Professional blogs are a lot like reality TV

Corporate blogs are a way of sharing the organisation’s strategy in a way that’s more interesting and up to date than a quarterly report (not a high bar, in fairness), a scalable way of showing what teams are working on and a good recruitment tool.

They’re part of “working in the open”, sure. Showing what you’re doing, and that you haven’t (yet?) replaced everyone by robots. But corporate blogs that are consistently a good read, and not done by a tiny start up, are not “open”. At least not in the way we normally think of “openness”, as a synonym for unmediated.

You’ve got to maintain

A one-off banger of a blog post? Sure. Might be “open” in the way we use it every day. There are also triple threats in entertainment. Luckily for us mere mortals, they are rare. Beyonce never *did* win that Oscar.

A blog with regular, varied posts relevant to the industry, that move the debate forward and aren’t criminally dull? That you think is good and doesn’t sound “comms-y”? That’s the result of a combination of a lenient comms/legal strategy and really good writers/strategists working on the posts, supported by people who keep track of things like comms calendars and social media accounts.

Why aren’t corporate blogs like personal blogs?

Personal blogs are your space to express yourself and think out loud. Some are conventionally well-written. Many aren’t, at least not in a conventional sense, and those are my favourites.

The best professional blogs usually mimic the confessional tone of personal blogs pretty closely.

The main difference between personal and corporate blogs? Content. On personal blogs, they tend to be half-baked reckons. They (often) give sh*t advice that (at best) sounds good but can’t be built or maintained. That’s not just about financial sensitivity or Kremlinology or “commsification” or “spin”. Lots of them would put people’s jobs at risk if they were coming from an organisation. It’s why people who write for finance and pharma get paid more: it’s technical, and everything has to get legal clearance.

Writing in really informal ways on blogs run by organisations may be inappropriate for the audience, or POTENTIAL audience. When I was hired at GDS years ago I was reminded that, “GOV.UK is where people register the death of a child. When you write something, think of how those people would feel if they came across your work by accident. No jokes.” Humbling.

It’s the difference between freewheeling on your BMX, and doing stunts with a 747. Write what you want in your own time, people. I do.

Keeping up with the korporate blog

My little sister works in reality TV. The overlap between our work always amuses me. The best corporate blogs are scripted in a similar way to big budget reality TV.

Sure, the people/personalities are real. None of these people are good actors. It’s the point. We get to watch people live their lives or careers in public. We we all love a car crash but we also like pretty: Kim Kardashian West spends two hours in makeup for her “natural” look before she leaves the house. And Kim’s only one character. Looking to the whole show, storylines are inserted or emphasised to attract viewers, and characters played up because viewers like them (see: Scott Disick, career of.)

Same for corporate blogs. If the writers and strategists who work on the material are good, readers respond by thinking it’s open and honest. It is, in some ways. But it’s a heavily mediated openness and honesty. It works BOTH because it’s rooted in observable reality, and has enough polish to make it enjoyable. Even inspiring. Or aspirational.

The people who make that happen are probably earning developer-level salaries, and there’s likely to be more than one of them. (Though nowhere near as much as Ryan Seacrest. Sadly.)

Creating authenticity online

All of this adds up to a created, constructed authenticity. Different to press releases in quality and tone, perhaps, but not in kind. You’re still reading what someone else has chosen for you to read, filtered through the brain and craft of a professional writer.