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The Good and Bad of Company Blogs
As an SEO copywriter, I spend a lot of my working week looking at and writing for company blogs – both in our own client portfolio for obvious reasons and elsewhere for research and inspiration. Along the way, I see a lot of great blogs that tick all the right boxes…and a lot that completely miss the mark and end up alienating half their customer base.
Maintaining a blog for your company, regardless of your industry (trust me, people will read anything…I’m one of them), still remains an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. There have been rumblings that social media platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest are making the humble blog irrelevant because people these days can’t be bothered with anything that can’t be condensed to fewer than 140 characters or that can’t be illustrated with a single picture but I think that’s nonsense. To suggest the written blog is archaic and outdated because of Twitter is almost like saying people won’t read novels anymore because people are telling short stories every day on Facebook.
Most people are aware of the benefits of having a company blog. If you’re an evil corporation of bankers and estate agents, you can use a blog to ‘humanise’ your organisation and pass on the idea that you may have a soul through posting pictures of puppies. Sick of pesky journalists editing your news releases and emphasising some of your more unsavoury traits? Hey, you have complete editorial control to manage crises and set the record straight!
Blogs can also work to generate direct business through ‘here’s a really useful way to use our product to solve this problem you just Googled’-type posts, build brand identity through tone and style and are also pretty handy for that SEO lark – publish good material and watch the links roll in and your search rankings shoot up. Particularly handy now that some penguins are patrolling Google for people not producing enough good content on a regular basis.
My personal favourite company blogs are ones that encourage customer engagement, either by generating debate with interesting industry posts, directly welcoming customer input through idea submissions and brainstorming or providing well-researched educational content. That last one is actually pretty useful for establishing your expertise in the industry and trying to make yourself the first port of call for anyone looking for industry info.
Anyway, with all these benefits it’s no surprise that most companies dive into blogging headfirst. Unfortunately, it also means that quite a few uninformed bloggers are making some big mistakes. Here are some I’ve picked up from browsing company blogs and why you should avoid them.
The natural reaction for anyone when they are given a platform to say whatever they want is to vent their frustrations to the world, and some of my favorite blogs and Twitter accounts do just that. However, when it comes to blogging for a company, there’s nothing I find more irritating. Be it an overly eager MD finally given the chance to vent his spleen after years of repressed anger at a competitor or an employee upset that his work isn’t going quite as well as planned, the internet is filled with blogs that seem to exist only for companies to moan.
The big problem with this is that negativity doesn’t sell in the slightest. Genuinely having a problem with something is fine if you approach it in a productive manner that offers some kind of solution. It’s the same reason disaster films always end on a good note despite the fact a huge meteor/Godzilla has just laid waste to the entire planet; people can deal with negativity so long as there is a positive resolution to it. What doesn’t work is a massive rant on how another company and their products suck because they did this or that, especially if you go ahead and name that company. It looks bitter, which is a trait I’m certain most companies barring Boddingtons don’t want to be associated with. They’ll just click away for something a bit more positive and informative.
Old News is Bad News
One of the big plus points of maintaining a company blog is establishing your company as an expert in their industry. Unfortunately, some companies mistake this for going onto an industry news site and producing a simple re-wording of a piece. This doesn’t work because a) people have already read all the details and b) its extremely unoriginal.
Basing a blogpost off a news story is actually a great way to keep fresh ideas coming and also guarantees some audience interest due to the relevance of the topic and any debates that may be swirling around the subject. What’s important when taking this route, however, is to offer something that other outlets aren’t – this could be advice based off the story, your interpretation, relating it back to your business, whatever; just make sure it’s original so people have a reason to read!
The Press Machine
As alluded to earlier in this post, blogging is great for companies because it puts all editorial control in your hands meaning that nothing can be re-interpreted (‘creatively’ or reasonably) and you can more or less get your point across in the way you intended. It’s a great way of breaking company news in a way you’re personally comfortable with and who knows, with enough outreach, the outlets you’d normally push a press release out to might pick up on the post and work with it for their own pieces.
Unfortunately, not all companies fully understand this and decide to republish press releases verbatim on their blog as a way of breaking news. This doesn’t work for two reasons, the first being that press releases are deliberately boring. Yes, they’re informational but they’re mainly a way of breaking down a story so a journalist can work from it. It’s not intended to be a final piece for customers (although some newspapers also seem to forget that), and it shows in the style most press releases are written in. It also deprives the blog of a unique voice and tone, which in turn deprives the blog’s capability for building brand reputation and engaging customers, which links in with…
Not Enough Personality
Personality is the key to good writing, and striking the right tone for your company is key to a successful blog. Like the previous point, some bloggers don’t take heed of this and end up writing dull content with no artistic expression. The reasons are numerous; mistaking a stern, straight-down-the-middle tone with authority and a fear of experimentation being just two.
The first is an obvious issue because no-one wants to be lectured at and educating in a conversational basis encourages audience engagement and can lead to debates, response posts and so forth; lots of good things basically. Fear of experimentation is sometimes valid, but good writing (and in turn blogging) boils down to informing and entertaining at the same time. No-one’s going to be entertained by someone who writes in the style of GCSE Biology textbook. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if you don’t particularly find yourself that interesting – even just a bit of personality is infinitely more entertaining than the alternative.
Obviously these are just a few of my thoughts on the good and bad of company blogging and is by no means are comprehensive guide. If you’ve got any more you’d like to add to the list, I’d be really interested to hear some of your blogging bugbears in the comments!