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.
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.