July 2006


[For those not of a certain age, or not from the UK, the Green Cross Code is a road safety campaign for crossing the road started in the 1970s which initially used the instructions Stop – Look – Listen – Think – Cross.]

If you are starting to write a blog, then it is all too easy to get carried away, rush into setting up the blog and start writing immediately. If you are in this situation then try employing the Green Cross Code of Blogging.

Stop! Wait, don’t rush into writing your blog immediately, you need to plan first and see what is happening.

Have a look at the blogs that are out there and see what people and doing and how. Try to read all you can both on and offline.

“Listen” to the conversations going on in the blogosphere and to what people are saying, as well as to any advice you are offered.

Think about what you have read, take time to plan your blog in terms of what you want to say and to whom, and what are your goals.

Finally, start to blog with all of these elements in mind but keeping looking, listening and thinking all the time.

To make a success of a blog, you need to spend time planning a variety of elements on your Blog as you start to develop it, and crucially you should also spend time looking at what is being written about and listening what is being said, before you put “pen to paper” on your first post.

I was reminded of this last week during a webinar organised by Marketing Profs and given by the excellent Jeremy Wright, author of Blog Marketing which I would strongly recommend. Jeremy used the analogy that starting a blog is like entering a room of 1000 people, with conversations already going on everywhere that you are not party to.

As you walk in, it looks like a daunting task to understand what is going on and join in the conversations. However, if you take the time to look at who is talking and listen to some of the discussions, you can quickly get a feel for what is going on. By following the references to other people that are mentioned, you can also develop a good understanding of the principal contributors and their opinions. Then, as you start to blog yourself, you will be in a much stronger position with a better understanding of how it works, what others are doing and saying and whom you should get in contact with.

So, if we break this down and take it back to basics, then I recommend that when you start a blog, you follow the Green Cross Code of Blogging:

STOP - LOOK – LISTEN - THINK – BLOG

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Spotlight on UK Blogs - all postsEach week, I will be highlighting some of the Business Blogs which exist in the UK. The aim is to show a cross section of what people and businesses are writing about and how they are approaching the task of using blogs in their business activities. As a result, you’ll find that these posts will contain a mix of Blogs displaying a range of topics and styles.

In addition to this weekly selection, I am working with others to build a comprehensive list of Business Blogs in the UK. So if there are UK blogs which you have visited and would recommend (including your own!), then please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message. Thanks!

Starting with a couple of heavyweights (sic) – even if you think that the subject matter might not be for you (although I can assure you that you will love it!), you will want to see (or rather hear) how podcasts can and should be used properly, so you really must tune into:

For Immediate Release
A twice weekly podcast by Neville Hobson together with Shel Holtz on PR and Technology. Neville is a Brit (hence claimed as a UK Blog!) living over in Amsterdam and you can also read his thoughts on business, communication and technology at his Neville Hobson blog.

and also tune into:

SmallBizPod
Produced by Alex Bellinger, the SmallBizPod is the UK’s first (and foremost!) small business podcast which delves into a range of subjects to offer inspiration and advice to entrepreneurs everywhere.

In addition, we now turn to some other UK blogs:

Intelligent Measurement
Richard Gaunt in London and Glenn ONeil in Geneva focus on evaluation and measurement in communications, training, management and other fields.

Nubricks
A blog which talks about property, property and more property. Not your typical blog but I think it achieves what it sets out to do.

Jamie Oliver
The Naked Chef himself provides an interesting site with a blog which is nicely put together and worth a visit. Pukka!

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Wishful Thinking Creative CoachingMark McGuinness at Wishful Thinking Creative Coaching has recently launched a major new project on his blog – a research study on Perceptions of Coaching in the UK Creative Industries. He is inviting contributions from managers, employees and educators in the UK creative industries, in the form of responses to a series of questionnaires and a limited number of individual interviews.

Mark has also just published as a podcast the first of the individual interviews with Mick Rigby of Monkey Communications which is a fascinating listen. You will also find links to the other elements of the research project so I highly recommend that you head on over and have a look.

Because of the way in which blogs are easy to update and allow (indeed demand) interaction between the author and those reading the Blog, they provide the ideal tool to use as the focal point of a research project. Indeed, Blogs can offer real advantages at all stages of a research project.

    1. They allow you to map out what the research is planning to achieve, why it is being carried out and the methodology which will be employed;

    2. They give you an instantly accessible place to provide the actual questionnaires or direct links to the places where the information gathering will be taking place;

    3. They allow debate and interactive participation in the process which will benefit not only the depth and coverage of the research but also those help those who are participating to provide better feedback and information;

    4. They are also the ideal way to publish and publicise the findings and the final report, as well as give the opportunity for people to discuss those findings and question the author further.

