Go to the corporate site of just about any business large or small these days and you’ll find it’s got a blog, and depending on the size of the enterprise, oftentimes multiple ones. There is a reason for this: Not only are blogs one of the hottest forms of digital media but, as businesses are discovering, they can also be an effective way to forge an intimate bond with one’s customers at a time when many marketing messages seem so impersonal.
There are many resources for learning how to create a corporate blog. But before pulling out the nuts and bolts, it is important that any business remember rule No. 1: Make it as authentic a conversation between the business and the customer as possible. A blog after all is a community, and your blog needs to have “curb appeal” to get customers to commit their time to it. Likewise, the blog must accurately reflect the spirit and image of your business, so as to remain, in a word, “authentic.”
Blogs that come off as transparent marketing vehicles and carry only ad copy or promotional messages are bound for failure. Customers will surely ignore them; after all, consumers are busier than ever. There’s too much clutter on the Internet and other media forms for your customers to waste their time reading your blog if they’re not getting any helpful or interesting information. Likewise, if the blog comes off as corporate, soulless, and exclusively promotional, readers won’t come back to try it a second time.
Naturally a blog must promote your business and your products and services; that is, after all, its ultimate reason for being. But finding the right balance between marketing and the colorful back-and-forth between business and customer and among customers is where the art of corporate blogging comes in.
Consider these examples, large and small.
One of the most ambitious corporate blogs is produced by Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer. Called Check Out, the multilayered community is divided into several subject areas, including Family, Gadgets, Lawn & Garden, and Music, with authors who write regular posts that customers can sound off on.
A recent posting on the debate over artificial hormones used in dairy cattle (which served to make the point that the milk Wal-Mart sells does not come from cows treated with hormones) generated more than 250 comments and a surprisingly spirited back-and-forth among customers. “Ashley” commented: “Congratulations. I’ve never been a Wal-Mart shopper before, for reasons having to do with labor and supplier issues. But after reading this news and seeing how you put your customers [first], I may very well become a customer. Thank you for doing this.” Meanwhile, “Janice” maintained that it was “sad news for all of us who value sustainability. Using [the hormone] enables farmers to produce high-quality, great-tasting milk by using fewer natural resources. Unfortunately, this choice by Wal-Mart will contribute to higher costs of dairy products.”
The great “milk debate” on the site is the perfect example of a company bringing its customers into a conversation about its own products, even when that conversation may not be all sweetness and light. (Remember: authenticity.) It is impressive, in fact, that a massive, worldwide, sometimes-controversial corporation such as Wal-Mart freely allows all comments, the good and the bad. A blog, after all, should be an authentic conversation, warts and all.
A more modest, yet equally as authentic corporate site is Whole Story, produced by the grocery chain Whole Foods. Just as the chain is all about natural and organic foods and forging community with its customers, the blog very much reflects these corporate values. Recent posts include one of the author’s fishing trips with her father, the benefits and pleasure of coconut milk, and “The Joy of Local Summer Vegetables.”
These are just two examples of blogs that could give you some ideas for how to create an authentic voice for your own blog. If you give it time, your blog could really catch on and prove a valuable tool to connect with your customers.