I've been mentioned in a couple of recent blog entries (Jim Symcox' "Does Blogging Get You More Sales?" and Fiona Torrance's "Biz Blog Review recognized by IBM!") about corporate blogging. Now that I've been doing this for almost 20 months, I thought I would provide a few comments on the experience. This is also motivated by my manually cloning the IBM version of this blog onto my own website.
As I've mentioned here before, I'm cloning the blog because I want to have in one place the various content I've created recently, and I want to be able to eventually link to it and experiment in various ways. Every once in a while I move over a few entries and I have about 5 months worth of material left to go. I've mostly split out the personal entries into another blog on my own site, and it's been fascinating to walk back through both blogs to see what I was doing and thinking at various times. As it turns out, I also built a photo album from scratch in PHP on my website, so I seem to be in a rather nostalgic phase. Nevertheless, this blog and the other material has certainly had an autobiographical aspect to it.
In no particular order, here are a dozen recommendations to consider if you plan to do a corporate blog.
Decide beforehand how interactive you want the blog to be. Some people assert that you don't have a blog if you don't have comments turned on and have active conversations. I don't subscribe to this at all. A blog is the product of the author and it can be one directional or it be very interactive. There are no rules here. Blog spam has complicated this quite a bit and while there are a number of schemes for fighting it, it is still a lot of work to do so.
When you write, do so in a style that sounds like a real person might say the words. Some people get very formal and stiff when they write. While again there are no real rules here, if you read your work out loud and it sounds unnatural, I think you might want to rework it.
Even if you work in Marketing, don't sound like you are writing marketing copy. It's just fine to talk about your products and why you think they're great, but I don't like reading ads that are disguised as blogs. That's one thing I noted when I went back and looked at some my early blog entries - I should have done a better job of talking about the products and why they did what they did and why we decided to make them that way, rather than sounding so promotional. Luckily I didn't do it all the time, but a couple of entries made me cringe a bit. I left them in there, though.
Even if you work in Communications, don't write like your entry is part of a press release. I think this is obvious but it also relates to the point before last: quotes in press releases should sound like people rather than robots said the words. Conversely, blogs about what you do as a Communications person and how you shape stories can be quite interesting if you personalize them.
Allow some glimpses of your personal life to show through. I think this just makes things more interesting. It's impossble to fully separate your work life from your personal life, so don't do so in your blog. You might want to check with your family before you publish certain things about them but I've learned that children, particularly younger children, like to see themselves mentioned. Of course, be smart about the details you make public. Consider including some photos from your personal activities in your blog.
If you are angry, wait a while before you publish an entry or at least run it by a couple of other people first. Possible people to use for this purpose: your spouse, someone in Communications, someone in Legal, someone in Government Programs, your VC, someone more technical than you, and your boss.
When you talk about competitors, do so with care and intentionally. That is, know what you are doing if you are going to contrast your activities with those of others in the business. This is a good way to make your blog interactive!
If you talk about customers and partners, only say good things about them. If you can't, don't.
Link to the writings of others if you hope to have others link to you. Demonstrate that you don't have all the brilliant ideas in the blogosphere because, trust me, you don't.
Keep your politics out of your corporate blog. This is tough for me sometimes, though I think I have mostly succeeded. That said, since I point you to my personal blog and website, if you go there you can probably figure out on which side of the aisle I sit. In the same way, if you know me personally, you know where I stand. There is a line that you usually don't cross in business and your company may have some formal rules about this. Keep this in mind when you write.
Don't be afraid to go back and correct yourself if it is necessary. This means facts, typos, spelling, and grammar. Blog entries can live on in excerpts and web caches, so if you publish something you should assume it will be around for a long time. Nevertheless, if you need to fix the original, do so. When appropriate, note that you've made a change. Use the blog as an exercise in improving your writing. Once you've been doing it for a while, go back and look at the old entries and consider how you would now have written those pieces.
Write your own blog. Some corporate blogs are ghost-written by others, but I think it's pretty obvious when this is going on. It's just fine to publish that content as a series of thought pieces coming from the organization, but don't pass them off as personal entries.