As the unofficial “cruise director” for my family, I’ve planned everything from birthday parties to Disney World vacations – and yes, it involves a spreadsheet. How else are you going to coordinate our nearly 20-person clan? Needless to say I would classify myself as a planner. A good plan provides clarity, direction and alleviates a lot of stress and unknowns. Creating a plan is a great way to start any project – especially when you are thinking about launching a blog or refreshing an existing one.
You’ve heard about the benefits of starting a corporate blog – it can boost your organization’s search engine ranking (SEO), provide a platform to share your messages, establish your executives, partners and employees as industry leaders, support your social media initiatives, help with your crisis comms and so much more. While this all sounds great, it begs the question: where do you begin?
Here are four building blocks to help you successfully architect and launch a blog.
Determine Your Goals
What are your goals for the blog? Before thinking about the what —the tactics and mechanics behind your blog—you really need to establish the why. These goals will help shape all your decisions moving forward—it is your foundation. Don’t rush this step; set aside some time to get them outlined upfront. Is your goal to provide a go-to place for your customers, partners and members to learn about the latest products, services and activities in your organization? Is it to make your company a thought leader in a specific topic or industry area? Do you want it to attract new users or prospects to your community? Or perhaps you want to use it as a platform for your customers to get an inside look into your company’s culture and distinguish you from your competitors?
This important first step of goal-setting will help frame your content, style and other important success factors. And do remember to make your goals both specific and measurable.
Content, Content, Content
Consistent, compelling content is the engine that powers a successful blog. Often organizations launch a blog with a “bang,” only to find out they’ve run out of topics to talk about after only a couple of months. To prevent this from happening, start by developing a healthy editorial calendar that strategically maps out what subjects you want to address and when (for example, a series of posts tied to an event). Next, identify the spokespeople or writers for these blogs. Does your organization have the necessary resources to create ongoing content for a blog? You may need to consider bringing in additional writing support to fill the queue—new content should be added at least 2-3 times per month.
Establish editorial guidelines and set expectations for blog contributors upfront. Consider including a target word count, topics or theme suggestions, as well as a review and approval process for the draft posts. Additionally, you’ll want to consider including guidance to improve SEO and digital PR in general. Well-crafted editorial guidelines can help accelerate the editing and review phase, enabling you to get content published quickly.
Set Up a Framework
Spend time initially with the blog taxonomy by determining the categories (top-level subject or topic groupings) and tags (specific keywords or topics that can span multiple categories) that are most important to your organization. Time invested in developing a framework first will improve your blog’s navigation, improve searchability, search rankings and ideally keep readers on the site longer by showing them related content.
Give it Style
SoftwareFindr estimates that there are over 505 million blogs online. Cultivating a unique style is one way to stand out in this crowded space. While determining the look of your blog – layout, fonts and images – is one piece of the style puzzle, establishing your voice is equally critical. A unified, consistent voice knows its audience, topic areas and delivery. For example, you want to capture the essence of conversations that happen at briefings or trade shows? Demonstrate financial expertise? Do you want the blog’s voice to be more casual or formal? Whatever you decide, find your voice and stick to it.
Also, give your blog an identity by naming it. Sometimes a name comes easily; other times, it takes a bit of creative energy. Draw inspiration from topic areas, other industry blogs, or host a brainstorm session with a small group within your organization. For example, our blog is named Interprose Voice because we see the blog as the voice of our business.
Go Forth and Plan
With these tips you are ready to start your blog plan. Invest time in writing out and solidifying your goals and corresponding success metrics. Develop a healthy list of content you plan to share and how you might categorize different blog content by topics of interest and keywords. Establish a style and name that makes your blog stand out.
These building blocks will have you well on your way to starting or relaunching your blog. Once these are in place, it’s time to think about the actual launch and promotion, but that is a discussion for another time.