The Many Challenges of Corporate Blogging

We should try to be unbiased when it comes to social media, point out the good and the bad, this is one post in my ‘challenges‘ category, read the others, it’s important.

With there being so many social media zealots out there, It’s important to ground things in reality. When it comes to corporate resources, time, money, and effort to try new activities takes risk.

First, it’s important to note that I do believe that blogs are indeed the right tool, but only for the right objective. Secondly, I’ve gone through this process within corporate, and I know the common mistakes. Lastly, it’s obvious I believe in the power of blogs.

So, before you get into blogging with your corporation or client, do know the challenges, this way, you’ll be able to overcome them with plans, resources, and preparation.

Let’s get into it…

The Many Challenges of Blogs

Most don’t receive a lot of traffic: Truth is, from one day to the next, there aren’t massive increases in eyeballs to the web, also, there are only so many hours in the day. The same applies to blogs, while there are millions out there, only a few rise to the top of their marketplace and really stand out.

May require a lot of time: Take it from me, blogging’s biggest cost isn’t money, it’s time. When this comes to executives, the cost per hour radically increases from a support technician or a line marketing manager. For a special case, read about the challenges of CEO blogs. Blogging is costly, I easily spend 1-2 hours every morning managing this blog.

Being conversational is unnatural: Traditional marketing looks a lot more like carpet bombing than conversations at a coffee shop, and despite good intentions, corp comm dictates the voice and spirit of blogs created by employees.

Often, no ending date: Blogs aren’t marketing campaigns, there is no ending flight. Bad blogs may whimper along for months, great ones will also continue on, at what point does one stop?

As employee bloggers become popular, brands get concerned: This happened to Scoble and others, as bloggers became more popular as individuals rather than being behind the collective wall, they develop a platform to move on. This happened to me as well, and I know it’s happening to others, so why would a brand invest in individuals that aren’t execs?

Legal has hangups: Two way dialog that allows objective and negative content is scary for legal. Furthermore, how do we react to colleagues that may look like they are making promises on behalf of the company?

Our employees don’t represent our brand: I’ve actually been on a call with a client where they indicated the mental capacity of some of their employees (laborious retail jobs right out of college) really weren’t going to make great bloggers, and they were concerned with the activity they had on MySpace and Facebook. The same applies to blogs, some employees may cast the brand in the wrong light

Hard to measure success: Marketers measure campaign success by drops at the end of the funnel: visits and registrations. The problem with blogs is that social software success could take the form of comments, trackbacks, and qualitative intangibles. With management looking for those raw numbers, how does one succeed?

You tell me: Leave a comment below with your blogging challenge, primarily in the context of a corporation

For each of these challenges, I do know how I would respond to them, but it’s really up to you to figure out how you’re going to hurdle over these barriers. Take for example what Dell’s Bob Pearson is doing to deal with the changing world of online communication.

79 Replies to “The Many Challenges of Corporate Blogging”

  1. Dude…


    This post was so dead-on, I almost began to submissively piddle.

  2. I am a blogger with a fairly successful and well known blog on HR and business issues in India.

    When I joined my current organization a smallish 30 people Indian HR consulting firm I started a corporate blog

    There are two challenges I face:

    1. How do I get my colleagues also to start blogging so that the corporate blog does not look like only I am blogging there (it does now)

    2. How do I segregate the content between the blogs since both my interests as well as my organization’s services are quite overlapping.

    Am still trying to figure it out 🙂

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Dealing with comment left by former angry co worker can be a problem

    If the company is on the stock market, financial communication dept. could be a problem

  4. Yes, yes and yes. Right on as always Jeremiah.

    BUT I don’t think these are adequate reasons to suggest that corporates should throw in the towel when it comes to blogging.

    A couple of reasons:

    – blogs are next-generation Web sites

    – we may not continue to use the word “blog” but the next iteration of corporate sites will – I predict – incorporate something blog-like (interactivity, two-way conversation, real time, community)

    – believe it or not, we’re still in early days of “corporate blogging”

    – many – no, let’s call it most – companies are just beginning to get the hang of it

    Now don’t keep us in suspense… tell us how YOU would respond to the challenges you list!

