Thursday, April 27, 2006

Add Another Business To The Blogosphere

Southwest Airlines has joined the world of corporate blogs. You can find it at: This appeared in an article in the Grand Forks Herald.

It's brand new and is going through obvious growing pains, but I like what they're doing. It's not "slick" or "corporate". It's got a human voice to it. Real people are posting stories that matter to them.

Now, of course, the challenge will be to keep it from becoming trite, but that should come in time. I'm sure they'll get to headier stuff - like how oppressive and unpredictable fuel prices affect their business - farther down the road.

I have a friend who flies for Southwest and who raves about the company. This might be more anecdotal evidence that these guys and gals "get it". I'll be watching.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Too Err Is Human...

...and easily and quickly correctable on a blog!

My thanks to Easton Ellsworth. He hosts a blog called He pointed out to me through a comment on my last post that the article I quoted from, was actually written for their May 2nd, 2005 edition, not 2006 like I thought. Apparantly my prescription is little weak. I'm grateful for Easton. And this is why I love blogs.

I presented incorrect information due to my own error. I was corrected within a day, and I was able to promptly reply with this post to correct my error. So, in the course of roughly 24 hours, I was able to respond to an issue, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To me, this is the essence of an "agile" business. It's also a perfect example of the value of a business blog. My error was corrected, and I got valuable feedback from a "consumer" of my efforts. I'm not dimished by this, I'm uplifted.

Yes, someone pointed out something "negative" about my business. Welcome to the real world. I was able to use that "negative" to become better at what I do. And now anyone in the world can see that I was able to take constructive criticism and and learn the value of blogs for businesses. Ain't life grand!

I really don't see a downside here. OK, maybe comment spam...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Building A Better Business

I want to again reference the article I found by Stephen Baker and Heather Green on It will actually be their May 2nd cover story.

I'll admit, the article headline is not what most status quo business want to hear. "Blogging Will Change Your Business". A lot of companies and company executives fear changing their businesses for a lot of reasons. It can be hard, or scary, or expensive (not in this case), or it might force them to admit that their leadership might not be cutting it. Tough issues. But if the success of the business is the ultimate goal, not simply padding your bank account, then read on.
Picture the blog world as the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. Hunched over their laptops at one table sit six or seven experts in nanotechnology. Right across from them are teenage goths dressed in black and thoroughly pierced. Not too many links between those two tables. But the café goes on and on. Saudi women here, Labradoodle lovers there, a huge table of people fooling around with cell phones. Those are the mobile-photo crowd, busily sending camera-phone pictures up to their blogs.

The racket is deafening. But there's loads of valuable information floating around this cafe. Technorati, PubSub, and others provide the tools to listen. While the traditional Web catalogs what we have learned, the blogs track what's on our minds.

Why does this matter? Think of the implications for businesses of getting an up-to-the-minute read on what the world is thinking. Already, studios are using blogs to see which movies are generating buzz. Advertisers are tracking responses to their campaigns. "I'm amazed people don't get it yet," says Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice-president who heads up search. "Never in the history of market research has there been a tool like this."

It's immediate, it's permanantly on display, and it's not going away. Let us help you become the business you lay awake at night dreaming you could be!

The Best Business Blog Article EVER...(so far!)

Give the 8 foot stuffed animal to They've nailed it. Someone ought to give writers Stephen Baker and Heather Green a medal. I'll shut up and let you read this.
Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they're simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they're going to shake up just about every business -- including yours. It doesn't matter whether you're shipping paper clips, pork bellies, or videos of Britney in a bikini, blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They're a prerequisite. (And yes, that goes for us, too.)

If your company is the type to see the glass as half empty, honestly, that's too bad for you.
Yet not all the news is scary. Ideas circulate as fast as scandal. Potential customers are out there, sniffing around for deals and partners. While you may be putting it off, you can bet that your competitors are exploring ways to harvest new ideas from blogs, sprinkle ads into them, and yes, find out what you and other competitors are up to.

