Running an awesome business blog is necessary – but it sure isn’t easy.
While many companies are prioritising content among their wider marketing efforts, most are delegating the writing to a small marketing team – or outsourcing to contract writers. After all, the real ‘movers and shakers’ in your company are probably occupied with the day-to-day business of interacting with customers, crafting products and services, and making the sales that keep the lights on.
This approach often produces content with little depth and even less impact, which feeds an attitude that blogging just isn’t that important and creates a vicious cycle that sends content creation to the bottom of everyone’s list.
In this article, I will show you that eliciting content from your whole team is valuable – and, what’s more, it can be done!
Why is Blogging Important?
In the simplest terms possible, every business who relies on online channels to drive sales or leads should make an effort to create new, high-value content on a regular basis. Doing so will help you:
- Drive New Traffic (by creating pages to rank for searched terms and by providing material to share on social media)
- Convert New Traffic Into Leads (by presenting each reader with a clear call-to-action to take the next step – whether that’s signing up for a free resource or contacting your sales team)
- Transform Leads Into Sales (by establishing your reputation as the experts in your field)
- Provide Long-Term Value To Your Team (by creating resources that last forever – or at least until you decide to update them!)
In short, a blog is the type of resource that Mike Kappel of Patriot Software calls a ‘salt lick:’
“A salt lick is exactly what the name implies. It’s a salt deposit that animals keep coming back to—and licking — in order to ingest nutrients they need. Now, whether or not you want your readers to lick their computer screens is up to you, but you definitely want them to look at your blog as a source of “nutrients” they need to return to and consume.”
So, you’ve decided that your business should have a blog – or you’ve been running one on idle for a few months or years, putting out a few lackluster posts and scrambling just to get the content written in a semi-regular pattern.
Maybe you are in charge of marketing, so the job has landed in your lap. Maybe you have a few people in your marketing team cranking out posts as well, but everything just seems cookie-cuttered and low-impact.
Here’s the thing: Even if you are some kind of content machine like Neil Patel, running a really effective blog by yourself is going to stretch you thin. Even Neil took a while to ramp up to his exhausting writing schedule, and I’m betting you have at least a few additional responsibilities taking your attention from time to time. With a small marketing team writing, content and topics can get stale pretty fast.
“Rule of Thumb is this: More writers from a wider range of backgrounds makes for a deeper, more diverse, and more meaningful blog.”
Just ask this question: Who do you want educating your potential customers on the advantages of your product? While the message will need to pass through your marketing team to ensure it is on-brand, the content should be coming from the person in your organization most qualified to answer the relevant question. No exceptions!
How To Motivate An Effective, Productive Blogging Team
It’s one thing to decide that you want busy stakeholders at your company to blog, and quite another thing to keep them producing posts on any sort of regular schedule. Below I have assembled 9 tips for keeping to your editorial calendar and producing content, but first I’d like to address the simple question of incentives.
You have to give your team a reason to write (other than the fact that you’ve added blogging to their job description.) Here at Iterate, we provide a weekly lunch as a ‘reward’ to get the team together every Friday and keep blogging at top of mind.
Whether you give food, prizes to top bloggers, bonuses or other incentives, you need to signal that blogging is valued by the company, and should be important to your writers. Remind your team that blogging isn’t just about raising the company’s brand – it’s about personal branding. Even the most reluctant writer will find it hard to reject top-notch content attached to their name.
Tip 1: Get Strategic
The foundation for a successful blog is a solid strategy. Before you start bothering your coworkers for blog posts, take the time to sit down and write out answers to the following questions:
- Who are we writing this blog for? If multiple audiences, what percentage of content will be for each audience, and how are you planning to promote them effectively?
- What is our style and voice?
- What topics are being covered too extensively by our competition, and what topics are being ignored?
- What is our unique spin, what special knowledge do we bring to the table?
- How often can I expect each team member to provide a post? Does this allow us to publish as often as we like, or will we need to add more members to the team?
- In our team, what is each member’s unique contribution? This may be technical knowledge, but could also be a sense of humor, deep research abilities, or simply solid writing skills. How can I capitalize on these strengths?
Tip 2: Get Organized
Clear expectations and goals are the backbone of this effort, and your number one goal should be spotless organization. If you are going to own this process, get out there and OWN it. You should be keeping track of every one of the following steps in a central location where everyone can see – from upcoming topics to the status of assigned posts, from the reminder emails you’ve sent to the results of your post-publishing promotional strategies.
This organization can take place in a spreadsheet like this one from Hubspot, or perhaps you want a WordPress plugin like this – the form of your organization doesn’t really matter, as long as you keep it up to date and visible to your team!
Tip 3: Get Ideas
Blog success is 90% topic and 10% execution (also, 110% promotion). Even the best-written blog will flounder if the topic just isn’t relevant or interesting, and even a quick, cursory overview of a topic can go viral if it’s launched at the right moment to the right audience.
Collecting and assigning topics should be two-step process. Don’t fall into the trap of going to a writer, asking “Hey, what should we write about?”, then nodding as they reply and saying “Sure, go with that.”
