What you need to know about having a blog



Blogging after 1 year

Today is the first birthday of my personal blog, This is Actually Happening.  In the past year, I have learned a lot about the benefits and challenges of having a blog – actually, several blogs. In addition to Actually Happening, I also have this Freestone blog, and I am the editor and author of blogs for two of my clients. Needless to say, I jumped head first into blogging this past year. Trial by fire; learning at mach speed.

I get asked by clients and colleagues about what it is like to have and upkeep a blog. So in honour of Actually Happening’s big day, I thought I would share my experiences thus far:

Sun Tzu knows best. Strategy and planning always win the day. Even when it comes blogging. Just having a blog isn’t enough. You need to think about how you’ll unleash your words to the masses and win them over. You need to be on Twitter and Facebook so you have a way to share your blog posts. You can also share through LinkedIn and Google+. Keeping a blog and hoping that people find you isn’t using your blog to its fullest. If you are going to start and write a blog and make it work, you need to get involved in other social media networks too.

Sometimes you’re Batman. A good blog post can wield a lot of power. When you see the response that your ideas have with people you don’t even know (thanks to spreading the word through social media networks), you begin to see that blogging done right can be pretty powerful. You or your company can come out of nowhere and say something that resonates, engages and connects with complete strangers. Assume at all times that people are reading and that what you say will be noticed. But unlike Batman, there is no Batcave to retreat to when you are engaged in social media, and blogging is no different. There is no place to hide.

Do you pre-qualify? Your blog, whether personal or professional, will be used to pre-qualify you. For jobs and with new clients. It is important to remember that your blog is a part of your professional and personal brand. Your blog is an online extension of you and your company. What you write and how your blog looks are all a part of the equation (the design and layout of your blog is just as important as what you write). People will use your blog to learn more about you, your company and figure out if you are a good fit. My blog has prequalified me on more than one occasion.

Where’s that extra hour in the day? Blogging takes time. Depending on the post, it takes me between 2-4 hours to write and publish a post. Granted, my posts read more like magazine articles than random streams of consciousness like you find on some blogs. For me, most posts come together quickly, like my most popular post to date, “Single and the City“, because the words are just sitting there, waiting to be released.  Other posts like, “We are a city in denial” took a few kicks to get it right. And sometimes finding the right photo to accompany your post can seem to take forever. If you are someone who writes frequently, count on 2-3 hours per post. If writing is a side gig or something you want to work on, plan on a little more time.

Blog guilt is real. Writing posts on a regular basis can be hard. In the beginning, I had told myself that I wanted to post once a week. Then that changed to twice a week. Then once a month. And then more than a month went by in November where I didn’t write a thing and I was racked with guilt for not taking care of my blog. Blogging requires discipline. The incentive now is that I don’t want someone to open a monthly archive on my blog and see nothing there.  Post once a month and you’re doing well.

Drive-by smear attacks happen. You put yourself out there when you have a blog. And when you put yourself out there, sometimes you come under attack. I have had a few crazy people who are complete strangers comment on blog posts and gone too far – rather than disagreeing with my opinion and words (which I expect), they attack me personally. It can be unsettling, especially when there is so much of you available online. Just remember that everything has a downside, even blogging, and that you can choose to not publish their cowardly comments.

Forget therapy or the open mic. With a blog, you have a platform. A voice. It is a way to talk about subject matters or issues that you know or care a lot about. Yes, there are millions of blogs out there. Some of them are very good, many of them are really bad. And most of them are just average. Don’t try to be something you aren’t, and don’t create the blog as a way to pump your ego or fill a void. Use it as an outlet, as a way for people to learn more about you, your company and what you do or know, and have fun with it. You define the blog, rather than letting the blog define you.

When to use focus groups: Getting to the heart of what your customers think, and why



Mad Men focus groups

In my communications and PR work with various companies and organizations, I am always asking the question: “Do you know what your customers, stakeholders or employees really think, and why?”

Every time this question comes up, my next question often is, “Have you thought about doing focus groups?” For those that have never done focus groups, there’s often a list of reasons why they haven’t pursued it, and many times, the decision to not do focus groups is based on ignorance. They haven’t had the opportunity to see the value of spending the time and money, and the resulting benefit focus groups can bring.

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Companies in crisis: good and bad CEO video apologies



As I watched Mike Lazaridis, the founder and co-CEO of Research In Motion, deliver his video apology to Blackberry users worldwide for the multi-day service outages in October 2011, I was struck at how poorly the message and the CEO came across. For an innovative technology company, I expected more. The CEO was awkwardly reading from cue cards which made his message seem insincere. To add further injury, the stark, grey background in the video made Lazaridis look like he was delivering his apology from a prison (which may have been how he felt).

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7 must-do’s for effective community consultation meetings



If you have ever had to organize a community consultation meeting, you know that these meetings can be a slippery slope.

Companies with development projects in neighbourhoods – building multifamily homes, large healthcare facilities, cell phone towers and the like – are often required by municipal bylaw to hold a consultation meeting with the surrounding community. Or, in some cases, organizations hold a meeting simply because they are a good corporate citizen.

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