Building Trust in a Corporate Blog

Larry Kunz

Larry Kunz

The following is a guest post by Larry Kunz, a consultant with Systems Documentation, Inc. (SDI) Global Solutions.

Writing a professional blog—whether you do it under your own name as Tom does, or under a company’s banner as I do—is about building a brand. By brand I mean the personality that you want to project.

Just as companies have brands in the marketplace, individuals have brands in the professional communities they inhabit. Companies and individuals want people to feel comfortable interacting with them. Building trust in the brand is the key.

The process of building trust is mostly the same for corporate blogs and for individual blogs.

Tom’s blog has helped him build a strong personal brand. While most of his readers probably know who he works for, he doesn’t speak on his employer’s behalf and the blog doesn’t affect his employer’s brand. By contrast, my blog affects both my personal brand and that of my employer, SDI. Nevertheless Tom and I operate in essentially the same way: we express opinions and invite dialog about issues related to technical communication. We reveal some of our personalities, but we avoid saying things that could damage the brand by offending or alienating readers. If I had a personal blog I’d write it the same way I write the corporate blog.

Over time (and it takes time—there are no shortcuts) I think that my blog posts have built trust in my personal brand and in my company’s brand. Along the way I’ve adhered to three principles:

1. Reveal yourself as a person. On a corporate blog it’s essential to show that the corporation is made up of people who have likes, dislikes, opinions, and feelings. Details about yourself—what you like to do, what inspires you, what makes you smile—provide contact points where readers can connect with you. My readers know that I like baseball and that as a kid I was fascinated by space flight. You can reveal a lot without ever crossing the line into subjects that might offend (the proverbial religion and politics) and without endangering your privacy (for example, names of family members).

2. Have the courage of your convictions. Know what you believe, and express them consistently. If you speak without conviction, two outcomes will happen: your readers will see right through you, and you’ll begin contradicting yourself. Both outcomes will blow your credibility and undermine trust. I’m not saying that you can never change your mind — but when you do, acknowledge it and don’t disown the things you wrote in the past.

3. Acknowledge and appreciate comments. On a corporate blog, responding to comments is like coming out from behind the corporate facade. The reader interacts with a human being rather than with a logo or a brand name. For me, blog comments are gifts from people who took the time to read my content and then contributed a thought or a rebuttal. The best blogger I know for handling comments is Lisa Petrilli in her leadership blog C-Level Strategies. Lisa appreciates every comment she gets, and she responds with gratitude and encouragement.

Building trust—building a brand—takes time. Whether you blog on a corporate site or as an individual, you can succeed when you remain true to yourself, remain faithful to your convictions, and appreciate your readers’ feedback.

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Larry Kunz, a technical communicator for more than 30 years, works as a consultant with Systems Documentation, Inc. (SDI) Global Solutions in Durham, NC. He is a Fellow in the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and in 2010 received the STC President’s Award for leading the Society’s strategic planning effort.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm primarily interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication (video tutorials, illustrations), findability (organization, information architecture), API documentation (code examples, programming), and web publishing (web platforms, interactivity) -- pretty much everything related to technical writing. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog either by RSS, email, or another method. To learn more about me, see my About page. You can also contact me if you have questions.

12 thoughts on “Building Trust in a Corporate Blog

  1. Val Swisher

    Thanks so much for your post, Larry. I agree 100% with everything that you’ve written. Building trust in your brand – whether your personal brand or your company’s brand – is critical.

    I have found that being gracious with people who disagree with my point of view is also important. It is important to be open to all types of conversations – even those where people disagree. I’ve actually changed my stance based on conversations I’ve had with people who respond to my blog.

    Having people take the time out of their busy days/nights to read our blog posts is a gift to us. And it spurs dialog, thinking, ideas, friendships, and mutual trust.

    Thanks to both you and Tom for always providing informative and interesting posts to read. You can add this one to your list! ~ Val

    1. Larry Kunz

      Thanks, Val. I’m glad that you liked what I said about responding to comments — all the more because I think of you as an expert in collaboration and working with customers.

      You’re absolutely right: we should be gracious toward people who disagree with us, and appreciative toward people who agree. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  2. Linda O

    Larry,
    Great job of guesting! I have been writing a blog for my client for several months. It’s been fun but your post gave me some great ideas. I wasn’t sure about how much of me I could share since I am writing for my client, but with your encouragement, I think I’ll start letting folks know a little more about their writer! Thanks again. It’s wonderful to see you pop up here and there!

    1. Larry Kunz

      Hi, Linda. It’s wonderful to see you too. Good luck with the client blog. As they see more of who you are as a person, they’re bound to connect better with you.

  3. Rob Peoni

    Great post Larry! I have recently taken over the responsibility of a corporate blog. However, I’m a new hire in the company. I realize your post is about building trust with your readers and potential clients. However, I’m interested in how I am supposed to build trust with people within the company itself. I need the executives to trust me to articulate their vision, but I need their input and assistance. How do I achieve this?

    1. Larry Kunz

      Rob, it sounds like you’re in the awkward position of representing the company without being connected to the people who are defining (or ought to be defining) the company’s brand.

      I encourage you to go to the executives, either directly or through your immediate manager, and tell them you want to establish that connection. Tell them you’re happy to be the face of the company, but you need general guidance — for example, what things to emphasize, what tone to set. Better still, bring some suggestions of your own — for example, I want to portray our company as progressive, easy to do business with, etc.

      I’m not suggesting you ask the execs to micromanage you. You don’t necessarily want a scenario where someone has to approve everything you write before posting. Just ask for general guidance, and let them know that you’re willing to be an active player in defining the company’s brand.

      Hope that helps.

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  6. Brian Birnbaum

    Hi Larry,

    I completely agree that a personality is important in terms of your likes and interests etc. I’d add that actually writing like a normal person is important as well. Many people seem to think that if they want to sound ‘professional’ they have to write using big words and technical jargon.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Brian

    1. Tom Johnson

      Sometimes “writing like a normal person” leads one to adopt the kind of pseudo-professional tone that you’re warning against. To write in plain, human-like speech requires extra effort, actually.

    2. Larry Kunz

      Thanks, Brian. I’d go farther and say that writing “like a normal person” is appropriate for all kinds of writing. Whenever your writing is directed to people — and I can’t think of any time when it wouldn’t be — then you’ll best connect with your audience when you write in terms they can readily understand.

      Of course, as Tom said, it’s hard. This is a major reason we see so much pompous and overblown writing.

      (Incidentally, you mentioned jargon but I wouldn’t lump it with sesquipedalianism and other writerly sins. You can use jargon and still write like a normal person — as long as the jargon is “normal” for your audience.)

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