Thursday, 23 April 2009

Repost of Business Blogging Best Practices from Web Strategy By Jeremiah

These were originally published at but the link now seems to be dead. However these are very useful guidelines for anyone who decides to take up blogging, not just for business purposes.

In fall 2004, Ellen Simonetti was fired for wh...Image via Wikipedia
  1. Understand and be able to articulate the concept that “The Participants are taking charge” (Scott McNeally, Sun)

  2. Understand and be able to articulate that “Consumers trust other consumer opinions over all others”

  3. Understand that a conversation about your market will occur regardless if you participate or not

  4. Understand that blogs are nothing special or nothing new. In fact, blog tools are often less sophisticated than most free email services. A blog is just a tool. The key point is that now everyone (esp consumers) can easily publish their opinion, and other can easily find it (other consumers)

  5. Business blogging is publishing and participating in the conversation in your market.

  6. Listen to the blogosphere: Start listning yourself, or consider hiring a company to monitor and report on the blogosphere. There are a variety of tools that can do this, but this really is part time to full time job. Contact me if you want some recommendations

  7. Make it clear in your organization what’s "ok" to blog about and what’s not. Create a public disclosure policy and communicate to employees. Even if your company is not going to sanction blogging. (11% of internet users are bloggers, and this is increasing rapidly, likely your company has bloggers-Pew Internet) you need to communicate what's appropriate and what's not. The level of effort to create a policy is significantly less than a 'fiasco' of leaked information.

  8. Figure out in advance your blog purpose, audience and strategy. Have a plan.

  9. Pick a topic and stick to that topic strategy. Some blogs are good for product evanglism, customer feedback, corporate image, fire control, developer code, etc.

  10. Be authentic, don't create a fake blog, you'll get flamed when they find you out.

  11. A blog is not a press release, it's an informal converastion.

  12. Consider blogging at least once a week, if not more, find someone who’s already online a lot or is willing to commit.

  13. Your blog posts don’t need to be long, in fact short quick posts to relvent articles can sometimes ‘link’ you into the conversation.

  14. An ideal blogger is someone who is already online all the time, consumes mass info, and exports mass info.

  15. Design your blog in a way that makes sense. Create a URL that is unique to your discussion, find a template the aligns with your blog strategy.

  16. Discuss best practices in your industry. You don’t need to ‘self pump’ yourself, as readers realize that you understand what the best practices are, they will assume or relate that you as well are the best practice.

  17. To gain visibility strategically cross-link. Some thought needs to go into this

  18. Format for readability. Sometimes bloggers give long hard to digest paragraphs (what I call ‘steaks’) consider chunking the text into bite sized formats, bullet points and smaller points. (I call this “shish kabobs”). Try using bolds, colors, indents and other formatting tools.

  19. Consider using images to enhance your point. Avoid using the most obvious image, think a little deeper and go for a metaphor. You want your audience to go “aha, I get it”

  20. Read other blogs in your conversation and marketplace, link to them to your feedreader such as myYahoo or google personalized, or google feedreader.

  21. Edit your blogs for grammar and spelling, but don’t have your PR department write it, use a sensible natural conversational tone that you would use if you were actually speaking to your audience at a restaurant or bar.

  22. Leave comments on other people’s blogs in your audience, provide a link back to your blog

  23. Leave comments on your advocates, align yourselves with them. Reward your advocates (doesn't need to be monatarily). Strengthen your relationship so you both prosper.

  24. Develop a strategy to counter your detractors, consider using your advocates to fight your battles.

  25. Don’t beg for cross links, figure out ways to get people to link to your blog. Keep it natural and organic. No one wants to be "marketed" to anymore, plus it's pathetic.

  26. Consider an analytics tool. A simple ‘visit count’ like I use on my site, to google analytics (also free), to a full blown analytics suite will serve you well

  27. Respond to comments on your site, keep the conversation going.

  28. Your blogging strategy doesn’t mean that you need to have the whole world linking and reading your blog, it’s about connecting with your small audience

  29. Look for a non cluttered template, sometimes having all the blog features turned on will distract users.

  30. Really consider if doing ad words is best for your strategy, will that dilute your message to your target audience? Worth thinking about.

  31. Ask permission before posting someone’s name or email content. Of course linking to people that are already blogging and are “public” is certainly normal and acceptable, as they want to be found.

  32. Don’t talk smack about your competitors, the golden rule applies. Blog wars can get nasty, be sure you really want to go there.

  33. Acknowledge your competitors, believe me, your customers already know who they are, by showing openness, you’re demonstrating your confidence and self assurance to your customers.

  34. Discuss topics that are relevant to your audience, real business or user needs. Pumping your company on every post is not what blogging is about.

  35. At a medium or large corporation, bloggers will self select and volunteer themselves. They are already on their soapbox, are vocal or are leaders. You’ll know them as they will already be preaching.

