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Have you considered authoring a business blog or corporate blog? What should you consider when planning your business blog to ensure it helps you achieve your online visibility and digital communications goal?

Earlier this year, a new corporate blog was launched by ESB International called Energy Innovation. I am delighted to bring you an interview with Bevin Cody, Marketing Manager of ESBI Engineering Solutions who provided insights into the planning of their new blog, overcoming objections to the corporate use of social media, sharing tips about setting metrics for the return of investment on your B2B social media communications plan, their experience of developing a content and editorial calendar and how to engage your employees with your corporate blog.

ESB-International-Energy-Innovation-Blog

 

Tell us a little about the organisation and your role in social media communications?

ESB International is an engineering consultancy business which is owned by ESB. We provide services to international clients in the energy sector and also carry out work for other parts of ESB.

We are also involved in a variety of projects to support the development and use of new technologies to reduce carbon emissions, particularly in the area of renewable generation.

As the Marketing Manager for ESBI, I have overall responsibility for developing and maintaining ESBI’s social media channels, including the business blog. I’m also on ESB’s Social Media Steering Group which is looking at opportunities for social media across all of ESB.

What gave you the initial inspiration to establish your business blog?

As part of the marketing planning process for this year, I was looking at ways to support certain business objectives – attracting new customers, building stronger relationships with existing customers and expanding into new markets.

A chance conversation I had with someone about the growing use of social media by B2B companies convinced me that a business blog would help to kill several birds with the one stone.

It allows us to use the expert views of our staff to attract the attention of new audiences across a very wide geographic market and reinforce existing relationships. We’ve done this in the past though conference presentations and press statements, but this is quite limited in scope and can be expensive.

The beauty of the ESB International Energy Innovation blog is that it makes it very easy for us to create and share content, and we’re able to use our staff and customers as advocates in a much more effective way – a bit like a giant word of mouth campaign.

The blog is also great because it puts a human face on the organisation in a way that other marketing channels can not.

What are your goals for the blog and how are you performing against those goals?

The objectives we set out the blog are as follows:

  • To drive traffic to the ESBI website
  • To build awareness of ESBI among new audiences
  • To establish ourselves as the authority on our areas of expertise
  • To present a more human face for ESBI
  • To reinforce our relationship with existing contacts.

In four months, we’ve had nearly 7,000 visitors to the site, and about 10 percent of these have gone on to visit our website.  Visitors usually spend just over two minutes on the site and visit about three pages.

Blog traffic is drawn from 106 countries around the world and so far, we have about 200 subscribers for blog alerts and 222 Twitter followers.

What was the reaction of your senior team when you told them you were planning a business blog as part of your marketing communications plan, for example did they have any concerns?

There was a mixed reaction to the proposal at first, which in retrospect probably reflected the extent to which each person already used social media themselves. Overall though, the reaction was positive and the concerns raised were valid.

The main concerns related to the level of work involved in updating and managing the blog, potential loss of control over communications messages, confidentiality issues and costs.

We were able to address concerns raised by providing more information, defining processes, developing a clear content plan and pointing out that the total cost of implementation was less than the cost of a couple of glossy brochures!

As it turned out, it was very helpful to hear concerns early in the process because we were able to address them during implementation and in our communications with the rest of the company.

What considerations did you have to take into account when deciding which blogging platform to use?

The biggest questions for me were:

  • how much will it cost?
  • do other reputable firms use it?
  • is it easy to use?
  • and is it compatible with other social media platforms?

What resources did you need to get started with the business blog?

We worked with two external agencies to implement the blog, DHR Communications and Connector. They designed and built the blog, and also worked with us to develop a content plan and a promotional plan.

They also hosted a workshop and a staff briefing for us to inform people about the objectives of the Energy Innovation blog and help them to understand how to identify good content and write interesting copy.

DHR helped us to develop the first few blog posts and provided training to the Marketing Team on using WordPress, Twitter and promoting the blog online and offline.

Other resources included communications material for staff, including a Q&A document and briefing sheets on how to write good blog content with tips on what staff could do to support the promotion of the blog.

You allow comments on the blog – do you moderate those comments and who has the responsibility to do so?

The ability to leave comments is one of the features that sets the blog apart from our traditional marketing channels. It gives us a totally different way of interacting with target audiences and helps us to understand their views and the issues that are important to them.

The comments are moderated by the marketing team. The reason that we moderate the blog is to manage the risk of someone leaving an inappropriate or abusive comment, not to filter out negative comments or views that conflict with our own.

So far the only comments we haven’t published are ‘spam’, the kind that redirect you to websites advertising dubious products.

Who is responsible for the editorial content of the blog – especially when you are posting content from a number of contributors?

We have a rolling six-month content plan/editorial calendar for the blog, but often it changes if something more topical comes up.

I am ultimately responsible for what gets published and we control this by only allowing the Marketing Team to post content.

Before I receive the article, the writer’s immediate manager also has to approve it.

I edit a lot of the blog posts before they’re published, but I try not to overdo it because I want people’s personalities to come out in their writing style.

We have a one page guide on writing a good blog post, which aims to give people a steer without being overly prescriptive.

How did you go about building awareness of the blog both inside the organisation and to the public when you launched?

A couple of weeks before we launched the blog, we held a briefing for staff on what we were planning to do and how they could contribute. Then on the day the blog went live, we held  staff coffee mornings in ESBI’s Dublin and Cork offices to show staff the live site and encourage them to sign up for blog updates.

We also published fact sheets and Q&A documents on our Intranet and promoted the blog through internal communications channels.

The internal launch took place a month before the external launch to give us time to iron out any glitches and to generate additional content.

For the external launch we held a photo-call and issued a press release, which generated on and offline coverage.

We also identified a number of high-ranking energy related websites where we could ‘seed’ the blog URL, used Google Ads and launched an ESB International Twitter account so we could Tweet about new blog posts.

How do you integrate your blog into your other online and offline communications?

The blog has been totally integrated into our online and offline communications. For example, now if someone presents a paper at a conference, they use the blog to promote ESBI’s involvement before, during and after the event.

We also use the blog to promote new content on our website, for example new press releases and white papers.

The blog URL is now printed on everyone’s business cards and on all of our corporate literature, and we encourage our staff to sign up new subscribers when they’re out of the office meeting people.

We also use our Twitter account to promote blog content. One of the most interesting aspects of the blog is that it gives us a totally new insight into the type of issues people in our sector are grappling with, so we’re able to tailor our marketing communications more effectively.

What have been your biggest learnings about using a blog as part of your communications plan?

Our key learnings have been:

  • Keep tracking the analytic’s because it gives such valuable information about what subjects people are interested in and where your potential markets are located
  • Good content is everything – if your content is boring and irrelevant, you’ll lose subscribers
  • Don’t stop promoting the blog once it’s up and running – constant effort is needed to keep audiences engaged and attract more people
  • Writing in a conversational tone definitely keeps people on the site for longer, but getting people in a corporate environment to write that way is really difficult!

What advice would you give to other corporates who are considering using social media as part of their communications plan?

Start by looking at what your business goals are and then decide whether social media can help and if so what platforms would work best for you. If you decide to use social media, don’t be inhibited by lack of knowledge. Things are changing so fast that everyone is learning.

Also, don’t under estimate the importance of promoting your corporate blog internally – staff are your biggest advocates and you need their help to make it work.

(Interview ends)

I do hope that you find this very open interview with Bevin about the ESB International Energy Innovation blog of value when considering blogging as part of your online communication plans.

What other examples of B2B corporate blogs have you noticed being launched this year?