A business acquaintance wrote to ask me for some (free) advice about starting a multi-author blog. I decided to share my advice, thinking you might find it useful. Here are his questions, followed by my answers. He's the PR and public affairs manager for a membership and advocacy association. My best tip: Don’t start with “who.” Start with the “what” of your blog.

Q: What should the differences be between a CEO blog and a multi-author blog? What opportunities are there? Is there anything missing credibility-wise without a CEO or President?

Don’t start with “who.” Start with the “what” of your blog.

What is the premise? What do your readers want to know? What do you (as an organization) want to accomplish?

Then complete this sentence: “The goal of my organization’s blog is to: X.” Now add the following sentence to the strategic plan for your blog: “Our blog will provide Y and Z of value to our readers.”

Make it about them; not about you.

Hint: force yourself to give your blog a name and to write a tag line for it.

If the purpose is to spread the word about the issues you're involved in – and to inform your readers – then there’s no particular reason for the CEO to be the sole blogger. If he/she happens to be highly knowledgeable, have an engaging personality, likes to write, is a good writer, s(he) should be *one* of your multi authors.

In fact, the attributes listed above should be prerequisites for any author whom you choose for your multi-author team.

Multi-author corporate or organization blogs are increasingly common. Makes sense, as everyone is busy and less of a burden on one person.

You will need a blog editor,  

For examples of multi-author corporate blogs, take a look at Verizon's Poliblog (see drop down for the list of authors) and Wells Fargo's blogs. Also Google's official corporate blog.

More Fortune 500 blogs (for ideas on execution of “issue” or “advocacy” blogs). 

More CEO blogs.

Q: I think I remember you writing that blogging is not over-hyped. Do you still believe that?

Blogging is not over-hyped. Blogs are the key to social media. They’re the platform on which text and photos and video and podcasts live. Search engines find user-generated content because it’s posted on blogs. Of course, RSS (built into virtually every blogging platform) is what makes this work.

Q: For people who think blogging is over-hyped, as there may be in the group I’m going to introduce to blogging, how do I persuade them it holds great utility?

I assume you're talking about the managers and executives you’re trying to get on board with a blog for your organization. Here's my advice:

1. Set up a test blog (TypePad is always a good option.) Make it look pretty.

2. Put some sample content on it. Write three or four entries about the topics (Categories) you intend to cover.

3. Include links to useful resources (articles, other sites or blogs).

4. Add photos.

5. Insert a video (do a search on YouTube; you’re bound to find something relevant to your organization).

6. Add some “demo” Comments from readers.

Then show your execs what it looks like, how it works and how it will add to your Web presence. And how it will serve to get the word out to your readers and the media.

Introduce your execs to the ROI of blogging

If you want to get into the nitty gritty of the ROI of corporate blogging with your execs, read this. (Points to Forrester study on ROI of Blogging.)

Q: How has blogging changed for corporations or associations in the last five years?

It’s becoming better understood as a PR, marketing and communications strategy. And more accepted. More and more companies, large and small, are blogging. See the April 2007 State of the Live Web report from Technorati (formerly called State of the Blogosphere) for the latest stats on the continued growth of the blogosphere: 

Q: How do you think it will evolve over the next five?

Growth in size of blogosphere (all blogs) will continue, but more slowly.

Growth in size of “corporate blogosphere” will become more noticeable. Currently, there are no numbers I know of that measure the corporate or business blogosphere per se – i.e. the total number of companies and/or employees with official business-related blogs.

Q: Where do we stand today in terms of the maturation process of corporate blogging?

See above. Blogs are just next-generation Web sites. They will become an expected part of the basic navigation of any corporate site.

Q: Aside from members and members of the media, what other audiences do you see for an organizational blog like ours? What should the main goal be?

You decide what the goal should be. I should think “prospects” would be a key audience – i.e. folks who’ve never thought about joining your association but who stumble on your blog through a keyword search on Google.

Q: I see this as an opportunity to build thought leadership credentials in traffic safety and motorist advocacy arenas. If we’re required to post about our business lines, such as insurance and travel, which is part of our groups’ job in the traditional PR sense, does that compromise our credentials on the advocacy front?

Depends on how you handle these topics. If you’re informational and not salesy I don’t see a problem.

In fact, readers won’t mind a link back to information on your main site about your insurance products – if it’s presented as an aside and in a longer entry about the pros and cons of this particular type of insurance.

Q: What pitfalls do you see for a blog of the type I envision?

See above. Your blog won't get traction (and may be criticized for being marketing spin) if the writing is salesy and not useful. It's gotta be informal and authentic.

Q: Do you think it’s unusual that a company such as ours, which has nearly 4 million members, that participates in extensive media outreach, and in government affairs, does not blog? Is this becoming less the norm?

No, not unusual. Blogs are still catching on as a corporate communications and marketing tool.

Q: Has your opinion about in-house or out-house Content Management Systems changed since you’ve published your book?

No. Keep it simple. If a hosted solution on a service like TypePad works for you (and your readers), then use it.

Q: How important is it to link from your organizational homepage to the blog?

Vital. If you’ve got a corporate or organizational blog, make it easy to find – particularly in a crisis.

Q: Do you think it would lend credibility to an advocacy blog to blogroll opposing viewpoint blogs?

Interesting idea. I’d recommend picking and choosing carefully and identifying the blogs as such.

Q: What is your favorite blog? Why?

My favorite corporate blog is Sun Microsystems’ Jonathan Schwartz. He’s such a good writer. And Sun gets it. They’re translating his blog into 10 languages. (See the drop-down at the top of his blog.)

Q: Have I missed anything?

Probably. But that’s enough for today. Hope that gives you a start. 

– DW