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    Balance in Blog Writing Ive always been a big advocate of planning your posts on a business blog but I was asked recently whether I felt that this would have the effect of stifling the spontaneity and authentic voice that blogs are supposed to have.

    For me, the answer is a categorical no. The issue, as I see it, stems from the belief that the two elements, planning and spontaneity, are diametrically opposed. Theyre not – in fact, they sit very comfortably alongside each other. From a blogging perspective, it’s good to be able to find a balance between the two while, from a business perspective, planning is all important not to stifle spontaneity and creativeness but to channel and focus it.

    Think of it like a river

    If I could use an analogy here, think of your business blog as a long winding river a river flows in a clear overall direction and has a destination which it moves towards; sometimes it meanders off but ultimately rejoins the main flow of the river and continues back on track. It also has its own boundaries in terms of its banks and encounters obstacles which it has to overcome.

    If you can achieve the same with your blog then you are doing well. Keep the blog moving along and focused; also make sure that the goals you outlined when you initially planned it are clear in your mind thats the ‘destination’ you want for your blog. You can go off at tangents where appropriate and display all the spontaneity you like, provided that you return to the main flow of your core topics. There lots of scope for flexibility but ultimately there are boundaries as well which you need to respect.

    Plan where you can

    So do plan your posts ahead of time where possible:

    • try to outline a week or even a month ahead, at least with some of the main topics and potential post titles that you want to cover;

    • have a themed series ready to go even if you then develop it more later once it is started;

    • make sure that you continue to add to your Foundation posts which will often add most value to the overall blog.

    But at the same time when you spot something in your RSS Reader that you feel is important to comment on, then do so. From a publishing point of view, blogs give you an exceptional speed of response, so take the chance to report on breaking news in your industry and voice your opinion on it ahead of your competitors.

    As a final key point: dont look at planning as a constraint, think of it more as giving a focus and direction.

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    Companies still seem to get overly worried about receiving negative comments on their blog. Despite discussing this concern with a number (who have ultimately gone on to successfully run blogs, I might add), I remain uncertain as to the exact reason why.

    I think that it is either because they have a lot of “dirty washing” that they fear might be aired in public or simply that they just dont want to hear anything but positive feedback about their company, their products and their blog.

    For this reason, I wanted to share with you some recommended ways to avoid getting negative comments, taken both from the perspective of what you can do as a company and also some actions that you can take directly on your blog.

    From a company perspective:

    • Be mediocre – successful companies appear to polarise opinion and will always generate some negative feelings as well as all the positive ones. Just look at Microsoft and Google. To avoid encouraging negative sentiments which might then be expressed on your blog, avoid success like the plague and concentrate on remaining steadfastly average;
    • Supply faultless products – ensuring that your products never fail or break will cover you against any possible negative comments that might come from customers who expect that when they buy a product, it should work for life. Their life, that is … not the product’s.
    • Provide perfect service – we’re talking here about not only customers but suppliers, partners and staff too. This should make certain that people don’t need to resort to using your blog to ask service or support questions – in fact, hopefully they won’t really need to contact you at all or clog up your nice call centres.

    From a blog perspective:

    • Avoid expressing an opinion – there is nothing worse than opinions to get people’s backs up and there’s also a high risk that someone, somewhere will disagree with them. You may find that sharing information carries these same risks as it opens the door for dialogue and discussion.
    • Make your posts as bland as possible – by reporting little of relevance or interest in your blog, you will successfully be reducing the number of people reading it. An added bonus is that nobody is likely to make the effort to engage in conversation by posting comments, positive or negative. Longer-term strategy but still very effective.
    • Hide your blog – let’s face it, if people can’t find your blog then they are unlikely to react negatively to anything in it. This can either be done actively or passively: actively should involve regularly changing permalinks to break those unwanted inbound links, while passively you can simply sit back and steadfastly refuse to admit that the blog exists.

    Other Options:

    • Turn off comments – of course, this is a much easier way. You could simply not allow comments on your blog or perhaps refrain from posting regularly … or indeed at all. These are probably the best ways to avoid dialogue with customers and are very effective in annoying them as well. Luckily, they won’t be able to complain on your blog because you have cleverly sidestepped that possibility by not allowing comments (see above).

    Just as an aside: the trouble is that by making sure you don’t get negative comments on your blog, you won’t actually be stopping people from making negative comments – they’ll just go elsewhere with them. What it does do is stop you from hearing them and being able to respond to them.

    I trust that has helped and if anyone thinking of implementing these suggestions has a spare bucket of sand for me to put my head in, that would be much appreciated.

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