“If you want to lead, blog.”
So said a technology executive in the pages of The Harvard Business Review 12 years ago. Apparently this was quite a bold statement, because he almost immediately warns: “That may seem risky. But it’s riskier not to have a blog.”
This now seems quaint. Being quiet is no longer an option. Companies today clamor to tell their story to the world, to express their corporate values publicly and to illustrate the perfection that is their business strategy. It seems crazy that not too long ago the idea of publishing corporate messaging on an owned blog was contentious.
In its defense, this article does have plenty of good blogging tips:
- “Blogging lets you participate in communities you want to cultivate” – sure does
- “Once you get going, don’t micromanage the process” – check
- “Don’t treat blogging like advertising – it’s not” – absolutely
The principles of good writing are still the same – what has changed is the platform.
The corporate blog is dead. Maybe not totally gone, but it is not the creative powerhouse it once was.
The corporate blog began as a means of adding value to the website, creating something for browsers to look at that wasn’t a just a product or service overview. It gave companies a way to show rather than tell. Rather than simply claiming to be experts or leaders, corporate executives could justify their expertise through their experiences.
Blogs told success stories, lessons learned and the value of customers. Executives could engage customers without the pretext of a sale. The Harvard Business Review article discusses how the company blog hosted outside letters and executives told in depth stories of the mistakes that they have made over the course of their careers.
12 years ago just having a blog was distinctive, but then people caught on. They saw the values of being able to cultivating a community of key customers, and the marketplace soon became saturated. Readers have gotten wise to just how “corporate” the blogs can be. They don’t want to hear pronouncements from a corporate entity – they want to have a conversation with a person.
Enter social blogging platforms like Medium and LinkedIn.
For the uninitiated, Medium is a public blogging platform that, due to a high readership, has somewhat transformed into somewhat of a news source grounded in opinion. Anyone can write and publish content, and Medium promotes the most popular content to their front pages based on the article content.
LinkedIn, meanwhile, allows companies and professionals to publish content that is directly put into the newsfeeds of their networks. The platform also allows for easy, paid micro-targeting and promotion for corporate content, allowing marketers to gain additional value from through leadership content through owned channels.
All corporate marketers seriously consider diverting attention away from corporate blogs and more towards these platforms. Success today comes from the development and growth of public blogging profiles for individual executives, not corporations. While it may be difficult to embrace the idea of sacrificing website traffic, consider the benefits.
Larry Kim, CEO of Mobile Monkey, stresses the huge audience of Medium and the company’s commitment to promoting content. “More hearts = more visibility, says Kim. “Top stories get featured prominently on Medium’s website, in the app, and in a daily email digest.” Medium’s built-in audience has plenty of publishers that are combing the site for content. “Large publishers are always looking for popular authors. You could get one of your posts syndicated or asked to become a regular contributor.”
Executives can increase their exposure further by publishing their content on LinkedIn, and in the process, inserting content into the daily news consumption cycle of their corporate networks. Thousands of professionals read their LinkedIn newsfeeds hourly, and the platform makes it easy to personally reach out to authors.
The executive profile’s real value is its personality. Social platforms create an atmosphere of discussion and personal engagement. The connection executives can develop through LinkedIn significantly increases the share-value of the content, helping it spread exponentially.
And executives should be actively involved in the creation of the blog. Executives can work with their marketing teams to develop content that is meaningful to them. They can tell their stories, discuss trends and issues that they care about, and take the time to have a real opinion. If their feeling adventurous, they can even take time to respond to comments on their pieces, engaging their readers in supplementary discussions – maybe even an argument! Readers are more likely to engage with another human who has an actual opinion then with a purely corporate entity.
Ultimately though, most marketers are going to need to justify the resources needed to keep up a stream of content on Medium or LinkedIn, so here’s one: the audience. Maintaining a corporate blog requires the construction of an audience, often using paid SEO and marketing tools to promote traffic. With social blogging platforms, the audience is built-in. Medium brings with it an audience of readers concerned with the same issues as your executives – and LinkedIn brings in an audience that personally knows the executive.
Neither of these channels are avenues for dull, corporate content, but by putting effort and passion into creating a personality-driven, opinionated content, corporate marketers can really use these platforms to their advantage.
Hugh Cunningham is an account manager at Cognito