Take the time to collect ideas from a wide variety of sources, including:
- Blog author’s interests
- Common questions from your customers
- Group brainstorms
- Updating a previous post or taking the idea in a different direction
- Competitor research (gasp!)
Still stuck? Write down every product, service, industry or target market that relates to your business and run them through Hubspot’s idea generator. Sure, most of these ideas won’t be immediately valuable, but they can at least spur some thought!
Once you have a long list of ideas and topics, match them up with your team members, and keep everyone’s strengths in mind. Present each blogger with two choices, tell them to pick one, and keep the second in mind for a later post.
In future months, you will present them with different topics, but let them jump back to a previously rejected topic. Some of my best topics have been the ones I rejected at first, then thought about for a few months as I worked on other projects.
Finally, take all unused ideas and put them into a backlog. Visit this each month to top it up again, and you’ll never run out!
Tip 4: Get In Touch
Communicating with your team on a regular basis will go a long way towards keeping blogging on everyone’s mind. The following methods are ‘must-haves’ for any team, but can be augmented with whatever group chat, project management tool, or other communication channels your business is using.
This is the strongest tool you have. Create a email list of all the stakeholders in your blog process and send out weekly emails- highlight what has been published this week, the traffic and leads from previous posts, and remind your team where they should be in the blogging process.
Keep an email chain for each blog team member (sorted extension for gmail is my favorite tool for this!). This is how you can communicate with each member about their process. Some of your bloggers will be able to take an idea and run with it, others will need reminders and status updates to stay on track.
These are great for raising morale, keeping everyone pulling in the same direction, and bringing awesome ideas and topics to light. Keep these meetings short, highlight recent successes as they arise, and (most important!) keep the tone light and fun. Don’t browbeat your team members who are falling behind (see: Stay Flexible, below). Remember, you will get a lot further by showing that blogging is fun than stressing that blogging is important.
Getting face time with individual bloggers can cut into their time (and eat yours up entirely), but I still recommend sitting down with each blogger at least once per quarter to gather ideas for upcoming posts, reviewing the performance of their previous work, and discussing ways they can improve (see: Be a Coach, below). It may be that someone who was excited to blog initially is finding out that they hate writing. Maybe you can work out an arrangement that suits them better!
Tip 5: Lighten The Load
Whenever possible, your top priority should be removing all obstacles that get between your bloggers and writing. How this looks will vary from team to team, but you should be ready to provide research and examples when they are needed, hunt down photos and attributions for quotes, work with a designer to create images and charts to class up the blog – basically anything and everything short of sitting down and writing the post for them.
In some cases, I have been known to take an outline and intro/conclusion and flesh them out myself. It is your job to keep the machine moving forward, and sometimes that’s going to involve getting out of the driver’s seat to push!
Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit
Once you’ve received a ‘finished’ piece of content from a contributor, it’s your time to shine. Some pieces will require more editing than others, of course. I like to do my editing in three passes, and if significant rewrites are needed, send a draft back to the writer to show what was rewritten – ensuring that their voice and intention are intact.
Pass 1: (100 Feet) Is the intention of this post clear, does it address the question or topic in an understandable way? Does the language support our brand messaging?
Pass 2: (10 Feet): Is the structure of this piece acceptable? Does it flow well, is each section easy to read? Is the voice identifiable, but not off-brand?
Pass 3: (1 inch): Is the grammar and spelling of this piece perfect? This should always be the last thing you do, I can’t count how many times I’ve inserted fresh mistakes into a post in the first two passes!
Tip 7: Be Transparent
No writer likes the feeling that their words are being dumped into a black hole. Let your team members know when their post is published, where they can find it, and check back often with how it has performed. If you are looking to get it placed as a guest post off-site, check back with the author often to let them know where you are trying to place it, and where the process is at.
This is where you can let success shine! If a blog post pulls in traffic and leads, let the team know. If something flops, however, it’s time for you to…
Tip 8: Be a Coach
Not all posts are created equal, it’s sad to say. So when something doesn’t perform well, don’t just write it off! Meet with the author and discuss what went wrong.
Was the topic not on point, was the writing or research underwhelming, did you fail to promote as well as you could? Likely it’s a combination of all three, so both you and your blogger should walk away with a better idea of what to do in the future.
Remember, you are asking your bloggers to perform a task that is very likely outside their comfort zone. Keep your criticism constructive, and keep in mind that, in the end, the buck stops with you.
Tip 9: Be Flexible
This is perhaps the most important tip I could give you. BE FLEXIBLE. You are asking your team members to take time away from the ‘real work’ to produce brand content. Some will be on board, some will roll their eyes. Some will crank out posts on time month after month, others will run out of steam and require coaxing.
The goal here isn’t a smooth process in the first quarter, it’s top-notch content from a wide range of contributors that you can publish on schedule.
Listen to your team, set reasonable goals, and pick up the slack wherever you are needed. There’s a lot that depends on you, but if you stick to it, follow these tips, and work with your team instead of just demanding work from them, you will be rewarded with a blog that really shines.