Turning a corporate blog into a real media outlet

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Sometimes, company blogs evolve into media outlets that contribute to audience growth. In other cases, it might not work and nobody reads the posts. What mistakes lead to poor results and how to avoid them?

Common mistakes in corporate blogging

A company starts a blog and lays high hopes on it. Seemingly, it should attract interest when a business opens up to the world and starts talking about itself. But in reality, it doesn’t. In order to gain attention, you have to work hard (and for a long time), but also avoid typical mistakes. Here are some of them.

Post for the reader, not for you

The most common reason why corporate blogs fail on any platform (from a website to industry resources) is posting content that interests the company, not the reader.

A new function, new investments, birthday of the CEO, moving to a new office and webinars are company news but, in the age of information overload, few people are ready to spend even five minutes on such content. Readers need to feel interested in order for the audience to grow and the blog to make any sense. The right to attention should be earned: this can be done by publishing useful content that provides readers with insight or ways to fix a problem.

A more thorough look at leading online business media feeds reveals that, excluding trendy start-ups, popularity is enjoyed by companies publishing studies and making statements on important issues of the industry that provoke debates. This is something that brings real value, as opposed to a press release that nobody wants to read.

Irrelevant content

Sometimes, the temptation to get easy traffic by posting something “viral” but irrelevant is high. It’s logical as it’s hard to conduct, say, research on e-commerce trends or survey lawyers and representatives of foreign companies in Russia regarding how they are going to deal with the new personal data laws.

It’s much easier to publish a rewrite of a Hacker News or Reddit post, and it might even bring more views. The problem is that developing an addiction to easy traffic is simple, but giving it up is much harder. In the end, instead of an appealing blog related to the business, users get a readable, but completely secondhand and irrelevant source.

Readers will associate high quality relevant content from the blog with a company, while posts like “20 ways to give up your job and start living” can be found on dozens of websites.

An example is a blog by a famous Eastern European start-up composed of nothing else but compilations, lists and adapted postings of foreign companies that had no relation to its business. Entries got tens of thousands of views and many comments have really helped improve the company. However, they closed down the blog but, obviously effective channels did not get cancelled.

Waiting for the right topic

It’s a mistake to wait for the one and only topic that would blast the media realm to pieces and that still hasn’t been covered by anyone else. Tech companies with developers at the helm offend this rule most frequently.

Perfectionism is a must if you develop a product, but when it comes to marketing, things work a bit differently. It’s better to post a relevant and entertaining article on a topic that someone else has already analyzed than to remain silent when you have something to say and wait for overwhelming success. It may never come and your readers will trade you in for a competitor who wasn’t that picky in choosing topics.

If the content has value – expert opinion, new data, or new developments – you just have to share it with your readers.

Obsession with word counts

Many executives see a blog as a set of long expert articles. If they don’t see a lengthy one, they immediately doubt the very point of posting it. “Isn’t it too short?”

This is a mistake. It’s possible to elaborate on a topic in just a few paragraphs, and sometimes an unreasonably long article doesn’t make any sense. In the age of Twitter, people are used to consuming brief information, so a concise article has more chances of being read to the end.

Setting a goal of writing no less than X words (or, even worse, using it to determine how much to pay writers) will result in empty talk. Length doesn’t matter if the content is interesting – that’s the only right approach.

How-to: practical advice

We’ve reviewed the most common mistakes that stop companies from creating good content. Now, let’s talk about how to turn a corporate blog in a real media outlet and a platform for expert opinion that will attract readers and clients.

Dilute expert content with relevant fun

Big companies like Google can afford to post expert articles about their products and services. Most businesses though, from our experience, only have resources for 1–3 expert articles per month.

A healthy rhythm for posting varies from 1 to 3 articles per week so readers don’t forget about you. The gap needs to be filled with more entertaining content, yet still linked to the business.

Expert surveys on an important topic are a common example. This technique is very popular in the media because of its simplicity: all you need is to contact experts you know, say, on Facebook, then come up with a small lead and copy-paste the comments.

The results can be surprisingly good, as expert opinions are something that interests people. Companies that adopt this method from journalists get positive outcomes. For instance, a recent post on the blog of one European broker with lists of useful books by key tech experts of the finance world was viewed over 32,000 times.

Digests and lists are another way of crafting an entertaining article. You can group together links to resources on mobile app promotion or online courses on usability, make a compilation of tips on Medium Marketing techniques and explain why some are effective and some not, like Buffer did.

Get attention with newsjacking

Newsjacking is a technique that takes a hot topic and uses it about something relevant to the company’s business. A classic example is Oreo’s tweet just a couple of seconds after the lights went off at the Superbowl.

The same tactic can be used for corporate blogging; the most important issue is good timing. Here’s an example: Cloud Market made a study of popularity regarding different operating systems in cloud services.

This article was extensively covered by the media and attracted the attention of a small cloud services provider, whose writers quickly created a news piece and added their own statistics on the Eastern European market. According to the company, Windows, not Ubuntu, was the most popular OS among its clients. Such a difference served as a great incentive for comments and the article got more than 20,000 views.

Pros of turning a blog into a media outlet

Why should a company transform its blog into a media outlet? Here are the advantages.

The first and most important one is the fact that the company has complete control over the distribution of content. The team then decides when and on which platform the material should be released.

This isn’t something you can count on when working with the media. Journalists often refuse to name a fixed date of publication or they can demand corrections that would play down any potential benefits for the business.

Another advantage of having a content-making machine is the chance to recycle. For example, excerpts from an article could become great comments for the media. By the way, they could be easily distributed via HARO or similar services. If an article was not written in English, which is especially important for Europe and America, it could be translated and adapted for foreign markets. The content could become, for instance, a Quora post. Rockin’Robin recently turned a post on searching for clients into an answer on Quora that got 1,700 views in a couple of days.

Another benefit of constantly generating content is the growth of writing skills and morale of your company. Regular valuable content involves the whole company from marketing to experts and bosses. When an article gets a lot of attention and readers write positive comments, it improves the spirit of everyone included in the process.

Also, as your writers become more skilled, it’s easier to create content for publishing in particular media sources. And if your blog is popular, journalists could even ask the company to write an article.

Creating content is an uneasy task without any immediate profit. But if a company works consistently in this direction and avoids mistakes, after a while it could form a core of loyal readers not tied to a particular online platform. As a result, your business will gain a lot.

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