How to Turn a Corporate Blog into a News Source
Yesterday I wrote about whether a corporate blog can break hard news (hell yes!).
Today I’d like to expand on that a bit and talk about how a corporate blog can be a news source.
Many companies – especially engineering-driven organizations – tend to think of their blogs as nothing more than another way to introduce a product or announce an initiative. At best, they perceive the blog to be a How-To for products or services.
In fact, every blog has the potential to be a key information channel for readers inside and outside of your industry. This means your posts can and will be read by partners, customers, and potential customers, and may even stretch into audiences that have no idea who you are…but would be just as grateful for the information.
Every blog also has the potential to be a source for hard news that can be picked up and spread by journalists and other bloggers.
I gave several examples of this yesterday, including a number of companies in the antivirus industry. Blog posts from these companies are a powerful and timely information source that can be used immediately to great benefit, and will also receive significant and routine coverage from publications.
Importantly, you don’t have to be at the heart of the tech industry to achieve this kind of response. Rather, your posts merely have to score well — very well — on two or more of five basic criteria for newsworthiness:
Uniqueness – Is this a new development about which you have unique knowledge or details?
Authority – Is your company a credible resource with respect to this topic? Is the author sufficiently authoritative in the subject area? Does he or she have the respect of others in this industry?
Timeliness – Are you delivering breaking information or writing a second-day article on the subject? Is your post tied to a specific event and if so, are you leading that event?
Relevance – Is the information in your post directly relevant to your audience? Can they use it to improve their lives or businesses?
Vision – Are you offering a new idea or observation that is capable of moving the industry in a different direction? Are you providing a unique and powerful perspective that can redirect observers in a meaningful way?
Response – Do you have someone available right now, who can answer press and analyst questions about the information in the blog? Ideally, this would be the author of the blog. If not, it has to be someone who can speak intelligently about the blog’s contents. There’s no exception to this point; editors need to be able to confirm information and gather unique quotes to give their stories impact.
Actual news value will vary according to the publication, industry, time and various other considerations. Often, you won’t be able to plan ahead for a powerful news post. It just pops up, sometimes unexpectedly, so you need to have people at-hand who can deliver right away.
So how does a blogger write a news post?
There are no rules about what a newsworthy blog post should look like.
Honestly, the style will depend on the writer. If you have a journalism background or you have a knack for writing like a journalist, go ahead and write your post to be as much like a newspaper story as you wish. Editors can and will change it up, but a well-written journalistic hook will create instant appeal.
If you don’t have that skill, at least be sure your post contains the following key information:
News point - In three or four sentences or bullets, what precisely are you offering as news? This isn’t a ‘hook’, but a set of declarative statements. A good example can be found from this post by Renesys, which yesterday broke an international story in three sentences merely by being an authoritative observer of a key Internet event - the take-down of the Syrian Internet.
Source – Who within your company stands behind this information? It could be the blogger, or someone else whose data is being used. But it must be a specific individual who can be accountable and responsive to inquiries. Be sure to include contact information that will enable this connection.
Data – What are you offering as evidence of your assertion? Does it stand up to close scrutiny? There’s no room for hedging on this point. If your news hook is merely a new positioning statement, the story will get tossed or worse, shown up as marketing hype, which can be damaging to your credibility.
Updates – Is your knowledge of the situation changing over time? Renesys offered several updates during the day as its data formed and the company was able to provide scintillating graphics providing unmatched raw detail of the Internet outage.
A few of other key points are in order.
- First, if your further information contradicts or significantly changes your original assertion, don’t be afraid to say so. It is better to come clean with having made a mistake right away, than to hide it and be accused of spreading false information.
- Second, unless you are blogging from the finance department and have specific approval to do so, your post should not relate to company finances, including mergers or acquisitions, stock activity, business deals, outlook or market share. If you are going to post about negligent or fraudulent activity by someone else in the company, or you plan to blow the whistle on the company as a whole, be aware that Sarbanes-Oxley will only protect you if you have followed specific reporting procedures first.
- Third, you may wonder whether your post should be a news item disseminated through the corporate public relations department. If you have any question about this, talk with a representative of PR first.
Be sure to state the case that your information is timely, relevant, and authoritative as it stands, and be prepared to back that up. A social-savvy PR department will appreciate your efforts and very likely give you the go-ahead to proceed and may even assist you in spreading the post through its network. A great PR department will encourage this activity as yet another channel for delivery of industry leading information.
Finally, be sure your blog posts are disseminated not just on your company’s home page, but on its Facebook Page and Twitter account as well. The blog itself should include easy, highly visible opportunities to subscribe via RSS and e-mail. If you’re routinely posting high quality information, journalists will want to follow you as much as possible.