Welcome to the Interact Congress Blog. We have invited some leading European guest bloggers to share their observations on interactive marketing and communication skills within the integrated experience. The blog also offers you a first opportunity to interact with your peers.

For more information about the congress, please visit www.interactcongress.eu

Sunday, 1 April 2007

A blog is for life and not just for Christmas

At Interact we're going to be talking lots about blogging. In fact we'll be blogging about blogging, posting about blogging, commenting on eachother's posts about blogging, and even spreading the news of our posts through social media so they appear on other blogs. The blogging workshop is not one to miss.

That's why, when back in the classroom this week a few of us were talking about corporate blogging, it prompted me to make a couple of posts.

"How can firms test out this web thing?" -one of the agency guys said, adding that “the problem is that these clients want to try, but we just don’t think they can follow through. What happens when they need to pull out, do we just close the blog? Can they do that?”

I've been blogging away on my personal sites for many years and we use blog environments to get students talking in our academies, so I guess I'm a convert to social media.

But the concern of this agency had me panicked. Getting the strategy right for a blog is key; communication without purpose is pointless for sure. But as digital specialists we should be helping firms learn about the power of social media, going in with the expectation of packing-up, going home has me edgy from the start. Too many have written off the web long ago as being a place not to belong. Many of them have gone even further and just capped their digital communications as shovelling the company brochureware from desktop publishing software to FrontPage. Shovelware rocks, right?

When senior managers are starting their thinking with the exit strategy in mind, you know the logic’s going to be upside down. This firm is thinking about creating conversational spaces, but doesn’t yet seem to have either a conversation topic or a reason for the audience to engage. In fact, they seem so absorbed in the exit strategy that I’m wanting to suggest a braver challenge would be to imagine that the route back through the forest has gone. Imagine Hansel & Gretel’s breadcrumbs have been gobbled up and you’re on your own to figure things out.

The problem is the idea of a dialogue with customers; two way, unfiltered, unmanageable. Yet the era of monologue corporate communications has gone for good. Where we’re at now is this space of conversation - billions of conversations – and that means brands also need to be taking part. The world of dialogue may take more after sales support and follow-through than classic media did, but that’s all part of the communication landscape now.I’m wanting to help, but clearly the brand team are still nervous.

Need some help? Here are a few thought I’ve just scribbled up on the way back from today's Academy. Maybe they'll be useful for the workshops at Interact, maybe they're something you can use with colleagues, and if you've more ideas then join the debate. These notes are only a taste of approaches that work, but when we're teaching corporate blogging they work well:

• Try the blog out internally – test in a safe place first. Many firms are doing this to check they can author and figure stuff out in a semi private space. One of the investment banks in this class said “We’re doing it just internally for a year first, making sure we get it right.”
• Accept that some of your posts you might regret, some might be less polished than you’d have liked, but all of them will be you. If it’s an open and honest dialogue, if it’s one that speaks from the heart, then accept that you’ll make a few gaffs – hey, look at my little blog! – but be proud to be taking part in that conversation
• Focus on what the firm believes and write through that lens: find your voice.
• Resist the safe ground of corporate cover, and be bold enough to develop some personality and vibrance. Even if it means running taped interviews with you leadership team so you can hear their own words, try out the tools and gave it a go
• Persevere: I’ve been saying that “a blog is for life and not just for Christmas” for five years or more, and the permanence of digital marketing is one of the big differences companies need to appreciate. Waves of campaign based communication gets superseded with layers that gradually build up. That permanence means marcoms value builds over time: from link equity to FAQs – getting out of the mindset of campaign thinking can unlock something brilliant.
• And commit to being in that conversation for a long, long time, well beyond seeing it as a comms fad washing over the marking team

Social media are democratising content and creating whole new types of connections between firms and their customers. Fast-forward ten years and can you imagine any firm that wouldn't have a place for its customers views like this?

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