Last week I attended Australia’s largest and longest running blogging event called Problogger and I learned some valuable lessons. After hearing many presentations and speaking to the business bloggers there, I thought I’d share a few things corporate bloggers should know if they want to take their blogging OUTSIDE of their company in the future.
A Blog is a Blog, or Is It?
During the time I was a salaried employee, I wrote in the enterprise social network such as Yammer. I felt that as a corporate blogger inside the company I could write a lot more about my work with business clients because I wasn’t under privacy or sensitive information constraints. With everything being behind in the firewall, this afforded some comfort knowing that I was going against the company social media policy.
However, I often wondered what would happen to my corporate blog writing once I left the company? All my thoughts, ideas, examples of my work would remain inaccessible to me – at times it felt like I had left a bit of myself back with my previous employer. My writing has always been personal – and over the last week, I began to wonder about others who:
- Blog inside the company, enjoy the work and their specialist knowledge and want to share their work opportunities and challenges to others externally
- Entertain niggling thoughts at the back of their mind about going ‘freelance’ one day, or reducing work hours or starting their own consulting business
- Demonstrated value and expertise in the company that supported its strategic objectives and have no evidence to show this in a public portfolio of work except for a few lines in their CV
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, then I’d like to share three things that I have learned on what you can do to make sure that when you do make the move to a public blog.
(1) Decide on Your Blog Style but Make Sure That It’s in YOUR Voice
People will provide different explanations for their blogs.
One person will tell you it’s an online sense making space for reflections and for showing and sharing your work in your voice; to connect with others through sharing ideas in the comments and over time, building a community who connect with the content and with you over the topic.
Meanwhile, others will tell you that is is a magnet to generate leads for your business where you share actionable blog posts and downloadable resources such as courses and e-books as well as use affiliate links to create a passive income so you don’t trade your time for money.
Either way, it’s your call.
There is no right or wrong answer. You will find people telling you all sorts of ideas of how THEY think YOU should blog.
In my experience, these people have found success in finding the formula that works for them which may not work for you. Others just like giving you advice without never having blogged themselves. Ignore them.
I would say DIG down and ask the ones who did blog some hard questions because you’ll find pros and cons with each of the above situations.
For example, when I first started this blog I was a salaried employee and I opted for the former. I knew that blogs could generate an income for me but it wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking back then. Also in my mind, I couldn’t balance the paradox of being open and sharing on the one hand and then create a gated community of who I could sell to. The role modelling of openness, sharing and transparency that came with building trust in social media and networks didn’t marry with this business model.
However, now that I’m working on my own, it’s a whole different story. I’m seeing another angle to this and looking at my work more objectively because my livelihood depends on it. It’s made doubly hard for me because I cannot openly share the details of my work and the case studies to my readers (who are mainly in the field of corporate Learning and Development) because I sign non-disclosure agreements with these clients.
So the question is, what do you want your blog to be to take into account a possible change in direction in the future of your work?
That’s your choice – and don’t feel guilty that your answer may change as your work situation changes.
Personally, I have decided for a blend of both now and that’s why you can see some downloadable resources, donations and affiliate links. Over time, I will add more and hope to build the site to be a resource not just for corporate Learning and Development but for any individual interested in expressing their unique voice, knowledge, skills and talents when it comes to open and authentic connections and experiences in their work.
If you’re blogging inside your company firewall on your enterprise social network and you foresee a time where you may not stay with that company in the long term, consider setting up your own public blog which can be a free or a self-hosted site. If you’re thinking of creating a business or freelancing I would encourage buying a domain name and a basic hosting package that will be your own online real estate that will be owned by you – for you.
I would also recommend setting up a basic Search Engine Optimisation plugin on your blog from the first day. (I now use Yoast). This will allow your posts to be searchable by Google and let’s face it, a Google search is still the primary way people find information. (Ah, the benefit of hindsight – I WISH I knew about this YEARS ago when I started blogging).
Consider sites such as WordPress.com, Squarespace or other branded blogs that you can build upon over time and add components [“plugins”] to them that you can sell products and services if this is your long term goal.
This will give you the peace of mind that you have a good starting point from which to launch your ideas to the world.
If you’re not ready to go with your own blog, consider blogging on such sites such as Medium or LinkedIn. This will mean that a wider audience will see your writing but one word of advice: back up every single post you write on platforms outside your own website so that you can reuse, re-customise or publish these again on your own blog site when the time comes.
As we’ve seen with the demise of some social media, platforms come and go and if your writing is on a platform that you don’t own, there’s more likelihood that you could lose it all if they go bust or change their algorithms of how content is published.
(3) Show Value
Oh if I had a dollar every time someone mentioned this at Problogger.
I looked at all the successful bloggers, vloggers and Snapchatters and one common theme is that they’re providing value to their audience by educating, informing and inspiring them in their own UNIQUE way. I believe that how value is defined is different for some people and that you cannot follow someone else’s formula if it doesn’t sit or feel right with you.
Personally, I’ve decided to use my blog as my personal online reflection and learning space. Others take issue with this and tell me that I must write for a specific audience and show value to my audience.
Therein lies the paradox once again.
If I’m espousing learning and sharing my work in public for the benefit of building new networks, connections, and relationships it stands to reason that I must role model these attributes and therefore, not dictate, direct, tell or lecture my readers on how they need to do this. They have to find this out for themselves.
My value is by demonstrating the process openly so people will have the courage to express their own voice in their own way. I can pump out the generic blog posts “5 Tips to Successful Learning Practices” or “10 Ways to Build a Community in Yammer” however, it’s likely that I’ll pack up this blog and use my time knitting instead. (I’ve since been told that people WANT this stuff so I’m going to check what my most popular blog posts were to test this theory out. I have a sneaking suspicion they’re right because people want quick tips and free resources).
So when it comes to making a move from your corporate blog to a public blog, my advice is that people will tell you all sorts of things. Instead of being confused, ignore the ones who offer advice and suggestions without having the experience and instead:
- Write the blog in your voice and in the manner that YOU want
- Be mindful that your purpose of your blog may change with your work situation – and that’s okay
- At all times be open and honest with your readers and they’ll be more accepting as you progress through the journey.