For years, I have been recommending that companies collaborate on a corporate blog. The thinking, of course, is that if there are more people shouldering the responsibility of the business’s online presence, then each contributing person will have to invest less time, individually.
Well, I was wrong about how collaborative blogs work in practice. Sure, in theory, I’m right — if there’s a team regularly and consistently contributing to a blog, then it can work and really rock. In reality, it rarely happens and if it does happen, there’s some arm-twisting involved, for sure.
Collaborative blogs, though, suck time from people who feel like they don’t have any to begin with; they suck energy out of people who were once enthusiastic contributors and writers, when they end up having blogging as an item on their “to do” list. They suck the fun out of a company that otherwise, and in other places (e.g. in person, on the phone), enjoys telling the stories of the organization. They suck for the people left holding the leash and feeding the beast because it exists and is important, but there’s no accountability (stick, carrot, or otherwise). In short, they suck.
I’ve contributed to collaborative, multiple author blogs of several types. They work best when there’s absolute buy-in from contributors. They work when contributors are contributing because they want to and get out of it what they want (money, accolades, satisfaction, engagement, the thrill of writing, etc.) They work when contributors are very passionate about their topic. They work when contributors always have a lot to say or share.
They DON’T work, or do particularly well when there’s no clear manager or leader. It’s difficult to maintain a collaborative blog unless, in reality, the blog is restructured to have one main voice or contributor and others who function as guest bloggers, with appearances so infrequent that name and voice recognition does not exist among the blog’s readership. Another model some have adopted is a rigorous schedule, e.g. Alex posts every Monday. Bob posts on Wednesdays. June posts on Thursdays. Fridays are a combined-effort post containing social bookmarking links of what the team read that week. It works, but only if Alex, Bob and June clearly understand that this blogging thing is PART OF THEIR JOB. And often, the only way they will understand this is if their blog participation is part of their review and impacts their compensation and/or job performance rating.
Have you seen a truly collaborative blog model that works? What is happening behind the scenes?
My first stint into blogging, other than my own nascent efforts at mommy blogging in 2004, came in the form of a collaborative, not defunct, blog called DotMoms. It was a fun and new idea (at the time) so I found it easy to contribute. In the throes of new motherhood, I laughed, cried and blogged with the best of them. We didn’t represent a corporation (other than the sisterhood of motherhood) and I was sad to see it go. Oftentimes, the trouble with corporate collaborative blogs is the sore imbalance between the level of motivation going into it and the level of satisfaction going out of it.
Hi there 🙂
I do believe that they can work well, but agree that a central leader is needed. Like most marketing initiatives, it’s much harder than it looks…
I’m currently helping a number of B2B clients launch blogs and social media ventures. What I’ve found effective is to “break down” work into very manageable pieces. Blogs get detailed editorial calendars, for example.
It’s easier to tackle a small-ish project than a large one, after all…
Very insightful post, Marijean! I think you summed up the issue with collaborative blogs perfectly, however I still think they’re a great idea. I know when people get busy blogging feels like an easy thing to let slide, but we know first-hand that Standing’s blog is one of the biggest pieces of our digital footprint.
In many cases, I believe people just need to be reminded that the cool things they can’t wait to share at work are also worth sharing on the blog. I don’t think the solution is to give one person the responsibility of writing every single blog post. The blog is the company’s voice and having multiple authors reflects that fact.
Thanks Ashlyn — I agree that it can work, it’s just very frustrating to see when they don’t.
I’m looking at ways to inspire and reward people responsible for producing content — and in some cases, requiring clients to point to specific, passionate people to own the project. Without that passion, the project may limp along. Thanks, as always for your input on this continuing topic!