Why Outsourcing a Blog Might Be Smart

This headline, sent to me by a colleague, appeared in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal: “Should You Outsource Your Company Blog?” Like most questions addressed in communications, marketing and other similar fields, the answer is — Maybe. It depends.


1. If the company doesn’t have a communications or a marketing department, maybe you should.
2. If the company doesn’t have an executive spokesperson with the time, maybe you should.
3. If the company’s Legal and/or HR departments need to approve outgoing comments, maybe you should, but only if those departments get out of the way. Otherwise, don’t do a blog.
Or maybe not. And here are the arguments, as I understand them, against outsourcing the company blog. The point of blogging is:
1. Having an authentic voice.
2. Giving customers a personal connection to the company.
3. Ghostwriters do neither.
Well, pardon me, but who do you think writes executive speeches, letters from the CEO, and all those personal words to shareholders one finds in the Annual Report, and web site content, and most of the pithy executive quotes found in newspapers? Guys and gals such as me. I also write and manage several company blogs, who are my clients. As the period on the sentence, none of those things are done without interviewing executives and employees, studying the company and its customers, and, finally, getting approval from the company spokesperson for everything I write.
Would it be better if someone from the company wrote the blog? Maybe, maybe not. When work is outsourced, the consultants often have more influence over the executives and more freedom from message management. And if we’re fired, we haven’t lost our jobs, just a job. We don’t have the pressure of saying what we think the company wants to hear, at least many of us don’t. More important, key inhouse staff are focusing on their other jobs and responsibilities, while gaining the outsider points of view and expertise, which are then translated into blog posts.
So, there you have it. One consultant’s take on outsourcing blogging. Not right. Not wrong. It just depends.

7 Things That Blogging Does

Seven years ago (2003), I posted my first Blog post here. The day would have slipped by had someone not sent me a note about it.

After tweeting about my Blogaversary, Jay Fleischman, replied: "@mitchjoel 6.18 posts/wk for 7 yrs. Take out 1 for the podcast and you’re at 5.18; 400 words ea = 2,072 words/wk. 754,208 words total. Nice." my newspaper column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun (which will be cross-posted here tomorrow) is all about the future of Blogging. That being said, after 7 years and 2251 Blog posts, I have learned some very important lessons about the value of Blogging when I think back.

7 Important Lessons About Blogging:

  1. Blogging = Critical Thinking. If everything else went away (the readers, the comments, the community, the feedback), Blogging was (and still is) an amazing place to think about an issue or news item and work through it. I liken myself as a Media Hacker. A Blog is a great place for anyone to be a Hacker of whatever it is that they love. If you don’t believe me, then just watch this: Blogging Still Matters… Now More Than Ever.
  2. Blogging = Ideation. In using your Blog as a platform for your critical thinking, you will quickly start uncovering new and interesting business models and ideas for how you can push your industry forward or how it can/should be thinking differently. Writing a Blog, reading the comments and feedbacking into them is the ultimate Petri dish for ideation and innovation.
  3. Blogging = Tinkering. The ideas and critical thinking are not always one hundred percent final. Blogging allows you to tinker with ideas. To work at them (like a complex mathematical formula). Slowly, over time, you start realizing how wrong you were, how visionary you were and how much further you still have to go.
  4. Blogging = Relationships. It’s not about sitting in the dark recesses of your basement as you tinker away with words and thoughts. It’s about using this platform to connect. It’s about real interactions with real human beings. Some of my best friends are people that I would not have otherwise met were it not for Six Pixels of Separation (the Blog, not the concept). If you Blog, step out into the physical world. Meet other Bloggers. Share, learn and collaborate with them.
  5. Blogging = Business. Make no mistake about it. This Blog started out as a means for Twist Image to tell the world how we think differently about Media, Marketing, Advertising and Communications. Over the years, this has attracted many world-class clients, speaking engagements, a book offer and many other amazing and interesting business opportunities. So, while this is not a place where Twist Image shills its wares, it is a place that is directly tied to our overall business objectives/strategy. It consistently delivers a very solid ROI to our bottom line (take that, you Social Media measurement naysayers!).
  6. Blogging = Sharing. As each day passes, I like Charlene Li‘s latest book, Open Leadership, more and more (her first book, Groundswell rocks as well). Many people think that Social Media is all about the conversation and engaging in the conversation. I believe what makes any media "social" is the ability to share it. To help you to open up. Not only can you share the concepts by telling your peers and friend about a Blog, but everybody shares in the insights as well (whether you work for my company or not). It has changed/evolved our corporate culture. A Blog makes you think more about how you can share your content, your thoughts and why others may want to work/connect to you.
  7. Blogging = Exhaust Valve. A great Blog is great because the Blogger actually cares and loves to create content. If it’s forced, if it’s your "job," then the passion rarely comes through. The biggest lesson I have learned in my seven years of Blogging is that this Blog is my exhaust valve. After working a full day with clients and their many challenges, this Blog is my playground. It’s the place where I can let off some textual steam. Make your Blog your exhaust valve. Caution: be careful that you’re not Blogging simply to blow off angry steam. The steam and exhaust I am talking about is the pent up energy of passion that I have from doing what I love to do.

