Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Content Strategy and the Birth of the Cool (or Fabulous Business Blog)


Should you go forth and publish content before launch? Not to fill up the buckets on the site, but to determine the viability of newly-established editorial calendars and workflows? PERHAPS.

Birth of the Cool

Many of us have been lucky enough to witness the birth of something new. Like babies. Or cool. As in Miles Davis’ classic album “Birth of the Cool.” Or even, perhaps, a company blog.

Blogs, like babies and classic jazz albums, are each special in their own way. Unlike most babies or classic jazz albums, blogs ushered in a revolution in online publishing. Waves of that revolution are still having an impact in the business world as many are still launching their first forays into the blog world.

Usually, blogs have their chronological bits intact. Posts are dated, and listed in reverse publish order.  With those dates, you can tell how much time has passed between posts. That can be a good thing. Visitors will have an idea how often you are publishing new content.

Can we actually do this?

However, the blog format also puts forth the expectation that more content will be coming. That can be a daunting thing to a time- and resource-crunched team.

Fortunately, the launch of every company blog is accompanied by a robust and thorough content strategy. RIGHT? For now, let’s assume that it is. All of those classic, core, content strategy questions have been answered:
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Who are we speaking to?
  • What are we going to say? And how?
  • Who played alto sax on Birth of the Cool?

If things have gone well up to this point, these things will have been hammered out, too:
  • Publish frequency
  • Content ownership
  • Content workflow from ideas to archive/sunset
  • Editorial calendar for the blog that ties in with other company endeavors

Who is going to raise this thing?

The discussion that follows a decision to undertake blogging for a business brings up questions: who will write it, publish it, manage the calendar and comments, etc.

What is left is the world of planning, creating, and publishing the content. You know, ACTUALLY DOING THE THING.

Often, closer to launch, the discussion turns from horror (OMG, we don’t have any content) to that of shame (OMG, we need to compensate for a lack of content.)

Sowing the seeds of content

Many new blog owners seed their shiny new blogs with a few extra posts, a fine idea. Any artifice is quickly outweighed by the depth and context that a few extra posts bring to a blog. It might even change a one-time visit to a subscription (or other conversion).

Lucky for those managing a new blog, they are about to enjoy two opportunities. (I say that with a bit of sarcasm, because they are probably freaking out at the prospect of launching a completely empty blog.) Those opportunities?

1. Testing the viability of the editorial calendar
2. Testing the workflow under real conditions

These two things are ever so intertwined. An editorial calendar cannot be used without a workflow, and a content creation workflow needs the fodder of an editorial calendar.

Keep an eye on that (editorial) calendar

The success of an editorial calendar depends upon its honesty. Failed calendars are full of good intentions, but leave out important considerations like:
  • Will our subject matter experts contribute?
  • What if the contributions are of hopelessly bad quality?
  • Can we sustain our proposed content production schedule?

Be as realistic as possible, and build in some extra time. If things are moving along ahead of schedule, note it, and keep going.

It’s gonna be work

The workflow test will very quickly surface any bottlenecks or pain points in the content planning and creation phases. Testing the workflow might seem awkward, but it will pay off quickly as the blog starts regular content production.

Keep things real at this stage. A certain amount of artifice will be apparent at this point, and that’s fine. You’ll want it to be the well-rehearsed fire drill that precedes the real burning building of content creation. Some tips:
  • Carefully outline the steps in the workflow
  • Communicate roles and expectations early on
  • Track progress throughout testing
  • Note any major issues along the way
  • Adjust the workflows accordingly

Congratulations, it’s a blog

With these steps, you, too, can become the proud parents of a bouncing baby blog. A blog that is effective, meets business needs and user expectations, and is generally delightful.

Sure, there are lots of trying times ahead. But, by following the steps above, you’ll be able to avoid many of the headaches and late nights that other blog parents have endured.



1 comment:

Jake DiMare said...

Easily one of the most important albums of the 20th Century.