Thursday, November 09, 2006
As I was spending last weekend finishing up a chapter on blogging for my forthcoming book on B2B internet marketing, I thought I’d share a draft of a list I've created of "rules" or lessons learned for developing and launching corporate blogs or a corporate blogging program . I came up with the list based on a combination of my own eleven years of online marketing management experience and (including creating a Fortune 500 blogging program) and the insights and experiences gleaned from conversations I've had with marketers from companies that have led the way. Over the years, there’s been a good deal to learn from these efforts – from smart moves to very public missteps.
In true blogosphere spirit, I invite you to comment on this list – add, agree, disagree – it’s all welcome. By the time I need to deliver the final manuscript in a few months, I’ll, no doubt, do some refining, but I wanted to put out this first draft and get reaction. I did try to make this into ten rules, but soon realized that wouldn’t really do this topic justice.
Fifteen Rules for Developing a Corporate Blog Program:
1. Don’t treat corporate blogs like another corporate communications or marketing communications device, it’s significantly different.
While a great corporate blog benefits the brand, a corporate blog should not be treated as if it is just another corporate communications or marketing communications vehicle. Blogs are not ads, corporate web pages or press releases – in fact, they have more in common with personal letters than these promotional vehicles. Blogs require a level of personality, sincerity and sense of respect for the community that is best kept real, and not turned over to a ghost writer.
2. Don’t blog without a solid, compelling case and proper resources.
Don’t blog merely because of the blogging bandwagon leads you to believe you should. Blogging requires a serious commitment of time and resources and entails taking on new risks. Start by having solid, compelling objectives to launch a blog, not because of ego or “me too” reasons. You are better off being slow to the blogosphere than going in without a reason or plan. Blogging is a radical shift from the monologues with which marketing and public relations professionals are familiar. The public will now be talking back to you on your own turf and may have very hard criticism that requires a prompt response. It’s a brave new frontier, so don’t expect the same old approaches to apply.
3. Have solid executive backing before you blog.
Make sure you’ve made a good case with the CEO before you embark on corporate blogging. It’s better for the CEO to understand the benefits and risks of blogging long before s/he reads that the media has picked up on customer dissent on one of your blogs. Have a good corporate blogging policy. Developing a corporate blogging policy is no small feat, it should address official employee blogging and – depending on the advice of your legal department – employees blogging activity on their own time. That means involving multiple departments including: marketing, public relations, internal communications, human resources and legal. IBM’s blog policy can be found at: "http://www-03.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/jasnell?entry=blogging_ibm'>http://www-03.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/jasnell?entry=blogging_ibm">http://www-03.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/jasnell?entry=blogging_ibm, some other good Charlene Li of Forrester has a good post on the topic at: http://forrester.typepad.com/charleneli/2004/11/blogging_policy.html.
4. Choose your bloggers carefully.
Allowing all your employees bloggers sounds very democratic. It’s also the online equivalent of telling your employees that anytime they spot a news crew they should jump in front of the camera, grab the microphone and begin talking, representing the company without media training, talking points – just winging it. And when they’re finished, make sure they remember to grab a passer by and ask her to provide a critical rebuttal for everything they just said – after all, that’s what corporate blogs do. Smart corporate bloggers need to be trained, re-trained, and encouraged. And it’s a lot more than what’s required for media training. Finding an employee who has influence, something compelling to say that benefits the brand, has a style and views that align with brand objectives, knows how to write, is prolific, is well-tempered and has the time to regularly blog is a tall task. IBM, Microsoft and Novell all have policies allowing all their employees to blog. For companies who have, for example, a large amount of employee developers and make products that target software developers, it can make a decent case to enable these employees to blog. However, even so, I think companies will benefit from having a blogger certification program. While making all your employees bloggers is neat in a human, democratic sense – and I like it as an individual – as a marketer, I find it creates a situation with a lot of brand noise where it’s very difficult to locate and quickly discern between those voices worth listening to from those that are just chattering. Even more, journalists are usually going to look for the most controversial voices.