Theres only one thing better than talking about these great uses for a Business Blog and thats seeing it as it happens. Mark has given us this opportunity, so go and check it out!

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As a follow up to my post Blogs and Newsletters: Complementary Tools, it was excellent to see a post selected by Ted Demopolous in his book winners list, which reflected my sentiments entirely and was called Blogs, Newsletters & more:The King of Platform Agnostics.

The article was originally written by Marcus Grimm, of NXTBlog and focused on encouraging authors to distribute their content as widely as possible and via as many different media as is appropriate. Like Marcus, I also very much feel that the same core information can be used in both Blogs and Newsletters as well as elsewhere, but should ideally be modified slightly on each occasion rather than just copied verbatim.

However, I find that it is useful to stagger the release of the information and make it work for you. When looking at who to release the information to, I consider the “effort” taken by people who want to receive it and try to gauge the release of the content accordingly. So, someone who had signed up to a members area on my website would therefore receive it before someone who had simply arrived stumbled across the site and so on.

For example, suppose that you had an excellent new article in a number of different formats, you might use the following approach to release the information:

  • firstly, include your article in the members only area on your website, giving your key susbcribers access to the article first – they did actively register to receive it so this should be your first stop;

  • next, send the article out as part of your Newsletter to those who had subscribed to receive the information via this method;

  • then highlight the article in the RSS feeds of your Business Blog: this may well be a cutdown version sent out to all which will ensure additional distribution;

  • add the article and information to the main general information areas on your website;

  • finally, submit the article to the main Article banks which will promote both the article and your website for you, as well as create backlinks to your site through the article signature box.

As you can see, you can use the same base information to appeal to a number of different audiences, though it does help to modify it a little to suit the individual medium being used. If done correctly, then the same information should be able to be used many times over, adding value to the recipients at each phase in the process.

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Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers GuideAlthough they say that you can’t please everyone all of the time, I say that here’s no harm in trying! (Don’t quote me on that!!)

So, in response to some of the requests that I have had to create a series of shorter guides to complement the more in depth eCourse on Business Blogging that I offer on the site, I have created a series of Better Business Blogging “Bloggers Guides” which will each focus on a particular aspect which is important to anyone running a Business Blog.

While not as in depth as some of the longer articles here, they will present an overview which should give you ideas and additional resources to explore the area further.

Some of the initial BBB Bloggers Guides planned are:

  • Bloggers Guide to RSS Directories

  • Bloggers Guide to Feedburner

  • Bloggers Guide to Marketing your Blog

  • Bloggers Guide to RSS by Email

  • Bloggers Guide to Posting and Pinging

  • Bloggers Guide to Pitching Bloggers

This will be an ongoing series of posts, rather than a short independent series, which is intended to grow into a resource of its own. I hope that you will help it to develop in the right direction!

If you have areas that you would like to have covered here , then let me know and I will look to include it in the Better Business Blogging Bloggers Guides.

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Technorati have just announced and implemented a facelift for their site which at first glance looks good and very clean, though as ever I find myself starting to look for things where they used to be but aren’t any more!

With so many new features and additions over the past few months, the interface had certainly become rather cluttered so this is certainly a good decision to have stood back, looked at all the different functionality and then decided on the best way to present all of the information. Clearly lots of work behind the scenes as well.

There seems to be a lot more focus on personalising the information which follows a good trend in web design and, from my own point of view, having all of the information about a blog in a single view rather than having to sift through a number of different page views to find it all is very positive.

I look forward to going through in more detail and looking at all the changes. In the meantime, you can find out all the changes that have been made in Dave Sifry’s Announcement on the Technorati Blog. Have fun!

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Most of the talk and information relating to Business Blogs centres on external blogs: those which focus outside of the company and are designed to communicate out to customers and prospects. However, arguably the type of Business Blog which currently has the largest number of users is the internal blog, designed to improve communications within an organisation.

Using blogs for internal communications is an important and growing area, and a key use of internal blogs within this is for Team Blogs. Good communication and interaction is part and parcel of a successful team, whatever its focus, particularly when the teams members may not know each other or have the opportunity to frequently meet face to face. Happily, a blog offers the chance to develop the interrelationships and the communications no matter where the team members are based.

Teams are brought together for a myriad of different reasons but they do have in common five key requirements at a communication and information level:

    1.Good communications between its members;
    2.The ability for all members to participate fully;
    3.Easy collaboration across the team;
    4.Dissemination of the results;
    5.A permanent record of the information, results and conclusions.

