This article first appeared September 14, 2010.
While Facebook and Twitter might hog the social media headlines, the humble blog remains a much-loved communication tool for many Australian business people.
Around the country, and throughout many different industries, there are thousands of Australian consultants, contractors and entrepreneurs running lively, informative and at times, very personal, blogs.
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For most, writing a blog is definitely more about love than money. While some bloggers use their posts to communicate with customers and spruik corporate events, most a driven by a simple desire to share their thoughts, knowledge and ideas with like-minded readers.
But despite the willingness of smaller businesses to become self-publishers, large Australian corporates continue to lag behind.
Examples of corporate bloggers are few. Prominent ones include Deloitte Digital, maintained by chief executive Peter Williams, and Telstra Exchange, which contains blogs written from staff across the organisation. Holden has taken a slightly different approach with Tell Us Your Holden Story where Holden lovers can register and share stories about their experiences with the vehicles and the brand.
Further local examples are hard to find.
Annalie Killian works under the title of catalyst for magic at AMP but blogs under her own personal brand. She started her first blog in 2006 as a personal journal, and created a business-focussed blog, Catalyst for Magic in 2008.
Killian believes there are many reasons why larger brands have failed to embrace blogging, including communications resources being devoted to mainstream media where audiences are less fragmented, the difficulty in defining a business case, and a general lack of knowledge and experience.
She also writes several blogs within AMP, and says many organisations must also contend with a lack of desire from those executives best placed to write one.
“There is no-one who “feels” an urge to blog, and corporations have concluded that the time-poor CEO blogging with a ghost writer’s help is not the way to go,” Killian says.
According to Bronwen Clune, a web strategist and blogger working with Sydney technology incubator and investor Pollenizer, many organisations still fear for their brand identity online, but they are building a presence on Twitter.
“Perhaps this is because conversations around their companies are much more visible there, and they feel it more urgent to be seen there than on a blog,” Clune says.
Long-time marketing and social media blogger Julian Cole suggests part of the failure of corporate blogging is a lack of passion for the topic among those writing it.
“You need to be doing it for yourself,” Cole says. “A blog is a very personal thing, and if you are not intrinsically motivated to write it, you won’t write it. That is why when so many companies set up company blogs they fail, because there is no one person driving it.”
The one sector where large organisations have embraced blogging is the one that is considered to be most at threat from it – mainstream media. Many media companies have embraced blogging as another way to generate content that is often cheaper than regular journalism.
Phil Dobbie has been contributing to the Aussie Rules blog for the online publisher CBS Interactive for the past two years, primarily using podcasts, as well as writing other content for its network.
“There’s not a lot of local audio business content, yet there’s a lot of people stuck on trains for hours on end,” Dobbie says. “My approach is to cover a diverse range of business topics, some deep, some light, but to always do it with a sense of humour.”
Where large organisations are holding back, small businesses however have been leading the charge.
Naomi Simson says when she started blogging in February 2006 to support her corporate gift business RedBalloon she had no idea why. She has since written 470 posts and finds it to be a great repository of knowledge as well as news for her customers.
“This century it is all about transparency,” Simson says. “So you have to be yourself and be prepared to let people know when you have made a mistake or got something wrong. You have to write it yourself. In some ways poor grammar supports its authenticity, because your audience know that it is really you writing it and there is no PR person or committee approving the content.”
Adam Franklin started the blog for his web strategy business Bluewire Media two years ago, and says it allows staff to really live and breathe the company’s brand promise of “devoted communication”, as well as being a good strategy for improving your business’s position in Google’s search rankings.
“Whether it’s a blog post to help address something that will help a client, or to share someone’s insights from a book or seminar, it’s a way to communicate what we know about our niche web strategy,” Franklin says. “A company or personal blog is a perfect way to build your reputation as an authority.”