Launching a company blogging project is exciting. As your business prepares to unleash the creativity and expertise of your team members on the world in the form of blog articles, visions of web celebrity and a bonanza of inbound leads dance in your heads. The first few articles don’t take a whole lot of coaxing—everyone is more than happy to take some time out of their daily routines to commit their latest and greatest ideas to writing.
Then things start to slow down. The next couple of blog articles trickle in right on deadline, or a little after. Then come the excuses:
“Sorry, I had a big report to do this week and didn’t have a lot of time for writing.”
“I’m going to need to skip this week, but I promise I’ll get back on track next week.”
Here’s a fun one: “I didn’t have a chance to read this over. Can you clean it up and make me look good?”
A month or so after your company launched its blogging project, the whole thing grinds to a halt.
What happened? Everyone understood the value of content. You had your content strategy in place; your inbound marketing funnel was built and ready to start converting website visitors into leads. The best laid plans of mice, men, and, it seems, content marketers, always go awry.
What Went Wrong?
The most difficult part of any content marketing effort is the consistent creation of content. Everyone in your organization might completely buy in to the value of content, yet everyone inevitably finds something they’d rather be doing with their time than writing.
Can you blame them? Writing—writing well—is hard and it’s slow. A co-worker of mine recently complained that he often lands on a new idea or compelling argument at the end of his articles, forcing him to go back and rewrite the whole thing.
Yup, that happens. Writing is a draft process and it’s very difficult to predict how long it will take to write any given article. For businesspeople whose every minute is scheduled on their Outlook calendars, this can be quite frustrating.
Adding to the frustration, very often the work a business puts into a blogging project doesn’t pay off right away. Building up and cultivating an audience takes time, too much time for some people. The allure of business blogging fades pretty quickly when you realize you’re essentially blogging into the void.
What Can Be Done?
The best way to revitalize a flagging company blogging project is to remind your team why you started blogging in the first place. Clearly, you all saw some value in content creation, whether it was to generate leads or to establish your company as a leader in the online conversation about your industry. Blogging isn’t just busywork done to fill space on the company website. Blogging is an activity that, when done right (with the proper content marketing strategy in place), will lead to new business for your company, and new business is good for everyone. To put it as indelicately as possible, blogging means more money.
Ok, so we all understand why we’re blogging, but that doesn’t make it any easier or quicker or attract a bigger audience. Here are a few ideas for dealing with those common blogging momentum killers:
1. Set Blogging Hours
Encourage your team not to think of blogging as a side project, but as an integral part of their jobs. (It’s easier to get this message across when someone important—the owner or CEO—feels the same way.) Instruct them to set aside a few hours every week for writing and then to share with the group when those hours are. These blogging hours should be off-limits for every other activity.
A client sends an Outlook invitation for a meeting? Sorry, I’m unavailable. A co-worker asks if you want to grab lunch? Ask me again when I’m done blogging. The phone rings? Don’t answer it.
If it helps, and the boss is ok with it, tell your team of writers to schedule their blogging hours the first thing in the morning on a day of their choosing. That way, they can complete their writing at home, free from the distractions of the office, and come in when they’re done.
It’s also a good idea to schedule an extra hour or so more than you think you need for blogging. There’s nothing wrong with finishing early, but rushing to beat the clock will always result in shoddy work.
2. Write Less
The debate about the ideal length for blog articles rages on. I don’t know what blog post word count performs the best and, frankly, I don’t really care. (Writers should write to whatever length works best for that particular article.) But I do know a word count that never performs well: zero.
If the members of your blogging team are struggling to turn out 600 to 1,000 words every week, then have them write 200. How long does it take to write 200 words? Twenty minutes, tops? The important thing here is to just get people in the habit of writing on regular basis. As they become better at it (and consistent practice will lead to better writing) they will be able to create longer articles during their allotted blogging hours
Tell your writers to dial back their ambitions and focus their articles. Instead of taking on (and putting off) one giant “everything you need to know about…” article, tell them to focus each week on “one thing you need to know about.” This approach will also help them combat writer’s block because they won’t have to think up new topics to write about as often.
3. Promote the Hell Out of Your Blog
Your team wants to believe that they won’t be blogging into the void forever. Spending hours every week crafting great articles, posting them, and then seeing zero comments roll in is a huge let down. You’re asking a lot of time and effort from your people; make sure that doesn’t go to waste by doing all you can to get their work in front of people who will read it:
- Post and promote their articles on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Compile new articles into an email newsletter and send it out to your company’s mailing list.
- Find some of the more popular blogs in your industry and ask if they might be interested in a few guest posts.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget about the captive audience you have in your own office. Every time someone writes a new article, send the link around by email, with a few sentences of your own congratulating the writer for a job well done and encouraging everyone else to read it and comment on it. A few comments from your internal team might be just what it takes to spark a conversation by outside readers on one of your articles.
4. Call in the Pros
When all else fails, there are always professional writers available. If you can’t convince anyone in your company to take up the proverbial quill again, don’t just give up on your blogging project. Professional writers will never be able to exactly match the voice and expertise of your team members, but the best ones will come pretty close.
The important thing with professional writers, though, is to give them crystal-clear instructions on what you want them to write. If you can’t do that, have them come in and interview your team and turn those interviews into blog material. (Where can you find professional content creators with the expertise to conduct a fruitful interview and help you identify the topics to write about? There’s always your friendly neighborhood inbound marketing agency.)
Chances are, if you juice your blog with professional writing, and promote it correctly, your internal team members will be eager to join the fun once they see how successful your blog has become and how useful it is for generating new business.
"On Content" is an ongoing blog series by IMR content manager Matthew Cook that confronts the difficulties and celebrates the pleasures of writing online content.