Internal Blogs are able to help in each of these key team areas and, by being able to be set up quickly and easily, can be up and running as soon as the team requires it.

The benefits that a team blog offers

These key elements for a team to work well together are all areas where a blog can help. In particular, a many to many method of communication is important to ensure the dissemination of information and allow all members of the team to participate and contribute equally.

Internal Business Blogs can offer the following benefits to teams, whatever their goals:

  • Group communication: it is critical that all team members know what is going on and are able to communicate in an open yet trackable environment. A blog can provide such an environment and involve everybody.

  • Sharing information: for successful team interaction, it is important that the information is easily shared between all parties and can be added to by all. A blog and RSS will allow information to be spread quickly and safely which offering a non technical route to adding content;

  • Discussion Area: discussion and sharing of ideas will help to develop the team and its aims. It is important that all team members can participate by seeing others ideas and being able to add their own. Using blog categories, independent ideas and streams can be discussed and developed in tandem.

  • Information Resource: there will be key documents that everybody needs to have access to – a blog is an ideal way to store this information and make it available to everyone. This may take the form of a project journal in the case of project teams.

  • Project Resource: information and knowledge which is accumulated during the course of a project is so often then lost to the rest of the company once the project is completed. A blog will provide and ongoing repository for this which will benefit all going forward.

By having all of these elements in place, the foundations are there to allow the team to move forward and concentrate on its specific aims.

Types of internal teams that can benefit

So, what sort of teams could benefit most from the opportunities and communication abilities afforded by a team blog? Some of the main ones that are worth mentioning are:

  • Ad hoc teams: teams that have come together to run short-term projects need to have a central resource which is quick to set up and easy to use;

  • Project Teams: a blog can be used to record and communicate the progress of a project (ie. a project journal) as well as allow easy sharing of information between the project team members;

  • Product Development Team Blogs: one of the key areas in many companies and the ones which understand the process best will open the blog up to external participants and create a team of product evangelists in the process;

  • Function specific teams (such as HR managers from across the organisation): a blog could be used to share experiences from all areas in the organisation as well as a place to develop and debate ideas which could then be used as the definitive resource to communicate them to all relevant managers;

  • Cross functional teams: teams bringing together members from different functions are looking for input from all these areas to create real value in the team. A blog allows everyone to participate and makes sure that brainstorming ideas can be given the chance to be developed fully;

  • Department Teams: use the blog as a central resource for a department which might include sharing competitor information, industry news, templates, best practice etc.

  • Quality Circles: group of workers from the same functional area who meet regularly to examine and look for solutions to work related problems and opportunities for improvement.

Of course, the widest team of all is the company as a whole which itself could benefit from using a Business Blog as an internal communications tool, perhaps in addition to any intranet that may already be in place.

With internal teams being formed ever more frequently for specific projects, the possibility of not making full use of the members of the team or not retaining the knowledge gathered at the end of the project is an increasingly worrying possibility. However, by using an internal team blog, you can easily minimise these possible downsides and let the team get on with the job for which they were brought together.

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On the face of it, blogs and newsletters (here, Im thinking of online newsletters or ezines) seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to communicating with customers. The type of information they provide and the way they deliver it seem to be very different, but they can work well together and really complement each other.

If we strip away everything else, newsletters and blogs both have the same aim. They are there to communicate information from the author to the reader. However, the type of information that they contain and the way in which they distribute that content varies considerably.

So what are the main differences?

  • newsletters are generally created and distributed at regular intervals monthly or weekly newsletters are the most common – while blogs have content added on an ongoing basis;

  • normally, newsletters will be more crafted and formatted, while blogs will tend to be less formal in style and generally more chatty;

  • blogs are ideal for announcing up to the minute information (immediate publishing), while newsletters will tend to feature less time sensitive articles;

  • blogs continually grow to contain any number of posts while individual newsletters will tend to have a small number of longer articles;
  • Newsletters have tended to be considered as primarily “push” marketing (you send it out via email) while blogs were “pull” marketing (encouraging visitors to come to the blog).

However, this last point has been changing of late and there has been a gradual blurring of the previously well defined lines of how we get the content and information to our readers.

Traditionally, a blog uses RSS as its method of distributing its information while newsletters are sent out via email. This no longer has to be the case though email and RSS are in fact simply distribution methods which can be used for either. So, as Ive outlined below, I believe that content (with certain modifications) and these two methods of distribution can be for both and should be.