5. Authenticity is critical.
Don’t make blogs a marketing or PR mouthpiece and don’t ghost write. Blog readers connect with people, the flesh and blood of a brand. The blogosphere is rightfully cynical of corporate blogs. While all blogs need to align with and benefit the brand and objectives, companies should spend time finding employees whose style is a match with the brand and objectives and allow the blogger’s true personality and style to shine through. Influence is more important than rank on an org chart.
6. Thoroughly train your bloggers and require an internal blogging test period before a blogger is “certified.”
All of your bloggers should go through thorough training that covers blogosphere 101 (I believe all bloggers should spend at least a few months getting immersed in the blogosphere before launching a blog of their own), blog etiquette, blog writing basics, dealing with intellectual property leak concerns.
7. Assign a blog approver for each blog who has some degree of subject matter expertise, knowledge of company policies and public relations.
Require each blog post to first be reviewed prior to posting. Let’s face it, bloggers (including some very well-known ones) sometimes write things they shouldn’t. Sometimes they blog when they’re having a bad day, a nasty reaction to something…Other times they make poor choices or are unaware that something they’ve written includes information that is proprietary. Having a second set of eyes review posts prior to publication can stop these posts from going out in the first place. The reviewer should be knowledgeable on the subject matter and company policies so that she can spot potential problems. Have an editorial calendar for your bloggers to keep them on track. Work with each blogger to develop an editorial calendar that keeps him or her on track and aligns with company events, releases, industry happenings, etc.
8. Don’t hide from the tough stuff. Be willing to admit mistakes.
The blogosphere expects a company joining the blogosphere should be honest about shortcomings, failings and issues. Members of the blogosphere are also willing to forgive companies when they admit their mistakes.
9. Create a blog crisis communications plan.
When your company has a problem – and especially a big one – your blog readers will expect relevant company blogs to address it and may attack if you do not. Making mistakes on corporate blogs aren’t unheard of. When HP removed a blog comment from an HP customer describing numerous poor customer service problems, the blogosphere and the media (right up to the WSJ) picked up on it. The best time to plan for these scenarios is long before they happen and then, after you realize the danger, put together a plan to avoid these situations all together.
10. Moderate blog comments.
One of the worst mistakes a corporate blog can do is to post than remove a critical comment on a blog. It smacks of censorship, which is antithetical to core blogosphere values – permitting honest, two-day dialogue. Again, recall the HP blog fiasco when they removed a blog comment. Had they instead contacted the commenter about the problem described in his comment, helped him to resolve the problem and then asked if he wanted the post published the commenter might have said no. If he still wanted the comment published, he would probably end up putting another post praising HP for how they corrected his customer service issue.
11. Make your blog part of a communications plan – not the whole of it.
A blog should not be the center-piece of your marketing communications plan. If you are focused on building or maintaining your brand’s position as a thought leader, a blog should be one component which includes white papers, speaking engagements, citations in the media as an expert, etc.
12. Monitor your corporate blogs.
Considering the potential for mistakes, abandoning blogs and bloggers going off and engaging in brand damaging behavior that might gain media attention, it’s a wise idea to have a plan to regularly monitor blogs. Now, I’m not suggesting a blogging CIA here, in fact, I believe if you find bloggers who are engaged in activities that aren’t helpful, your first course of action should be to work with the blogger. Consider that you want to nurture blogging talent, not stifle it.
13. Determine measures of effectiveness up front.
Before embarking on corporate blogging, you need to determine how you will measure blog effectiveness. This should largely be dependent on your objectives. However, some areas that are worthy of consideration include: - Positive media mentions - Positive mentions in other blogs - Traffic to the blog – unique visitors, click-throughs, length of visit - Incoming links to the blog - Increases in brand, product or program awareness and sales that can be attributed to the blog - Increased attendance at company events that can be attributed to the blog
14. Consider that the blogosphere expects your blogs to be a marketing and PR mouthpiece. Always keep this in mind and prove them wrong.
