FREE eCOURSE ON
    BUSINESS BLOGGING

    Everything you need to set-up, develop & promote a successful Business Blog

    Full Name

    Email

    Referred by


    FULL COURSE DETAILS HERE

  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
  • Jennifer Rai: All points mentioned above are very well put together. Blogs having purpose and a focus on certain...
  • jessica@lukeroxas: I ran a small home based business, and lately I’ve decided to put up my own website,...
  • Rob: Rather weird that a blog on blogging hasn’t been updated since 2009!
  • Ayala Land: Perhaps I was one of those companies who, as you put it “think they can avoid it” but thanks to well...

    Join me on Twitter at @BlogCoach




    Internal Communications: here are all the key posts


    Start or set up a blog: Key question 1This is part of a 3 part mini-series looking at the planning phase of setting up and starting your business blog.

    Each post will focus on one of the 3 key questions that you should have clear answers for as you set up your blog before you start to write it.

    Question 2:
    Who are you writing for?

    Unless you are writing a personal blog, and thats really not what we are dealing with here, then you are writing your blog with a business purpose in mind just as we looked at in the 1st Key Question. This in turn means that you are writing for someone, for an audience, who you are hoping will not only read your blog but react well to its content and to you as the author.

    To achieve this, need to be clear about this audience – your readers – and what they are going to expect from you and from your blog. You’ll also need to know how best to go about getting those reactions and building on them. This knowledge needs to influence every aspect of your blog including:

    • what your blog looks like

    • the content of your blog

    • the style of how you write it

    • the length and frequency of the posts

    • how you elicit comments and feedback
    In fact, what you are looking for is to encourage your target audience to engage with you and your blog in what I term the 5Rs:
    • Read: first of all you need to create subject matter which will encourage people to visit your blog and then read what youre writing about.

    • Return: once they have visited for the first time, you have the opportunity to give your readers something theyll wish to read more of, hence encouraging then to return to your blog.

    • Reply: you are looking to encourage dialogue and communication so you must find subjects and a style which encourages them to express an opinion about it and reply to the post.

    • Refer: provide your readers with enough compelling, relevant and interesting content and they’ll want to recommend it to everyone.

    • RSS: encourage them to sign up and receive what you are writing as and when it appears using RSS either directly or via email.
    So just how do you find out what they want? Well, first and foremost, you are as much a part of the target audience as you are the author! Its your area of specialism, so bear in mind your own areas of interest as you write, but a also look at what you are doing and writing with a critical eye from time to time and check you are still on track. In addition, take the time to listen to your readers. Listen to what they are saying in the comments they post on your blog or in the emails you receive from them. When you are at conferences and exhibitions, note down what are the hot topics that everyone is talking about they are literally giving you your killer content posts on a plate!

    But do remember that different blogs have different aims and therefore very different audiences. An internal blog, for example, will be aimed at talking primarily at employees, while an external blog with a customer support focus will need to provide exact information and specific answers within tight timeframes. Of course, the more than you can prepare for this in advance of starting the blog, the better focused and (probably) more successful it will be.

    To take a look at how all elements of a blog come together to fit with the audience it is targeting, Id like to recommend that you take a look at Sony and the two blogs that they launched last year for different parts of their business and for very different audiences.

      1. The first was the Sony Playstation blog which is heavily branded with a very specific topic range and audience in mind which has been attracted in droves to the site. Everything about the blog caters to this audience, their interests and ultimately the games that they are being encouraged to find out about and buy. Language, content and imagery all support this beautifully.

      2. The second was the Sony Electronics blog dealing with a very different part of the business, a very different product range and therefore a very different audience in terms of both interests and priorities. The frequency and content were both targeted towards their expected readers and they responded in their own way which, of course, also needed to be handled correctly.

