Jane pointed out an interesting post published in The Age titled To Blog or Not To Blog.
Disclosure: I like The Age :) Having lived in Melbourne for 6 years I came to appreciate its independent editorial streak.
The post on blogging has some really good points. But I want to take up two of the points the author (Kristen Le Mesurier) makes in relation to business blogging:
- Blogs cannot be used for marketing purposes
- Blogs must be written by ‘the blogger’, and only the blogger. Do not hire someone to write your blog. Write it yourself.
I’d like to make the case that many Australian small businesses can – and should – use blogs as part of their marketing. If you run a small business and want to know why, you can call me and I’ll explain in person. I also guarantee I’ll show you a way you can start a business blog with zero capital outlay and start to benefit immediately. Blogging isn’t suitable for all small businesses, but it is for a lot of them.
I also want to look at the notion of the importance of who writes a blog. For me, authenticity and trust are two of the most critical elements of good business blogs. As many of you may already know, one of our services is a ghost blogging service. If this notion suggests that I may be clueless (haven’t I read Naked Conversations?), I’d like you to hear me out for a sec.
Experts in a field often produce ‘thought leadership’ articles for publication in newspapers and magazines. They are excellent for building awareness. Do the experts have to write the entire article themselves? What if they dictated the core of the article, and a professional writer tidied it up – better grammar, checked references and citations, organised the article using headings. Is the expert still the author? Definitely. (If not, journalists could hardly claim a byline when an editor is involved). Publishers use editors all the time, and a good editor will retain the author’s meaning and ‘voice’.
Well, its the same with blogs. Its entirely possible for an author to draft, dictate or otherwise ready some content, and to have an assistant or editor bring the article (or post) into shape ready for publishing. If the author reviews the edited copy and approves it prior to publishing, even better. That is exactly how we help business owners with their blog posts. They are often very busy running their business, so a phone interview is the most common way of getting the initial content. We edit, include links or images they have specified, edit grammar/punctuation and so on. And leave it as a draft post, ready for them to publish when they have reviewed. In practice, not everyone is fluent on a keyboard, and the process of using a ghost blogger actually results in the author being able to express themselves with greater clarity than when they try to type it themselves.
Picasso said “Art is the lie that tells the truth”. If that is the case, then a good ghost blogger is also a liar, able to convey someone else’s truth through words.
So, a business owner doesn’t have to pen their own blog posts to be able to have an authentic blog. Its exactly the same with CEOs of large businesses. It would be a brave person who would disregard a memo from the CEO as not being authentic because they felt the CEO only dictated it, whereas the PA wrote it. Truth comes in many forms.
Now, back to my other point. Kirsten asserts don’t let blogs become a PR or marketing tool. Promoting yourself, your company and its products or services is self-defeating. You’ll lose credibility.. If a business was to publish a blog that was nothing more than a series of self-promoting ads for the company and its products, I would agree. People don’t watch ads, why would they read ads on blogs? What many bloggers understand however is that good content will find an audience. If you write interesting content, people read it. Just like they read interesting articles in newspapers and magazines. If you are consistently authentic and truthful, many of your readers will trust you. In many situations people are looking for someone who knows what they are talking about, and who they can trust.
If you can write a blog that shows you know what you are talking about and that you are trustworthy, you aren’t going to need ads. Definitely not the sort of ads that Kirsten is envisaging when she talks about losing credibility. I agree 100%. A business blog is a fantastic way to talk about what you really know, to describe what you really do, and to let your clients get to know you a lot better than they might if you didn’t write a blog. Its a lot of disclosure, and prospective clients can make up their minds with a lot more information to hand.
Now of course some people will blog and not tell the truth. Same as the way some journalists or newspaper owners will publish and not tell the truth. You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time .. etc etc.
Some people discuss the ‘rules’ of blogging. Like any media, the real rules are often more complex than we would like. In the case of blogs, the ‘rules’ involve the publisher and the readers, and are constantly changing. Blogs (which are just websites, but usually with a more personalised and conversational style) are similar to other media. You can have blogs that are like newspapers, blogs that are like magazines, blogs that are like TV or like radio. Does an audience trust any of these media? Depends. And its the same with blogs. Blogs let small businesses become publishers. If they become good publishers, then their blog is a powerful part of their marketing tool set.
Ok, to wrap up this very long post, David Meerman Scott has written an excellent book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR that describes the role blogs can play in marketing and PR. Its a great read, and I recommend it thoroughly. Follow David’s advice and ‘Think Like a Publisher’.
[Late Addition: on the topic of blogs as a marketing tool, Seth Godin makes the point far more eloquently than I can: Looking for Trouble]
Footnote: After starting to write a comment on Kirsten’s post, I realised two things. One, the comment was too long, so I made it a post. Two, the Age’s Terms and Conditions for comments (yup, they have them and I read them) ask us not to promote any goods or services. A bit hard for me not to promote blogs … lets see if the The Age get blogging enought to support trackbacks :)