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Business Blogging: Beyond Press Releases

Five Questions for DL Byron By Esther Schindler
DL Byron, the Principal of Textura Design, Inc, has lived dotcoms, dotcom crashes, and Clip-n-Seal. He co-founded the Blog Business Summit, and publishes a network of successful blogs, including one of the first business blogs. Now, the co-author of Publish & Prosper: Blogging for Your Business, a Peachpit Press book, is evangelizing standards-based design, and speaking at conferences about business blogging. We found a few minutes to connect with him between airline flights.

Q: While individuals have been blogging for several years now, it's only relatively recently that companies have seen the advantages to sponsoring or encouraging business blogs. What are the advantages that they expect to gain... and what advantages do they get without expecting it?

The main advantage is "findability" for a smaller company; and for a larger company, like a corporation, it's extending the brand -- opening up the kimono a bit and showing the people behind the company and talking directly with their customers.

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In the case of Clip-n-Seal, we built a company with blogs and our success has come from businesses being able to find us. Entirely new markets have opened, ones that we didn't know existed, because they found us on Google. NASA, Pfizer, the British Antarctica Survey, and many more have all searched for a bag closure and found us. When I speak at the Blog Business Summit about success in the blogosphere, I often say, Clip-n-Seal went from blogs to space.

For corporations like Boeing, see what they did with the Flight Test Journal. They blogged live while testing airplanes, and had never really discussed publicly how they test planes. It was fascinating, and showed how they have really smart, passionate people working for them. That's what blogging is all about: being passionate about what you do.

Q: What are the most common misconceptions about business blogging?

We often get asked, what am I going to say and who's going to write it. Imagine the pitch for American Chopper . . . three burly guys wrenching bikes in a garage that yell at each other. Doesn't sound that compelling until you watch it and realize it's about the  backstory. The relationships the family has and the show is a hit. So for any business, no matter how boring they think they maybe, I bet there are great backstories that they could tell and that's what they should blog about.

Q: How can a company screw it up?

By blogging without first learning about the blogopshere, blogging like it's a press release, and not first reading a bunch of blogs. It's a lot like trying to fit in with the cool kids. You need to know the culture, the rules, the slang, and how it works. The majority of our consulting is just talking to business about the blogosphere and explaining what it's all about.

The screw ups include Raging Cow, McDonalds, Kryptonite, and more.

Just like blogs changed politics, they've changed business. All of those examples, and many more, are because the businesses did what years of PR have told them. Stonewall and you can't do that in the blogosphere. You have to be forthright and respond honestly. See the Sony CD copy protection example of how to have your brand severely damaged by not understanding how the blogopshere works.

Q: Some companies are poster children for business blogging. What is it that these folks have gotten right?

They just started having conversations with their customers. It's really not that hard or mysterious. The why is obvious. The how is what we teach and are writing about in our book. The specifics of how a blog engine works is what businesses need to learn.

Q: If a company sees a business blog as primarily a PR or marketing tool, then how can -- or should -- it control what employees say?

If they see it as that, they should stop now, fire their PR firm, regroup and start over. The marketing benefits and PR will naturally follow a good blog. Setting out to pitch bloggers or marketing to the blogosphere is exactly how to screw it up. Regarding employees blogging, there's one rule: don't blog anything that'll get you fired.

Q: What else?

Blogging is a creative medium that enables business to tell their story, have a conversation, and offer syndication for their readers. What's revolutionary is that it's editable and expressive. Finally, more than ten years in, the technology of the web gets out of the way and allows a business to express their business plans, new products, ideas, and whatever else. Is the closest we've got to what Tim Berners-Lee originally envisioned when he invented the web.

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Esther Schindler has been writing about technology professionally since 1992, and her byline has appeared in dozens of IT publications. She's optimized compilers, owned a computer store, taught corporate training classes, moderated online communities, run computer user groups, and, in her spare time, written a few books. You can reach her at [email protected]
Related Keywords:social media, public relations, blog, business blogging, online

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