boredom, etc) and work with them to revive their blogs. This means regular meetings, 1:1s’ and real discussions-not just the regular corporate (yawn) meetings.
- Be personally passionate: Your passion is contagious, so tackle every meeting, presentation and 1:1 meeting with full gusto. Boring corporate speak and presentations don’t work-throw yourself into this 100%. Better to have people walking away thinking you’re a zealot than just running another corporate program.
You don’t have to look far for corporate models of passion. Steve Jobs would never have succeeded bringing Apple back from the dead without passion and persistence. With social media, one fearless leader like Ford’s Scott Monty can drive enthusiasm across a company, and beyond. I’ve also been amazed with companies like SouthWest Air that have fired up their employees to blog.
None of this comes easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Just go for it.
What do you have to lose?