Web Strategy: How to be a Corporate Blog Evangelist

(Note: This is a repost from March 2006 when I evangelized blogs at my previous corporate employer. Early this week, I met quite a few folks at a Sales and marketing conference that will be undergoing this evangelistic process and want to support them via my blog. I wrote these tips while I was in the position, so I’m sure they are still relevant.

This was also on my previous domain, and it makes sense to bring it over here and tag it with ‘Web Strategy’, which I indicate as posts that I’m writing as a resource for the world’s Web Practice leaders.)

Depending on the company DNA, creating and growing a business blogging program may be an easy or a difficult task.

Evangelists have a tough job in front of them as the program requires high and broad corporate approval. Articulating a vision to adopt a two-way, informal communication tool is a challenge when the medium associated with ‘teens’.

Here’s some strategies that I’ve learned, not just from my experience, but from the dozens of other blog evangelists I’ve met at recent conferences as well as online.

1. Read Blogs
Certainly a ‘duhism’ (I met Guy last night, I guess he rubbed off on me) but you really need to know the communication style and medium that you’re attempting to enter. Read both popular blogs, as well as blogs in your industry. Learn how to find them using a variety of tools, listen to the conversation.

2. Start Blogging
Do a trial blog, it doesn’t need to be related to your industry. You need to be a blogger (even if you’re not going to be blogging on behalf of the company) if you’re going to give blog advice. You must understand the interaction, real time conversations, trackbacks, and how the blogosphere works. You don’t have to talk about your own market or products, and if you do it at home, no one will know.

3. Learn from the best
Either start reading, or befriend A-Listers. Yes, they seem intimidating but they’re not. A-Listers are a friendly bunch, and are Blog Evangelists themselves, they want you to become infected with blog-goodness. If you don’t have the time or resources, at least read their blogs and get their books. I know I’m the exception more than the norm as some of my blog friends included Rebecca Blood, Lynann Bradbury, Shel Israel, Robert Scoble, and now my new old friend Debbie Weil. Reach out to them, read their books, interact with their blogs, invite them to lunch.

4. Don’t accept blog advice from people that are not bloggers
In my experience, I’ve received radically different advice from non-bloggers, than from bloggers. Traditional marketers, advertisers, and larger media companies may have a different strategy from grass roots, guerrilla blogging. Unless they’ve been converted, they may set you on the wrong path –be very, very careful.

5. Get more focused in business blogging
Now that you’ve been reading about blogs, and have been blogging yourself, start immersing in the art of business blogging. Read business blogging books, attend blogging conferences, join blogging user groups, keep on blogging yourself. Learn some PR skills, writing skills, be able to articulate the difference between casual conversations from corporate communications. My journey started at the Blog Business Summit in 2005 and recently have attended the New Communications Forum. I’ve read Cluetrain, Naked Conversations, Weblog Handbook, and The Corporate Blogging Book.

6. Find a champion if your voice is not loud
If you don’t have a loud voice within your organization, find someone that does, ask them to be your voice, let them champion your plans. They are easy to spot, they are already passionate and vocal about customers –align with them.

7. Be able to articulate your vision
Likely, you’ll be asked to give a presentation, raise awareness, or provide a plan. It should at least include the following:

1. The web is important, and is used in most buying cycles, get stats for your market.
2. Customers trust other customer opinion above all others.
3. With blogs, customer opinion is easily published, and with search engines, they are easily found.
4. The conversation will happen regardless if you participate or not.
5. Even if you don’t participate, you must listen to the blogosphere.
6. Blogging is two-way communication, even if you don’t enable comments.
7. If you care about customers, then having an online dialogue will prove it to them.

8. Define the purpose for your blog
Clearly define what your blog’s purpose(s) is. When it comes to using blogs in a corporate situation it can be used in a variety of strategic deployments. I can think of at least one corporate blog that can match with each of the below purposes. Is it to:

1. Delight your customers (you better say yes)
2. Demonstrate corporate openness
3. Express goodwill
4. Thought leadership
5. Mitigate PR damage risks
6. Control the conversation in your market
7. Develop a product with customers in real time
8. Harness a rapid response tool
9. Casually release products and get feedback
10. Word of mouth marketing
11. Amplify a message
12. Competitive positioning tool
13. Delight your customers

9. Plan to measure these purposes, before you start blogging

I realize this is a controversial subject, but let’s get realistic folks, corporate blog evangelists WILL be asked “what’s the value”. Not all of your answers will include the ability to demonstrate numerical proof of improvement. Not every blog (see number 8) will be tied to cost savings or revenue increase. What are you going to measure? Understand how to benchmark against each specific purpose. Unlike other mediums like print, the web makes it easy to measure instances, activity, feeds and blog resonation.

10. Have a vision, Stay the course, don’t give up.

Show passion, demonstrate successes, learn, and grow. I learned that at least during inception that Evangelists may or may not have followers. It’s going to take a few months, even years to get buy-in, marshaling resources where none existed, and then demonstrating success. The rewards are very great –believe in it.

When your customers thank you in your blog and theirs, you’ve know you’ve chosen the right path.

I’ve got quite a few other business blog tips. Many of them I’ve published here, but some I won’t publish for a variety of reasons. Leave a comment if this resonated with you.