How to start blogging at work - Part 2

If you feel comfortable with the stuff covered in Part 1 of How to start blogging at work, now we get onto the meaty bits: setting up your blog, getting it going & keeping it going.

Preparing to blog

Get your manager's approval

Make sure your manager is OK with what you are going to do... and make sure any other potential bloggers in your organisation do the same. Seems pretty obvious, but some people seem to forget this part! Managers need to be prepared and accept that you will be spending time blogging as part of your job. If you have a set of personal goals at work, the ideal scenario is to factor blogging into them. At the bare minimum, you need to feel empowered to blog, and not feel guilty about spending time on blogging. It's important for managers to understand that blogging can become a valuable part of your work, not something you do outside or on top of your 'real work'. One way to get managers on board is to...

Present/tell people about blogging

Just like anything else you do in business, you've gotta have a business case for blogging. Put together a presentation or report for management to consider. It should include:

  • why you will be blogging, what your goals are, what the desired outcomes will be, and how you'll measure success
  • benefits of blogging in general, and the potential benefits for your organisation
  • relevant case studies, specific to your market/industry/area
  • links/snippets of other blogs in your niche, to show the kind of thing they can expect

If you're presenting to senior people such as the CEO, it never hurts to provide examples and statistics for CEO blogs. There are hundreds of CEOs and senior execs who blog. Here's a handy wiki page of Fortune 500 blogs, and here's a growing list of charity blogs in the UK.

(If you feel you need help with this bit, get in touch. I love this kind of thing, and if I'm not the right person to help, I can probably put you in touch with someone who can.)

Find a high-level champion

It always helps to have someone higher up the food chain who supports what you are doing, and blogging is no exception. One way of getting someone senior on board is to consider having him or her blog, even if it's internally. Done well, internal exec blogs can be a win-win situation, especially in large organisations: it gives the exec a more informal way to converse with his/her staff and share thoughts, and it can also 'humanise' someone who may seem distant and disconnected from people on the ground.

Draw up a blogging policy

It's important to create a blogging policy, not just for legal pitfalls, but equally to make people feel safe & comfortable blogging. The policy should be clear, concise and in Plain English, and should include guidelines for tone and what to do, rather than being a big long mega scary list of don'ts written in legal-ese. Tie your blogging policy to any existing policies about communication and representation of the organisation through email, phone and other means.

Be prepared for the worst... but hope for the best

It's always a good idea to think about what might go wrong, and make sure you have plans in place for how you would deal with it. This is especially true of organisations that deal with tricky areas. If you already have to handle lots of disgruntled customers or negative press, expect to get this when you open up a blog, too.  Better to be prepared for something that might not happen than to be taken off guard.

Find the right blogging tool

There are loads of options, from things that are run entirely on external websites (called 'hosted' versions), to software that you install on your own servers ('installed'). Here's a previous post outlining how to choose the best tool for your needs.

Practice before you start

Practice makes perfect! Some folks suggest writing things without publishing anything for a month, just to get the feel for it first. Others suggest trying micro-blogging through tools like Twitter or Facebook status updates as a way of getting your feet wet. Another way to get comfortable is to start blogging internally, privately, first. Whatever works for you is fine, but hopefully a little practice will help you discover your voice, and the style, content and tone that works best for you.

Let the business know what to expect and when

When you are nearly there, after you've gotten internal buy-in, chosen a tool and tested it, and had a bit of blogging practice, it's time to set a date for launching your blog. The most important thing is to be sure everyone knows what's happening, and when. Post it on your intranet, send an email, or just go talk to people - whatever. Just be sure your marketing and PR teams aren't in for any surprises!

Getting your blog started

Set up your blog

Make sure you fill your blogroll (aka links list) with relevant links to other blogs that are in your niche area. Set up Feedburner to create nice RSS feeds that people can subscribe to. Set up any spam filters (such as Akismet) to keep your comments free of junk. Set up your comments to be moderated before going live, and ensure the email address associated with comment alerts is working and receiving alerts fine.

Write your first post(s)

Write what you know about and/or are passionate about, and write in a tone that is conversational. Be sure to tag your post with keywords, categorise it, and link out to relevant sources.

Invite comments from your friends, family & colleagues

It's a great idea to let your contacts know about your blog, and ask them to comment. Not only will this help boost your morale, it will also get the comments flowing so you don't feel you are talking to yourself with no one listening.

Read other author posts & comment

If you have other fellow bloggers in your organisation, make sure you read their posts and comment on each other's posts if the fancy takes you. It may seem like all you are doing is talking to each other, but soon enough, someone from outside will join in.

Celebrate your launch internally

Book out the conference room and have a bottle of bubbly and a nice bit of cake. If you make positive associations with your blog for your colleagues, they are more likely to have a read, and maybe even think of contributing. If nothing else, people get to associate you & the blog with cake!

Set aside time to blog

Earmark time each week - and block out the time in your calendar. If you don't, you will always find your time filling up and soon blogging will slip off your radar. Even if you don't write, make sure you use the time for doing things such as reading or commenting on other blogs.

Monitor your blog

Make sure your spam-catcher is working, and make sure that any valid comments are approved in a timely manner. You should also start keeping an eye on your blog stats, and think about setting up a review schedule.

Start promoting your blog

Once you have a few posts under your belt and are feeling confident that the blog is off to a good start (and that it will continue), start promoting your blog. Link to it from your website. Add a link in your email signature - and get your colleagues to do the same. Promote it in your e-newsletter. If you have an event, make sure the final slide or handout includes a link to the blog, and create a post on your blog where the conversation can continue. Promote the RSS feed - think of ways of getting people to sign up for the feed as an alternative to your e-newsletter.

Set up Google Alerts

You can set up Google Alerts to notify you of topics that are of interest to you appearing on other blogs. Not only does this help you identify your peers, and give you a great starting point for reading and commenting on blogs, but it can also help give you ideas for topics to write about. And if you have already written a great article or opinion piece on your blog about whatever it is that someone else is writing about, you might want to let them know about your post.

Help colleagues subscribe to your feed

If you use Feedburner, people can subscribe by email, so they don't even have to know what RSS is. Why not help your colleagues subscribe to your feed, or set it up for them? Not only will it increase your readership and the blog's visibility internally, but after time you may find that some of these internal readers want to become authors, too.

Establish/reinforce your presence in the community

Go to events, lectures and networking evenings with other bloggers or members of your community of interest. You might just meet someone who's read your blog, and these kinds of events can also provide good blog subject matter. This post itself was spawned from the conversations and ideas that emerged from this week's NetSquared Meetup, an open event where bloggers, soon-to-be bloggers and non-profit peeps interested in the whole social web thing met up to talk about blogging.

That's it for today! Part 3 comes next: how to keep the momentum going.