This blog post is only about, ehhh, four months late? Sorry, guys! But late is better than never, no? If you follow along, I spoke at the Wordpress DC meet up about four months ago about blogging. What about blogging? Well, I shared the lessons I learned since taking the work blog from one post a day and barely a hundred hits a week to 5-7 posts a day, 40+ contributors and about a million hits a month. This is a slightly shortened version of my talk, but here we go!
1. Find Your Wolfpack
Very little at work is a solo effort. When it comes to managing a platform, creating content and coordinating a ton of people and efforts around it, you will need a veritable pack of people who are on your side. Think about who you need to bring on board to help you achieve your goals. The list could include, but is not limited to: marketing, IT, design, social media, media relations, government relations, legal, SEO and analytics. Rallying these folks to your cause, keeping them informed and consulting them from the earliest stages will make your life so much easier down the road!
2. Know Enough To Be Dangerous
You are but one person, and you probably have a unique skill set you've spent time building. Unless you're some anomaly of a professional wherein you can code, are a photographer, writer and marketer - chances are you're a pro at just one or two things, and that's okay. Here's where you need to educate yourself and know enough to be dangerous. Read articles, take some online courses and go to meetups in your community where you can get an introduction to topics you need to know more about. I needed to learn more about design, WordPress as a CMS and content strategy so I did all of the above early on. When I huddled with my afore mentioned wolfpack, I knew enough lingo to be respected and start an intelligent conversation. I also knew enough to know what I didn't know and that helped in building trust with my key stakeholders.
3. Be A French Parent
Awhile ago I read Pamela Druckerman's book, Bringing Up Bebé. In it, she describes life as an ex-pat mother trying to navigate the vast differences between American and French parenting. In one chapter she describes how French parents place broad boundaries for their children and allow them to operate freely within them with little to no control or questioning. I love this idea not just for kids but also for work. At AARP, we built out Social Media Guidelines early on. These (intentionally) broad boundaries gave folks a good idea of what was allowed, equivocally not allowed and what might give them a moment of pause. The blog falls under the purview of the guidelines, which means folks have plenty of wiggle room to experiment and share relevant content while still playing it relatively safe. Of course, the boundary pushers are always the ones with interesting, engaging and shareable content. So I'd say, operate on the edges and test the boundaries mindfully.
4. Be Prepared For Screw Ups
But hey, even Druckerman acknowledges that French kids act out or push the boundaries too far. And at work that has meant snafus with citations, taboo topics and departments going rogue. That's alright. Because we have the Social Media Guidelines, we also have a framework for, not punishing people, but rather holding them accountable. For us that means the person in question and their manager are consulted about how best to move forward, outline what went wrong, adjust wherever it is needed and move on. Problems are far and few between, easy to fix and we have no repeat offenders. I have to admit, empowering our employees and writers to be personally accountable and not helicopter parenting them, as it were, has been hugely successful. For many brands this is a huge change in thinking and an even bigger leap of faith, but in the end it's the most time efficient and strategic way to leverage all your resources, enterprise wide, without driving yourself mad.
5. Done Is Better Than Perfect
I totally stole that from Facebook. I used to have a boss that would say, "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good!" Basically the same thing. Many people at (big) brands, particularly higher ups that are used to operating in a more glossy, traditional or calculated field find the rough and tumble, DIY, hand over-all-message-control nature of social media and blogging totally paralyzing. Yes, there are the Oreo's of the world who spend $4 million dollars on an Instagram campaign, but then there's AARP's member-takeovers which are budget friendly, hugely successful, and still audience-centric. The point being, if you have an idea, run with it! Don't wait for (bigger) budgets or new leadership - just go give it a whirl. The lifespan of a tweet is mere minutes, a blog post? Maybe a day. Even if you mess up, the beauty of it is that earnestly apologizing will actually endear you to your audience even more! Amazing!
6. Find Your Voice
Blogging (and social media in general) is like walking into the world's largest cocktail party. When you go to cocktail parties (or BBQs or Magic: The Gathering parties or WHATEVER your thing is) chances are you don't robotically respond to every question the same way. Nor do you engage with folks devoid of any personality, cadence or charm. You probably chit-chat, find commonalities, approach each person in a new and different way - right? (God, I hope so! If not, that's a whole other post.) You, and key members of your wolf pack, need to find your brand's voice. Since you probably won't have an ad agency to walk you through some shnazzy exercise involving far too many post-it pads here are a few articles and resources to get you started: 1.2.3.
In our case, AARP got a little help from our awesome Facebook reps who walked us through that afore-mentioned post-it pad exercise where we very clearly defined the mission, vision and voice of our Facebook page. It helped immensely since we have six very different personalities contributing to it, and our other social media pages. Through a random turn of events we eventually named our brand voice Rhonda. She's a trusted resource, a gal who wants to keep you in the know and is bold, fearless and helpful. Now whenever we share or write something, we try to keep Rhonda in mind. It's created a consistency and continuity across all our properties and is a guide for determining what new content to explore.
7. Ego vs. Audience Content Strategy
Oh brands, big paternalistic brands. It's so easy to talk about ourselves all day, no? We're awesome! We have the best products, resources and information! People should trust us! And no one else! Except, they don't...and they do...and when we make it all about ourselves and how awesome we are, it makes it really hard to build a rapport (never mind a relationship) with our audiences. When folks approach me about blogging, particularly our employees, I almost always walk them through a series of leading questions. What are your goals? Who is your audience? What support will you or your department put behind promoting your content? Do you understand the minimum requirements to writing/blogging/using social media? Because at the end of the day, if their goal is purely self promotion, the allure of a byline or a box-checking approach to communication strategy - the audience will sniff them (and your brand) out for being self-serving and probably unhelpful or disconnected. You want to put your audience first - how can you help them? What information do they want? Need? Didn't even know they needed!? How can you surprise, delight or engage them? Doing so is not at odds with your message or your brand, it just puts a different person or need at the center of building a content strategy.
8. It's Not About Your Goals
If I learned nothing, I mean nothing, else in the last four years it's that to achieve my goals for the blog I had to ultimately make it all about helping everyone else achieve their goals. If you're starting from scratch, with no budget and little support, you're going to need to closely align yourself with the goals and needs of other departments and business units and show them how blogging (or social media) can help them get there. Resist the urge to argue the merits of an individual platform, or urge your brand to get on board simply because it's the right thing to do (and it's the 21st century, damnit!). Nope. How can blogging help disseminate more meaty messages? Maybe some Twitter action will help an executive establish himself as thought leader like he wants. Some Facebook jazz can act as a focus group for an upcoming campaign. Bottom line, make your case with numbers, stats, industry-leading information and well thought out, strategic plans. You can't go wrong.
That's all I got folks - but I know it's a lot. I'll leave you with this though: if you've got the gumption and the balls, you can...