In many markets and industries, sales and marketing has evolved from cold calling, prospecting and advertising to what we call “social selling.”
Social selling involves connecting with prospects and existing customers in new ways. In the B2B world, it involves putting company leaders out there and giving away some hard-earned IP.
So in this new world of social selling, I often get asked by CEOs, “Should I blog?”
My answer? Not so fast.
Like any element in an integrated marketing strategy, you need to start with the view from 30,000 feet. And that takes some planning. Here, I’ve outlined the five steps to creating a successful editorial strategy, which will help you determine whether blogging makes sense:
- Solidify positioning
- Articulate the message
- Determine an editorial strategy
- Create the editorial calendar
- Leverage the content you create
Step 1: Solidify positioning.
In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, you need to carve out a position. What do you think of when you think of Apple? Innovative, technology leader, sleek user interface. Regardless of the product they roll out next, you would expect it to be all these things. Similarly, LinkedIn, on the surface, is a social network like most others: you can post, share, like, refer, recommend, connect. But its position is the social network for professionals. No cat videos, please! It’s clear and differentiated – not on feature set but on positioning.
So ask yourself – how do you want your company to be known in your market? Are you the smartest people in the market? Most technologically advanced? Premium brand? Cost leader? Value driven? What kind of emotional experience does your product deliver? Start there.
Step 2: Articulate the message.
Positioning defines how you want to be known. Messaging brings that to life. Your company messaging should be codified in what I call a verbal tool kit – the building blocks that gives you the wording, phrases and focus to describe your company, its product and its value, regardless of form or medium – press release, web copy, advertising messaging, sales letters, blogs and so on.
Step 3: Develop the editorial strategy.
The editorial strategy needs to drive your messaging and positioning into the market and address a slew of essential questions:
- What is the content creation process and division of labor?
- How much content will you create, what forms and when?
- What’s the tone, targets and dissemination methodology?
- What are you going to write about and how often?
- Are there costs involved?
- Who owns the process?
For example, it was determined for an Altitude client that we would produce one long-form white paper per year, one case study per quarter, one original blog per month and micro content three days per week.
We knew that the long-form piece would consist of some primary research, an investment of time and dollars and would take several months to produce. This investment was worth it because the strategy called to use that piece for many different uses (see leveraging content below).
Each case study would be written in a way that it drove home one of four key messages that were developed in step 2 above. It was incumbent on the client to identify and gain buy-in from the clients it wanted to profile in these case studies and get them to agree to be interviewed.
It was determined that the COO would be the voice and face of the company – but he is a busy guy – and not a particularly good writer. However, we knew he had great vision about the future of the market, an abundance of ideas and a bounty of thoughts on the marketplace. He does well talking about a subject when asked. So rather than expect him to produce the bulk of the content, it was determined for the monthly pieces that we needed to take a more journalistic approach with him – interview him on a focused topic that would result in a solid first round draft. Where appropriate, the monthly blogs – while their exact topic were not yet known – would key in on the focal point of major industry events they were about to attend.
And the micro content would be a 50/50 mix of planned content extracted from everything else that was being written and unplanned responses to what other people in the industry were posting and talking about. Company leadership wasn’t exactly social media savvy so a little bit of Social 101 was needed to educate leadership on how to leverage and work it.
Step 4: Create the editorial calendar.
The editorial calendar is the glue that holds all of this together. It’s broken up into 52 weeks or into 12 months (depending on the circumstance and client), and sliced and diced a number of ways – timing, format, taskee and so on. It gets looked at daily, worked on weekly, measured monthly and adjusted quarterly. It’s the road map that helps you stick to your editorial strategy.
The division of labor needs to be determined and timelines created. Accountability needs to be assigned. Topics need to be created well in advance. Every article/blog must reinforce the positioning and messaging, key terms needed to be woven in where appropriate and proof points sprinkled in.
It doesn’t need to be much more complicated than a spreadsheet with months and weeks running along one axis, and topic, writer, editor, deadlines and status along the other axis.
Step 5: Leverage the content you create.
Your editorial strategy should enable you to work smarter, not harder. If you produce a long-form white paper or a bit of primary research for the market, don’t just let it sit in its long-form. Pitch it to the trade media, use it as the basis for abstracts for speaking engagements at industry events, make it available as a premium download from your website as a way to capture names and email addresses. Use bits, bites and stats from the paper to drive website traffic and downloads of the paper through social media.
If you write a good blog, chunk it up into a dozen or more Tweets and drive traffic from Twitter to the website. Repackage it into a quarterly e-newletter. Pull an excerpt and post a thought as part of a LinkedIn discussion group. Plan, codify and integrate this into a process and it will happen with the frequency needed to make a real impact.
Get your employees involved. While you can’t force them to use their own social media for company purposes, you can encourage and ask them to do so. For every piece of content you create, arm your leadership team and employees with the necessary short intro for anyone in the company to share on LinkedIn, through Twitter and if appropriate, via Facebook. Think about the impact. If your company writes a blog and only posts it to its own website, its reach is limited to the number of people visiting your site. But if just a dozen people in your company push it out through social channels – to potentially thousands of viewers – the impact and reach grows exponentially.
So, only after considering all of these steps and developing a plan of action, should you ask yourself, “Should I blog?”