I keep trying to tell you, now is the time. And, I'll be back to tell you again day after day after day, because I want your business to succeed. Hey, I'm just a nice guy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More Businesses Evaluating Blogging

The pressure continues to mount. No, not in the NBA playoffs. More and more businesses are being forced to take a hard look at the blogosphere because of the sheer pervasiveness of blogs. It's not letting up.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on, by Kim Leonard:
"It is of growing importance for businesses to read blogs, and consider writing their own blogs," said Mike Woycheck, information systems technologist for the Pittsburgh Technology Council. "It's something businesses have to pay attention to, because it's not going to go away."

The more voices join the chorus, the harder it will be to ignore.
For now, major Pittsburgh businesses appear to be dipping their toes into the blogging pool. H.J. Heinz and Del Monte Foods, to name two, have considered starting online chats with customers. American Eagle Outfitters said it isn't currently involved in blogging. Some of the best known business blogs are well-crafted running conversations, presenting a warmer image of a company than any ads, let alone annual reports and press releases, can achieve.

The longer you wait, the less of a competitive advantage your company will have. You may already be behind the curve. Catch up.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Marketing Your Business Better

In an article written on, regular writer Wayne Hurlbert reaches out to "old school" marketers. He's got some good points.
Of course, there are many more positive reasons for open dialogue than negative ones. In any case, talking to your customers creates long term business relationships that can last for a lifetime. Those lifetime customers can also become your greatest brand evangelists, who will spread the positive word of mouth, on your company's behalf.

Media relations are much easier with a blog component to your website. Journalists can check the blog for business, personnel, and product news in an instant. With that ease of story creation, your company is much more likely to receive media coverage, than a non-blogging organization.

As a blogging company, your business is immediately moved from the mainstream to the cutting edge of modern business communication where conversations take place at light speed. Regardless of your industry, being seen as a business leader will only yield a positive response. Your business will be viewed more favourably by your prospects, your current customer base, the media, and the general public. Your open lines of communication, provided through your business blog, is the reason.

If you are in the business of developing a long term and lifetime customer base, there is no more effective technique than a business blog. The cost effectiveness alone makes a blog an important asset.

New ways of thinking are more difficult to embrace than new technologies, I believe. But in this case, the upside potential is so great, and the downside risk - provided your business blog is in the hands of a capable blog professional - is so small, that businesses each and every day are graduating from the "Old School".

Your diploma is waiting!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Listening To The Blogosphere

Dave Gussow, writing for the St. Petersburg Times on, writes a bit about the flip side of blogging. Most people focus on the publishing side of it. Don't forget, blogs are for listening too.
Josh Hallett, a Winter Haven consultant who has become something of a blog evangelist, says businesses need to understand, not fear, blogs. Even on personal blogs, business is discussed and comments are aired that can affect a brand and its image.

If someone posts a critical comment, a business needs to know about it and how to respond, Hallett said. If there's a positive comment, the business can build on that, too.

"You have to have a thick skin," Hallett said. "And unfortunately a lot of people don't."And that's one of Hallett's main messages to companies and groups: A blog doesn't have to be about writing. It can, and perhaps should, be as much about listening.

"Start reading blogs, do blog searches," Hallett said. "What are people saying about your products and services? If your business isn't on the radar of bloggers, then look at what they're saying about your industry."

Don't forget that much information can be gathered from the blogosphere. Just because some of it might be bad news for your business or your industry, don't shoot the messenger. Learn from it, and then become proactive. That's what we're here for.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Business Blogs And Management

I wanted to again reference the article by Scott Yaw on He identifies a crucial point that puts the pressure of a business blog squarely on the shoulders of management - where it should be.
Blogs are no longer a sub-culture of the Internet. They are a mainstream information resource. However, blogs are not a universal fit for every company. Unrestricted, honest feedback can liberate the company’s brand communication efforts or oppress the entire organization’s culture. The idea of launching an informal, open blog can strike terror in the heart of most controlling senior managers. But unlike other trendy business communications, blogs are a way for companies to receive truth, send truth and most importantly, manage public perception in real time.
Don't miss a key element in that paragraph. It's that the goal of a blog needs to be about the Truth. Not spin. Not Marketing. Not reinforcing your brand. It's got to be about the Truth. If it's not, your blog will never survive the scrutiny. It's kind of like the difference between writing a speech and standing in front of an audience giving a speech. In the latter scenario, you have to face a room full of potential critics. Speeches are always brilliant before they're given. After the fact, that's not always the case.