  5. Great pointers as always, J. The first one couldn’t be more spot-on from my experience. Clients have some silly notion that just because that sell millions of dollars worth of whatever they sell and have hundreds of thousands of customers, they’re all going to come running to the new blog. With a captive consumer base of over 100K, I’ve seen less than 150 unique visitors per day to one such effort and moderately better but not much more from others. It’s not enough to have a blog. You have to build and grow a good one.

  6. Because of these types of challenges, my company has been very cautious about getting into blogging. The challenge here is, how do I convince management that blogging can be good for the company in spite of the occasional mishaps and missteps that may occur? I don’t want to mislead anyone here, but I don’t want the company to miss out on a great opportunity either.

  7. The time requirements point is one that I run into over and over again.
    -“We should be able to write 4 to 5 posts per week”
    “Are you sure? be honest, it’s easier that way”
    -“Yes, I don’t think that will be a problem”
    Many run out of steam before the end of the first week and need to be prodded. I’ve found myself on occasions having to research somebody else’s industry in order to give them ideas for blog posts.

  8. Great post, thanks Jeremiah. And food for thought. I am responsible for two organizational blogs (we’re a nonprofit) plus a forum which pretty much are required to toe the party line.

    When I put up a photo and contributor bio on one of them, I was told to remove it. They do not want to see a personality emerge from the blog (ref your challenge #4).

    So I also run a “semi-personal” blog, primarily to document my thoughts on social media, particularly related to Twitter. It’s not meant to represent the brand and for the moment, it seems to be under the radar. This blog gives me freedom to explore ideas that would not carry with the organizational blogs.

    It’s a bit early to evaluate the relative success of these. TwitterThoughts (semi-personal) gets more traffic (visitors), but seems to have less traction (page views per visit) than the organizational blog. But this might relate to differences in how they are promoted rather than in the strategic approach.

    The primary challenge for us, you have already alluded to, it is working within a team to develop content that is engaging and energetic while at the same time not seeming to our stakeholders and execs to be a platform for personal aggrandizement or advancement.

  9. One challenge that may be more specific to companies in product industries is being able to attract consumers without making the consumers feel like they’re just being given a sales pitch. Education vs selling. There’s a very fine line between tactfully mentioning the company and it’s benefits, and blatantly trying to sell your product. This translates into service industries as well, but perhaps not as blatantly.

    This also highlights a difference between corporate blogs and individual blogs. Consumers tend to trust individual (hence, initially unbiased) about the pros or cons of a product or service than they do the company that’s telling them about product or service. Companies need to be able to effectively accomplish this.

  10. Great post. All the points are spot-on, especially the one about ‘channel conflict’ between a brand and its star blogger.

    Regarding the employees…I think you’re off on that point. Employees do represent the brand. They are the ones that make the brand, deliver the brand experience to customers, the ones customers talk with and based on that either rave or rant about…the brand.

    Employees are talking and representing a brand inside and outside the business. The issue with your client was their lack of respect for the employees they hire, thinking they could pay low wages and get high performance. Rather than be concerned about the MySpace pages of these employees they should instead wonder A. why they hire employees they don’t respect; B. why they think the employees don’t know this; C. Realize they’re talking about their jobs, aka the brand somewhere using some media; D. Find employees they can respect; E. Hire them and inspire them.

  11. “Our employees don™t represent our brand” – right so tell me this. What is an organization without its people? Nothing. What about passionate employees you may not have met? How demeaning is that?

    “Casting the brand in the wrong light.” What if the brand is an illusion not borne out of what employees see?

    As it stands, this statement represents grade A dopey thinking. I’m just not sure who is the dope.

    And before we all go off looking at ways to make this stuff work, how about pointing the finger in the direction of the communications people inside companies who consistently (in my experience) say: ‘Yay let’s do Web 2.0’when in reality they want to view this as an alternative method of controlling the message. Oi vey!

