Blog Interview with Jeremiah Owyang

Here’s the first part of a 10-question iDea series interview with my good friend and web strategist, Jeremiah Owyang. Thanks, Jeremiah for taking time off from your busy schedule to share your thoughts on corporate web strategy. Without further ado, I give you — Jeremiah.

Part I: 5 Questions from Marketing Bloggers

Interview with Jeremiah OwyangWeb Strategist

Mack Collier from Viral Garden & Beyond Madison Avenue blogs
Q#1: Do you feel that most companies that begin blogging are doing so to better connect with their customers, or to use their blog as a PR tool, esp. against what other bloggers might be writing about them?

Some companies are using the tool to reach out and build a relationship of trust and some are business blogging as an active defense –it depends on the company and it’s culture.

Also, let’s remember that the term ‘Public Relations’ (PR) is something that now applies to many folks in the company, not just the Corporate Communications Group. A change in the PR industry is happening, folks like Steve Rubel and Richard Edelman are now teaching PR professionals to be message enablers rather than message holders/keepers.

Successful PR groups will have to let go in order to gain much more.

Eric Kintz from HP’s The Marketing Excellence Blog
Q#2: What should companies blog about? Only the company and its products or more broadly?

To start off with Companies don’t blog, individuals do –and that’s really key mindset to have, business blogging is about people communicating with other real people –time to get human.

A blogger should talk what he or she is passionate about, areas of expertise and provide insight and help to the community they are conversing with –in short, be a real life resource to your customers. It’s certainly ok to talk about products, but it’s even more effective to discuss how these products can be used to help customers, and even involving customers in this discussion on how to improve products.

That’s where it really gets interesting as it’s a dialogue, rather than a monologue.

Q#3: How to measure the return of those initiatives?

The ROI question precludes nearly every speech/panel I give or discussion, and other industry pundits have expressed the same.

The R (Which stands for “Return”) is very high, you’re engaged in an active dialogue with folks that are passionate about your products, if you business blog correctly (meaning communicate) you’ve an opportunity to build a better product and a better company.

Cost for such discussions are very low, the I (which stands for “Investment”) is very pennies to the dollar. It’s mainly labor costs.

Some folks get concerned about the investment time it takes to blog –effective and strategic bloggers will use the blog to save them time.

Anytime you find yourself repeating a phrase or idea –there is great blog fodder. I know that some corporate bloggers have already pre-primed their audience by blogging about topics –when they meet a customer in person the audience already knows what they are about, and often an immediate casual discussion starts off.

For job descriptions of the future for Product folks, having blogging skills for know how to listen and engage in an active dialogue will be required.

Lastly, you’ll never be able to put a dollar amount on business blogging until you can measure the ROI on a advertisement in a magazine, a billboard, or a conversation between a sales rep and a prospect at a coffee shop. Unlike the examples I just gave, Web Analytics can measure real and actual activity in a quantitative and sometimes qualitative method –-it’s an easier medium to measure.

I recommend to the uninitiated to give it a try on a trial blog to try first before diving in head first

Karl Long from Experience Curve
Q#4: As bloggers become the “conversational” touchpoint for some companies, how should those companies approach valuation, compensation and retention?

If ‘Conversations’ are the activity, then the real value is relationships between customer and employee. Many companies get worried about key bloggers getting too big and moving on –reward them better, set out clear guidelines on what is a corporate blog and what is not., Also remember that allowing blogging in a culture is in fact a benefit and often an attractor for new talent. Like other forms of customer relations, blogging should be factored into a job description, performance metrics, and perhaps overall compensation. However, the most effective bloggers won’t do it for the money –they’ll do it because they’re passionate about customers.

In 5-10 years blogs will be as common as email, I really don’t see it as a big deal really. In summary, you’re asking employees to blog to build trusting relationships with customers –just like a Rolodex, there’s value in those relationships.

Ann Handley from MarketingProfs – The Daily Fix
Q#5: As blogging itself is a learning experience is there really a market for “blog consultants” above-and-beyond “you need to start a blog”? If so what is their role, mentor, coach?

For now, as Business Blogging is still nascent, a disruption to normal corporate communications, and is new to many industries leveraging an experience consultant is a great way to kick start and get ahead. Some big companies have entered the blogosphere completely wrong (or just failed to listen) and suffered horribly. I recommend finding such a consultant, and reading books if you’ve a lot at stake. I know a few such consultants, please contact me if you’re seeking an expert.

Also, change the mindset on ‘blogging consulting’ really what’s being taught is how to have a dialogue with customers using two-way web tools. It’s a combination of both PR, Web Marketing, Product Management, Product Support, and being human.

Although I consider myself a web professional, I’ve been asked to speak at Web, Marketing, and even PR conferences, it’s a tool that’s changing many practices.

Lastly, Get books first, see below for a list of resources:

ClueTrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Rick Levine
Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble & Shel Israel
Weblog Handbook by Rebecca Blood
Blog Marketing by Jeremy Wright
The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil

Stay tuned for “Part II: 5 Questions” tomorrow.

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  2. Mario Sundar

    Hi Paul,

    Glad you liked the interview. Thanks for the links. I love links too!


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