    In summary, you need to ensure that you are always encouraging your readers to act on an appropriate aspect of the 5Rs. So, make sure that your business blog has a well defined theme and, once you have decided that, write your posts with it firmly in mind (remember keeping your aims on your monitor). Dont forget to use your RSS reader to keep up to date with what is happening in the areas that your blog covers and keeping offering your opinions on relevant and interesting items in your posts. Finally, keep encouraging feedback from this target audience and make sure that you respond to the comments that your readers leave.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    3 Comments 
    Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. 3 Key Blogging Questions: Question 1
    2. 3 Key Blogging Questions: Question 3
    3. The 5 Rs of Better Business Blogging – Reply
    4. The 5 Rs of Better Business Blogging – Return
    5. The 5 Rs of Better Business Blogging – Read

    HR, Human Resources, Personnel and blogsI was interested to see two opposing views expressed recently in Personnel Today of whether blogs and social media were of use in general and particularly whether they had a role to play in the area of company HR (Human Resources).

    On the one hand, there is the take that blogs and social network sites are nothing more than gimmicks and toys used by the younger generation and for time wasting by chatting with friends. The other view is that they are tools which have real potential to help HR managers in their work by improving internal communications and employee engagement, as well as changing how recruitment is carried out.

    As you might imagine, I am hardly an unbiased observer but I will try to give an objective overview of the value of blogs and social networks here.

    Using online Social Networks

    When we consider “social networks”, there is a range of different ones that we need to consider. These vary from primarily social to business social and through to purely business networks – examples being MySpace, Bebo and Facebook to eCademy, Xing and LinkedIn. The relative value of each from an HR perspective will vary, but I believe that when it comes to recruitment, the use of the internet and hence these networks is a legitimate (and increasingly important) method to identify potential candidates as well as gather additional information about candidates. Therefore my advice to individuals looking to use these networks for business purposes, either now or in the future, is to remember that you should never say something online that you wouldn’t stand by and be quoted on. The internet doesn’t forget and is seldom forgiving! Recruiters much less so!! ;)

    Using Blogs: external and internal

    In terms of blogs, they can be used in a number of different ways from an HR perspective. On the recruitment front once again, from a Researcher angle, an HR manager interested in recruiting a candidate can get a much more in depth and rounded view of an individual’s knowledge and general suitability via a blog rather than simply from a traditional CV. This approach may also help with the anticipated skills shortage which seems to be expected by the majority of companies. If the company is open to embrace the use of blogs (as a ‘Builder‘) in their own recruitment process, then using them to demonstrate how current graduate recruits view working for the company, as Cadbury Schweppes did, is certainly an excellent option.

    However, perhaps the biggest gains can be made through the use of internal blogs on general HR issues and the opportunities that they provide to open up the channels of communication within an organisation. Improved internal communications, dissemination of important HR information, better team working opportunities, improved employee participation in the company are all benefits that have been reported by companies such as Allen & Overy, Dresdner Kleinwort and Microsoft. They are also all benefits which are available to companies of all sizes through the planned use of blogs internally which can be combined with other collaboration tools such as Wikis.

    Safety Measures

    Of course, as with anything, this is open to abuse. It is possible that employees spend too much company time on social networks or in writing either their own or company blogs. It is also possible that there may be inappropriate posts made by employees on blogs which could lead to problems or even legal issues. For these reasons, it is always advisable that a company has a blogging policy, whether they are actually running a company blog or not. (For help in drafting one, contact details here.)

    Just as important is the employees’ education in the whole area of blogs and online communications. Running workshops which help employees to understand where blogs can be beneficial and which also outline the corporate lines which should not be crossed will often be the best way to approach this matter. They should give clear guidelines without stifling the benefits that blogs can accrue.

    Conclusion

    So which view of the interaction between blogs and HR do you go with? Well, for me, without doubt, there are potential issues raised by the use of blogs and social networks within a company. However, it is clear that trying to suppress this is unlikely to work and dismissing it is simply handing a golden opportunity to your competition to steal a march on you.

    Instead, I believe that embracing these communication media will reap rich rewards for companies though I’m also all in favour of ensuring the confidentiality of company information through education of potential bloggers among the workforce. Harness the energy, passion and ideas rather than try to suppress them and you’ll be onto a real winner!