Are you ready to engage your stakeholders with the Truth? If not, the the world of blogs is not for you. Putting out cliche-ridden press releases is probably more up your alley.

If you think you're ready, so are we.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Affordability Of Blogs For Small Businesses

Wow, something every business can afford. Well, sort of.

From the money aspect, absolutely. When it comes to expenditure of time, that's another story. But it's still worth looking at. Scott Yaw writes on
A blog can be particularly beneficial to cash strapped small business. In many cases, cost prohibits small businesses from field research initiatives such as survey questionnaires and focus groups. In other cases, customers may be reluctant to give honest feedback to the small business. However, a blog may be the first time a small business gets an affordable opportunity to establish honest input from current customers and potential new customers they hope to serve.
So true. The honest challenge is: Do you really want to know what your customers are thinking? It's my belief that many businesses don't, and they go to elaborate ways to avoid facing that issue. Having to face the possibility that all your "brilliant" ideas are not working very well can be daunting.

Just some more food for thought.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Corporate Blogs A Liability?

Talk about hitting the nail on the head! This is dead on.

I found this on the website of Pinsent Masons, an international IT law firm located in the UK. Their site is I was about to give up because, well, it was an article written by a lawyer about the dangers of corporate blogging. The author, Struan Robertson, even admitted that he was "scaremongering to some extent" about the potential dangers of a business blog. Just as I was about to give up on him (I'm not a fan of lawyers blogging because of their tendancy to say nothing of substance in as many words as possible), when he wrote this:
Businesses have always trusted their staff to communicate with customers. Corporate blogging is just another channel for communication. What matters is that, if employers embrace it, they must do so with their eyes wide open.

Good blogs bring out a personality. They need spontaneity and oxygen, not censorship – which means keeping legal and marketing departments at arm’s length. That is possible, despite the risks. However, staff should still follow a blogging policy. This can be standalone or part of a wider communications policy. Keep it simple and make sure people know about it. Set out the rules: when they can blog, what they can say, what they shouldn't say, what happens if they break the rules. And don't allow everyone to blog. You need to trust your blogger.

Choosing the right blogger is vital, but I don't just say that because I'm a lawyer. I say it as someone who has been using the internet as a shop window for an organisation for the last six years. Sadly, most people can’t write compelling material; and the people with the most interesting things to say are often the people with the least time to say them. Blogs are easy to start and difficult to maintain. So the biggest obstacle to corporate blogging is not the law; it's finding good bloggers.
I was stunned. This is as well-stated as I've seen anywhere. I'm going to have to re-evaluate my opinion of lawyers - at least this one.

So if your company is tossing around the idea of blogging, take his advice. It's not a legal issue, it's a content issue.

Bully, Struan! Maybe the best analysis I've seen this year.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

6 Reasons You Need A Blog For Your Business

In an article on, I found some very nice, simple reasons a business should blog. As a certified "blog evangelist", I will continue to point you to others who believe as I do. It's totally self-serving, because I'm trying to point out that I'm right about these blog things, and I'm not alone (tongue slightly in cheek...).

The article's author is Jinger Jarrett, the creative force behind the Internet Marketing For Free blog. Here are some reasons. See the full article for a more detailed explanation.

1. You can brand your business.
  • Branding isn't just for big business. You can brand yourself too.

2. You can become an expert.

  • When you share what you know on a topic, it gives you the opportunity to be perceived as an expert.

3. You can establish credibility.

  • Credibility is a difficult thing to establish on the internet. You need to gain your potential customer's trust before he/she will buy from you.

4. You can create a new marketing channel.

  • Email marketing isn't as effective as it used to be. Too many problems exist now with spam and filters.

5. Creates a communications channel with your potential customers.

  • He/she can ask you questions, and you can respond more quickly. This will also save you time in the future because others may have the same questions. You'll already have the answer easily available.

6. Solves your search engine optimization problems.

  • Blogs are search engine friendly, and you can get your blog spidered faster and easier than you can a traditional site.
I know I'm sounding like a one note samba, but it's such a sweet note....!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Great Definition Of A Business Blog

I like simple. Simple is good - and usually hard to find.