  12. Agree with Jeff above, your post is spot-on Jeremiah!

    With large corporations, we find that blogs are more successful if:

    Physical resources are actually allocated. Be they professional bloggers or employees at any level, it makes sense for the company to be paying for blogging on a schedule. This helps level-set expectations and holds people accountable for content. Unless an executive is already a blogger, it is tough to expect them to do more than guest post.

    The brand stewards/guardians are involved in content moderation. It should be either your your internal marketing department or better yet, the agency who is responsible for your brand. One way to keep the blogger from becoming the brand is to have multiple contributors, aka voices.

    Don’t call it a blog. Align it with a purpose (ie a campaign). When the cost exceeds the benefit, archive!

    If a blogger does become bigger than the site, ask them to spin off. This blog is really good for the Forrester brand even with disclaimer.

    We sometimes create some blog hybrids that are mainly useful during particular times of the year. The content stays up, but everyone understands that it will not always be current.

    the Michael Schneider

  13. Our corporate blog actually gets a lot of traffic, The hardest thing for us, that you and others have mentioned, is finding the time to blog. It’s not at the top of everyone’s todo list.

    I think a key to corporate blogging success is allowing everyone to blog, encouraging everyone to blog and realizing that not everyone is going to and the best voices might come from unexpected places.

  14. Excellent post, as are all the ‘Challenges’ section.

    I’ve spent the last 6 months talking to a multi-national financial services brand about this social media thingy.

    Its taken me this long to get through the decision makers in the organisation and explain to them how their audiences are changing and how they need to communicate differently. I am based in the UK btw so we are a little behind the US in all of this.

    They have finally bought in and agreed to trial a couple of safe forum initiatives over a 12 week period. Great!

    They’ve just asked me how we are going to ‘monetize’ this 12 week trial and how many people will be clicking through to their website before they can sign it off.


  15. Zane, Dennis, Jeremiah – I have lived the “employees don’t represent our brand” situation (from the employee side) as I railed for a blog/ public discourse for years. In my experience, when they state this challenge they use very careful wording. However, alot of it boils down to not trusting employees to be a voice for the company and fear that one rotten apple can make the whole company look bad. I’ve made alot of arguments against this fear and mistrust, but frankly it’s not entirely an unfounded fear when it comes to building relationships on- or offline – especially if you work in a niche. However, I do believe it is a sign of a troubled/non-social corporate culture.

    I’d go so far as to say if you run up against challenges #3,4 or 6 you have to see if there’s a foundational culture barrier there. Those kinds of challenges can be extremely difficult to solve for and must not be dismissed or ignored.

  16. As pointed out above, we are in the early stages of blogs for corporations. The cutting edge work of early adopters like Scoble continues to scare some legal teams away from blogs while thrilling marketers. There is no easy decision to be made as to whether or not blogs are ready for all corporations. The culture of the firm really dictates the readiness for this type of offering.

    Measurement really isn’t that hard if you are prepared to go into the weeds of analytics and dig out the transactional story of your site’s visitors.

    We had a global client that was able to track the registered members on their site from a transactional click path (where they went, what they commented on, etc.). This analysis compared with the sales pipeline report showed that prospectes with registered members who visited the Executive Blogs for the company (CEO, Line of Business SVP), were more likely to purchase than those who did not. They also moved through the pipeline faster than those who did not use the community features.

    This should be intuitive to organizations, but it was an eye opener. Before making a large purchase ($500k and up), the buyers wanted to understand the vision of the company and where its executives were taking the company. Without a good understanding and fit, the purchase might not be a good one down the road after several years. The cost of ripping out the product is high, mistakes can crush careers…

    So, in short Blogs can work really well in corporate settings. But, the idea must be well thought out and maintained or it will be doomed to fail (just like everything else done by corporations, both online and off).

  17. Great post Jeremiah,

    Something from me:

    “Where does the person stop and the brand/company begin?”

    One of the challenges that I was faced with when I started the SpinVox Blog ‘Big Talk’ was that I already had an online persona/presence as ‘Whatleydude’.

    I felt like I had to make a call like:

    Would it be Whatleydude writing the SpinVox blog or would it be James Whatley, SpinVox Employee?

