How Blogs Express Brand More Effectively Than Editorial Content
This month, we’re keeping it really straightforward. We’re breaking down the idea of a blog, the benefits it can bring, and how to integrate blogs into your communications strategy.
What is a blog?
People generally seem to be familiar with the word that comes from a truncation of “weblog”. What is a blog? Well, it’s a piece of online writing – right? A kind of diary about exotic travels or low-carb recipes?
Well… no. It has been interesting to see when we talk to potential clients that they really don’t understand the full scope of what a blog can be, and what purpose it can serve in a B2B context.
Blogs are all too often characterized as being something that exists exclusively in the ‘personal’ realm of the internet, or – at best – in a B2C context. People think of travel blogs, parenting blogs and food blogs. They tend to be thought of as very personal accounts
Thinking about blogs in this narrow sense does them a huge injustice, and fails to recognize their full potential.
Blogs are, in reality, discussional or informational pieces of writing orientated around a single theme. Sometimes they are written by a single author giving monthly updates, but often they can be places where different guest contributors come together to share their ideas on a subject.
This means that in reality, blogs are perfectly suited to a B2B context – and particularly ones that operate in highly technical contexts, where developments within the industry are subject to fast paced change and open dialogue about applications, standards and trends.
In fact, the advantages created by blogs in the technology field are multitudinous.
The advantages of blogs
Blogs have a great deal of longevity
Standard PR announcements are temporally limited. The press craves new information – and whilst it will accept ‘discussion-based’ article content, in general it is fed by press releases announcing new developments and new products.
We all know that whilst new product releases might be the lifeblood of many tech companies, their pace of release is far too slow to base a marketing strategy around. Maintaining interest and energy around existing products – and the general activities and brand of the company – must be a constant and ongoing activity based on more than mere press releases.
Blogs allow for this. They can be produced and released free of deadlines or output schedules. They give a constant source of information, and they never lose their relevance: a well-written piece can hold value for months, even years. Ideas last, even when technical specifications have moved on.
Blogs have a wider reach
Blogs are also more likely to funnel searches to your site. For clients to directly seek a product-based PR online (rather than incidentally seeing it in the general press) generally requires someone to be searching for that product. In contrast, a blog written about a conceptual or technical industry element will direct all sorts of google enquiries to your page.
The distribution outlets also remain in your hands – and channel directly back to your website. You can publish on your own page, through affiliates, on LinkedIn and on industry-relevant pages. You can also link to the content through social media channels, which are increasingly important even in B2B industries.
Blogs express personality and brand more effectively than editorial content
Press releases have a certain style, format and tone. They are informative and newsworthy tools that are distributed to the Trade Press and covered by the publications (and the extent to which journalists put their own spin on things or simply repackage the PR submission varies from publication to publication your customers read. This means that there really isn’t much scope to stamp your own personality on a press release. In addition to Press Releases, editorial articles (opinion pieces, applied technology articles) represent another tool within Public Relations and integrated communications. The tone is informative and the format conforms to a publisher’s guidelines. They are valid pieces of content but they have become more and more dependent on advertising and can be published only by one magazine.
Blogs, on the other hand, remain entirely under your control. You dictate the tone, the content, the distribution. Everything about your blogs is an extension of your brand and personality – meaning you can craft it in whatever form you want. Is the style of your company laid-back, easy going and humorous? Or perhaps you prefer your tone to be a little more competitive and assertive?
These might sound like incidental questions – but at Xpresso we really stress the idea that what sets businesses apart is the human component of the business as much as its technological prowess. Not every technology company is in a position to offer a truly unique value proposition- few companies can truly say they are the only kid on the block doing what they do. So in an increasingly crowded market place (and a fast moving one), it will often be loyalty, personality and trust that help you sail stormy weather.
All of these elements can be incorporated into blog content and communicated far more effectively than they can in PR submissions. They promote authenticity and engagement.
Blogs are subtle yet effective marketing tools
Overt marketing messages only stretch so far. A barrage of ‘buy me’ grates on any audience eventually.
Blogs can operate on a far more effective basis because they tie much wider conceptual issues to the value proposition of the brand (speaking in terms of problems and solutions), and they provide genuine benefit and interest to the audience.
Essentially, readers come to the content looking to gain greater understanding. If you can entertain and inform them, you’ve already started to foster the underlying goodwill that is so important to achieving a sale.
First and foremost, blogs should respect this ‘content before marketing’ approach. If the link between the information provided and the ‘sales pitch’ is tenuous or forced, the content has missed the point entirely. It actively undermines the goodwill you’re trying to engender.
Sometimes, there’s genuinely no need to tie anything to anything – even just writing to position yourself as a thought leader within the market carries the benefit of a ‘slow burn’ approach to brand building; developing trust, respect and an impression of expertise and leadership for readers of your content. Sales people have been taught to always bring things to a close, but people from a marketing background know that there’s benefit to laying the groundwork: blogs suit this purpose perfectly.
So how does it work?
The first step is content production. You may be in a position to do this yourself – that depends on how well you write, and how much time you have available.
At Xpresso, we create blog-based content for a number of our clients. This is sometimes published under the name of a single individual within the organization, or without a specific authorship – making the piece attributable to the firm as a whole.
When crafting this content, we work closely with the company to determine what message they want to send, and what their voice is. We often suggest topics to write about being experts (and creative minds) in content creation within technology-driven markets. Blogs cannot afford to be one-size-fits-all. Good writing is not just good writing. Instead, a good writer is someone who can adapt to change the tone, meaning, context and message of their writing to suit both client and audience. It is key you find the right person – internally or externally – who can manage this balance when creating your content. Reliability and consistency are important elements too.
After this, comes distribution. This can be the part that often trips up clients. With PR – everything is out of their hands. They commission the PR, it’s written, approved, distributed, and printed without a great deal of further input from the client themselves.
With blogs, the client needs to be much more hands on – at least in the latter stages. The first and most important step is publishing the content themselves on their own site. For our clients, we also help by making sure that the content is published on other channels, but clients still need to play an active part in thinking about how and where they can spread their blog message to people who would be interested. Social media promotion follows on from this – extrapolating content and creating compelling ‘hooks’ that will cause people to click through and read. Again, some clients choose to manage that in-house, whilst other clients leave that in our hands.
Well, there are two approaches you can take. The first is to get reading, get researching, and get writing. See what speaks to you, and replicate it on your own communication channels. Blogs are an efficient and cost-effective additional tool to your existing integrated marketing communications strategy.
Alternatively, if you’re not entirely confident on how to integrate blog content or thought leadership into your wider communications activities, you can always drop us a line. Whether it’s just an initial consultation, or the provision of ongoing blog content and social media support, Xpresso has the expertise needed to help you move forward.
By Jess McMurray and Fiorenza Mella