In this post, I wanted to talk about the value a blog can add to your business, and what type of work this can involve. I collaborated with Ryan Stout, our Senior Quality Analyst, in order to share his thoughts as well. A company blog is a powerful marketing tool that extends not just to clients and prospective candidates, but to the employees as well. If you’re wanting to start a blog for your business, if your blog has stagnated, or if you’re not convinced that a blog is right for you, I hope that the points we go over can help outline a thoughtful, meaningful approach to a blog strategy, with a healthy respect for the risks as well.
How does a blog affect the public perception of a company?
A blog can give someone who navigates to your company website a way to see what’s currently going on. Is there activity? Is this company still active? Are the employees real? It can also help dramatically with SEO, because if you’re regularly adding new content, there’s more chances to hit keyword search results.
If you’re a tech-centered company, you need to be able to prove that your team is made up of people who are experts in their field. A developer-driven blog, for example, gives the public the ability to see the employees in action. Are your developers people I would want to work with? Are they good communicators? What sort of things do they care about? Is your company comprised of passionate people?
A blog can also give a company a call to action. What do I do after I read a blog post? What if I have a question? What if the blog post was really cool and I want to thank the author? For Bravo LT, our call to action is to engage with our team on Discord. We invite any readers to talk with us directly because community engagement is important to us. What do you want your readers to do after reading your blog?
To summarize this point of public perception, a blog can be your answer to some of these questions, depending on your needs:
How do I show people that my company is active?
How do I reach a larger audience?
How can I prove that my team is good at what they do?
What’s my call to action?
How does a blog affect the employees?
A blog can provide value to the employees of a company by serving as a creative outlet for their interests. With developer blogs, teams can write about interesting problems they’ve solved, new technologies they’re excited about, or how to work through struggles they may have faced.
How does your team improve their communication abilities? Do you encourage them to spend any time learning, and if so, how do they present the results of this? If the ability to teach and mentor is important to you, how can you showcase this? An employee-driven blog can be the answer to these questions.
If you’re also looking for ways to get your team to collaborate more together, blogs are a great tool to facilitate some of this. At Bravo LT, many of our blog posts are collaborative and involve more than one writer. We also collaborate with people outside of the company, to encourage a genuine desire to share and learn from each other.
So, if you’re looking for ways to help your team with any of the following, a blog can help, depending on your needs:
Encouraging teams to spend more time learning/researching
Encouraging teams to share success stories
Encouraging teams to share struggles
Give teams a way to discuss technical or non-technical hobbies or things that influence them as technical people
Ability to teach others
What are the risks involved with running a blog?
If you’re interested in the benefits we’ve discussed, and you want to start thinking about how to start a blog, we need to go over the risks first. As with any good business venture, you need a plan. The risks are always there when you either don’t have a plan, or you stop following one.
Risk 1: High Enthusiasm, Low Engagement
There can be a lot of excitement and energy when you start writing a blog. Your team might brainstorm a lot of ideas, and it seems like you can do anything you set your mind to. You’ve got a great backlog of topics to write about, and a nice editing process and blog platform ready to go. What’s the problem? Is your team prepared to put in the work?
Low engagement from the team is a risk because it can result in your blog either never starting, or only a few people end up actually involved, not the whole team. If just a few people are the only ones writing, why is this a problem? At least the blog is still being written, right? In reality, it can be demotivating to the energized people, and presents a higher burden on them to keep the blog going. If the whole team isn’t involved, the blog is also at a high risk of becoming stagnant if any high performers stop writing. How can we mitigate this? There are a few things that can help transfer high enthusiasm naturally to high engagement, depending on your situation:
1. Blogging should be backed up by leadership
If blog writing becomes a deeply ingrained activity in your leadership structure, anyone who aspires to lead will lean towards the same behaviors. This also helps convince skeptics who are cautious to go “all in” on blogging, if their leaders aren’t doing it either. Lead by example.
2. Financial incentives
It can be difficult to introduce more work to a team that has low engagement with blogging if they’re not going to be compensated for it. They either don’t understand the benefit of writing, don’t believe they have time, or aren’t confident enough to try. If you believe in the value of writing, and you’ve proven that it gets more leads, clients, or job candidates, compensating people for writing can be a powerful driver to increase the team’s interest. This works best when your culture revolves around effective communication, because writing is directly tied to our ability to understand, teach, and articulate.