    Panicked at first, didn’t really know how I was supposed to be… then realised being MYSELF was part of the reason that SV hired me in the first place so eventually I just relaxed into it.

    From an employee pov the prospect can be quite daunting too.

  18. Post 18 above mentions the word fear 3 times and they are on the right track, however I would place even more “blame” on fear. The old guard is the old guard and they are not ready to bring about transparency into the corporate culture. The cure for this is simple, time and a new generation. Change happens and WILL happen, but often gradually. In the meantime the reality is though some in the “old guard” will adopt and even embrace corporate blogging others will only be out of the way and allow a new era to usher in once they retire and that’s inevitable.

  19. Even if people are reading, I think it’s discouraging when readers don’t comment. I know that when your blog is in the beginning stages people are less likely to comment but it’s so helpful to know what interests the readers and what they don’t think is important.

  20. Hello, I manage a Corporate blog for a Fortune 3 company and one of the largest challenges I have faced is that of a content delivery solution. In order for a corporate blog “web” to work there needs to be a quality (user friendly and secure) RSS reader for that company. With certain proprietary info on the blog the RSS reader must site inside our firewalls and Google Reader won’t work. Getting employee to adopt the internal RSS reader has been a large challenge. Thoughts Jeremiah?

    Thanks. (click on my name for my personal blog)

  21. Great points and having worked for two large companies that are not tech but do some blogging, you hit it on the head. The truth is most companies have someone or more than someone who could handle the blogging, do a great job, represent well, etc, etc. But they need to be given some budget or authority to allow them to use the blog to help the company, isn’t that the purpose of a corporate blog? Companies blog why? To improve their brand, reputations, handle Customer issue, do some PR, create buzz, etc, etc. But most companies don’t put the money or TIME into allowing this to happen.

    Just my .02

  22. Great points. Let me add to this list ..

    Removing the personality & voice from the Blog. Corporate Blogs can be interesting if they give you real strong opinions, and not necessarily messages aligned with the corporate. After a while you should be able to sense that author™s interests, personality, voice and values, and corporate blogs that try to remove the authors personality & voice will fail.

  23. From my experience, the biggest stumbling block is converting thoughts into text. Most CEOs I know have no shortage of great thoughts, ideas and insights, but few of them are very strong at writing those thoughts and ideas out in detail. Let’s face it – not everyone can write well, and that goes for CEOs as much as anyone else. Beyond the constraints of time, broadcasting your thoughts to the world can be very intimidating, and that often results in inaction.

  24. Those are all good points. I think one of the biggest challenges is creating a blog that is conversational and interactive in nature that provides value to the visitors. This means not making the blog simply a hit-you-over-the-head marketing message, but enhancing the company’s recognition and credibility through more generalized posts on the space in general and links to other pertinent blogs and bloggers.

  25. One under-appreciated ingredient here is a corp. blogging policy – not for the purpose of stifling communication, but for the purpose of clarifying do’s/don’ts. A lack of clarity in that area actually discourages blogging.

  26. In addition to many mentioned above, another challenge — as my company prepares to launch blogs this summer — is convincing already very busy people that it will be worth their time.

  27. Blogging is one of many tools that are evolving for businesses to use. I think the main point that you’re making is: if companies are going to blog, do it well or don’t do it at all.

    Any company can use blogging successfully, but it doesn’t happen just by saying “ok, let’s smack a blog on our site”.

    You’re right to list those considerations for companies to work on before just jumping in. Still, fear aught not to be a strategy for any business to follow. It’s all a risk and if it isn’t then there’s probably little or no ROI.

    If a corporate leader says “I’m going to start blogging” because it’s what Forester Research says everybody’s doing but has no clear goal or purpose for the blog, that’s a set up for some dangerous stuff.

    Ultimately, corporate blogging, if it is going to mature, is going to depend on how successfully individual corporate leaders are at folding these newly evolved mechanism into their own personal lives. (The generational gaps are getting terminal.)

    I can’t imagine how any CEO could do well with any kind of social marketing just by adding a Share This button without having any personal experience. And yet, I see this trend already. I think many businesses who don’t adopt intelligently are going to generate no ROI or, worse, get burned (imagine a laughable blog post gets a front page on Digg: that could hurt big time).

