How many “kinds” of blog posts are there, and which are the most effective and interesting in a corporate environment? Is it possible to categorize all blog posts this way?
I was working on a blogging training presentation for a corporate client last night, trying to answer these questions. Here’s what I came up with:
Experiential: The experiential post uses personal experience to tell a relevant story. It is distinct from the trivial post, which can also be a narrative, because the experiential element is a story telling technique, but the larger story in the post is relevant to the company’s business. An experiential post might be based on observations made at a conference, solving a customer problem onsite or by phone, or even of a longer term experience, such as bringing a product to market, or hiring a new management team. A well written experiential post can be interesting and engaging. I write speeches for executives, and have always found that personal anecdotes are extremely effective and credible in bringing the company’s products and services alive.
Trivial: A trivial post is an off-topic post about personal experiences such as travel, or the purchase of the latest consumer electronics gadget. These do not generally relate to the business, but they can be useful in helping the blogger connect with his or her audience through shared experiences. The typical trivial post covers things like “should I get one of the new iPhones?” and “the cable company made me wait four hours.” From an emotional standpoint, the biggest byproduct of Web 2.0 is that people are empowered to whine and complain about things frustrate them, and this is often the kind of content found in a trivial post. While it does create a bond between the blogger and readers of the blog, it can become tiresome, and may reflect poorly on the executive’s public persona.
Strategic: An executive blog is perfect for communicating strategic information, such as quarterly results, a product announcement, a launch, or the goings-on at a major company event. Strategic posts are “deliberate,” that is they are designed and timed and not spontaneous. In a large company they are likely to be group efforts (despite all the hoopla about authenticity) in order to align with approved messaging and comply with financial disclosure requirements and other regulations. (Don’t let any CEO of a large company tell you that he or she does these posts solo. It just doesn’t happen that way.)
These tend to be important, particularly in terms of offering blog visitors something to comment on, but are not as interesting or effective as experiential or analytical posts.
Analytical: An analytical post offers an in depth discussion of a particular technology, industry trend, socioeconomic situation, business strategy or other topic. These posts are most like traditional print commentary in that they involve research, and while espousing the blogger’s point of view, should show balance and quote credible third party sources. A well written analytical post is great for “selling” the company’s strategy, or helping explain why the company chose a certain approach to a product or service. This kind of post also helps the executive be seen as engaged and knowledgeable about things that go on outside the four walls of the company.
Responsive: The responsive post is generally a rebuttal or reaction to another blog or a column. It isn’t really an altogether different post category, but since it is a response, the structure and the tone are unique. It can have many or all the elements of the analytical post. The responsive post may be driven, for example, by the need to get the company’s point of view into the conversation in reaction to a highly critical post, or to make people aware of a highly complimentary post. It’s also useful for generating topics when you’re not sure what to blog about, but when instead of reacting, you “blog first,” you start the conversation and you control the agenda. By starting the conversation, you better demonstrate originality, and the courage of your convictions, instead of taking a reactionary, and often defensive stance.
TOH Link: Many bloggers like to publish favorite links with little or no commentary and some even maintain separate link blogs for this purpose. The Tip-Of-the-Hat link post is the little brother to the responsive post. It is often just a few sentences long, and may start “great post by Dave on why social media is like the Peloponnesian War…” with a link to the post. Without at least a few lines on why Dave’s post is so great, and a few reactions or contributions that expand the conversation, these kinds of posts are of little utility in a corporate environment.
Educational: The educational post is often Web 1.0 content in disguise, but if the blogger is knowledgeable about the topic and involved in writing the post, it can be effective. These often have titles like “Top 10 Strategies for Long Term Data Archiving,” or “Popular Models for Utility Computing.” (You can see from all of the hypotheticals in this piece that I have spent WAY too much time in IT.) A former Google engineer told me that the Google algorithm loves numbered lists. This kind of post also has the potential to bore readers and evoke cries of “marketing hype.”
Crisis: The crisis post is a special case and difficult to critique in this framework. These are an unusual kind of responsive post in that they are based on reactions to events, announcements and other critical situations that may seriously affect the company’s reputation and its financial health. This type of post doesn’t really fit in this discussion, because it’s not something you make a strategic choice about. My advice: try not to have crises. If you do, post as soon as you can, briefly and honestly.
There are no doubt 100 varieties of blog posts that I haven’t covered here, but I thought I’d share this in case you find it useful. I’ve used similar explanations to help new bloggers answer the question, “what should I blog about and what tone should I use?”