For example, using a service such as FeedBlitz, readers of this blog have the opotion to receive updates on new posts by email – ideal if they are still unfamiliar with RSS readers. Likewise, rather than just send your newsletter out via email and have spam filters do their worst to it, you can add a copy of it to your website or blog, and then ask people to subscribe to a dedicated newsletter RSS feed. You publish a new newsletter and automatically all your readers are informed that it is ready and available.

You are simply offering your readers the choice of how they want to receive the information!

So, if there are are a number of elements which are interchangeable, how can newsletters and blogs benefit from each other. Well, some of the key ways are:

  • a newsletter offers an additional incentive to visit your blog in the same way that a “Series” of posts on a certain subject will encourage people back to the blog to read the next instalment, so newsletters can achieve the same effect;

  • you can highlight particular posts from your blog in the newsletter which acts as an additional avenue to promote the information these key posts contain and your blog as a whole;

  • newsletters can help to add a sense of community to the blog while commenting is the best way to get involved, subscribing to a newsletter seems to help people feel part of it as well;

  • you can publicise your Newsletter on your Blog and host an electronic copy of it there, as well as include a sign up form to subscribe to it;

  • you can set up an RSS feed for your Newsletter on your blog so that people know when your latest issue has been published;

  • despite spam, email remains the medium that most people are comfortable with, whereas blogs still feel foreign to some. Make sure your readers feel at ease and mix the two media.

In conclusion, try to use your Blog and newsletter in conjunction with each other. They are both excellent ways of communicating with your readers and each is ideal for delivering differing information and initiating interaction in different ways. At the end of the day, using both will allow them to complement each other and will provide your readers with the choice of what information they receive and how they want to receive it.

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Spotlight on UK Blogs - all postsEach week, I will be highlighting some of the Business Blogs which exist in the UK. The aim is to show a cross section of what people and businesses are writing about and how they are approaching the task of using blogs in their business activities. As a result, you’ll find that these posts will contain a mix of Blogs displaying a range of topics and styles.

In addition to this weekly selection, I am working with others to build a comprehensive list of Business Blogs in the UK. So if there are UK blogs which you have visited and would recommend (including your own!), then please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message. Thanks!

Gaping Void
The unique blog by Hugh MacLeod which is always worth a view and always to the point … and a top 100 blog on Technorati to boot.

Charles Dunstone’s Blog
Verging rather too far towards an “adverblog” for my liking but nevertheless a CEO Blog and a Product Blog rolled into one. As the 80’s band of the same name once sang, “All you do to me is talk talk …”

Tinbasher Sheet Metal Blog
Fronted by Paul Woodhouse, the TinBasher blog is another that seems to have been around forever and yet still manages to mix business and personal to great effect.

Murmurs and Musings on Success at Work
Dr Rob Yeung does his musing on creating success at work on his blog … at conferences … on TV … wherever it is needed! Have a read!

Positive Impact
Niall Cook writing on Hill and Knowlton’s Collective Conversation about the positive impact that social media can have today.

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Cymfony and Porter Novelli have announced an overview of some of the findings of a survey on Corporate Blogs carried out this year in conjunction with Russell Research.

There are some very positive elements in the summary: 76% of companies noted an increase in website traffic and/or media attention as a result of their blogs and just over 40% indicated that at least one of the posts had had a real effect on their company or brand. This is clearly positive but, to be honest, it’s nothing more than what I would expect to hear about a blog which is being run anywhere near properly. Increased visibility and greater media profile is part and parcel of what a good Business Blog will deliver.

What I was less pleased to read was that “nearly two thirds reported starting their blog because they felt a need to participate in the medium rather than satisfy a specific need.” If this is true then that is acutely worrying. If you don’t have a goal and a focus for your Business Blog then you cannot hope to make a success of it. So, if companies are using blogs without really knowing why they are doing so, then they have still not grasped their real value or learned how to reap the benefits they offer.

No wonder that 71% were unhappy with the level of interaction on the blogs! If the company isn’t clear why they are running a blog then they are hardly likely to be producing posts and a format which is going to engage their readers and their target audience! You need to give people good reason to reply to your posts through the quality and relevancy of what you are writing – this is one of the key 5 Rs of a successful Business Blog – if you don’t, then you can hardly complain if they abstain too.

Focus, quality and relevancy are three important elements of your Blog and without a clear view of what your aim is for the Blog, they are going to be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

[If you want to find out more about what conclusions have been drawn from the survey then you might like to check out the webinar that they are running next Tuesday 25th July at 12.00 (EDT) – 17.00 BST. Sign up link on the Press Release page.]

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