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Part I

How to Create a Successful Business Blog —
Tips & Pitfalls You Need to Know

In this two-part article, Bill Comcowich analyzes the steps for planning and implementing a corporate blog. The first article on "Planning a Successful Business Blog" examines the key decisions on subject, mission, audience targeting, market survey, blogger selection, securing a corporate champion, and making the "go" decision. The second article on "Implementing a Successful Business Blog" dissects the steps of selecting development tools, working out a content plan for launch, making a debut, developing a style and personality, handling responses, monitoring consumer discussion on your subject, and enjoying the process. It's a roadmap to success in corporate blogging.


8 Tips for Planning a Successful Business Blog

by Bill Comcowich
CEO, CyberAlert, Inc.

(www.cyberalert.com)

Tip #1: Pick Your Subject

"Passion" is the litmus test of blogging. The most successful business bloggers are knowledgeable about their subject. More importantly, they are passionate. Usually, they are evangelists. It's the combination of insight, passion and good writing that attracts followers.

Tip #2: Define Your Mission

What purpose is the blog to serve? What is it to accomplish? What problem is it to solve? What gap is it to fill? "Renown" and "revenge" are major motivators for independent business bloggers. Many business bloggers hope to become recognized as a thought-leader which in turn may lead to monetary rewards. Others use blogs to attack industries, companies or adversaries. In corporate blogging, the mission should be at a higher level. Potential missions: increase company credibility, improve reputation, enhance customer interaction, give customers behind the scenes "feel" of company culture, provide communication back channel, create openness, showcase innovation, air business issues, build trust, create early warning system, and more.

Tip #3: Identify Your Target Audience

Whom do you want to attract as readers? What are they interested in? What needs do they have? How can you get their attention? What service can you perform for them? How can you build a relationship with them? Inevitably, the initial audience will be other bloggers who are passionate about the subject. Gaining their respect is a key first step in achieving popular success and fulfilling your mission.

Tip #4: Survey the Landscape

Who are the current bloggers in the subject space? What is the positioning of each? What are their positions on issues? What is the "personality" of each blog? How will you position yourself in relation to these "competitors?" Scour other blogs within your subject area. Review their archived content, get a good grasp of their mission, positions and agendas, and get a feel for their online personalities.

Tip #5: Recruit Your Blogger(s)

Selecting an individual to be the "star" of your corporate blog is probably the most important decision. Almost by definition, individuals write blogs - not companies. An ideal corporate blogger possesses most of the following attributes:
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       • authentic subject matter expert
       • passion for subject
       • strong opinions
       • solid writing skills
       • plays well with others
       • available time
       • commitment to blogging
       • corporate loyalty
       • respect of peers
       • reacts calmly to others' outbursts
       • sense of humor
Bloggers often self-select, starting their blogs without corporate prompting simply because they want to. Microsoft, for example, is reputed to have over 3,000 employee bloggers. The wisest approach is to guide and nurture those individuals without imposing. Many will find an audience - and their blogging is likely to redound to benefit the company. You can let employees know you follow their blogs by reacting offline and informally to one of their posts.

Tip #6: Refine Your Subject/Mission and Differentiate Your Blog

Based on the landscape survey and you choice of individual to do the blogging, you'll need to refine your subject/mission. How will you differentiate your blog from others on the subject? In marketing terms, what's the "positioning" for your blog? Is it the critic? The expert? The gadfly? The helper? The linker? The reference? The innovator? The idea person? The soother? Successful blogs have both a viewpoint and a "voice". What are yours? Importantly, both voice and viewpoint must be authentic; phoniness is a certain blog-killer.

Tip #7: Recruit a Champion

Corporate blogs need high-level support within the organization - a powerful, well-placed executive who will unwaveringly defend the blog when the proverbial stuff hits the fan, including when company attorneys start raising their inevitable objections.

Tip #8: Pull the Plug or Start Implementation

At this point, you'll want to consider abandoning the notion of developing a corporate blog if you haven't been able to:
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       a) define an appropriate mission
       b) find an appropriate niche in the subject space
       c) identify a focused target audience
       d) identify an individual who has the knowledge, passion, personality, writing skills, time and commitment to be the blogger
       e) or get the support of a corporate champion.
It's a go? Start ramping up your implementation strategies and tactics which we'll discuss in Part II, Implementing a Successful Business Blog.

Note: This article may be republished in full with proper attribution including a link to CyberAlert.com



Articles on Business Blogs

The Bottom Line on Blogging
Companies find all that Web talk builds business — Kansas City Star, 3/14/2006

The Inside Story on Company Blogs
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2006/tc20060214_402499.htm

Attack of the Blogs
http://www.forbes.com/home/free_forbes/2005/1114/128.html

Why there's no escaping the blog
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2005/01/10/8230982/index.htm

Do's and don'ts of corporate blogging
http://money.cnn.com/2006/02/28/news/companies/pluggedin_fortune/index.htm

Business Blogs for Reference

Micro Persuasion by Steve Rubel
http://www.micropersuasion.com

Seth Godin's Blog
http://sethgodin.typepad.com

Your Guide to Corporate Blogging (Sweden)
http://www.corporateblogging.info

Jonathan Schwartz — Sun Microsystems
http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan

Debbie Weil — Consultant on Business Writing and Blogging
http://www.MonaLisaofBlogging.com

KDPaine's Media Measurement Blog
http://kdpaine.blogs.com

Julie Woods — Cymfony Marketing Insight
http://www.cymfony.blogs.com

Bob Lutz — GM Fastlane Blog
http://fastlane.gmblogs.com

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