There is a real sense of community in the blogosphere. It’s a bad place to be overtly self-serving or self-promotional. Corporate blogs, while undoubtedly should benefit the brand, they should never do this like a press release or promotional web page. Instead, corporate blogs should avoid being only focused on the company’s products being great and be infused with some level of concern for the industry and customers overall and show a level of unselfishness. Your readers know you want people to buy your wares, so skip the hard core sales talk, and instead get into things like the passions for excellence, concern for customers, product development, etc.
15. Manage your brand online: Monitor what people are saying about your brand online.
The most important choice you make in the blogosphere might not be your choice to launch corporate blogs but to monitor what’s being said about your brand by customers, prospects, vendors, employees, former employees and other stakeholders.
Some additional thoughts on the topic worth reading:
- Robert Scobler's (Microsoft blogger) Corporate Weblog Manifesto: http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2003/02/26.html
- James Snell of IBM on IBM’s blog policy: http://www-03.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/jasnell?entry=blogging_ibm
- 7 Rules for Corporate Blogging:
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
So I asked a question during the Q & A.
"Your customers, prospects, competitors and stockholders are talking about you offline and online. How are you monitoring and impacting that? What is your company doing to cultivate online communities? Are you exploring community vehicles such as message boards or blogs?"
The panelist who immediately responded, from a dot com that is both B2C and B2B, said that he and his company were not doing anything to monitor their brand/reputation online, nor was he or his company exploring using blogs, message boards or other community-oriented vehicles. The other panelists either said they were not doing anything or monitoring what the public was saying about their brands or companies or shook their heads indicating a lack of knowledge in this area. It seemed clear this was unfamiliar territory and it appeared they were caught off-guard without a ready response.
Now I thought to myself, perhaps these online marketers figured it was PR's responsibility -- although no one expressed this view. Perhaps they thought it was only a consumer phenomena; it's not. The Internet has significantly impacted the balance of power between marketers and those they market to whether those are consumers or business professionals. The people we market to now have a voice and they are using it. This isn't just hype, it started happening years ago and it's now in the mainstream. Fortune 500 marketing and PR departments need to take this shift seriously and not keep operating the way they did twenty years ago. The world has changed and marketers and PR professionals need to change too -- we need to adapt. A recent Euro RSCG, Columbia University study found that more 51 percent of journalists use blogs regularly and 28 percent turn to them in their day-to-day reporting duties. That alone creates compelling evidence that blogs need to be on our radar screens.
Several years ago, a respected bike lock manufacturer was nearly brought to its knees over an online video that showed how the lock could be defeated in seconds using only a Bic pen. A whistle blower recently used YouTube to create a video that allegedly revealed a serious security flaw of a product made by a giant defense contractor. This was one individual on a mission -- and he's gotten the attention of major media outlets since. Prior to turning to You Tube, the man said that he turned to dozens of media outlets who wouldn't listen to his story. When he unleashed his story on the public, the media also began listening and telling his story. In the consumer electronics world, blogs Engadget and Gizmodo sprung up and built an audience and influence that traditional publications look at with envy.
The power of social media -- and the power of those we market to has become a force to reckon with -- and it is a significant mistake to ignore it. We can actually learn from it and it can make us better marketers, and our companies, better corporate citizens.
Frankly, as a marketer and as a consumer, I am fascinated by this power shift. I realize, as a marketer, this is previously uncharted territory for our profession (and for PR, customer service and the corporation as a whole). It makes marketing communications much, much more complex. It's no longer about sending out one-way communications and monitoring data to see the impact. I believe it will eventually raise the bar on marketing communications and truth in marketing.
