My former colleague and fellow Canadian Joe Thornley shared his “do’s and don’ts” for corporate blogs in a recent post, and they provide a very good checklist for any potential company bloggers out there. Since my focus these days in on internal communications, I reviewed the list with an employee audience in mind and – no real surprise – many of the rules still apply. Take a look.
Listen first –Probably the most relevant tip with regard to internal corporate blogs. Unfortunately, I see a real tendency to want to harness this new channel to push yet more messages to employees. This is the area I will be focusing my efforts in my own company before single post is written. I also intend to increase the ways we can actually “listen” to the workforce beyond rare, formal surveys and polls. Or else, we’re talking to ourselves.
Write about things you are passionate about –Again, this is not the first instinct of many executives when they begin to write for an internal blog. The default is usually to write about corporate news or priorities, and you’re lucky if the folks writing feel strongly about these fairly prosaic issues. It’s also a tough sell to convince executives (or internal experts) to inject their personality into their posts, not just their expertise.
Give without asking for a return –See above…not a normal reaction for executives steeped in discussions of ROI and driving engagement. The challenge is to convince them these things will come, but if and only if they provide something of value to employees through the blog and folks decide to join the conversation. It’s also important to note that a blog will quickly uncover anything that is not genuine or authentic, so any concern for the employee had better be real.
Keep it positive – This may be easier to do in an internal context. In fact, the challenge may be reversed in a corporate setting, working to avoid sugar-coating problems or dancing around unpleasant facts through corporate hype or fluff. There may already be too much positive communication in most corporate settings – and some of it is likely somewhat fabricated or embellished.
Be patient and persistent – No argument here. It takes time to build an audience, to find a voice and to foster a real, vibrant conversation. This holds true for an internal blog even though in theory the employees are a “captive” audience. Provide relevant and valuable information and allow robust, candid commentary…and they will come.
Don’t use a ghostwriter –I am a strong advocate that internal authors should essentially write their own posts – even the CEO. Though it’s OK in some circumstances to help them out or do some light editing, they should provide most of the copy in their own voice. Without authenticity, the impact of the blog will be severely limited. This is a tough one for many executives used to plenty of hand-holding and direction in the development of their speeches and memos.
Don’t fake it –I make the case with my peers that to be credible an internal blog must be timely, transparent and candid. As Joe notes, blog readers can be ruthless and unforgiving at the mere hint of a cover-up or lie. Though the criticisms may not be as overt in an internal blog, lack of credibility will quickly corrode the relevance of the blog.
Don’t give up –May not be as relevant for an internal blog, but valuable advice nevertheless. This is not a short-term process with immediate rewards. Like many good things in life, it takes time to develop a good internal blog. After all, this is about building new relationships across levels, locations and communities. That’s not something that can happen overnight – particularly in companies without a tradition of internal conversation.