Kudos to my newest guest blogger Susan Harris for her post below explaining exactly why being a corporate blogger can be fun. She hits all the relevant points (how she coaxes posts out of the staff, how she finds guest authors, etc.). I love her observation that “the networking goes on in the sidebar, too” through a carefully selected blogroll. Read on for the dirt on corporate blogging. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Susan is best known for her blogging at GardenRant and award-winning Sustainable and Urban Gardening. She writes for corporate blogs Mahoney’s and Homestead. Take it away, Susan:

Field Report from a Local Corporate Blogger – Where Viral Meets Local

Anybody out there losing their blogging mojo, like me? I’ve been at it five years now and have climbed to the top of the heap in my niche (gardening), but still there’s almost no money in it. So I boldly offered my “blogging services” to a local garden center, and damn if they didn’t hire me.  Then another.  So suddenly I’m a corporate blogger, no matter that the term conjures up savvy 20-somethings in the marketing departments of big national companies.

But blogging for small local businesses is as different from that corporate world as it is blogging for myself, and the shocker to me is that I love doing it, and not just for the moolah. Here’s what I do.

The Writing

The biggest change from personal blogging is that for paying clients, I can’t blog about whatever’s on my mind; now I try to anticipate what customers want to know.  (Lawn care?  Always number one.) I blog about events at the store or nearby, and sometimes profile a staffer – all stuff I had no interest in covering on my own blog, but to help a company I support, it’s totally cool.  There’s also room for sexier stuff aimed at entertaining readers and creating a bit of buzz: profiles of cool people and places, gardens in the movies, and photo spreads to wow the reader(gardening blogs are worthless without photos).

The Coaxing of Posts from Staff

Ever notice how many small-business blogs fail? Me, too, and usually it’s because employees tasked with blogging don’t have the time, interest or expertise to do it, especially to do it well.

Hiring a professional blogger gives the blog a base of regular posts but still, customers want to hear from the staff, especially those experts on the floor.  As blog editor-manager, I need to make it easy as hell for staffers to contribute anything.  So I fix up drafts sent to me as emails with great graphics and SEO-happy titles and make their authors proud. More coaxing is required to get bios and photos from them, but that stuff goes a long way to personalizing the company and engaging the readers.

More Coaxing of Guest Posts

My favorite part of the job may be soliciting guest posts from gardening experts in the region.  Many will guest-post for free – to promote their new book or their organization, while others looking to make a living (not easy in the gardening world) need to be paid, and we offer $100 per post – a bargain price for a whole lotta impact, and buzz.  Prominent guests also add big-time to the credibility of the company and its website/blog.

The Promoting(that Local/Viral Thing)

Now promoting my own blog and the causes I’ve worked on, that’s one thing, but promoting a company?  That makes the former hippie in me squirm a bit but the key is working for companies I actually want to succeed – in this case independent, family-owned companies. Who wouldn’t I promote?  The Big Boxes that are ruining those small companies, or the agents of Big Chem in the gardening world (think Scotts Miracle-Gro and its ilk).

But with the ick factor not a concern, corporate blogs are an awesome tool for networking (especially when turbo-powered by its new best friends Facebook and Twitter). So when I promote local Master Gardeners and community gardens, those folks pass the link along and put us on their website.

The networking goes on in the sidebar, too.  We have long blogrolls of clubs, nonprofits, public gardens to visit, other gardenblogs – all local.  (Take that, boring national gardening blog launched this year by Lowes.)

So How Much Does it Cost?

A professionally written and managed garden-center blog can become THE online resource and hub for gardeners in a given region for about $15-20,000 a year, a fraction of their budget for print ads and Yellow Pages (remember them?).

Susan Harris

Wanna guest post on this blog?

Here are the guidelines: your post must be congruent with the topics covered on this blog (corporate social media, publishing 2.0, government 2.0, etc.). It must be interesting, original and provocative. It must be well written, requiring little or no editing. There is no pay – you do it for glory and fame.

And did I mention, you must be a damn good writer. Thanks to my first guest contributor, author Douglas Karr, for being all of the above.