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    2 Comments 
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. Who owns YOUR social network? You?
    2. Cadburys use graduate blogs to attract new recruits
    3. Internal Communications, Information Sharing and Internal Blogs
    4. Internal Blogs: Benefits and Uses of Team Blogs
    5. Business blog content (and business) via collaboration

    Information is a key resource in a company. A major part of the job of internal communications is ensuring that the process of collating, storing and disseminating information is done automatically, or at least as easily as possible.

    However, judging by a recent survey by Accenture which appeared in eMarketer.com, a large number of companies are not that good at it according to their own middle managers. The figures reported are shown below:

    Survey

    So whats the solution?

    Well, I guess that it depends on what the problem really is. In some companies, it may well be caused by the company culture and the resultant attitude of those involved. In others, it is more likely that the information exists in small pockets around the company and so is difficult to access and share.

    So could using a blog as an internal communications tool be a magical solution to this issue? Not necessarily. But it certainly be a great way to pool all the information and make it accessible and, because it is so easy to add and update information, it may well help overcome the reticence of some people to use online systems to make the information available to all.

    What would the benefits be?

    Some of the immediate benefits of an internal blog based system should be:

    • Information distribution: It would make information instantly available across the company or to pre-determined levels within it if required. Not only does a blog allow easy and automatic organisation of the information but both the categorisation and the search facility makes retrieval quick and simple;


    • Information accessibility: since the internal blog is accessed through the browser, there is no need to develop additional costly interfaces that bespoke systems might require;


    • Information updating: having many contributors (indeed the whole company if required) means that there is no barrier to adding new information to the blog. The easy Word type of interface also means that people who regularly work with PCs will almost immediately feel comfortable using it, hence reducing any training requirements;


    • Single source of information: whether it is departmental information, company information, project details, competitor analysis or any other type of information, having it all in one place makes it that much easier to keep up to date and relevant;


    • Information storage (easily located): the information will build up over time creating a repository which will be invaluable to the company. Organisations often have hugely valuable information which they didnt even know existed because it is locked away in individual email systems or PCs. This would help to avoid that happening.

    You will also find that the implementation costs of such a system are really very low and that the time required is short. This means that this is an ideal solution not only for corporate organisations with multiple offices, but also smaller companies which need a coherent and cost effective solution themselves.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    Comments Off 
    Tags: , , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. Internal Blogs: Benefits and Uses of Team Blogs
    2. Remember business blogs are still business communications
    3. Legally required information on UK Blogs
    4. Blogs and HR: which HR manager is right?
    5. Business blog content (and business) via collaboration

    At the end of 2006 and perhaps prompted by Time’s lead article declaring “Person of the Year: You“, there was a lot of talk about user generated content, thats to say information on sites being supplied by those using the site rather than those who set it up and run it.

    There are many good examples of websites which work primarily on content which has been generated by the users themselves. Sites such as YouTube and MySpace are ones which have attracted a great deal of press coverage at the social end of the spectrum.

    Business and Networking Examples

    In business, there are equally impressive examples. Amazon contains a huge amount of product information but arguably more valuable are the reviews written by people who have read the books. Similarly, sites such as TripAdvisor contain lots of information but the dynamic part comes from guests who leave their own opinions on the hotels and holidays mentioned.

    In social and business networking, many sites are primarily online structures or shells which allow their members to post articles, share information and advice or generally interact in forums. Their challenge lies in creating something which is appealing and then attracting users with similar interests who will use them and participate. Many do this very well and it shows in their success and their growth.

    Collaboration on Business Blogs

    But it is not only sites of this size which can benefit from this trend towards online collaboration and sharing of information. Your company blog offers the ideal place for exactly this type of cooperation and community building after all, it is targeted at a specific group

    So, for your own business, look at the benefit that you can accrue by getting some of the stakeholders in your company working with you:

    • Sales & Partner Networks: companies with non competing sales or distribution networks can use their blogs as a central source of information that their partners can use to increase their sales and coverage, as well as share their own experiences

    • Internal Communications: from a company perspective, tap into the collective ideas that bounce around inside of a company with nowhere to go. Give them an outlet and a chance to be expressed. Using an internal blog, you allow them not only to be put forward but also developed as others add to the initial idea