Whether marketers and PR professionals like it or not, the folks we market to can now have a real voice and we would do well to take this seriously. More than that, it no longer requires money and influence to be heard; it now merely requires being at the right place at the right time with a message that resonates. Even more, there is growing distrust from messages from marketers. This isn't merely a consumer phenomena. In the B2B world, internet users are using online communities to make their voices heard -- sharing their experiences and opinions. Sure, consumers are more engaged in social media, but business users are increasingly using it too, and I am confident it will become the norm over the next few years. Business decision makers have a lot invested in the decisions they make -- their careers -- and they're likely to increasingly turn to these outlets to learn about companies they buy from and work with as they become more familiar with the tools. I usually look at technology professionals as the indicators of where the rest of B2B might be years from now, and technology professionals use these tools regularly. Consider how investors use online communities like Yahoo Finance to share company information and stock tips.
If you don't already know the below sites, I recommend you get to know them:
This isn't just for "exciting" industries like technology to have people talking about your brand or company -- I've marketed everything from cell phones to chemicals to dot coms to insurance to consulting to testing services, from the Fortune 100 to small companies and all of them are potentially affected to various degrees. Marketers and PR professionals need to monitor message boards and blogs. We can learn from these conversations and we need to engage our targets. We need to be a part of conversations, not just givers of monologues.
Marketing has forever changed. We're not going back to the old ways.
In the age of information, where your targets can easily share experiences, brand experience is more critical than ever and advertising, while still having an important impact, is certainly losing its power. Your targets don't trust it like they once did. In fact, they're getting down right cynical about advertising. They don't rely on marketers for information the way they once did. Sincerity and transparency are becoming more and more important.
It's not an easy change, but we, not our targets, are the ones who need to adapt to succeed.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Both brands are running contests for consumers to create homemade commercials (also referred to as consumer generated content) for their products, the winning entries will appear as commercials during this year's Super Bowl (XLI).
Now, of course, primarily hardcore brand advocates and video enthusiasts will enter these contests. But, the media attention and word of mouth these contests and the commercials will generate (and already are generating) for these brands is significant.
I am confident that, executed well, these campaigns will capture a great deal of consumer attention (and it should, as a spot on last years Super Bowl cost around $2,500,000 USD). With reality TV still hot and consumer generated media getting the public's attention, the timing is right.
Now, in and of themselves, the increased visits to each brand's websites won't make them any money. However, it does represent increased time consumers spend engaging with these brands in (mostly) very positive ways which these marketers hope and believe will eventually pay off in increased awareness and brand preference. But there's more to these campaigns.
Done well, these commercials can send a message to viewers that slick commercials with beautiful actors and models cannot: that real people love these brands. In a world where consumers increasingly distrust advertising messages, these messages can convey something that polished professional messages cannot do as well. Authenticity.
This is also a very good example of a marketing communications campaign that is not bound by functional silos of online and offline marketing communications that well, for most companies is a prevalent, and even outwardly obvious problem. Let's face it, today's standard for marketing communications integration is often not much deeper than slapping a web address into an offline ad with no value proposition for visiting the site -- not even a few words. If marketers can't think up a good reason for targets to visit our websites, why would we expect the consumers or business decision makers we are targeting to do so? Some companies/brands have done a great job of integrating offline and online and leveraging offline advertising and packaging to drive visitors online -- FedEx, Intel and IBM immediately come to mind. Now I'm adding GM and Frito-Lay to the list.
Kudos to GM and Frito-Lay and their agencies for the idea. Now go execute this as well as my expectations so I don't look back on this post with regret come February!
Friday, October 13, 2006
I was recently at a marketing association fund raising event where a speaker proclaimed that marketers are true artists, as if being artists validates our work. I thought, hmmm...Maybe that's part of the reason why CEOs and other departments think of marketers as lacking process and accountability, because we can excuse those shortcomings as "art" -- just as branding has been far too often used as a black box to explain away campaigns and programs that lack accountability or perform poorly.
Consider an example that can appear more art then science. The marketing of Apple's iPod. It features beautiful design, beautiful packaging, a slick user experience. Hold an iPod in your hand. The product certainly delivers on some very slick, artsy, advertising that promises cool.
But should Apple manage its very artsy advertising as if it were art with little or no regard to brand and sales metrics? Of course not.
