Health Check: How Trusted Is Your Corporate Blog?

Today, I’m going to play doctor, in fact, I’m a specialist: A corporate blog doctor. Most corporate blogs aren’t trusted, and here’s a very simple heuristic health check to gauge whether your corporate blog is going to be trusted by your readers.

This is a quick and dirty scorecard, if I was going one for a real Forrester report, it would be far more conclusive, weighted , detailed, quantitative, and scientific, but today, this is just a quick example, to illustrate a point we already know, let’s get to it, please, turn your head and cough:

Health Check: How Trusted Is Your Corporate Blog?

1. Writing style:
How you write indicates how real you can truly be

Great: Blog is written in a human voice
Bad: Content looks vetted by corp comm
Horrible: Rehashed press release

2. Topics:
What does the blog talk about? does it matter to marketing –or customers?

Great: Discusses the lifestyle (or workstyle) of actual customers
Good: Discusses the wider industry topics
Horrible: The corporate blog exclusively talks about the company

3. Humility:
Perhaps one of the most important attributes, how human and real is this blog, or is it giving lip service?

Great: Admits when wrong and discusses in open the short comings of the company and product and demonstrates in public how it will be improved
Good: Admits shortcomings but combats and defends the criticism, also known as spin
Bad: Only discusses the company in the best possible light, and may link, but not take on critics
Horrible: Never discuss the short comings of the company on the blog

4. Linking Behavior:
Links are the currency of the blogosphere, it indicates you respect someone else’s opinion so much that you’re willing to send them away from you.

Great: Links out to other sources, even competitors or critics as well as the next listed
Good: Links out to other sources, where other discussions are occurring
Bad: Primarily links to corporate created content 25% of the time
Horrible: Primarily links to corporate created content over 50% of the time

5. Customer Inclusion:
Do corporate blogs allow their customers to partake? or are they only second class citizens

Good: Allows for customers to guest blog, or includes snippets of their experiences
Bad: Content is only published by employees

6. Dialog:
Allowing for feedback can instill more trust

Great: Comments enabled and published instantly
Good: Comments enabled but reviewed causing time delay
Bad: Trackbacks only
Horrible: No comments allowed

7. Comment Moderation:
Blogs that allow for disagreeing comments are more real –and interesting.

Great: Comments (other than spam or off topic) are allowed, including direct disagreements
Bad: Negative comments are censored or altered
Horrible: No negative comments allowed

8. Frequency:
While more isn’t always better, having a steady rhythm of content is important

Good: A steady publication rate of posts appropriate to the speed of that market
Bad: Posts appear at a random rate, often starting off with apologies for not posting
Horrible: Posts appear to either promote the company during an announcement –or to combat a competitor

What’s missing? leave a comment
What other categories do you think should be criteria? Leave a comment and I’ll add it in, and credit you.

Update: Joe Wilcox from Microsoft Watch suggests that ‘story telling‘ be an attribute to consider. He makes a good point, but I could add that under the content, or writing style. Not all blogs need to tell stories, some are blogs for product updates, or even support, but I get his point, thanks Joe.

The Doctor’s Diagnosis:

Strong specimen, keep at it: If you’re tallying up your corporate blog (you should ask your readers to help, so you’re a bit more unbiased) and you find that your blog is receiving many good or great scores, in fact over 75%+ of them, you’re on the way to be one of the 16% of trusted bloggers.

On the way, but go back to the gym: If you’re getting borderline at 50-75% , with only about half the criteria being good or great, you’ve got some improvements to make.

Minor Illness –but needs treatment: If you’re getting 25%-50% of the scores in good or great, you really need to evaluate your efforts and think if your corporate cultures is right for this, or if you even have the right bloggers on staff.

Terminally Ill: Lastly, if less than 25% of your criteria is good or great, you really need to consider shutting it down –you’re not getting it and your culture, strategy, or team should focus elsewhere. Giving you the advice to take two in the morning ain’t going to cut it, it’s time for euthanasia.

If this were a report, I would construct a scoring mechanism to help provide a sense of direction for this heuristic evaluation, or even more accurate, I would poll the actual readers of the blog to find out their opinions, but for the most part, the writing is literally on the wall.

Physician heal thyself: I guess I should also ask, how trusted do you think my web strategy blog is?