What does Blogging equal for you?

The Future Of Blogging Might Surprise You

As social media evolves, it’s normal that the channels and platforms evolve, too. Some continue to grow in popularity, while others dwindle. 

One thing is for certain: The Internet is not a fad. This new media is not going away. And, as it continues to grow in popularity, it’s important to also accept that social media is not a fad. Yes, some of the platforms have becomes less popular (Friendster, MySpace and Second Life), but then again, maybe they have returned to a more realistic state of stability. Maybe these platforms were never meant to compete with the raw numbers of television viewership. Perhaps not every platform and channel should be benchmarked against Facebook and its 500 million-plus users. Maybe MySpace is doing right now what it does best: serving entertainment professionals and wannabes with a place to connect.

What about the future of blogs and blogging?

Last week, eMarketer released a new report titled, The Blogosphere – Colliding With Social And Mainstream Media, written by Paul Verna. If you think about the advent of social media, blogging really was the first pin to drop. The ability for anybody to have a thought, be able to type it up and then publish it online for the world to see (for free) changed everything we know about publishing, journalism and the media. Along with the publishing component, the ability to subscribe to the content via RSS, and have the ability to comment on it publicly, link back to it or even start your own blog was a watershed moment in the history of humanity and evolution of publishing. Some equate it with the advent of the printing press, while many in traditional print media wrote it off in an attempt to maintain their own credibility and professionalism. As blogging took hold, the ability to publish in images, audio and video pushed social media into many different directions and – as with all things – the content that was easiest to produce and publish (like snapping a picture or shooting a quick video) replaced the not-so-easy task of putting your thoughts into words. Blogging was always hard, because writing is hard. Everyone is not a writer. Everyone is not a blogger.

Nothing has changed … but everything has changed.

“Despite the success of other social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, blog readership has increased steadily and is expected to continue on an upward path,” the Blogosphere report says. ”Just over half of U.S. Internet users are now reading blogs at least once a month, and this percentage will climb to 60 per cent in the next four years. The main drivers behind these increases are the prevalence of blogs in the mainstream media, the increased use of blogs for corporate marketing and easy-to-use personal blogging platforms.” It’s interesting to note that the true growth of blogging is not coming from individuals using this empowered publishing platform to share their insights with the world. The credibility and growth from blogs moving forward seems to be coming from the mainstream media’s desire to have a cheaper, faster and near-real-time platform to distribute their content.

Blogs are (and will become) a mainstream media platform.

In February 2006, I wrote a blog post titled, A Blog Is Like Lemmy From Motorhead. The point of it? I wrote: “A blog is the glory of a personal voice – warts and all. That is why people are gravitating toward them. Deep down, we want companies to speak our language. We’re tired of jargon. We’re zoning out when we hear phrases like ‘best of breed’ or ‘end to end solution.’ We want to know that business cares about us and treasures our loyalty. We want more… and we’re starting with a conversation that has a human voice behind it … warts and all.”

That world is quickly leaving us as blogs become almost indecipherable from a mass media news website.

The Blogosphere report goes on to say: “The number of blog creators is also expected to climb, though not as steeply as that of blog readers. For many people, the appeal of blogging is not as intense as it was when blogs were the leading form of social media. Today, people have many other social tools at their disposal, and some of them are more fun and less labour-intensive than blogs. Facebook offers most of the capabilities of blogs; users post frequent updates that can include photos, videos and links. To give an idea of how blogging stacks up against social network usage, there will be 26 million bloggers in the U.S. by the end of 2010 compared with about 150 million Facebook users. …Nevertheless, overall blogging rates will inch upward. The biggest factors driving the increase are the ease of use of blogging platforms and the growing comfort level with blog reading among U.S. Internet users. Blogs with broad reach – whether media blogs, corporate blogs or influential technology or celebrity blogs – are creating a culture in which blogging is accepted as an integral part of the media landscape.”

From a personal journaling platform in 1997 to a full-on publishing platform, the transformation of blogs over the past few years can be best summed up in one word: astounding.

It’s a profound shift in how we write, read, contribute and distribute the published word. Blogs are no longer the black sheep of publishing. They have quickly become as important as the printed word. The New York Times operates at least 50 public-facing blogs,” the Blogosphere report says. “These blogs are intertwined with the paper’s regular coverage. Readers are routinely redirected from the main site to the blogs and back again. There is a near total fluidity between the traditional coverage and the blog posts.”

So, in some strange, ironic way, the future of blogging lies in its ability to act like and augment the most traditional types of the printed word.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

When The Web Is Considered An Inferior Media

Going back a few years, the Internet was not considered a credible media source. That changed, but it’s changing again.