I stumbled upon this article courtesy of Business Wire. It was published on The "quotee" is Alan Weinkrantz, author of Wide Angle Blog, and President of a technology PR agency in San Antonio.

"Anyone and any company can have a website, but they are so...2005," said Alan Weinkrantz. "While websites are still needed, they tend to be very static and corporate. Blogs on the other hand, let you be expressive and reflect your personality or the culture of your company. Blogging can extend your company's web presence, and it's an inexpensive way to put a human voice on a brand." (emphasis mine)
I don't understand why we complicate things so. Well, come to think of it, I think I do. Someone has to overpay to keep all those agencies and consultants in high rise office buildings in business.

I'm so bad...

ROI For A Business Blog

This post has to come with a disclaimer.

Caution: Do not read this if you plan to drive, operate heavy machinery, or stay awake for the next couple of hours.

Numbers. Ughhh. What's the old saying? Figures lie and liars figure. Something like that.

Here's an article I came across on's blog. It's an attempt to satisfy the insatiable appetite certain business types have for analysis by numbers. If you're not an algebra person, you might want to avoid it. The reason I bring it up is as it relates to understanding the ROI of a business blog. The author, Jason Stamper does an admirable job cruching numbers and creating a mathmatical equation for figuring out if a blog is making, or costing, a company money. My hat's off to him for the effort.

My problem is in trying to reduce ROI to merely an equation. I think it's patently absurd because a certain amount of a company's return on their investment involves intangibles. Things that can't be measured or counted or reduced to a formula. You can implement plans A, B, and C in 2005 and then judge the results at the end of the fiscal year, but it would be foolish to assume that those were the only mitigating factors involved in your company's success (or lack thereof). For crying out loud, your administrative support champion could have been suffering through a personal tragedy and have an "off year", and that could be reflected in your bottom line, but certainly not quantified by a simple mathematic equation.

Let me pose this question to you. If you have a CEO who gets on a primetime TV program to talk about your company, do you evaluate that based on "ROI"? How can you quantify the value of that? Purely by sales generated by the interview? I think not.

So to evaluate a blog's ROI solely based on ad revenue, click throughs, or unique visitors is a mistake. If ROI is the only measuring rod, then who cares if customers are happy or not. As long as your ROI is good.

If you believe that, then you must believe that it doesn't matter if your customers are happy or not. A satisfied customer and an unsatisfied customer make you the same amount of money.

Geez, I hope no one out there thinks like that...

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Fortune 500 Companies Blogging

Add another one to the list...sort of. It doesn't get much bigger than "The Real Thing". Coca Cola (fyi, my grandfather worked for Coke for 27 years. We have so much cool memorabilia!) has joined the party.

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle, staff writer Justin Rubner reports:
And on March 29, one Fortune 500, The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO), took its first step into the world of corporate blogging, albeit a baby step.

Coke's blog site, now allowing 50,000 employees to share ideas with each other, isn't the laissez-faire, just-about-anything-goes external blogs of companies such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM). But it is indicative of the growing realization that blogs can be invaluable tools for companies wanting to disseminate and receive information in ways traditional media could never deliver.

But wait, there's more. In a more traditional blog application:
In January, cable provider Cox Communications Inc. launched an external blog called Digital Straight Talk, a source of opinions on issues affecting broadband customers.

Users on can post and read viewpoints on high-definition television and other technologies, and even hear podcasts -- or digital audio Internet files -- of Cox President Pat Esser discussing the digital home of 2010. Typical users, said Cox spokesman David Grabert, are high-end customers, analysts and reporters.

He said Cox was the first major cable provider to launch such a blog and did so to cut through the misinformation presented by competitors, especially since the cable industry has grown increasingly competitive of late. With new pressures from telecos, Grabert said, Cox needed an outlet to quickly and informally respond to customer confusion.

Hmmmm. Quickly and informally respond. That's a critical element to a blog's success.
"We want it to be a dialogue," Grabert said. "We don't want it to be just another piece of our PR machine."

Bingo. That's exactly right. Now, let's see how long they can maintain that strategy. Therein lies the rub.

Interested in finding out more?