Blogging is personal. At least its always been that way for me. It doesnt matter if Im blogging for myself or for a company, I always want the words I write to be true. I want them to be unbiased and genuine. I want to give readers a small piece of myself with each post I write. Because thats what I think good blogging is about. Its about revealing yourself to build a point and to give people something to take with them. However, if youre a corporate blogger, blogging also means not getting fired.
One of the biggest struggles any corporate blogger will face is balancing their need for authenticity with an employers need to get out the company message. You want to start important conversations and inspire change, while your employer wants you to talk about the training they have going on next month or to promote their way of doing things. To be a good corporate blogger, youre going to have to find a way to do both.
To me, corporate blogging has always been a mix of knowing when to let a good story pass by for the greater good, how to blend your objectives with your companys, and when you need to forget all that and fight for what you know is right. Here are some of the lessons that have helped me along the way.
Know how far youre allowed to goBEFORE you go there
Lets just get this part over with. In a perfect world, youd be able to blog about whatever you wanted, however you wanted and get paid for it. However, that doesnt really work when youre writing on behalf of someone else. Know the rules before you start playing. This means having a conversation with your boss right off the bat and laying a few things out on the table. Youll want to discuss:
- What does everyone want the blog to be?
- What subjects are off limits?
- How controversial can you be?
- Who are you absolutely not allowed to piss off (and can you get around it)?
- What tone is appropriate and how far can you go?
- How much discretion do you have for handling situations?
Essentially, you want to create your rulebook before you ever start playing. If you have an insatiable need to cause trouble in the blogosphere and all your boss wants you to do is to make nice and spout canned answers, then youre going to have to work a lot harder to be true to yourself. Maybe this is something youre willing to do and maybe its not. However, coming from personal experience, I can tell you that its always better to have these conversations before the damage is done, not after. At least that way when the fire breaks out you can pretend you did it on purpose.
Dont lose yourself in the brand
Good corporate blogging means you have to be as much yourself as possible, even if you are wearing someone elses jersey. If I could go back in time, this is a point Id want to really stress with people. That while its their name on the blog, its my voice thats going to make or break it. A corporate blog has nothing to do with the brand its sitting on. It banks solely on the credibility, authenticity and the power of the blogger to draw people in and make them feel part of a community. And you cant do that playing a character or at half mast. You need to be granted the freedom (and the trust) to be yourself, because people will be able to see through it if youre not.
My last post for Search Engine People was about the importance of bringing your voice to blog. It detailed what to consider, how to find it and how you need to hold on to it like hell with everything you have. I argued that your voice is the most important thing you have as a blogger. And I hold true to that.
Unfortunately, a lot of employers dont buy it. They think the blog is about them. Its about the brand and promoting the brand in each post. They dont understand that the blog is actually about the readers. Its about giving them something to hold on to, to relate to and to fall in love with. Its about creating a community, not an audience. And you cant make someone fall in love with you if youre trying to be someone else. Most of us learned that in high school. (Okay, maybe only a handful of us really learned it.)
Blogging with authenticity means giving your readers part of yourself. Its about showing up every day and taking the hard stands that expose a little bit of who you are. Its about being vulnerable without being frail. The thing thats always attracted me to blogging is the rawness. Sure, making money is nice, but having the ability to say whatever it is I want to say, how I want to say it, is incredible. Thats how you establish trust and create a blog thats worth reading. Theres where the authenticity lies.
Known when to fightand when to concede
One of the most important things youll need to learn as a corporate blogger is how to pick your battles. You cant be a crusader all the time. At some point you will be asked (read: ordered) to scrap a post that you believe in. There will be times when youll have to sit on a story that may put your company in a less than flattering light. Or youll have to shut up when someone throws a grenade in your direction. And its hard. I know. And the only way to conquer these moments is to shove your entire first in your mouth and bite down. Hard. Otherwise, youll either get fired for hurting the company when you mouth off or youll lose a bit of yourself as you try to talk around issues and cover them in a way thats not authentic.
However, there will also be times when youll need to fight. When youll have to summon that crusader and fight for the posts that are important to you. Never be afraid to do this. If you live your life scared to challenge the system, you wont grow. And neither will your blog. You become predictable, boring, and people will stop caring.
Something to keep in mind (and keep you employed), when youre fighting for a post, you want to present the pros of publishing in a language your boss will understand. He/She doesnt care about your moral integrity, your need to be right or your voice as a blogger. Your boss cares about page views, media mentions, and links. Show them how fighting will give them that. Often fighting is really about having that heart to heart conversation with your boss, showing them how the post will help them and asking them to trust you. Theres power in those conversations.
Being an authentic corporate blogger means finding a way to balance your voice with the goals of the company youre representing. It can be a bit of a balancing act in the beginning, but as time goes on, and you and your employer both start to trust your instincts, things will fall into a place and a rhythm will develop.
Ive done my best to never edit what Lisa believes in any of my writing. Sometimes Ive had to tone down language or presents multiple sides, but Ive always tried to give readers a piece of me in each of my posts. And that, to me, is the heart of being an authentic corporate blogger. You can do it. You just have to fight for it.
Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media, Inc., and Internet marketing company specializing in SEO consulting, social media and online reputation management services. You can find Lisa on Twitter at @lisabarone or catch her blogging daily on Outspoken's Internet marketing blog.