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B2B Public Relations & Blogs: Policy, Resources, Process & Promotion

A recent survey of business reporters shows that over 80 percent say they use, or would use, blogs as a primary or secondary source of information for news stories. This is a pretty serious wakeup call for anyone doing B2B PR. If you don't already have a social media program in place, it's time to get started. But while the mechanics of launching a blog are straightforward, there are a number of questions to ask and strategic decisions you need to make in order to ensure a successful blog initiative.

Blogs have now become a regular part of the communications mix for both small businesses and major corporations. There's even a Blog Council that launched last week to promote best practices in corporate blogging. Charter members include AccuQuote, Cisco Systems, The Coca-Cola Company, Dell, Gemstar-TV Guide, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, and Wells Fargo.

Corporate blogs come in many different flavors and typically vary across a few dimensions: 1) the degree of legal / corp comm control, oversight, and review associated with the blog posts; and 2) the level of involvement from executives / employees. For example, will it focus on C-level communication, like GM's Fastlane, or will it aim for a broader set of employee perspectives like HP Blogs or Microsoft's Channel 9? Where you fall on these dimensions depends on your organization, culture, resources and commitment to the initiative.

At the most basic level, adding a blog to your website provides an outlet for distributing company news, but in a way that invites a two-way conversation and deepens community engagement with your brand. At a slightly broader level, the goals of corporate blogs can be to: 1) provide a new venue for participating in broader industry dialog and debate over key trends and innovations; 2) elevate the visibility of key executives and bolster their thought leadership position; and 3) encourage an authentic conversation with other "influentials" in the space about market developments.

The mechanics of launching a blog are straightforward and there are a number of on-demand services you can use to design and publish a blog in a very short amount of time (e.g., Typepad, Blogger). But each of these services comes with a wide array of community features you can turn on or off that dictate the extent to which you will enable public dialog and debate about your products and services. The options you choose will require different levels of involvement and attention across your organization. And here's where the heavy lifting comes in. The hardest part of launching a blog is setting policy, identifying resources, determining process and promotion.

I've put together a few notes based on questions I've received from Splintered Channels readers. The recommendations below are by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, but I think they provide some good questions you should ask yourself before you get started with a new blogging program.

Setting Policy

There are several questions you should ask yourself to help develop a set of policies for your blog initiative. And don't feel like you have to do all this on your own. The earlier you involve a broad set of stakeholders in this planning, the more successful you will be in mobilizing support for the initiative (e.g., HR, legal, corp comm, PR, product marketing).

Transparency & Disclaimers: Whether you have a single corporate blog or a series of employee blogs, whether the blog resides within a corporate website or as a stand alone experience with its own identity and domain, it's important that you be as upfront and transparent as possible with your readers. Make sure to develop a standard disclaimer you can display on your blog(s) which indicates the nature of the blog - namely, who is writing the blog, does it provide official corporate position, are comments moderated, do you allow trackbacks, will you publicly respond to comments?

Code of Conduct: Employee blogs will naturally include a blend of content with commentary and personal reflections, as well as industry observations and references to various corporate developments. Given the sensitivity associated with information available to employees and the viral nature of communication in the blogosphere, it's important to develop a simple code of conduct that employees agree to before blogging. This list is not exhaustive, but it should include at least the following: 1) avoid topics that might compromise trade secrets, intellectual property, management issues and lawsuits; 2) disclose conflicts of interest; 3) if blog posts include inaccuracies, corrections should be posted in amendments or new blog entries, instead of deleting prior comments, etc.; 4) cite appropriate references and provide links to sources; 5) monitor comments and trackbacks on a regular basis, respond and delete SPAM; 6) blogging should not interfere with other job responsibilities.

Rules of Engagement: Another important policy to settle on before launching a blog is how to engage with readers. There needs to be an upfront commitment to monitor reader comments and trackbacks. You will need to determine whether you will automatically accept and publish comments and trackbacks, or if you will review and approve each new submission before they included in your blog entries. Along with reviewing comments and blogger trackbacks, a policy needs to be established that makes readers aware that you reserve the right to not publish comments or accept comments based on the appropriateness of the content. These policies on comments, trackbacks and the right to refuse to publish comments that include inappropriate, profane or defamatory language, should be stated upfront along with any disclaimers.

