As promised, we continue today with the second half of a great compendium drawn up by Jon Cottingham at Socialbright.com. He has been teaching us about how to make a company’s blog a pleasurable experience for the audience (and for the writers!) and how to make such a blog a productive marketing tool. Indeed, to refresh memories from yesterday’s entry, the first point raised was to put the ‘Investment’ in ROI. Today we turn to the back five on our way to the clubhouse and some well-deserved drinks.
6. Firefighting – Crisis communications
What?! I thought we were cruising home now! In fact, it is precisely because we are ‘cruising’ that Cottingham stresses the need to develop a crisis plan now “when you have the luxury of time (and the clear-headedness that’s hard to find when your fight-or-flight mechanism is in full cry).” How extensive such a plan is might depend on the organization: a community bank’s blog is not likely to need to report on an approaching hail storm, but it might want to be prepared to communicate its business plans if the power goes out during business hours. If the problems are industry-induced (rumors of a hostile takeover, for example, or closing of offices), be as honest as client and proprietary privacy can allow, and do not be afraid to be clear about correcting any mistakes or misinformation once they come to light. A final, and perhaps unnerving, point is to get the readers involved by suggesting how they can help or what your plans will mean to them during and after the firefight.
7. Spinning yarns – Telling a story over time
Who doesn’t love a good story? A good guy and/or girl. A villain. “Those nuggets of tangible, sensory detail,” and a meaningful conclusion. A blog allows the development and enrichment of all these points without the same kinds of limitations print media (and print-media deadlines) impose. Avoid verbosity, of course; but allow a story to breathe over a few postings and be prepared to have feedback on previous entries influence the story you chose t tell over its subsequent entries.
8. Psst! Pass it on! – Turning readers into messengers
Retweeting has worked its way into many people’s vocabularies (Who would have had any idea what ‘Friend me’ meant even five years ago?!), and blogs want to be reposted by readers who engage in their content. True, some engagement will not be positive and some entries will be reposted by an adversary. Indeed, “[Your readers] are active participants in a conversation, and they’ll transform your content – sometimes in ways you never anticipated.
And you don’t get to pick which messages get disseminated and which don’t; a blog’s audience chooses those for themselves.” It’s all part of the fun, and the goal, which is to keep the conversation going and to keep your brand (not your products) in the minds of your audience.
9. Open wide… Embracing openness
This ideal has come up in many of the previous entries. The point is “not to run naked through the digital streets – at least not at first.” The point is to keep people aware of and trustful toward your blog, your organization, and your brand. A point made in Way No.6 was that if corrections need to be made, then line out (do not delete) the mistakes and put the corrections next. Let your reader understand that you are acknowledging your error and proactively demonstrating the correction. Sure, issues will arise: “Anticipate the risks of openness: backlash, criticism and tough questions. Plan in advance for how you can deal with them, so a brief spark doesn’t have the time to flare into something more destructive.” Nevertheless, throughout your blogging/outreach culture strive to “build the reflex of responding with access.”
10. Homemaking – Giving your online conversations a home base
For all the talk of openness and conversation and feedback, you are the host(ess) and you are responsible for your blog, its topics, its pacing, and its tone. ‘Set the table’ with a few pre-posts before inviting the larger world to join in. ‘Be involved’ with the conversations and questions, and be prepared to participate in related blogs with same respect you want yours to be treated with. Load your blog with backlinks, forward links, and references in comments made at other blogs. The whole point is to get people to your blog.
Indeed, the whole point is to create value for the blog and for the company that is hosting it and paying you to keep it up. Think about the value the blog offers, pitch for that value, and be prepared to defend it around the water cooler or in the elevator. Mr. Cottingham makes a valuable point about value that is not always clear to the balancers of budgets in companies:
Value means you’ve done something worthwhile for your organization – and that their scarce resources have earned at least some return.
Sometimes that return comes in the form of new relationships, greater brand recognition, a shift in positive perceptions, or even more sales or donations. Other times that return may just come in the skills and insights you and your team have gained.
Whatever the value that comes from your blog, you need to be able to recognize it and report it… not just so you can sell your proposal internally, but so you can be sure you’re doing something worthwhile for your organization.
Be sure to get connected to the Social Signal site and its social-media feeds, and be sure to get going with your organization’s blog. Set the parameters, establish a tone, and be comfortable with change. It will come.