Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2: Tis just another PR outlet

By Subraya Mallya - August 2010 | Topics - Marketing

Marketing when done right can yield great results. But in most cases they are misdirected efforts. I am making an attempt to call them out under this Anti-Patterns series. For each of those I propose  alternative methods that would meet the goal.

If you have not had the chance to read my previous post in this series you can find it here – Anti Pattern #1 – Keep ‘em under lock and key

Social Media has effectively stripped companies of the choice of whether they want to embrace it or not. Like it or not, their customers/prospects are already there and having conversations about their products/services. The smart thing companies can do is join in and foster the discussions and use it constructively lest be bystanders and watch their reputation being tarnished. In the past trade-shows represented the congregation of customers in one place. In today’s age, social media is the equivalent to having global trade-shows on a daily basis 24X7.

Companies in an effort to create a social media presence have increasingly started blogging, tweeting and create presence in community sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. According to various estimates, there are upwards of 50 million blogs being actively maintained across the world. They have become essentially the free-press in the new world. They have become a quintessential source of information on the web. Blogs, to a large extent, have supplanted the static websites that were staple of the web in the early 1990s. Most people think a corporate blog is an extension of the company website. There is merit to that. Here are some commonly found mis-uses of corporate blog that might have caused people to think as such. In my view a blog is NOT

  • A PR outlet – Companies routinely use blog for spewing out content that is highly marketing in nature. PR to a large extent is wasted. People don’t trust that information. Just like efforts on PR Newswire the efforts on your blog will be down the drain pretty soon if you use it as a PR outlet. The less corporate speak you have on your blog the better.
  • A Product Release location – Google is an exception here. But for most companies, product release includes much more information than just announcement. It needs to be a little more organized and easy to navigate. Remember your SLA is tied to support. A support organization typically needs to get involved in that. If you must – then have a different blog for support so the target audience is focused. Last thing you want is your customers ranting about product release quality issues on your corporate blog.
  • A Product Documentation site – I have seen companies use blog to explain the minutiae related to their product features in a blog post only to see there are no takers for that. If you really want to share product documentation and make it engaging use a wiki instead. You also get a chance to engage your customer, partners and user community at large to manage it.
  • A demand generation tool but not quite – It is no secret – the overarching agenda behind writing and maintaining a blog is to eventually help generate demand for the company. But that should not be the center of focus in each and every blog you write. Hawking your wares at every opportunity on the blog can be nauseating for the reader. So discretion is highly recommended.
  • Source for dilution of your secret sauce: Companies, most large ones, fear that sharing more information might attract the competition and that might lead to sharing your secrets. This is the most ridiculous of thoughts. If your competition does want secrets, there are many avenues to do that – your blog is the last resort.

A blog is increasingly becoming your company’s persona. It is an opportunity to share with the outside world

  1. Thought Leadership: Share thought leadership and expertise in your product space that goes much beyond what specifically your company and your product does.  For e.g. if you are delivering a Customer Service application – your site should be a go to place for all things Customer Service. A good example of this is HubSpot. They do a great job of educating people on topics around Online Marketing – branding, SEO, best practices around lead nurturing etc.
  2. Foster Conversations: Make your topics conversational. The more dialogues you create the more viral it will get. People like to participate in conversations and not listen to pontification. The conversations you start on your blog invariably will spread into other blogs across the blogosphere and spawn more conversations. This will create a lot of mind share and brand awareness for your product. Heck it will, in most cases, give you your next topic to write about. Engaging with other fellow bloggers (or influencers as they would like to call themselves) can create truly meaningful conversations and provide your contacts in the community that can help you in your product adoption, brand creation.
  3. Spread the Joy: Most companies have one or two bloggers in the company blogging – mostly those from marketing. To me that is no different than PR. I am not sure marketing is the best team to blog in the first place. The best people in the company to talk about the product are the people who create them. So encourage your Product Managers, Engineers, Architects to share their knowledge. Lot of tech guys get overwhelmed at the thought of writing publicly. Remember you are just having a conversation – not writing a book. If you are not comfortable with what you wrote, have a colleague of your proof read it for you. Better yet, write joint posts where you can use the other as sounding board. If writing product blog posts is not your thing, do blog posts in Q&A format interviews between Support and Product team or Client Services team. That is another way to share insights to the larger user community. A tip for some of you – please don’t use generic account names for authors of blog post like admin, marketing etc. Put a name and face to the words.
  4. A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words: In this day of high attention deficit, writing long, text-heavy posts might loose you readers faster than you gain. Make your post interactive and visual with pictures, flowcharts, videos and charts. That helps illustrate your point better than just paragraphs after paragraphs of text. I am personally trying to do this much more myself.
  5. Give it a purpose: People always look for what-is-in-it-for-me (WIIIFM) factor. So if you are getting someone to read your blog, that you have put hard work into, make sure they feel they gained something from it.  A good way to do that is to always close your blog posts with a call to action. It could be 3 Things to do in their company or a spreadsheet template that they can download and model the cost or best practice tips to configure your application server.

