How to create a successful blog: getting the right resources

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This is the third installment in our Tick Tock Social blog series, providing tips for the main elements you need to get your blog roaring.

Last week, we looked at target audiences. If you isolate who you want to attract, you can provide much more in-depth and compelling content.

Now we will look at balancing your available resources with your online blogging objectives.

How to create a successful corporate blog

Part 3: Getting the right resources

Some elements in creating and maintaining a blog take only a little time, while others can be a real drain. Carefully choosing the components based on available resources means the difference between happy blog managers and over-stretched, stressed-out ones.

Content is key
No matter how a blog looks, the most important element is the content you post. This is the KEY element that will attract and keep your audience.

We will talk about how to make that content compelling later in the series, but first we need to look at who will be writing the blog and how many articles are they will publish.

Finding good, reliable writers that appeal to your target audience is not always straightforward. Obviously, they need to have writing skills. It can be a huge put-off when bloggers cannot convey meaning accurately or clearly. Knowing grammar and spelling is obviously important, but these can be fixed by a copy-editor later in the process. What is very difficult for any copy-editor is to make something meaningful when they don’t understand the copy.

Here is how I test new potential bloggers:

1. Explain the concept of your blog to a would-be writer and ask them to write a 500-word piece, including references, links and embedded imagery or video, all designed to attract your target audience. Give them a time limit – I suggest about 24-48 hours.

Here is what you want to assess:

  • Will they deliver on time?
  • What topic did they choose?
  • What angle did they take?
  • Is it a straight news piece or did they incorporate an opinion?
  • Did they cite their sources?
  • Is their imagery compelling and suited to the story?
  • Did you, when you initially scanned it, find it interesting or dull?
  • How much editing will be required before you feel it can be published?

2. Review the work carefully and explain all the elements they need to improve upon. If you are convinced that the writers have potential but are concerned that too many elements weren’t right, repeat the first test to see if they have now understood what you need and learned to fix their errors.

3. If they pass the first phase, tell them that at some point during the week, you will be contacting them with a specific subject they will need to write about and deliver in just 90 minutes. Again, set the limits of target audience, length, imagery, links and references. Also, you will need to agree set times that are appropriate for you to approach them with this second test – you don’t want a would-be writer putting a baby in a closet so they can complete your task on time.

4. Review the work and decide whether this person shows promise or is a dud.

editorOnce you have found writers, and sorted out a schedule with them, get them to start writing articles on agreed topics as soon as you can afford it. Remember that most companies do not publish every day – or even every week – and this is a mistake.

Ideally, you want new content available every 24 hours during the work week. There is no point in launching a blog with a single article. So the task for you is to build a small backlog as soon as you can.

It is a bit like a shop. You wouldn’t want to have just one single item on display and nothing else on offer to tempt your audience. A dozen articles when you launch is a minimum requirement in my opinion.

Blog management

There are two elements here that need to be understood before you go live: who is managing the content and who is managing the site infrastructure.

Content manager
The content manager is the person who is ultimately responsible for what is published and when. This person should have enough time available to review everything and take ultimate responsibility for the opinions and facts expressed in the blog.

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Corporate blogs need to also adhere to the law, and not get the company into hot water, regarding perjury or prejudice for instance. It is this content manager who should be responsible for getting legal advice to understand what is and what is not acceptable to post on a blog, as well as keeping the legal terms up to date to ensure that the posts do not incite anyone into legal action.

If something goes wrong, it is this person who will be responsible for handling the apology or update, consulting the legal team and keeping senior management informed.

Often, companies give the blog content management to someone who is already loaded with other communication responsibilities. If this is the case, it needs to be reviewed regularly to make sure that the content quality remains high and, ideally, represents the core values of the company.

Finally, the content manager needs also to manage reporting. We will look at reporting in more depth later in the series, but it is important to keep track of what your blog has achieved. This is how you make senior managers more comfortable with the investment, and it allows you to build a picture of what content works and what doesn’t.

Infrastructure manager
The other main role, the one of infrastructure management, is the mechanic. Responsibilities include keeping widgets and plugins up-to-date, creating and testing code to allow for new features on the blog, and maintaining uptime if traffic is explosive or if there are problems with the servers.

mechanics_1950Essentially, the entire smooth running of the engine needs to have an owner.

Now, it is important that this person is not only capable and expert in the area, but also available on demand. Some patches are critical and having an exploitable vulnerability can lead to site and PR disasters. Or, the site can be down and you need the infrastructure manager to come with a plan and sort out the problem fast. You want someone who treats the role like an emergency doctor: be on call all the time.

Having a would-be infrastructure manager respond in writing with how he/she would handle the situations above would be a good way of seeing whether the right skills and attitudes are on show.

Two for the price of one
Now these two roles can be done by one person, provided he/she possesses the appropriate skill-sets. Companies can be strict with budgets until it sees some results, so having one person that can both manage the infrastructure and the content – at least initially – is an attractive, cost-saving approach. But know that finding a person that excels at both these disparate responsibilities is not easy.

Next week, we’ll be talking about Making content compelling.

Other installments in this series:

  1. How to create a successful blog: Who are you?
  2. How to create a successful blog: target audience
Carole TheriaultHow to create a successful blog: getting the right resources

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