Many have failed in the attempt to create and sustain corporate blogs. But many corporate blogs have failed because they weren't given enough time to find their voice and define their true audience. A select few – beyond the high-tech space where they've thrived for years – demonstrate that blogs can have a real PR benefit for the right kind of organization.
For example, Boeing's Randy Tinseth has a blog called “Randy's Journal” that does a great job walking the line between promoting the company and offering a forum for honest discussion of the company's positions. Hotel magnate Bill Marriott's blog “Marriott On The Move” communicates the chairman's love and passion for his company, and can be occasionally inspirational. Marriott's entry right after the bombing of the chain's hotel in Islamabad was very moving, and generated hundreds of sympathetic and heartfelt comments from other employees around the world.
I've learned the success of a corporate blog comes down to what I call the three Ps: passion, persistence, and participation.
Whether you write your blog or appoint someone to do so, the individual or team actually writing it must feel passionately about their subject – your company, its products, or the business category you live in. If they don't, it will get harder to come up with new ideas to share in the blog, and slowly but surely the blog will wither and die.
After passion, the most important quality is persistence – the commitment to nurturing the blog through its earliest stages – through the times when its audience is small and it struggles to find the right voice. The first few months of blogging can seem worthless, but if you stick with it and consistently produce content of value – and passion – the viral factor kicks in and your audience grows exponentially, especially if you also pay attention to the third key factor: participation.
Successful bloggers are extremely communal, reading each other's blogs, commenting and posting promiscuously, linking and building blogrolls, and “Digging” each other's posts. The shared passion of other like-minded folks drives awareness and traffic. The greatest single error corporate bloggers can make is to think of blogging as one-way communication. The best blogs are forums for all who share the same passion for an idea, product, brand, or cause, and are only more effective for participating in a network of like-minded blogs.
Beyond the three Ps is one unalterable truth about blogging: You must be comfortable with greater transparency. Blogging is a dialogue, not a monologue, and in any conversation, you are open to criticism and dissent, but for an honest company, the benefits far outweigh the potential costs.
Tom Bradley is VP and executive director of PR for Cronin & Co. He can be reached at email@example.com.