  36. Only consider bloggers that have the time to commit to blogging, and can do so on a regular basis.

  37. Allow user comments, seriously. One of the biggest benefits of a blog is to have a conversation with your audience. You can figure out a process or a way to filter or review comments before they hit your blog. I feel strongly that comments are native to the tool and communication medium, strongly consider keeping it on.

  38. Consider your official corporate blogger to be an individual that already faces customers or the public. Blogging can reach a lot of people quickly and is persistent, often individuals that do a lot of speaking to the industry on behalf of the company are ideal.

  39. Your corporate blogger should be interesting as well as informative, they need to have a balance. No one wants to read a boring blog, but entertaining only lasts a few visits. The blogger should be a subject matter expert at the topic at hand

  40. Make sure the blog voice is authentic, but also well written. A fine balance is needed here, and it’s not easy to achieve. A balance between raw blogging, and corporate sanitation needs to be met. Talk about it in advance. Real but not raw, interesting but not polished.

  41. If you’re in a company where it may be hard to find regular bloggers, consider making a blog ‘pool’ or a general blog site that’s not attached to an individual blogger. GM Fastlane has multiple authors in their blog setting.

  42. Register your blog with indexers. feedster, technoratie, ice rocket, google, yahoo, pubsub, and others.

  43. Obtain analytics for your site, at minimum, a hit counter (like I use) or Google Analytics (free) or an enterprise tool.

  44. If you have multiple strategies, consider having multiple bloggers that focus in on each of those areas.

  45. Alert the analysts in your industry that you’re blogging, either give them a call or link to their blog (if they have one)

  46. Figure out a ‘fire team’ strategy for how to handle bad news, company crisis, or blog flamers. Do you engage, ignore, or redirect these events? What’s the purpose of your blog and image? Different companies have handled this in a variety of methods, figure out in advance what the best strategy is.

  47. On your first post of your blog, identify who you are, and your purpose. Consider elevating a short version of this in your banner or profile.

  48. Don’t believe the concept that “PR is dead” Public Relations have just started, and blogging is now part of it, blogs are the new public relations tool. When relations with your public are dead, you are dead.

  49. Don't hire any firms to help you with a blog strategy that are not blogging themselves.

  50. Don't hire any firms to help you that suggest the reason to blog is 'because blogging is hot right now'.

  51. Use language that your audience uses, avoid using terms that your marketing and corporate communications teams have created.

  52. Have a kickoff 'best practices' and 'strategy' meeting with your corporate bloggers. Have updated meetings and training later.

  53. Consider creating a feedreader with industry feeds for your bloggers to quickly scan.

  54. Inform other business units of the plan and involve them. This is very important for Corp Comm, Communications, Execs, Legal and Marketing groups.

  55. Find or train a blog guru to guide your corporate blogging strategy. This person may or may not be your corporate blogger, but find someone that can guide, provide best practices, and get the tools in motion. Often, this person is already a blogger.

  56. In addition to your regular guru, find industry blog leaders, read their work, talk to them, hire them.

  57. Attend blogging conferences

  58. Ask outsiders to provide honest and open feedback about your blog. Let them know that negative feedback as well as positive feedback will be helpful.

  59. Obtain high level approval and sponsorship.

  60. Write a detailed plan, and share with stakeholders, get approval

  61. Get a good blog book, Check out Rebecca's WebLog Handbook

  62. Disregard everything you read above, research on your own, jump in, and try it for yourself. I dare you, double-trump-crown-decker-chocolate-cherry dare ya!

  63. For long posts, it's best to compose offline. Use text editors for grammer and spelling, as well as reducing risk of losing connection. Pare down content before posting, consider running by a second pair of eyes (See full version submitted in comments from DaveU, Nov 29th, 2005)

  64. This brought to mind one other, consider using notepad to remove all text editor crap code (such as MS word) before uploading into blog tool. Use the native formatting tools within the blogging tools.

  65. Watch a webinar with presentation and powerpoint about blogging. This one is a good high quality introduction, worth turning on an listning to in the background Lewis Global PR, Breakfast Summit. I highly reccomend watching these videos to be introduced to the concepts

  66. Don't disappear for weeks on end between posts. Otherwise, your readers will disappear. Try to post on a regular-enough basis such that it gets readers into the groove of constantly wondering whether there's a new post to check out. (Submitted by Ken)

  67. Develop "thick skin" as people will slam your company, your products, your ideas, and maybe even you. This is called playing in the blogosphere, and for some, it's tough lesson to swallow. Don't worry, many of us are doing it, and there is some netiquette. More importantly, since your customers are already thinking these things and telling others, isn't it better to get it out in the open and resolve it for all to see? (Idea from Scott Anderson of HP during his address at the syndicaiton conference)

  68. Blog about timely events. Yup, releveny is important, this is a conversation so old news isnt' relevent. (Idea from Scott Anderson of HP during his address at the syndicaiton conference)

  69. Remember that blogs are conversations, avoid the long approval proccesses, 'strategic linking' and people that want to over-refine your corporate blog. There are many other marketing tools (like press releases, public websites) that you can put the polish on. A blog, should represent the transparency of the blogger to their audience. Keep it real.