    • Market Research: tap into the combined ideas of your most valuable assets your customers. Give them a place (open or private) where they can suggest new ideas or show how they are using your products and services already. It may be quite eye opening

    • Product Development: in certain industries, particularly in hi-tech, allowing developers and customers to put forward new ideas extends the type of research and product marketing that you can achieve 100 fold. You also increase the chances of developing a group of product evangelists into the bargain

    As you can see, you don’t need a site the size of Amazon to enjoy the benefits that collaboration can bring – your business blog has all the elements that you need provided that you focus it correctly.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    2 Comments 
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. No blog is an island
    2. Treat your Blog as your online home
    3. Why on earth do you link to your blog?
    4. Predictions for 2007
    5. Internal Communications, Information Sharing and Internal Blogs

    I was interested to read an article entitled “It takes a Web Village” in a recent edition of BusinessWeek that a number of high profile companies such as GSK, Kraft and Hewlett Packard had been turning their attention to the use of online communities when researching the perception of their brands and development of new products.

    In the particular cases mentioned, they used a bespoke private online community by linking up with Communispace to provide an environment in which they can work with a defined set of respondents to help them in evaluating new product ideas and, in the process develop additional thoughts and ideas.

    There are two aspects to this – firstly the general use of an online environment for this type of research and secondly the selection of the right tools to achieve it. The benefits of using online communities in this way seem clear it is an ideal opportunity for companies to get real feedback from the people that matter most. Their customers. However, the price tag of this type of set up is probably out of reach for many of the companies that would most benefit from it.

    So, would a blog be a good substitute to a custom built environment for small and medium sized companies? I believe so.

    A business blog is already an great way to create networks and communities of people interested in a certain topic, market or area. By then managing the development and use of the blog, you can set-up an ideal community environment in which to test ideas, get feedback and encourage open discussion between your customers.

    You can easily set up a closed blog, just as you might do with an internal blog, or alternatively there is of course the option of a closed area within a current blog set-up. There are already examples of closed or semi-closed environments being used for specific purposes; a product development blog is one such example.

    So, how might they be used and what would you expect to gain from them? Well, they could be used:

    • to test discuss ideas for new products and product concepts

    • to test new marketing ideas in terms of promotions, offers, packaging ideas, advertising etc.

    • for surveys which could either be carried out using a threaded discussion and/or a simple tick the box multiple choice

    • to elicit feedback on products by providing an open forum where people can express opinions and discuss specific questions

    • to get an insight as to how you compare with other products on the market

    • debating offers and the appeal of them

    By incorporating images or video into the blog, concept testing and sampling can be done using full mock-ups or demos, and at all times the discussions can be directed if required simply by participating in the conversations as they happen. Feedback will tend to be almost instantaneous and the insights from the consumer-to-consumer conversations will be there without any filtering or “interpretations”. At the end of the process, you will also have the benefit of a community of product champions who will feel part of the development of the product.

    Are there companies who could not benefit from this? Well, you would need to be interested in hearing what your customers have to say, but thats true of any business blog. Soliciting peoples opinion and then totally ignoring it is never going to be a winning strategy to adopt. Other than that, it seems to me that using the key blog elements of communication and interactivity in this highly focused way to gain insight about your customers, products and marketplace can only be positive.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    1 Comment 
    Tags: , , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. Blogs for Market Research and Focus Groups
    2. Product Evangelists and Product Blogs
    3. Which companies can particularly benefit from blogs?
    4. Internal Blogs: Benefits and Uses of Team Blogs
    5. 8 types of companies that can really benefit from a Business Blog

    Everyone loves a story. Stories are part and parcel of our history and have their roots in the “oral tradition” which spans all cultures, when news and tales alike were passed down by word of mouth, and storytellers were as important to the fabric of society as any of the professions that we know today.

    Even now, in a world where there is a multitude of different media to choose from, we still love to read or listen to a good story. We are brought up on them and we remember them. With stories, we identify much more easily with what we are being told and get involved more than we would with a simple stream of information. In turn, this allows us to remember it much more easily as well.

