From the day I received my first five-year diary as a child I was hooked on recording life’s events. I became an observer of people and analyser of my deepest thoughts. So, in my search for topics to include in my 2019 desk calendar, I was intrigued to read about ‘the greatest diarist of all’, Samuel Pepys, born 23 February 1633.
Like me, Pepys recorded his thoughts most days for many years. Unlike me, he sat hunched over a candle and captured key moments in British history, such as the political turmoil of 17th century life, the plague and the Great Fire of London.
Blogging really took off in 1999, with the launch of the free service www.blogger.com. Overnight the number of blogs seemingly jumped from dozens to thousands. And, instead of being upset if someone read our deepest, most private thoughts (particularly in the case of my five-year diary!) the opposite became true, with blogging success generally measured by the number of clicks, opens and subscriptions.
Blogs as part of corporate conversations
So, what’s the point of internal blogs? We know that the number of clicks and open rates alone aren’t suitable communication objectives. The whole point is about outcomes not outputs, such as enabling conversations and collaborations, encouraging an open and honest culture, listening to the views of others and inspiring people to work together to innovate and come up with great ideas.
This year’s State of the Sector report from Gatehouse show blogs have the biggest decrease in usage amongst digital channels. So, not the most popular way to connect with employees, but a great internal comms tool if used wisely as part of a multi-channel content strategy.
I’ve produced numerous blogs for clients as one of many ways to connect with employees and encourage conversations across roles, ranks and geographies. From an all-singing, high budget monthly vlog for Nissan, providing updates on the corporate strategy from a newly appointed head of sales and marketing, to a low-budget production filmed on an exec’s mobile and uploaded as and when. Two totally different approaches, each with their own objectives and challenges for internal communicators.
I spoke to three communication specialists about internal blogs. Here’s what they had to say…
Everyone has a story to tell
Blogs needn’t be just top-down messages from the boss, as this example from Nicholas Wardle, Head of Employee Engagement & Communications at One Housing proves.
“We have a blog widget on our intranet. All employees are encouraged to blog about any work-related topic they choose, and the content is unedited. We trust our people to discuss relevant topics, and no one so far has disappointed. People from across the business blog, from our CEO to people in Finance to people working in our Senior Living homes. In the last month alone, we’ve had around fifty unique bloggers.
“Readers can leave comments and can ‘like’, so we can track the engagement. If the Internal Comms team sees the seed of an idea for a bigger story, we will get in touch with the blogger.
“Blogging is a great way for people to share successes and some ‘softer news’. The blog widget was set up as stories are always more powerful when they come from ‘the people’ rather than the sanitised corporate centre. This unedited content means that readers will have a rounded view of what’s going on across One Housing and the topics which are important to our people.
“We believe everyone has a story to tell and are encouraged to do so.”
Blogs help leaders share the bigger picture
Helping leaders engage their teams is one of communications consultant and coach Saskia Jones’ favourite areas to work on.
“In one organisation I work with, the CEO writes a blog at least once a month. This is part of an agreed internal communications plan connecting leadership to staff and has become a natural part of how he communicates. He often writes following a trip to regional offices and sites, sharing personal stories of the people he has met, highlighting a particular area of the business, and showing how this connects to the bigger picture and the over-arching goals and mission. Sometimes the blog is accompanied by a video. The blogs are personal, informative and inspirational. The internal communications team help hone the content – ensuring they are translated and go out in the right format at the right time, but do not ever need to significantly alter them. I think this was helped by agreeing a suggested style when the blogs first began. Often the internal CEO blog is then shared externally with other stakeholders too.”
Blogs can be divisive
Interim IC Tim Smith adds: “Comms people need to encourage leaders to think carefully about what outcome they want to get from their blog and the tone of voice they want to use (rather than pitching straight into it because it seems like a good idea of the ‘latest thing’, which is often what happens).
“I saw this with the Chief Executive of a large organisation, who was an early adopter of leadership blogging a few years ago. He decided to use a very personal, chatty style – talking about how his football team had done at the weekend or the latest CD he had bought, as well as work issues. This had a complete Marmite reaction – half the people who read it liked the fact that he seemed human and to find out more about him as a person, but it completed alienated the other 50%. Their view could be summarised as: ‘x is being paid a lot of money to lead this organisation – I want to know how he’s going to take it forward and sort out some of the problems we face. I’m not interested in what he does at the weekend’.”
A great book on corporate blogging
In her first ever blog about blogs, author of ‘The Corporate Blogging Book’ (2006) Debbie Weil wrote: “There is no standard definition of a blog, but it usually means a web page that is updated daily by one person who posts a continuing stream of personal commentary and links, writing in an informal, conversational style.”
Weil says: “A blog gives the power of communication to individuals at all levels of an organisation, not just the most senior,” illustrated by technology magazine publisher Ziff Davis Media, who reduced group emails form 100 a day to zero after installing an internal blogging platform. This led to the forming of a 50-person team to launch a new product, which when added to the overall email reduction, saved the company around $1 million on an annual basis.
In fact, in 2006, when Weil’s book was first published, internal blogs were described as “a user-friendly way to systematically categorize and retrieve the huge amount of information and knowledge that lay untapped inside most large organisations.” Obviously, things have moved on considerably since then, or have they?
Weil believes “corporate blogs are your digital hub – the mothership for all your social networking and on-line communications.”
An updated edition of ‘The Corporate Blogging Book’, published in 2017 claims “despite the buzz surrounding Facebook and Twitter, a blog remains the hub of social media marketing.”
What do you think?
The 13 Best Internal Communications Blogs – a great list from Kyla Sims at bananatag.
More about Samuel Pepys diary…
Be part of the conversation…
I’m blogging each month throughout 2019 as a reflection on my 20 years as an independent internal comms consultant. Join in the conversation with a guest blog or share your story on ‘Who’s who in IC‘.