3. Change your hiring benchmarks
Let’s say blogging is becoming a deeply important strategy for you, and you’ve gotten your teams to go from low engagement to high with writing. The next step is to change your hiring benchmark. Your current teams joined the company without this expectation. If future employees do, then this becomes less of an uphill battle.
Risk 2: Running Out of Steam
What can be worse than not having a blog? Having a blog where the last post was written years ago. This can be very damaging to how the public may perceive your business. It begs some questions. What happened? What went wrong? Was the business truly invested in this? We can help mitigate this risk by doing some of the following:
1. Have a regularly growing backlog of blog topics
Schedule brainstorming sessions, or make the creation of new topics a normal part of work. The point is to make a commitment to come up with future topics on a regular basis.
2. Limit the amount of posts that can be published
It’s okay to write a lot of blogs at once. Some days we feel really energized to write. Other days it’s natural to just not “feel” like it. Whatever happens, I would advise you to publish posts on a regular basis, but don’t go beyond your target. For example, if you have a goal of two posts published per month, but your team has written four, spread the overflow content out into the next month. It’s okay to have a backlog of unpublished posts. This helps keep the flow steady, predictable, and keep posts on standby in case your team has trouble hitting the target in a future month.
3. Keep progress visible
If you or your team is slowing down or starting to miss blog targets, it can help to keep our goals in front of everyone. In software development, we keep sprint tasks on a board for everyone to see and be accountable for. Likewise, we should treat blogs the same way if we’re serious about this work. Try making a company-wide kanban board for blogs.
4. Collaborate more, or find more help
Sometimes you can run out of steam if you’re doing too much yourself. Try to fill in some of the responsibilities with other teammates. This could be in the form of proof-reading, topic brainstorming, or paired writing.
If you’re not prepared to find ways to mitigate this risk before starting a blog, it may not be worth investing time into a blog that will ultimately stagnate, damage your public perception, and push away the energized talent you’re looking for. So, with the risks out of the way, is it still worth trying? In the next section, Ryan Stout outlines the positive influence writing can have on us.
What are the benefits of writing?
Writing can be therapeutic
Ask any author about how they feel when they start applying the proverbial ink to paper, and they may tell you that it can be quite relaxing. There are a lot of stresses in our lives and people have normal outlets for unwinding. Most people, however, do not think of writing as a way to escape and de-compartmentalize. The ability to start dumping words from your brain onto a piece of paper allows you to possibly use a part of your brain that is normally not stimulated. Writing about things we’re passionate about or have a lot of knowledge on will be a lot easier, and you can be amazed at the amount you can write in a short time.
Writing a blog can lead to a desire to write longer works of fiction/non-fiction
Some people have a desire to write and tell stories; these people seem to make up a bulk of the authors in the world. Not all authors start with the initial passion to do it, though. Some writers need the jumpstart to realize they have a passion for sharing via printed words. For developers and development support professionals, we may be at the computer daily writing code, bug reports, user stories, or documentation. However, that type of writing is for a particular professional audience. When we have the opportunity to share something that is ours, and receive feedback from others, it inspires us to want to continue this experience. For myself, I was never interested in writing novels until I wrote several blogs pertaining to how creative thinking or abstract thinking leads to creating better tests for development. It was through this blog and further discussions that I realized I had a passion for storytelling as well. This led to writing my first novel. While this novel may never be published, I still have the passion, and have been slowly working on something I would like to publish someday.
Writing gives us a chance to collaborate with others
In our day-to-day life, we do not always have the time to work or collaborate with others. Writing a blog with someone gives us that opportunity to share ideas and improve upon each other. When the topic is broad enough, it allows two or more voices to be heard through the message. Take this blog, for example. While started by David, who had crisp and concise ideas and discussion points laid out for what should be discussed, I was able to come in from my viewpoint and still contribute to the initial outline. Furthermore, since we both work on different client projects and rarely have opportunities to communicate back and forth, this has given us another opportunity to have on and off topic discussions.
I want to thank Ryan Stout for his thoughts on and personal experience with writing. I hope that this post helps to lay out many positives of blogging, and also risks, so that if you’re considering starting a blog, or may not know anything about one, you can make a much more informed plan and decision.