    Another consideration is the larger effect that evolving microblogging is having on regular blogging. Once we all get up to speed on Blogging 1.0, there’s a chance the game will shift and quake again. What will business who catch up to blogging do when people are reading more Tweets than posts?

  28. If it will take a corporate blog to put a human face to the company then so be it. But it takes some sort of balancing from all fronts to be able to succeed. If ever there was a magical solution towards toeing the line in terms of getting the right mix of the ‘approved’ tone and personality from the uppers without the employees losing themselves in the process, sign me up.

    And yes, it’s no piece of cake and most of the time the only attention the blog receives is for flak. Appreciation for the effort are rare and few. As if it is not considered hard ‘work’.


  29. I am the main blogger for our company, MediaSauce. Plus, since we create and execute digital media strategies for our clients, I can affirm all the corporate challenges you’ve ably listed.

    At the root of all these challenges is the fact that most people prefer to live in ambiguity, not clarity. Ambiguity leads to incremental growth at best and slow death at worst. Clarity leads to transformational growth.

    Some corporations are highly dysfunctional and mistrusting and few are highly effective and amazing. Blogging, as well as other social media, brings great clarity to where your company lies in that continuum. And, clarity isn’t always comfortable.

    Corporate blogging pulls the curtain back and provides a more intimate view into the company than talking points or a 3 panel brochure. That can be frightening for organizations who mistakenly believe they are the ones defining their brand and image (it’s the customer who does that).

    Another big challenge is the misperception of how to blog. It’s not lengthy white papers, stilted memorandums, and corporate speak, but needs to be more akin to engaging coffee house/cocktail party conversation The savvy corporations tap people who are great minglers and conversationalists, who can host a great conversation as well as partake in the other conversations out there (i.e. visiting and posting on other blogs).

    The shift toward social media and more conversational interaction is breaking down barriers between the individual and the monolithic corporation. This fundamental shift is forcing greater authenticity and showing corporations for what they are – a group of people working together.

    Let your people shine! Without them, you can™t produce your products and services.

    I’m fortunate to be with a company that understands and embraces this philosophy. Check out and see why we’re a talent recruiters dream. Plus, see how our blog occupies a good chunk of real estate on the home page.

    P.S. It was good tweeting with you the morning of B2B

  30. what frustrates me still is this thought that you can’t use blogs to drive your business goals. The fact is that if properly structured and by leveraging lots of employee contribution, your blogs will draw more traffic than your traditional site. We see it happen every day.

    The focus just needs to change with business blogging from ‘author’ centric to ‘topic’ centric.

    Chris Baggott
    Compendium Blogware

  31. Yep. Great points Jeremiah.

    The BIGGEST challenge that I’ve seen from corporate bloggers is LACK OF TIME.

    And just for kicks – here is an actual list of some of the reasons not to blog from corporate bloggers – hmmm… a generation gap perhaps?

    10. This topic is all over the news right now, and I don™t want to seem like we™re just a part of the hype.
    9. This topic isn™t very newsworthy.
    8. There™s nothing going on right now to blog about.
    7. I forgot my password.
    6. Blogs are a waste of time”no one reads them.
    5. Too many people read the blog and someone out there might be offended by what we say.
    4. If people want to know what we think, they should just call us.
    3. Our position is complicated. You can™t sum it up in a blog.
    2. I don™t like all the spam messages I get after I blog.
    1. Can™t we just put up a PowerPoint on the site?
    (this last one kills me!!!)

  32. Oxford Bookstore, New Delhi, in association with Wisdom Tree, is going to launch the book tomorrow on ˜Corporate Blogging in India™ co-authored by Rajeev Karwal and Preeti Chaturvedi.

    The book brings to light the tremendous growth in social media and thereby opening up plethora of opportunities for corporate sector to use it to reach out to their internal and external public in order to establish better communication.

    This book, being the first attempt on Corporate blogging by Indian authors, reveals how blogs have become a mainstream media world-wide now.

