Think of blogs as TV shows. Viewers intentionally decide to watch programs like The Big Bang Theory or Brooklyn 99. What they rarely do is say, “I’m just going to watch whatever is on CBS or FOX.” There are just too many options. The same holds for professional services blogs. Those with a purpose are far more attractive than those without. There could be some really great content on CBS, but if they marketed a block of programming as “CBS: Entertainment Shows,” one would be hard-pressed to know what was actually airing. A corollary for professional services companies is, “Why do so many blogs sound generic?” “XYZ’s IP Blog” or “JKL’s Architecture Digest” sound like the vanilla-of-vanilla-ice-cream.
Let’s examine some elements of style and success for blogs:
Do Create a Brand
A company’s own brand and image can often have a positive impact on a blog’s perception. For instance, Proctor and Gamble makes oodles of well-respected consumer products – including Tide detergent and Pampers diapers. And, while it does do company-wide branding (see U.S. women’s gymnastics), it also carefully cultivates and promotes brands for each of its products. “Laundry Detergent by P&G” would fall flat with consumers – even if superior in performance – in a world filled with “Cheer,” “Purex” and “All.”
Ideally, a blog’s brand reflects its editorial focus or is a clever turn of phrase (e.g. “Intellectual Property Matter,” “Outside the Beltway,” etc…).
Do Secure Virtual Real Estate
URL, Twitter handle(s) and Facebook page.
Do Create a Culture of Writing
Often, at places like law firms, new attorneys join with experience having written for their law school’s law review. Fast-forward five years and they have barely written any non-client work content. By setting – on day one – and reiterating in performance reviews an expectation of writing, blogs will see more interest and activity.
Don’t Play All Rookies
To create a warehouse of engaging content, professional services companies need a top-down commitment to blogging. C-suite, or equivalent, executives need to read and contribute to properties. After all, would you send a Class A baseball team out to play against a big league club? Not only would you very likely lose, but viewers would be left wondering where the stars were.
Don’t Be All Things To All People
If you have ever heard of “Dr. Bronner’s” natural soap, you may know that it claims to have “18-in-1” uses. From the company’s website:
You can use Dr. Bronner’s soaps for washing your face, body, hands and hair, for bathing, shaving, brushing your teeth, rinsing fruit, aromatherapy, washing dishes by hand, doing laundry, mopping floors, all-purpose cleaning, washing windows, scrubbing toilets, washing dogs, controlling dust mites, and killing ants and aphids. Now, that’s eighteen uses right there, but customers have told us over time about many more uses they have found for our soaps.
In reality, most people use the soap for what soap generally does, cleaning one’s body. Sometimes professional services blogs start out far too broad. Each practice area generally has numerous sub-areas. A blog’s focus should be pinpointed on one area so as to avoid content suffering or the reader struggling to find posts relevant to their needs.
Don’t be Afraid to Cancel a Series
Sometimes, due to writer’s leaving the firm or shifting marketing priorities, blogs go into deep sleeps where content is not posted for months. When new posts finally appear, much of the core audience has disappeared. Set internal expectations – for instance, a minimum of three posts per month – and if they are not met, sunset the channel. Much like TV shows, blogs “Jump the Shark” at times.
Do Embrace Fixed-Length
The notion that a blog must continue on forever is not grounded in any compelling logic. With time-specific events (trials, elections, holidays) or specific deep dives (a six-part look at certain regulations), there will only be so much content – and, that’s OK! Keep the URL and keep the property up. You have essentially created a mini-series or a single issue of a magazine.
Do Put Blogs at the Forefront of Your Content Creation and Media Efforts
While, third-party publications – particularly trade, newswire and dailies – continue to offer ways to reach high-value audiences and credential company officials as knowledge-leaders, restrictive freelance agreements and content paywalls impede the reach of content. In addition, muscular blogs provide a one-to-one reflection of firm branding and messaging. Placing greater value on blog posts is a forward-thinking move as the media landscape faces difficult economic times, threatening some publications (and their archives) and leading to generational shifts in the perception (and prestige and value) of publishers. The goal should always be to first own and control your content and then look to leverage it across social media and in outside outlets.
Creating a “hit” blog takes work, but is a most worthwhile pursuit as it not only sharpens the editorial and writing skills of a company’s professionals, it also serves as engaging, subtle advertising and brand messaging and informs media outreach, helping to create “go-to” commentary sources.