Bruce Mendehlson and I have been chatting by email about this. I also spoke to Debra Simpson on the West Coast about this. I plan to speak with Rita Coco and Allison Chisholm about this too.
But, Bruce is the first one that has demonstrated some knowledge about what I think is required to make blogging work for businesses. Here's his thoughts:
There are A LOT of blogs out there, and many (in fact, most) are poorly written, rambling, off subject and add little (if any) value that relates back to the product, service, or business someone is trying to promote.
After all, it's challenging to compose relevant, compelling content on a regular basis--after a few dismal attempts most business owners move on to something else. It's not that they don't have the desire; they don't have the time or the discipline to devote to a labor-intensive product like a blog.
The key is to help your clients understand how a blog (or a podcast, RSS feed, widget, etc.) should and must be integrated within a broader marketing and communications plan. For example, if they have a product in R&D or coming to market, they'll want to use the blog to build interest in and excitement about the product or service. They'll want to create a dialogue with consumers in which consumers can share their thoughts about the product or service.
When it comes to blogging in our Web 2.0 world, it's all about the 5 C's: Collaboration, Content, Converged services, Community, and Conversation. Your job is not only to help business owners understand the important of blogging, but also to invest the necessary resources (time and money) to creating a well-written, interactive online dialogue through their blog.
This is extremely well said. Blogging is just a tool. It's how you use it that's critical.
I've signed on about 15 companies since the beginning of the year who all are in the process of starting their blog, at my suggestion. But, it's not something to enter into lightly. And it's not something I'd recommend someone do until they develop a strategy.
Blogging should fit into a strategy that supports the business. The ultimate goal of most marketing activities should be to generate interest from qualified prospects. So blogging should fit into their traffic and online lead generation strategy. In order to get the most out of it, the following should be done first:
Search Engine Optimization Keyword research to inform topics that should be written about.
Launching a blog on a blogging platform that is optimized for SEO and community development - on your own domain name.
Reading and commenting on other blogs in order to start entering the conversation.
A system in place that tracks new links, traffic and leads generated from the blogging activities.
If you don't do all of this, you run the risk of writing a blog that noone reads and adds no value to your business.
But, as Bruce points out it's equally important to go into blogging knowing that this is an investment of time and money, like any other marketing expenditure. So, it requires the right resources to pull it off.
In order to help my clients, I'm seeking a stable of professional writers who I can recommend. If you know anyone, please send them to this post and ask them to contact me here. I'm going to need to be comfortable that they can do what Bruce talks about, but also do what I bulleted above.
They are going to need to be able to coach clients towards their business goals using blogs as a tool.