  70. Be very cautious when starting a blogging program at your company. It makes sense to obtain strategy and advice from someone who is succesful blogger, not someone who's willing to dive in without proper experience

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Thursday, 2 April 2009

Keeping meetings effective

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...Image by
via CrunchBase
This summary of Seth Godin's principles is quite useful, and lines up nicely with the principles of effective meetings I've learnt from past mentors. One personal goal of mine has been to get the folks I work with to try some of this framework, or at least adopt some of the habits and see their benefit, but sadly, old dogs and new tricks and all....still, I continue trying. I attach the draft of an article I wrote once on effective meeting formats for software development environments

Well planned meetings
Every well planned meeting should have a Meeting Owner, usually the same person who calls the meeting and is also expected to lead the meeting. The meeting owner is definitely the guy in charge of determining a meeting's Purpose, Objectives, Deliverables and Agenda (or what I've learnt to call the PODA).

If you think you need a meeting but cannot define this critieria, a meeting should not be called as it would be unstructured, unfocused, probably run over time and in general waste alot of time you could spend doing more defined things like building the code that drives some already well defined stories from your storyboard so it meets your acceptance criteria.
If you're still feeling a need to call a meeting because you really feel there is something that needs discussing, try polling the individuals you think you need to have there on a one-on-one basis at first until you have enough clarity to generate the PODA. In this manner you risk wasting only one person's time instead of many if indeed you're trying to call a meeting unnecessarily.

Tip: If you want to avoid becoming infamous as the 'the boy who cried wolf' of meetings it is a good idea to seek the
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Milo Wi...Image via Wikipedia
one-on-ones with in the order of whose presence would be needed most at that meeting: I like to do a mental weighting of each person I want at a meeting, and if I score more than 75% in my feedback seeking on whether or not to have a meeting, I call it.

Bigger Tip: CEO polling is an automatic 50-75% on its own in my book, because his time is the most valuable because it's probably the one most asked for from people, so if a CEO feels the need to be at a meeting, it isn't because of a need for a coffee break and chat. The counter is also true, in that if you need the CEO at a meeting and have gotten pings from everyone except him on what they think about potential PODAs for that meeting, it might still not be worth calling.

The PODA should always be sent as well beforehand as possible to all participants of the meeting. This from my experience allows several things to happen. First it allows people to give feedback on the PODA, and if they do not understand it they will make me, as the Meeting Owner, aware of this so that I can clarify it in a one-on-one meeting or conversation rather than waste several other people's time at the beginning of a meeting.
It also allows every participant to schedule in not just the time for a meeting, but to schedule dedicated time of their own before the meeting itself to properly prepare for the meeting. This is where recruiting the right people comes into play, since I'm essentially depending on another person having the discipline already in place to know to schedule time to prepare for a meeting and review the PODA beforehand, rather than walk into it unprepared and essentially take time away from acheiving the meeting PODA by needing to ask questions to help them 'catch up', questions that could have otherwise been asked beforehand. That being said, as Meeting Owner, it is also my responsibility to identify such potential participants beforehand, and take appropriate action. If this means rescheduling the meeting, then that's a better problem to have than folks I work with and/or answer to in uproar because they felt I wasted their time by calling them into an unproductive meeting.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - OCTOBER 27:  U.S. Speaker ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
However, because scheduling people to meet at a common time is so hard for ad-hoc meetings, especially busy folks like a CEO,what works better then is for me to bite the bullet and intervene more personally with that individual(s) to ensure they're properly prepped for the meeting, especially if I've realised from past experience this is their nature, despite constructive feedback to them on it. Needless to say, that's never been the CEO of a company I've worked with, and if I can help it, not someone I'd rank higher than 5% on my internal weighting scale when going through my listing of potential meeting participants.

A group of youth interactingImage via Wikipedia
War Story: A perfect example of an ineffective meeting happened while working recently. The new graphics developer for the website broke my just established 'zone-time' and started a conversation about our blogging strategy which resulted in about twenty minutes of heavy discussion and debate without the CEO, who had on his headphones and was oblivious to the talk. The debate ensued between him, our marketing guy, my technical architect and sadly myself, since I was now out of the zone and desperately trying to explain what I'm writing here to them so that I could return there and make my personal deliverable coding goal for the day. This story sticks out in my mind because I remember I didn't make my objective.

Now if you ignore my personal plight of not meeting goals and just do the math on time listed above, that's over an hour of lost productivity time because the person who would have key input and ultimately a voting say in what was the final outcome of discussions, wasn't there, even though all the other senior executive members of the team were. In addition to this, when they do have the meeting, they probably won't have this PODA strategy in place so will spend another 40-60 minutes of combined, wasted time, trying to establish what they're actually trying to discuss...why do I feel the need to call out a Vorgon analogy from this suddenly?