In the early days of online publishing (even pre-Blogging) the simple fact that any one individual could publish their text, images, audio and video online created a major stir within the major mass media outlets. In fact, their only defense in trying to maintain control over what the public consumed was to scare the world with stories of online publishers not living up to the journalistic integrity that we have come to expect from our news and media outlets. To this day, there are still traces of this (look no further than the articles covering the accuracy of Wikipedia entries).

Can the Bloggers be trusted?

It’s a powerful thing to say, but we’ve come to learn that the vast majority of Blogs (and the Bloggers who publish them) are overly transparent about who they are, what they’re Blogging about and where their intention is (those who are transparent gain credibility, conversation and audience). On top of that, the Bloggers that do not disclose things like conflicts or when they are being compensated are becoming easier and easier to spot.

…But things are starting to get ugly again.

Yesterday, Paid Content, ran a news item titled, Condé Nast Enlists Web Edit Staff For Samsung Advertorial. Here’s the gist of it: Condé Nast is attempting to protect the traditional wall separating advertising from print editorial by having online-only staffers create an ad insert for Samsung… the use of web staffers was seen as a compromise and a way to avoid clashing with print editors who were considered averse to allowing their own staff work on an ad product.”

Either you’re believing in this digital content stuff or you’re not. You can’t be half-pregnant.

There are a couple of factors at play here:

  1. Making a differentiation between print and online journalism (in terms of quality and value) is downright silly.
  2. By allowing the online-only staff to do the advertorial content, this activity diminishes their ability to be considered credible (today and tomorrow).
  3. The overall action creates a bad moral compass for the company’s ethics of journalism at a macro level (it’s sounds like they’re looking for some kind of ethical loophole).

The Web is not an inferior media.

The sooner that brands, advertisers and publishers stop treating the Internet like the red-headed step child of the media and marketing mix, the sooner they’re going to be able to better understand how they can connect and build their brand in this new world where consumers are connected, looking for real interactions between real human beings and are, ultimately, not just a passive audience, but active participants, voices and community members. Publishers aren’t the only publishers anymore. People are now also publishers and brands (and Marketers) are publishers too. So, we need to change our code of ethics around editorial content and advertising, and not just look for loopholes and ways to capitulate.

What do you think?

Your Blog Is Your Business

Your Blog is your business, unless it’s not your business.
If you Blog as a hobbyist, that’s fine, but if you’re Blogging to grow your personal profile, build your business, create some semblance of thought leadership or to simply share some of your thoughts and ideas, nothing is going to really happen, unless you treat it as a serious piece of your business. It’s not easy. In fact, if you ask anyone who Blogs regularly, it’s one of the hardest things to do.
It’s easy to forget about your Blog.
Being impressed by someone who regularly Blogs would be a dwarfed emotion compared to the stat of abandoned and forgotten Blogs. For every Blog that is regularly updated, there are probably thousands of Blogs that have been
orphaned. The problem with most Bloggers is that they’re not writers. They don’t see Blogging as a craft and art that must be practiced, pushed and prodded on a consistent and constant basis.
It’s easy to let a Blog drop.
In fact, it’s easy to let any of the many Social Media channels that you use to connect and share to drop off of the priority list. Sure, there are days when
the inspiration runs dry. Sure, there are days when the day-to-day stuff gets in
the way of the words. Sure, it’s easy to say that it’s “the work” that must come
first. But, before you do all of that, ask yourself this: “what was it that made you this busy in the first place?”
It’s not easy to let a Blog drop.
Think about your clients. Think about the work you’re doing. How did you happen to close those pieces of business? I’m lucky (some might say cursed), but a majority of the success we’ve had at Twist Image comes from the work we do – right here – on this Blog. When we started Blogging in 2003, we (and I say “we” because although this is my worded playground, it is a group effort and a huge
part of the overall business strategy of the agency) had a few clients and a few employees. The mass media and industry publications didn’t care much about us, because there wasn’t much of a story there to tell. Blogging enabled and empowered us to share how we think about the Digital Marketing landscape with the world. This Blog prodded along (it still does), and whether it’s working with a major brand, securing a business book deal or getting talent bureau representation, we stay focused on the fact that a lot of that came (initially) because of this Blog (in fact, it still does). Yes, we needed the work to stand on it’s own (both the creative and strategic) and we need to keep nurturing all of those client and business development relationships, but to this day many brands find us (and want to work with us) because of the ideas we share here (amongst other reasons).
This Blog is our business.
So, when you think you’re too busy to Blog or other priorities float on to the radar, try not to forget that Blogging (if it’s a part of your overall business strategy) is your business and the important work that must get done. What do you think?
A special thanks to Chris Brogan (author of Social Media 101 and co-author of Trust Agents with Julien Smith) for the inspiration with his Blog post: Your Blog Is Not Your Job.