Finding Your Blog’s Voice and Keeping the Conversation Fresh
It’s no surprise that blogs are crucial to your PR toolkit. In fact, survey participants in HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound report ranked blog content creation as the second most important priority for their projects. What’s more? Companies that use blogs in their marketing and communications strategy generate 67% more leads1.
Does your brand use its blog to drive business growth? If you’re focused solely on announcing company news, you’ll miss out on educating prospects and nurturing them into customers. And that’s not something you want to overlook, especially when content marketing conversion rates are six times higher than and driving three times as many leads as traditional marketing!
Blogging continues to remain a vital and effective asset for communications professionals. As a tool to discuss relevant topics and engage your community, a blog can be a compelling owned channel to showcase your organization’s expertise, develop influence, engage your audiences, learn about their needs and meet them.
WHY BLOGS ARE VITAL TO BUSINESS
Creating high-quality blog content takes time; however, it’ll be all for naught if you forget the one essential that makes your blog matter to the bottom line: its ability to convert customers.
Amanda Hicken, senior marketing manager, Cision and PR Newswire blog lead, explains: “I wasn’t an immediate convert to blogging’s conversion power. However, the data opened my eyes. After I connected our brand blog to PRNewswire’s overall demand generation strategy, I saw 710% year-over-year revenue growth attributed back to the blog.
“This didn’t happen overnight. Transforming your blog into a revenue driver requires a thorough assessment of the content you publish, how you handle calls to action as well as the continual tracking and testing of your blogging techniques.”
Ready to see similar success? Whether you’re just starting out or in need of fresh ideas, here are some of our favorite tips, best practices and examples to help you succeed in all of your blogging adventures.
SETTING THE FRAMEWORK
Before you hit publish, first organize your blog by defining its goals, purpose and target audience. Ask yourself these three questions to help shape a successful platform for your content:
Why do I want to blog?
“Because everyone else does” is not a good reason to start a blog. Have goals in mind and write them down. A content strategy won’t work unless it’s documented. For example, what topics do you want to cover? Is its purpose to build brand awareness, showcase customer success stories and/or drive additional revenue? Narrowing the focus can help you identify and own your blog’s unique personality, which will ultimately make your blog stand out and attract readers in your niche.
Additionally, outline specific guidelines for what is expected of those contributing to your blog. Contributors’ posts should align with your overall content strategy, goals and voice.
Who is my target audience?
The most important step is to identify who will read your content. Failing to identify your audience can lead to irrelevant topics, missed goals and low engagement. Use social media monitoring to discover what your target audience already cares about and shares online. Determine this by surveying existing customers or followers to understand what needs they have, then focus on how you can meet them.
Get your sales, customer service and content teams on board in this discussion. Involving these people will provide your team with a broader sense of all the audiences you need to serve. With their feedback, you can define your personas with more details, map out goals that align with the rest of your organization and ensure interests are met.
How can I make my blog goals and business objectives align?
Don’t jump on “the more blog posts, the better” train. Concern yourself with how your blog posts directly relate to the goals of your business and complement your overall business strategy. To prove that these goals are met and money is made, measurement is key.
Today’s metrics should go beyond simple views and shares. You’ll want to look closely at lead stage changes to determine how your blog posts directly affect a customer’s journey. Did someone convert after reading one of your posts? How much revenue can you attribute back to last month’s content? Set up meetings with your operations team to develop a plan of how you will measure success.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF BLOGGING
Once you map out your content strategy, turn your attention to the individual blog posts that will achieve it. Follow this advice to create compelling blog content consistently.
Ask for help
Relevance is not just about the topics you cover, but also who is delivering that message. Most of the time that’s not going to be the blog’s editorial manager. Instead, it’s her job to recruit and develop a lineup of contributors.
These may be colleagues, but they could also be external influencers, freelancers or clients. Choose contributors who are credible authorities on the topics your audience cares about and can bring fresh perspectives to important conversations.
