Seven best practices for a good corporate blog
Blogs have become one of the hottest communication tools on the web, and they have reached the corporate and government sectors with surprising ease. Although bloggers are sometimes criticised as self-proclaimed authorities - and corporate blogs as mere adverts - they can also bring significant benefits if they're done right.
Corporate blogs can generate product buzz, increase customer loyalty, and increase employee satisfaction, according to Kari White, a web content developer for US-based web design firm Brook Group, who offers these seven best practices for an effective corporate blog:
- Fine print Blogging can lead to legal issues. Companies should have real concerns about liability, exclusions and limitations, and indemnity. Although there are laws that protect against libel, misappropriations and other injuries suffered as a result of posts on the Web, companies can still be held "vicariously" responsible for statements made by employees that are harmful to others. Since there are so many legal issues surrounding blogs, it is imperative that the site has some sort of disclaimer and limitation of liability.
- Know what you're doing Senior management should be educated by the corporate communications and legal department about what blogs are and how they might affect business. That way, they can be contributing members of the blog, further improving employee relations. Their support and participation is often what makes a blog more effective.
- Create blogging policies In any medium where an employee is sharing information, there is the possibility of leaking trade secrets or financial information. Blogging also has a tendency to become personal. A company should have a list of policies regarding blogging to ensure that trade secrets are kept secret and personal lives do not become public. Policies may include keeping financial information from being posted, as well as severe consequences for anyone using the blog for negative publicity.
- Avoid the 'Marketing Blog' Making your blog into a blatant marketing campaign is a bad idea. Customers are looking for real answers and honest opinions. They will pick up on insincerity instantly. Use the blog for what it's for, transparency. This is an opportunity to make a real connection with your customers. Don't ruin it by filling it with empty advertising.
- Keep it fresh Blogs are usually judged by their amount of new content. Easy to add on to, they are designed to be updated constantly. To keep your readers coming back, make your content relevant and timely. Don't forget, content can include anything from product releases to job openings, recent news to thoughts from the CEO. It's practically impossible to run out of material.
- Reinforce the company's core values Use your blog to reflect your company's mission, goals and direction. A blog is yet another medium by which you interact with your customers and employees - another channel. It's another part of the brand experience, and it should be consistent with the impression the company wants to make.
- Encourage employees to use it Create an atmosphere where employees are comfortable asserting their opinions and concerns. You might be surprised how the quietest employees will speak up when given such an opportunity, and how the most unlikely people produce some of the smartest ideas. As with all communication, blogging can become negative, so remind employees of the public nature of the blogs and the ramifications of any negative impact they might cause, whether on purpose or by mistake.
An extended version of these best practices has been made available on the Brook Group web site.