There comes a time in the life of a company when you start thinking about a blog. Go right on! Do it! But take a minute and consider some important issues. We just went through this whole process and want to share our thoughts with you.
The obvious starting point (that is often neglected, however) is that you kick back with your team and evaluate your company. Although everyone should have a pretty good idea what the company does, what its strengths and weaknesses are, it might be helpful just to talk about it in your team. See where you stand, what has changed in the recent past, and where you're headed. This should include everybody and it should help you assess what kind of blog you need. Try to outline or re-think the philosophy of your company. Listen to your colleagues to find out what's in their heads when talking about principles like democratic structures, innovativeness, flexibility, serving customers – you name it. If you're a relatively small company, everybody should get involved. As Darwin knew: diversity and variety is supreme to homogeneity.
Conception & Organization
Now it's time to decide where you want to go with your blog. You should ask questions like:
1. Why blog at all? What's your motivation for blogging?
Do you want more traffic for your website? Is sharing knowledge your primary aim? Do you want your blog to be a blunderbuss, blasting out bits and pieces every other hour? Chances are, a social network might be a more suitable place to do this. Or do you want articles in long form, giving the reader extensive and well-researched background on your blog post topic?
2. Who is this for?
A blog is – at least in some respects – a service you're offering. Then whom do want to serve? The primary audience might even be your company itself. Or a small but active expert community. Or everybody?
3. What should we write?
This is the most obvious part, but it's also slightly tricky. The better question would be:
What kind of content do we want to indite? What kind of content are we actually able to create?
Rely on the individual skills, strengths, and interests of your team. Make suggestions: Be aware that you can learn a lot from your co-workers. Be curious. Tell them you'd like to know about a special part of their work. Think about your own skills and projects you did – then write about them.
4. How should we write?
It might be a good idea to have a set of style guidelines. Think about the tone of your future blog articles. Is it to be totally technical and dead serious or will it be porcupined with puns? Think about the choice of words. Think about sources. Think about how you want to be perceived: as authoritarian or democratic? As the nice guys from around the corner, as hardcore nerds, as trolls, as a solid reference? As somewhere in between?
5. This is not a question.
It's an order: produce! You might have specialists in your company who don't do anything but read and write all day. You might be one of them. But there's this other great guy, too, who may think in codes, or the pixel-pusher. Go motivate yourself and others to write. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes considerable effort, especially if you're not used to writing all the time. But what it ultimately comes down to is: no content – no blog. So you need to start producing right away.
Do you want a blog without limitations, presets or defaults? Then custom-building your blog would be the right choice for you. If you feel you want your own Frankenstein's monster or R2D2, read up on how to custom-build your blog in Jochen Greif's article "Setting up a Blog: The Technical Side" which will be available soon.
Fear not, there are many options for those that don't have the capacity to build a custom blog. Blogging services like Wordpress offer extremely flexible templates and plug-ins that will serve your needs adequately. It's not a question of right or wrong, good or bad: it's a decision according to what you want, are able to handle, and need.
Another question that we felt we should address was: How do you let people participate and interact with you and the content you created? We eventually decided to take the discussion to where the community dwells, not take the community to the discussion. So, as you may have noticed, we didn't enable comments in this blog. We'd like for the discussion to take place in a social network.
Of course, this is not where it ends – this is where it starts. Read up on "Appearance – A Blog's Content Strategy & UI", a sequel that will be following shortly.
Last but not least: shake it, don't break it. You should be terribly excited and motivated to make your blog, not feel the obligation to do it. This also means holding ideas dear and spending time with them. And your team.