I wasn’t actually planning on writing this post, but was inspired by a friend whose tech company has decided to enter the blogging space. He was an infrequent blogger before, waiting until he felt he had something he really needed to say. Then he’d spend hours and hours on a single post, obsessing and rewriting, reviewing and editing and then finally, apprehensively, hitting “publish”.

The company he works for is a best-in-class service provider, and they’re doing some really interesting things with technology to solve unique problems. It’s a small shop, and they wanted representatives from each of the departments (development, operations, marketing, sales) to write for their company blog.

I personally like this idea a lot. I like that their approach isn’t just marketing and sales-driven, it’s the whole company. All of the critical parts have a voice that gets heard, and you get to see how those voices work together to create a great company.

That’s a great start, but let’s step back and ask the most important question here: Why should companies blog?

The answers are all usually something like:
[checklist]

  • Achieve better search engine placement for our website/services
  • Be seen as a thought-leader in our industry
  • Demonstrate more transparency with our customers
  • ???
  • PROFIT!!

[/checklist]
As a company, starting a blog can be utterly nerve-wracking. How honest can you be? How often do you post? What do you post about? How far behind the curtain do you let your readers (meaning your customers, potential hires, and competitors) see?

That last one is a real doozy. You want to achieve a level of authenticity and transparency with your readers, without opening the kimono so far that you end up airing your own skidmarked dirty laundry, creating fear or doubt in your customers. It’s a fine line, and it’s different for every company.

I know, I know – curtains, kimonos, enough with the textiles and get to the point!

The plan this company came up with was to ask that each of the soon-to-be authors come up with one 300-word post every week. They’d then see what had to work with, and work out a content schedule based on what was good and deemed worthy of being included in the blog.

On its face, this seems like a perfectly sane strategy, however I was granted the honor of reading some of the posts my friend had written prior to them being published on the blog, and over time, I started to see the flaws in this plan.

The first few posts he had written were longer than 300-words. They were focused and passionate, articulate and confident, the way I know my friend to be.

As the weeks wore on, I watched the quality of these required posts dwindle. They became shorter, less focused. They said less, sometimes turning into faint, rambling echoes of their longer, earlier counterparts, without really adding anything new.

This strategy is tempting. Yes, you end up with more shit, but odds suggest that something within that pile of shit will be fit to print.

Did my friend suddenly start sucking? No. Did he suddenly lose his focus and ability to articulate technical details and decisions? Of course not. He was being asked to generate meaningful content when he had nothing meaningful to say.

But the more you publish, the better the SEO juice, right? WRONG.

When you publish shit, no one links to it, tweets it, likes it or shares it – which means it adds almost nothing to your search engine optimization.

This isn’t 2003 anymore. Simply having a shitload of content isn’t enough. Simply talking doesn’t cut it – you have to actually say something.

Remember that your reader’s time is precious and only publish content that truly reflects the passion and conviction of your company. Every post is potentially the first time a prospective customer will meet you. Make it count, and don’t you dare settle for publishing filler.

Yes, a content schedule is important. But would you rather read a blog that publishes less-often and blows your mind when they post, or a mediocre blog that pumps out lots of content but doesn’t really change your life or challenge your way of doing things?

In discussing this with my friend further, we may have figured a few things out. He likes the discipline of having to write every week. After all, you only get better at something with practice, right? But he also admits that his work was starting to seem rushed.

I think maybe the schedule was just too aggressive. It left no time for reflection on what was written, or for sitting down and figuring out the core company principles or capabilities he cares most deeply about that he can be a passionate ambassador for. Maybe something a little more sane would look like this: one week, editing the previous week’s work and brainstorming up to 5 ideas for next week. Next week, just writing. Rinse and repeat.

This would allow the writers to look at what they wrote with fresh eyes the following week, and give them the opportunity to refactor to make sure that post is the best it can be. At the end of the two weeks writing sprint, you’ve got yourself one great article instead of two mediocre ones, and your writer is fresh and inspired with the 5 new ideas they have to write about.

A simple test is to take a step back and ask yourself a few questions:

[checklist]

  • Would I subscribe to this blog?
  • Would I have learned anything from this post?
  • Did I come away with any actionable tasks after reading this?
  • If I didn’t have a vested interest in this company, is this post good enough that I would share it with my colleagues?

[/checklist]

Part of the point of blogging is to be seen as a thought-leader in your industry. Fucking act like it. If you wouldn’t read/like/tweet your content, why the hell would anyone else?

PS – Ironically, Why I hate bloggers that give blogging advice is listed as a related post below this article.

Image credit: Mel Bochner

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I’m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist. I'm the CTO at Mass Mosaic and the CEO of Grokability, Inc. in San Diego, CA. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more...