Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Should Our Business Have a Blog?

I am still on the subject of blogs, though my life has become considerably busier. I am all set to travel next week - I have missed all the bank holidays except one this year and going to miss the one in August too - and getting back to travelling habit is a bit of work. But, one of the things I address while in India is the question of a new website - not just the one for our Indian business but also the whole website family for our company - which I am supposed to build. So, my studies about blogging are not too much off the mark, we need to take some quick decisions on this.

The first of these questions, indeed, is whether we should consider blogging at all. One may reasonably feel that one needs to move sequentially - first get a decent website up. The extreme point of thinking is that blogging may actually be a marketing fad, which will not last long as the recession bites. In fact, despite spending countless hours on writing this blog, I think such thinkers may actually have a point. There are quite a few companies, who have gone down the blogging route without much thought, and apparently found it difficult to sustain the effort.

I also know that the hosting package that we are considering comes with a blogging facility. This indicates that blogging must have become fairly commonplace among business customers. Now I know that blogging is an important and emerging medium, and millions of people have already joined the conversation. It is already a part of marketing thinking [read Joseph Jaffe's Join The Conversation] and companies can indeed benefit from a good blog. But, the question that I needed to look at is - should every company has a blog?

I think the answer is still NO. Blogs, while it is not a fad, it is still a novelty. Not every company hosts a blog, nor every hosting service provider would offer one. As I think, it is indeed excruciatingly difficult to keep writing about a business every day. That is, without talking about other people/ personalities, without revealing the goings-on, without talking about strategic thinking, without talking about new products and ideas. As Blog Rules reminded me, companies should remember their legal exposure arising out of employee blogs, and, yes I am serious, the book suggests that every post should be reviewed by a legal counsel beforehand. I know what happens if one implements a company blog following all the best practise advices - it not only becomes excruciatingly difficult to write, it becomes terribly difficult to read. And, therefore, if there is nothing to say, it is best to spare the poor readers and not have a blog at all.

I am therefore trying to frame a set of qualifying criteria to decide whether a business - our business for example - should have a blog. I can see some clear questions that must be answered in affirmative for this, and I thought I shall share it here so that I can get some ideas and suggestions.

First, whether the business has a story to tell. I don't think all businesses necessarily have a story to tell. Some are just made to make money, which is indeed interesting for its owners but rest of the world isn't interested in that. And, besides, a business may have a story, but a secret story. The business may be based on keeping that secret. I think this is Criteria One - whether we have a story to tell which will interest the others and whether we want to tell the story.

Second, as every business is about money, it must be understood whether the business gains anything by telling the story. I mean, monetarily - in short term or in long term. Because if it does not have a clear commercial benefit, blogging for business may actually become a fad. Yes, you can reach millions of people and you can engage them in a conversation, which is exceedingly interesting to me - a loner - but for a business, that conversation must translate into something measurable. It can be Thought Leadership, Loyalty or plain visibility. For us, we may not be after Thought Leadership, because I doubt whether we can project any new insight which will be of interest to general public. Plain visibility is equivalent to marketing voodoo, and millions of pounds are wasted on that promise - so I shall loath to go there. Only thing we can achieve out of a blog is a set of loyal customers - who engage in a conversation - but I doubt whether we can achieve that by simply talking about what is going on in the business. I think it is going to be more like an Exploration in English blog, where the blog writer or writers explore the nuances of the 'ever unfaithful' English language [I picked up the expression from another blog]. This is sort of thought leadership stuff, but unlikely to be path-breaking and therefore, it will be more of an exercise to start a conversation than to teach anyone anything.

Third, I think it is hard to override the personal nature of the blog. Companies can not converse; people do. So, unless a key executive or the entrepreneur is keen to reveal himself/herself and allocate some time to the exercise, there is no point trying to put a company blog. I know planning a Direct English blog is almost surely adding another thing to do on my list, and it is important for me to know what that means - a compulsion to post every day whether I am travelling or not. Or, finding someone else in the organization who can do that and has the necessary time to do that. And, whether it is me or someone else, this commitment must be recession-proof, something on the list which is important and urgent and unavoidable.

While all of this seems obvious and the Language exploration blog is already sounding like a great idea to me [it does not have to be novel - that's the beauty of blogs!], it is a hard decision and I may still decide not to pursue the project at all. I have no intent to make this a marketing brochure for the company - I can have better brochures which will be easier to produce. Besides, my golden rule is that all marketing should sell, and I am not yet there in terms of creating a business linkage, and not convinced that I even should. The personal time commitments are a big question mark too. It is not just about committing my time. I enjoy writing this blog and engaging in a faceless conversation; but I am not sure I can do the same thing when I start writing about the business.

The good thing is, of course, I don't have to decide today and can take my time till next week. I am planning a quick read of Naked Conversation, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's bible of Business Blogging. Hopefully I shall get some new ideas and get more convinced that we must have a blog for our business. Meanwhile, of course, I shall keep blogging!

1 comment:

shelisrael said...

Personally, I skip right past Naked Conversations and go on to Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. It's a much more current book. Besides the authors of Naked Conversations are vastly over rated, I'm told.

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