I never applied for a job that had “manage the blog” in the requirements or did I say in my interview, “I would be great at managing your corporate blog.” However, over the course of three years, I’ve had the opportunity to manage the Rackspace blog. The blog somehow fell onto my plate and I am glad it did. When I started managing the blog, Rackspace was 2600 employees. Today, we’re over 4000 employees. With this exponential growth rate, the dynamics of how we communicate online has evolved.
Managing the blog has been a learning process and I’m still learning. I wanted to share some of the things I learned along the way.
Content isn’t magical
If you’re going to have a blog, make it a priority. Often times, companies will make the blog as “part of someone’s job” or will hire an intern to manage it, along with managing the company’s social profiles. If you’re in startup mode, this can work. Once you’re company has grown their product set and employee size (or went public), you really need to dedicate 100% focus into managing the blog with the number one reason being that content isn’t magical people!
There is a lot of time and effort put into posting a single article on a blog. I am a strong believer in preserving the voice of the contributors and don’t believe there should be a stringent editorial process. However, you’re part of the process early on (or should be) starting at ideation. This means brainstorming with stakeholders, interviews, ghost writing, etc. You’re a journalist! Additionally, once the content is ready for production, you have to make sure you have the right code, images, etc before it is published. And finally, you need to distribute across all channels.
In addition, your website team should be responsible for blog development and maintenance, not the blog owner. You cannot risk a channel that conveys the company’s voice to go down.
My point here is that unless the blog is a priority, your blog will not survive because there is a lot of work involved in keeping it not only alive, but relevant. The blog is the company’s voice and it’s imperative that your voice is conveyed properly.
Define success early on
This is crucial. As your company grows, the number of opinions from various stakeholders across the company consequently increases. The blog is a channel for their voice and unless you define success early on, the blog can potentially go haywire.
I’ll have to admit, this one was a huge challenge for me. When I started as the community manager for the cloud division at Rackspace (then more like a startup), we used the blog to voice customer stories, big company announcements and how to articles from our technical employees. Little did we know that the content we were producing would result in a significant amount of traffic to the website. This helped us determine which content pieces we wanted to focus on (the stuff that had nothing to do with our company did the best). But we still had to fit in everyone’s product announcement, the latest event and other company announcements.
At the end of the day, if you create quality content, success will follow. It’s the success that you need to define. Is it traffic? Social shares? Back links? Conversion? You have to have metrics in place so you’re prepared to have those conversations with stakeholders. Otherwise you become an order taker and can’t justify the value of the blog.
It’s not just about writing, it’s about relationships
Let me just start off by saying that while I love to write, I do not have a degree in journalism nor had experience writing professionally prior to managing the blog. However, a big portion of my job was to write. What made our blog a success was the relationships I built with employees across the company and the tenure I had in the industry. You can’t throw a good writer at a blog and expect it to take off. I had to sit in on long interviews with engineers and developers learning about topics database architecture, web development, and Linux system administration. In addition, I sat in on calls with customers working to bring their story to life. If I were to give anyone advice about hiring a blog editor, I would put more weight on knowing the company and industry over writing experience.
These are just a few things I’ve learned along the way. I am now responsible for our acquisition content marketing strategy at Rackspace. The blog has evolved into multiple channels and we’ve dedicated a resource as managing editor for the blog. My team will continue to use our blog as a channel for content distribution.
If you’ve been put in charge of your corporate blog and have questions, feel free to send me an email or submit a comment here.