Should Apple forsake slick branding in favor of a series of hard sell, direct response commercials? Of course not.
Apple, like any marketer, needs to manage its marketing to deliver value to the brand and while the creative needs to be creative, the process determining what goes out the door and what does not needs to be more science than art, more left brain manages right brain than a battle.
We marketers aren't artists, we need to be highly creative thinkers who apply scientific principles to managing the art. Designers and copywriters (creatives) are the artists and marketers need to manage their artistic output to ensure it delivers on business objectives. We need to ensure effectiveness and accountability -- that we are meeting these objectives; that is our master, not art.
Too many marketers look at ads and websites as if they were bright shiny objects and throw logic and science out the window. Considering marketing's credibility battle and a short life span of CMOs (less than two years), I think a new model is in order. Brand marketers can learn a lot from direct marketers. Brand marketers often look at accountability as forsaking the brand, but done well, it's just the opposite.
Marketing should be scientifically managed art. At a handful of companies it is this, but it's certainly not the norm. Check every study on marketing accountability published in the last five years. We need to be raising the bar on marketing to earn organizational credibility and move the bar on marketing ethics. In an age where customers are no longer so dependent on marketers for information (they can now communicate with peers with ease), marketing must evolve, and part of that is becoming more scientific.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I applaud Seth's passion and his clever way of addressing marketing ethics in his book "All Marketers are Liars." It's a topic our profession needs to dialogue on and care about.
I realize that business ethics books don't sell very well, so I'll keep this short and hope you'll look at Seth's post. Seth's point is that marketers take on personal responsibility for the decisions they make that they cannot rationalize away. I think he is dead on and am delighted to see him take on this important topic. Persuading managers on the merits and importance of thought and discourse on ethics is easily the most challenging area of business to tackle -- especially for those farthest from ethical behavior.
I could try, but I doubt I can write it any better than Seth did in his final sentences:
"We're responsible for what we sell and how we sell it. We're responsible for the effects (and the side effects) of our actions.It is our decision. Whatever the decision is, you need to own it. If you can't look that decision in the mirror, market something else."
But first, a little disclosure. For those cynics out there, you may see this (perhaps, rightly) as rationalizations for my extended absense from the blogosphere. Truth be told, I have been working on something very related, however, at this time, I cannot share anything more. So onto the disclosure.
While I started Marketing Today to support my consulting business, I later joined Aon Corporation in 2000 where I eventually became Director, eMarketing. More recently, I joined a Fortune 100 corporate marketing and brand department where I have been responsible for a number of enterprise-wide marketing programs as well as campaigns and the corporate website. Why don't I share the company's name at Marketing Today? Simply put, to avoid the perception that I am speaking officially on behalf of the company (if you're interested in who it is, you can easily check my resume at www.businessmarketing.net or Google "Peter DeLegge"). I enjoy the ability to share my personal views and experiences on marketing on this blog without concern for people confusing my views with those of my employer. (Now back on to my excuses for not being a more frequent blogger!) However, having a full-time position as a manager of a Fortune 100, doing a blog, being a fairly new father (okay, he's a toddler now, but all it takes is one person asking me to post pictures and you'll have an idea how much I enjoy this responsibility!) and writing a book can be a lot to juggle.
So here's what I am up to lately:
- Public speaking. I'm doing one of two Marketing Thought Leader keynotes for the DMA's upcoming B-to-B Interactive Marketing Conference in Arizona this week.
- The book. I'm working on a book on B2B interactive marketing on a major publisher that will come out in 2007 that has kept me pretty busy. I'm looking for great, best in class examples of B2B marketing integration and online marketing. I'm covering a diverse range of company sizes and industries, so if you feel you have something exceptional, don't hesitate to contact me. If you're in marketing (please no sales calls, I'm already overloaded) and looking to share, feel free to send me a LinkedIn invitation. My profile is at http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterdelegge .
Okay, I'm officially back in the blogosphere. So, does anyone have thoughts to share on blogs whose authors have been, well, less than frequent with their posting activity?