    So what’s your point, Mark?

    Well, blogging is just another of those media, albeit a relatively new one. The keys to its success are content and the way that we present it … and our goal is that people should remember what we say and pass it on to others. So give them a helping hand, and communicate your message with a story. Even at its simplest level, you can frame a story with a context and personality or at least set the scene, so that our imagination can take over.

    In any case, we even have huge advantages over our story-telling predecessors because:

    • when we post to our blog, people can go back to it time and time again because our story and its message is always available;
    • it can be easily distributed and won’t suffer from “Chinese Whispers” because people can refer directly to our original version;
    • we don’t need to gather an audience around us in order to tell our story, there is always one accessible online.

    Now if I’d been ultra clever, I would have presented this post as a story … weaving my web and luring you in to make my point, rather than stating it as plainly as I have done. Ah well, such is life – next time perhaps! However, open your minds to a great post, or indeed two posts, from The CopyBlogger who demonstrates this far more eloquently than I could, so, if you haven’t already had the pleasure, drop by The most powerful blogging technique there is and then read the follow up post.

    Then come back and tell me I’m wrong if you like. Bet you won’t! Do come back, though, for the next gripping instalment …! ;)

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    3 Comments 
    Tags: , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. Blogging Tips: Carry a Notepad
    2. Blogging Tips: write a series on a specific topic
    3. Post titles – who are they for?
    4. Corporate blogging guidelines and transparency
    5. 3 Key Blogging Questions: Question 2

    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.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    11 Comments 
    Tags: , , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. Internal Communications, Information Sharing and Internal Blogs
    2. Business blog content (and business) via collaboration
    3. eCourse Part 1: Introduction to Business Blogs and their benefits
    4. Predictions for 2007
    5. RSS Benefits for Businesses, Bloggers and Publishers

    Transparency has become very important whether it is in terms of accounting requirements following in the wake of scandals such as Enron or, at the other end of the scale, the ability for customers to know what is going on with an enquiry or order.

    Despite all of the press about how we need to do business in a more transparent way, interestingly it is seemingly this fear of transparency that that I often come up against when talking about the use of blogs within a corporate environment, whatever the size of the business.

    Even when considering internally focused blogs, for example for team communications or as an alternative to an intranet, there is sometimes clearly a fear that the open dissemination of information that the blog will provide will somehow weaken a managers position. A throwback to the old version of the mantra that “knowledge is power”.

    However, when we look at the possibility of using a Business Blog to open a company up and make it better able to interact with clients, suppliers and partners, then you can get a real look of panic crossing their faces. In most cases, it is not that they have anything to hide, it is simply the fear of the unknown but that is just the point! If the opinions and requirements of these important groups are unknown, then that is something to be afraid of as you have no chance of knowing what they really want or, by implication, delivering it.

    I tend to compare going through this process to crossing a rope bridge over a ravine:

      - it’s scary to look at before you cross as all the things that you think could go wrong flashes through your mind;

      - it is quite tense as you are crossing as you take every step with care, but you gain confidence as you cross as you realize your worries were unfounded;

      - and, there is a real sense of release and achievement when you get to the other side and you realise what youve achieved.

    Then of course, you wonder why you were worrying about it at all and generally you want to do it again!

    Gaining trust is critical in today’s business environment and being transparent and open with the people that your company is dealing with is a big step towards achieving that.

    The idea of knowledge is power is changing. No longer is it the knowledge and information that you keep to yourself that provides the power, but rather the knowledge that you share. In the same way, as you open yourself up to receive feedback from your marketplace, the information and the knowledge that this provides is also power, the power to provide them with what they really want rather than what you think they want.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

    Comments Off 
    Tags: , , , ,

    Recomended Reading:

    1. Internal Blogs: Benefits and Uses of Team Blogs
    2. Using Blogs as Communities for Research and Development
    3. Corporate blogging guidelines and transparency
    4. Blogs and HR: which HR manager is right?
    5. Consultants really benefit from Business Blogs