Hicken explains, “At PR Newswire, we established a program that more than tripled blog contributor participation in a year. Showcasing the depth and breadth of our expertise helped us reach audience segments we hadn’t before and established a stronger footprint with those we had. “
Have a routine
Know your most productive hours and use them to your advantage. For example, schedule specific times to write or edit. By keeping a routine and sticking to it, you’ll be less likely to miss deadlines and more likely to publish well-written content.
Maintain a running list of ideas, trends and topics for those days when you lack inspiration. Reach out to customer service representatives, salespeople and even your executive team for their input too.
Maintain your calendar
An editorial calendar is necessary for any content your team creates, especially since you’ll publish blog posts frequently. Be sure to revisit and reassess your calendar often to ensure you keep a balanced mix of evergreen and trending content.
Measure your content
Set up benchmarks that go beyond traditional or vague metrics like number of views or brand awareness. Look closely at which posts drive call to action click-throughs, engage the most on social media and earn the most media mentions.
Try to do too much too fast
Don’t overwhelm your team or your audience. Before you jump on any emerging trends, look first at your own data. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if it’s already rolling at a steady pace.
Try to copy others’ success
Every brand differs in personality, tone and vocabulary. So too should their blogs. Keep your eyes on blogs written by your competitors, industry leaders or influencers and use their success as food for thought on what you can improve. But, don’t expect copycat content to reap the same rewards.
Be too promotional
Readers flock to blogs for advice, inspiration or resources. Highlight the benefits of your products and services, but don’t include blatant sales pitches in your content. There’s a fine line that too many cross – don’t be one of them!
Make your readers work too hard
Don’t waste your readers’ time! Ensure your content gets to the point quickly. If you bury the lede, you’ll lose credibility and trust. Influence your audience by creating simple, digestible content that can be shared easily.
Blogs were primarily text when they first rose to popularity. But today, audiences want visuals to look at and share with their audiences. Include featured images, infographics, videos and even GIFs or memes to keep your readers’ attention.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR BLOG FRESH
After a while, you may find your blog posts have become redundant or no longer resonate with your audience. Here are a few of the ways to ensure your blog provides quality content and keeps your audience coming back for more:
Tap into your own experiences. Highlight your own challenges and the ways you overcame them. As an industry expert, you may have confronted a problem that your readers are currently experiencing.
Listen to your audience. Invite readers to comment on blog posts to find out what they like most about your posts. Monitor social media to determine which topics your audience would like to learn about or already find interesting. When you listen to your followers, you’ll not only find inspiration for a new blog post, but also uncover ways to increase reader engagement.
Read…a lot. Whether you read a book, magazine or newspaper, doing so will improve your writing and increase your knowledge. Reading can also spark inspiration for new blog posts.
Don’t be afraid to give prompts and idea generators a try. Some bloggers leverage group challenges, like November’s National Blog Posting Month or A-Z lists. Try creating your own challenge that is relevant to your audience. You could even turn the challenge into user-generated content by encouraging audience members to participate.
Prove success with analytics. Go beyond visibility metrics such as views and downloads. Consider the level of engagement with your posts on social and the sentiment of those comments or reposts. Also take a look at first touch nurture leads to determine your blog’s direct effect on leads and sales.
Revisit your blog strategy. Do your goals still align with business objectives? Do you continue to provide value to your readers? Are they engaged in your posts and reacting? If not, meet with your team to reevaluate the original plan.
Blogging helps establish thought leadership, engage audiences and direct prospects to the next step in their journey. But success can only be found and work proven effective if you build out a detailed strategy for this compelling channel and have the tools to help distribute your brand’s stories to the world.
With CNW’s portfolio of services and solutions, you can achieve your communications goals from building awareness and gaining media pickup, to managing reputation and inspiring investor confidence—by sharing, targeting, tracking and enhancing your unique content to make the most of your content investment.