Identify Resources

Launching and maintain a blog is no trivial undertaking. It requires a dedicated and ongoing resource commitment to develop a blogging program that can help achieve corporate communications objectives. The level of commitment will obviously depend on the type of blog you're launching and these map to your objectives. As described above, there are a number of different kinds of blogs you can launch - e.g., an outlet for distributing press announcements and corporate news, a way to open a new line of communication enabling key business leaders to participate in broader market dialog and debate, a means for the organization to be more responsive to customers, a way to nurture online communities and brand evangelists.

The type of blog initiative you undertake will determine the level of commitment and involvement required of various parts of a business organization. But regardless of the resources you tap for the blog initiative, it is absolutely essential that there is a lead advocate that can enlist support and command accountability associated with the tasks needed to launch and maintain a blog. It's also important that the advocate maintain a schedule for the delivery of blogging tasks.

If the blog is designed to be an additional distribution outlet for press announcements, the responsibilities of maintenance, review and comments should fall on the lap of the PR agency or corporate communications desk in charge of traditional media and analyst relations. If the blog is designed to be an outlet for executives to bolster their thought leadership position, it also helpful to involve your PR agency or corporate communications personnel, as well as get buy-in from the legal department - in some cases this may require a process that gives the legal team an opportunity to eyeball posts before they are published.

If your blogging initiative is focused on growing an online community of brand evangelists, it's a good idea to seek out individuals from product marketing and direct customer service who would be interested in participating. You should consider a process whereby individuals rotate through responsibilities for posting to the blog and responding to comments. Weekly or bi-weekly editorial meetings with employee blogers can be helpful to brainstorm ideas and identify who will be writing what for the week or month, depending on your schedule.

Again, these responsibilities should be executed with the oversight of an internal advocate, or lead, with a set timetable, expectations and accountability, typically originating from the marketing communications department.

Does having regimented resources and formalized process detract from the authenticity or the social, interactive nature of blogging? Not necessarily. Actually, being upfront about the "owners" - those responsibility for delivery and execution - and the resources, expectations and degree of interaction with your readers will all free you up to be a better blogger and help you achieve corporate communications objectives with this channel.

Determine Process

When identifying resources, you should go in with a set of expectations with regard to process. Process is determined in large part by the policies you settle on and the resources you identify. Once these steps are completed, ask yourself 1) who will be posting to the blog and when; 3) what kind of review will be required (if any) and how will the parties in charge of the oversight execute their responsibility; 4) who is the ultimate business owner for the initiative?

While this may seem an unnecessary amount of formalism for a social media initiative, settling on process before you get started will help ensure a much smoother launch for your new blog initiative. That said, it's also important to be flexible and adaptive, constantly striving to make improvements to become more responsive and efficient.

From an editorial perspective, corporate blogs generate three broad buckets of content: 1) news about the business; 2) reflections on broader industry trends and developments; 3) aggregated links / references from other industry sources, with some context and editorial perspectives. The best corporate and employee blogs maintain a fairly regular schedule. Blogs don't need to be updated every day or even every week to generate a significant following. But there should be a regular drumbeat of blog posts, whether that's weekly or monthly.

Nothing says the responsibilities associated with blogging need to originate from one or two individuals. Actually, the most successful blogs I have seen are actually the result of a distribution of labor. Sometimes the labor is divided up between research, writing, and posting. Other times, it's simply a matter of rotation among several individuals who have their pulse of developments within the company as well as a good sense for broader industry trends which provide for editorial context that make corporate news interesting and relevant to more people.

I have also found that the best corporate and employee blogs, which develop a following, tend to have personality. The editorial content doesn't have to be snarky or confrontational, but some voice, tone and style needs to shine through. I believe this needs to be part of the "process" you identify for your blog initiative because you can establish a rotation of formal business news, personal reflection, anecdotes and passing observations, which may or may not directly align with corporate communications objective, but nonetheless introduce readers to perspectives that make the dialog more human.