  33. I am the blog administrator for Adsmarket, an international affiliate network. Here is my experience so far, for what it’s worth to those who are considering starting a corporate blog.
    We decided to do everything in-house, and I volunteered for the job of blog admin. It took HOURS getting everything set up with wordpress, coordinating with our graphic designer to customize a theme, decide whether or not to involve the CEO in branding decisions, hold meetings with management to get their vision for the blog and their approval of the final version (which is never the final version, which is why I love blogging so much!).
    We’ve been live for about 5 months, and don’t see a ton of traffic, but I know it takes time to build (any great secrets out there are very much welcome). I have recruited an enthusiastic employee from one of our recruiting departments whose sense of humor and intelligence reflects our corporate attitude, and so far the two of us are generating content on an average of 2-3 posts a week.
    What’s been a challenge? I find I lack the time to research improvements, new plugins, and plan redesigns, and I think our traffic levels suffer because of it. And of course, coming up with valuable content that will stimulate the readers we do have to share our posts on social bookmarking sites. In the end the goal of our blog is to gain new customers to our affiliate network, and so we do a fair amount of marketing on the blog for our company, but I try to keep it to a minimum so as to keep people turned on and plugged in, and not shun them with over-the-top marketing hoo-haa.
    Among affiliate networks, blogging and keeping up with social media is a must, so all of our competitors keep up regular blogs. I actually approached a distant competitor’s blog admin with questions about how it was going with their blog, and she was nice enough to answer me back with a lot of the same challenges, concerns, and guidance that I read in this article. Plus, I found a contact in my industry that I can talk blog-shop with from time to time. I would recommend the same to anyone looking for advice. Contact the admins of blogs you love for help. It’s flattery that will pay off if they have the time!

  34. I've recently started a business that is doing well on the ground but I feel will also set a strong online precedence. The chief challenge I'm facing is actually starting a blog that will appeal to enterpreneurs in the same field(Corporate Branding) and get traffic in as soon as possible. What in your opinion is also a good turnaround time that I can use to assess the success of the blog by wayy of the number of hits online…

    Kind Regards


  35. Kate,

    I agree with you about the importance of push and pull. Blogs and the like are more pull but there is room for a coupon etc. as long as it isn't a hard sell. Tweeting iPod Nano only $99.00 is not going to get you as far as adding a drop especially in the form of a question (Need a great valentine's day gift? etc).

    Also, user generated comments through reviews, comments etc have always served me well. Other customers saying how great the iPod is does not constitute a hard push but it does help customers get past some pre-purchase jitters.

    The branding helps with the push efforts (like eBay, Amazon and shopping comparison engines).

  36. Janie,

    Compendium BlogWare has a good enterprise class blogging platform that is reasonably priced. It is designed to allow everyone to easily post and nothing goes live until it's approved.

    The software has many tools plus support to enable everyone to easily blog and allows the company to keep control.

    My contact over there is Jennifer Buscher. I don't get any referral fees or anything else. I just have not found anything else like compendium out there.

  37. Kate,

    I agree with you about the importance of push and pull. Blogs and the like are more pull but there is room for a coupon etc. as long as it isn't a hard sell. Tweeting iPod Nano only $99.00 is not going to get you as far as adding a drop especially in the form of a question (Need a great valentine's day gift? etc).

    Also, user generated comments through reviews, comments etc have always served me well. Other customers saying how great the iPod is does not constitute a hard push but it does help customers get past some pre-purchase jitters.

  38. Zane,

    I agree with you. An employee from Constant Contact over reacted to an unsolicited email.

    He works for an email provider. All they do is help companies send unsolicited emails.

    I invited the salesman to join my Linked IN network as I was not ready to commit then but wanted him in my network for the future. His competition appreciated that gesture and i wanted to be fair.

    The constant contact employee actually complained to linkedin. Instead of deleting or ignoring the email, he made linked in take action against me.

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  40. One of the most important challenges before a blogger is figuring out how to enrich and add value to the audience and in so doing to stand out from the pack in a meaningful way.

  41. The idea of starting a blog generally is a challenge to most businesses.
    I think creating the role of online community managers in organizations will go a long way to improve this challenge.

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