This week, Margie Dana’s Print Tip explains “why a printer’s blog is the first thing I look for.” She says:
A blog lets you share interesting insights about your company as well as establish your true colors. It’s not about equipment or how old your firm is. It’s about business-related information and opinions. It’s (hopefully) fun and educational.
In my opinion, a blog is the cornerstone of a company’s inbound marketing efforts. It’s effective. It’s versatile. And it’s easier to do than you think.
A good blog is to your ideal audience what the yellow brick road was to Dorothy and company: the path leading to your own little Oz, or website.
And, well, a blog post can also send flying monkeys aloft, but hopefully that doesn’t happen too often.
Blogging can be considered the original social medium. Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about blogging. It can be fun; I have used it as a way to experiment with different kinds of writing, not always successfully, and it’s great to research a topic that interests me and share odd facts and information. But often, when I have deadlines galore, blogging becomes a chore. (Those writing experiments did not include poetry. The rhyme here was accidental.) It’s not just the labor of sitting down and composing x number of words with y frequency, but also picking a topic that lends itself to extended verbiage, and carefully considering phrasing. After all, a hastily written line or ill-chosen word can act as flame-bait.
I think Margie is right that printers of all kinds—and in fact all kinds of businesses—can benefit from having a company blog,
Now, the first response is often, “Who has time for it? I have a business to run.” And that’s a fair point. If someone like me, who is a professional writer—or, at the very least, a delivery system for words—gets blogged down generating posts, how can someone who is not inclined to writing take advantage of blogging?
Here are some strategies for managing one’s blogging efforts:
1. Get help.
One solution could very well be to outsource it. There are many professional (or semi-professional) writers out there in the industry who could use a few extra bucks. They know the industry and with a little guidance, can craft compelling copy (that could even be alliterative) for your company. Alternatively, company employees—such as those in sales and/or marketing—can be tasked with blogging. You can even divvy up the blogging among several individuals—and a mix of in-house and freelance sources not only helps spread out the workload, but also adds different voices and perspectives.
2. Develop a schedule.
Professional publications, be they print or online, typically operate according to an editorial calendar, drawn up 12 (or sometimes six) months in advance, that identifies what topics will be covered in which issue or on what date. This is predominantly a tool for the ad sales department, but is also a vital organizing tool and roadmap for editorial, knowing that, in June, there will be a feature on, say, textile printing. It’s far more effective than just winging it from month-to-month or week-to-week, especially since features take longer than straight news to compile and write. (This obviously does not apply to news, which is hard to identify in advance, NDAs notwithstanding.) Adopting a loose editorial calendar for blogging can help manage the process. If you are going to post, say, three times a week, you can start with a rough calendar like:
- Mondays: Customer success stories
- Wednesdays: File preparation tips
- Fridays: Industry trends
With that basic roadmap, you can fine-tune it further and plug in specifics:
- First Monday of the month: Vehicle wrap project for Joe’s Garage
- Second Monday: Interior signage project for Alice’s Restaurant
- Third Monday: Outdoor signage project for the Hotel California
- First Wednesday: Choosing the proper color space; RGB vs. CMYK
- Second Wednesday: Working with fonts
- Third Wednesday: Know your substrates
- First Friday: New announcements at Graph Expo/SGIA/other tradeshow
- Second Friday: New developments in textile printing
- Third Friday: What are LED-UV printers?
You get the idea. Naturally, things can change, such as if you wake up at 2 a.m. with a great idea for a blog post (it can happen), or you read something (like Margie Dana’s Print Tips) that stimulates a post idea.
3. Dedicate time to blogging.
Building blogging time into a daily schedule—rather than “when I get around to it”—is also good way of remaining consistent and disciplined. Maybe devote one hour a day, or three half-hour blocks of time a week—or whatever works—and use that period to blog without interruption. (Tip: Write, edit, refine, and polish in Word or OpenOffice before pasting into your blogging software like WordPress.) It’s also possible, using WordPress or any of the major blogging platforms, to schedule posts to run days or even weeks in advance. So you can devote one hour on, say, Monday to blogging, do an entire week or fortnight’s worth of posts in one go, and then schedule them to appear over the course of the next week or two. It is always a good idea to have a stash of posts ready to go, otherwise you are, as they say, in danger of laying down the tracks as the train is coming.
4. Read and link to others.
Social media is just that: social. Just like in offline social settings, where we dislike it when conversations are too one-sided, so, too, in blogging and other social media efforts we should let other people get a word in. In the case of blogging, this involves linking to other stories, blog posts, Web sites, or anything else that you think your readers/customers would find helpful or interesting. So if you see a compelling Digital Nirvana post, or a story on WhatTheyThink, or maybe even elsewhere, that can be good blog fodder. It can be shared without much comment (“Saw this on WTT…”) or if something in the story/post specifically caught your attention, say something about it (“That Dan Marx interview on chasing bottlenecks was right on the money. Here is what our experience has been…”).
5. Be positive
A fair portion of the blogosphere—although not necessarily in our industry—is a lot of griping and complaining. Now, criticism is good, and one of the advantages of blogging is that it can foster dialogues, trialogues, and even googologues, but it reflects badly on your business if it’s perceived as overly negative (“that %$#$^* Romano post at Digital Nirvana was a waste of pixels. Who lets him blog anyway? They should fire him…out of a cannon”). It may very well be true, but constructive criticism adds value to the dialogue and is a better reflection of your business. I like to adopt, as we say in Toastmasters, the “sandwich” approach to evaluation and criticism: start and end with a positive comment (the bread), with the middle comprising the actual criticism (the meat). Some people prefer the Atkins approach to criticism and skip the bread.
Anyway, blogging doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, onerous task. As with anything, if you can have fun with it, the enjoyment you take from sharing knowledge and information will be contagious—and is maybe the best PR your company can get.