When launching a new blog program, I recommend not focusing too much on "promotion" as much as on the quality of the content and developing a process that produces a regular rotation of new blog posts. Building a following and generating new traffic is a fairly organic process and it takes time. You should set expectations on the order of at least four to six months for generating traffic. That said, if you follow some basic guidelines, you will have a good shot at building a significant volume of new and return traffic.

If your blog is primarily designed to be an channel for communicating with businesses reporters, it should be prominently featured in the corporate news area of your website (the same survey referenced above also indicates that 74% of business reporters look to corporate websites for story ideas).

Reporters are also likely to enter your company's name into search engine queries. And, as you're well aware, your corporate website will not be the only hit in the search results page. You should make it a practice to check in on your website's search performance. Luckily, social media channels, like blogs, are fantastic optimizers when it comes to search engine results. They embody all the key characteristics that determine ranking in search results. 1) blog posts are saturated with relevant keywords, 2) they include links to and from relevant sources; and 3) blogs include frequently updated content.

When you think about promotional strategies, think about your audience in terms of niche communities (e.g., reporters, analysts, industry leaders, prospects and customers - even subsegments within your customer base). Think about the vernacular used by these communities - what's the language used to describe relevant products and services? These considerations should dictate the topics of your blog posts and the terms and phrases that make their way into your blog posts.

Aside from promoting your blog through your corporate website and through search engines, the single best way to gain readers is to participate and engage in a dialog with other bloggers, news sites, and online communities that are similarly focused on your industry and relevant market trends. Specifically, develop a "blog roll," a list of favorite blogs and sites that your read on a regular basis. But don't just read these blogs. You need to post comments to these sites with perspective and context that brings value and insights to the online community that has grown around these outlets. Feel free to reference your blog in these comments, but avoid blatant self promotion. Keep your eye on the ball and make sure you're focused on the conversation and broader market dialog. Are you adding something valuable to the conversation?

If you decide to base a blog on a post or news item you have read at another site, sometimes you can take advantage of a trackback, which is a feature of blogs that enables you to add a link to your blog from a post on another site you're referencing. Again, use the feature judiciously and make sure you're adding something to the conversation and bringing something to the table for the online community.

When members of various niche communities read the comments to blog posts that you have submitted, or when they follow a trackback from a popular blog back to a post you have added to your blog, you will begin to generate traffic. If your blog has high-quality, relevant content, you will generate return readers - readers who may also submit comments to your blog posts or trackbacks to your blog based on their reactions to your commentary and perspectives.

Eric Schwartzman, of Schwartzman & Associates, says that everything you need to know about blogging etiquette you learned in preschool. And I completely agree. If you want people to play nice with you, you need to play nice with them. Again, the best way to generate readers for your own blog is to read other blogs, contribute, engage, and interact with the online community.

You can also take advantage of blog search engines, like Technorati (and notification services like Pingomatic), as well as social bookmarks, like del.icio.us, to flag your content for relevant communities. And it's also critical you make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog's RSS feed using built in features of your blog platform (e.g., Typepad) or services like Feedburner. But these are all really secondary to the primary and most effective promotional tool at your disposal - participation and engagement in the online community.

If you're going to put all this up front work into your new blog initiative, you'll obviously want people to read it, especially the business reporters you're targeting to get the word out about your products and services. Blogs are all about authenticity and dialog. The social media landscape, however, necessitates a strategic perspective. For marketing professionals new to blogging, I hope some of these notes are helpful as you embark on new social media programs.


January 3, 2008 | Permalink


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Posted by: BABU ANTONY | Apr 9, 2008 11:11:48 PM

Great post, Josh. I've been helping a bunch of b2b businesses use blogs to generate search traffic, build community and generate leads. There's so much good stuff here.

I'll be dicing this one up for weeks and adding my two cents via my blog.

Posted by: peter caputa | Feb 20, 2008 5:34:41 AM

That would be a fascinating study. It's interesting how so many factors can facilitate a company choosing to blog. However, as it becomes more standardized and greater policies exist (much as you suggest above), it will no longer be contested and simply be a given.

Posted by: Teri Leavens | Jan 24, 2008 5:58:48 PM

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