If you are not one of those companies that blogs, you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to engage with customers, prospects and contribute to the success of your company. In the days before blogs, this used to be a paid effort done by third parties, newspapers. With the advances in technology you now have an opportunity to do it yourself. With a few thoughtful guidelines to separate them from your corporate website, you can find loyal followers. Happy Blogging !

Thoughts shared by readers (4)

  1. Rajesh Raheja Says:

    Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on what the rest of the non-marketing folks would blog about – if not how good their product is, or when it is releasing or about the minutiae. Apart from the PR (which I agree with you should not be overdone on a blog to keep it relevant), I think the other two have a place and add value to the blog. For example, rather than reading thousands of pages of documentation, a blog article pointing to a specific feature comes in handy for those at that stage of product usage. Come to think of it, most magazine articles are also about some minutiae that you could/should find in some documentation but is far more effectively read when it comes from a blog e.g. Top 10 things about iPhone etc.


  2. Subraya Mallya Says:

    When a company keeps highlighting how good their product is on the blog – it looses the objectivity. That said, all the following would be great candidates for blogging

    • Highlighting nuances of the product that are not obvious
    • A best practice implementation strategy
    • Lessons learnt during beta/early adopter customer implementations
    • Performance/Scaling strategies
    • Customization strategies

    I think distilling product documentation into a must-read is definitely a good idea. But it also begs the question as to that why documentation abstract cannot be part of the documentation as a quick reference.

    Check the blogs of HubSpot or Intacct. They do a great job of educating prospects/readers about areas around the product. In fact, Steve Muench from Oracle does a great job on his blog of explaining various strategies around ADF/BC4J. While reading you get the experience of learning the concepts more than learning a product. To me that is thought leadership. The blogger should speak from the point of view of the industry/technology in general and not specific to the product. That makes it utilitarian and not seemingly hawking their wares.

    I put blogging in the category of doing good no matter what with no real focus on selling ones own product. Surprisingly, it has pay-it-forward effect on the product. It elevates the company to a strategic adviser bracket from just being another vendor.

    Happy to discuss more if you are interested.

  3. Rajesh Raheja Says:

    I agree with most of your assessment and I guess I am referring to the product strategy/best practices when talking about the minutiae. For example, one blog I like for its concreteness is the E-Business Suite blog i.e. – it has all the details while not being focused on the PR angle only.

    Would be a pleasure to meet up and discuss one of these days – hopefully can meet up during OOW10.

  4. Subraya Mallya Says:

    Thanks Rajesh. I agree Steven does a great job with his blog. In his case, I consider that as a support blog – which I think every company should have in addition to their company blog as once the company grows to the size of Oracle and the product become as big as it is now – someone needs to bring some sanity. And Steven’s blog does that.

    When it comes to the company blog, it should be serving the larger purpose which should be beyond just hawking the product.

    I am in OOW. Let us connect there. Would love to discuss this further.

Trackbacks For This Post (5)

  1. William Toll Says:

    Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2: Tis just another PR outlet: Last week, I started this series of marketing topics…

  2. William Toll Says:

    Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2: Tis just another PR outlet

  3. Sherbrooke Balser Says:

    Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2: Tis just another PR outlet …: A demand generation tool but not quite – It is n…

  4. Rajesh Raheja Says:

    Using corporate blogs effectively via @prudentcloud "Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2"

  5. Company Website - your best brand ambassador | PrudentCloud Says:

    […] it fester on the internet.For more ideas on what goes into the blog checkout my blogpost –  Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2: Tis just another PR outletPress and NewsThis is one of the most underutilized parts of the site in most companies. Companies […]

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