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A blog about blogging

08/07/2014 16:50:47
You should write a blog, you know. Everyone’s doing it. It’s dead easy. And it really helps with search engine optimisation. If you get cracking now, you’ll be a ‘thought leader’ in no time. Chuck in a few keywords, tweet about it and away you go.
Is it really that easy?
In some ways, yes it is. But knowing where to start, what to talk about and how to engage people can be stumbling blocks for a lot of people. So here’s our advice on getting started and building a following for your blog.

To blog or not to blog?

As ever, the place to start is thinking about what you want to achieve.
Do you want to raise awareness of a specific issue? Promote your business? Create a real time written record of a specific project or experience? Improve the search engine rankings for your company website or create a stand-alone site to attract traffic in its own right? And who are you targeting? Potential customers? Staff? Suppliers? Members? Franchisees? Distributors for your products?
Your goals and target audiences will help establish if/where a blog fits into your wider communications activity.

Which blogging platform should you use?

The answers to the questions above will help guide your thinking on whether a blog that is integrated into your company website would be more effective than a separate blog site.
It could well be that, if you already have a company website, a blog could be easily incorporated into the existing site structure. A good first step is to speak to whoever manages your website and find out what your options are.
Beyond that, there are many different blogging platforms available, but you could do worse than start with WordPress. It’s easy and intuitive to use; you can choose a basic free option or pay a little bit more and customise your blog site to make it look and feel more personal to you and/or your company branding.

Should it be your voice? The voice of your business? Your team?

Again, this links back to your objectives. If you’re a business keen to position your managing director or CEO as a figurehead for the business and an opinion leader in your industry, then it makes sense for them to be seen as the author of the blog. If you’re a business that’s keen to profile the skills and strengths of individual team members, then a blog that provides scope for a range of different people to contribute (even if you maintain overall control over what is published) will help you achieve that goal. Just remember that if there are several different authors writing for the blog, it’s beneficial to have a single editor responsible for signing off content to ensure it represents the views of the business and is consistent in style and tone.

What should you talk about?

Looking back again at the overall purpose of your blog will help guide your thinking on the sort of content it should contain.
If you’re aiming to set yourself up as a source of knowledge on a particular subject area, then you could start sharing knowledge and information that is valuable, which will encourage people to subscribe to your blog, knowing they’ll learn something useful when they read it. ‘How to’ or technical guides, news and views on the latest developments and issues affecting the people you are aiming to reach will help position you, over time, as a ‘thought leader’ to whom people will reach out for advice.
A good place to start is to think about the questions you get asked most often. For a PR agency, that could be “Should our business have a blog?” (do you see what we did there?), How can your business tell the world something important? or “Ten top tips for tip top tweeting”. Listing the most common questions you’re asked will give you a great starting point for a series of blog posts, and putting those into a forward plan will instantly help you see just how much you’ve got to talk about.

How often should you blog?

Consistency is more important than frequency when it comes to blogging.
Ed Reid, who runs The Alternative Board in York (peer learning combined with non-executive director level support for your business) has posted a weekly blog for the last two years. Every Friday morning at around 8am, without fail, you know it will land in your Inbox, putting his name front of potential clients - or people who could refer clients to him - on a weekly basis. US author, Seth Godin, produces a daily blog, which is sometimes as little as two sentences outlining his thoughts and views on a particular idea or topic.
A monthly blog is a manageable place to start – you can always increase the frequency once you get going and gather momentum. And we’d suggest putting a plan in place, and getting a few posts written to start you off, so that you’ve always got something up your sleeve if you get busy in the run up to blog posting day!

How do you let people know it’s there?

You can encourage readers to sign up to your blog (which means they will receive an email alert every time you publish a new post with a link to the post) by including a sign up option on the site itself. But that assumes they’ve got to your blog in the first place.
Promoting it in other online marketing activity – e.g. on your website, email signature (a hugely underused marketing opportunity), social networks or e-newsletters will help encourage people who already know you to engage further with you. Illustrate the post with an eye-catching image, and it gives you scope to attract attention on more visual channels, such as Pinterest. And don’t forget offline promotion, and the opportunities you have in hard copy to promote your blog – on your business card, and on any other printed materials you produce.

Maintaining momentum

As you build your following, keeping people interested is when great content becomes vital.
You need to consistently post interesting information that people will read, value and – ideally – share, which in turn will widen the reach of your blog and help you attract new followers.

It’s easy to get caught up in a wave of enthusiasm when you first start, only for it to wane. But if you review your plan every few months against your original objectives, and follow the steps above to think through fresh new content ideas and keep the momentum going, you’ll soon be on your way to achieving your goals.

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