How to build a good corporate blog
Corporate blogs are usually chest-thumping exercises. Some lessons in how we grew from 100 to 10k+ followers
The Gojek Engineering blog has grown manifold in the last two years. We published two blogs a week for the entire of 2019, save for 1–2 weeks. We got in excess of 400,000+ impressions, and get called out for great content. I often get asked how we manage this consistency and the quality of what we put out there. In this post, will share some of the things we did, and a few things that might help. 🖖
The brass tacks — Understanding the stallion
Back in 2017, we barely did a blog post a month. In 2018, we started doubling down on our content marketing efforts. This was critical because business was growing exponentially, but our storytelling was poor. This meant lack of awareness of who we are and that took a hit on our recruitment. In a market like India, where we don’t have a product, marketing was key to help us put out brand out there.
This was a time when we were doing more food delivery orders than Zomato + Swiggy + FreshMenu combined, and no one knew who Gojek was.
Content was everything. It was the lever we used to get the best engineering and product talent join us. I’ll also be the first to admit: We did a terrific job at this till this stage. But we’re also slacking now. 😓
Scaling teams from 0 to 10 is easy. 10 to 20 is infinitely harder.
When we started, there was one theme I wanted to stick to: Failures. As a community, we’re welcoming about failures now more than ever. Yet, we don’t publicly talk about them. The Gojek blog would be used as a pillar to address many of our mistakes: this theme stuck. Owning to these mistakes helped us build authenticity for the brand.
In the Information Overload age, our key differentiator was our biggest asset: Authenticity.
Heaving a horse to the water, & making it drink
Having a strategy, brand guideline and themes are all well and good. But if you have one person managing this all from an ivory tower, you’re not getting far. How does one execute?
Most engineers and product folks had enough work to dissuade them to write blogs. This is probably lowest in terms of priority. Remember, this was at a time when we were less than 100 people, operations included. By this time we had 16+ products and writing articles wasn’t exactly core job description. If this needed to be done, it was going to be outside of core working hours. And asking folks to do this when they needed a break was going to be impossible.
We incentivised the program. Anyone who wrote 3 solid engineering focused articles in a span of 3 months would stand a chance to win a Google Pixel 2 phone. I obviously had no idea what makes for a good engineering article, so we had stakeholders lined up to judge these pieces 😂. But that wasn’t enough. That was the icing on the cake. For more regular contributions, we said we’d give 2500rs in Amazon vouchers for each article submission.
Feeding the mare
We didn’t stop there. Based on our surveys, we realised many wanted to write, but didn’t know how, even though they had good stories to tell. Others were shy and didn’t want to put themselves out there. Some wanted to narrate a story, but didn’t want to author it, a few wanted help structuring their thoughts — a person to bounce ideas off and frame a story.
We addressed each of these points by 1*1 meetings, brainstorming sessions, discussing ideas that will sell in the blog etc… The early mindset we sowed was to ensure people are alright talking about failures, areas where we lost thousands of dollars — it was all good. This helped us build a voice among the community.
Once we started getting contributions, we started egging multiple teams. If team GoPay had articles, we’d go to team GoFood and ask them to start contributing. We tacitly pitted teams to do better because other teams were showcasing their work. You run an obvious risk here: Many viewed the Gojek blog as a mechanism to showcase what they’re doing to an internal audience rather than focusing on the reader. That’s where editorial stepped in and canned some stories. 🤪
We fought some battles along the way to maintain the sanctity of the blog. No consumer-facing awareness stories, no product upgrades if it does not have an engineering side to it, no fluff culture pieces etc… We still let some slip by every once in a while to placate some good contributors, but largely we fight the good fight in the interest of the brand. Be prepared to lose some here and anger a few — it’s a call that will hold you in good stead in the future.
Mix the grass with Apples and Carrots
The Gojek blog primarily focuses on Engineering and Product. These are two of the most important reasons why we get a sustained audience. But by sheer volume, this can be exhaustive even for the most loyal readers. Besides, a lot of what we narrate here can be part overwhelming, part boring. If we have to mix it up, we needed stories — the kind that anyone and everyone can read and empathise with.
Stories on war rooms, how products were built, how we failed at building culture, how we expanded internationally et all… These were our Apples and Carrots apart from the staple grass. Stories like these added colour to the blog. They made for a gripping read and we worked really hard on finding the bait here. We wanted these to be cliff-hangers, ones that made readers want to know more, want to understand how we failed, what we lost etc… These are the ones that get you a larger audience, and are invaluable even if they are not core stories for the blog.
The crux was to never compromise on the positioning of the blog;
Nerd-cool gravity for Engineers, Product and Designers. Cut the faff.
In fact, here’s a screenshot of what our guidelines overview looked like, something that was drafted way back in 2018:
It all boiled down to a relentless focus on our reader and providing what makes for a gripping read. Having said all of this, when I look at where we stand now, we’ve certainly dropped the ball in the last year or so. Some of these are beyond control, but there are immense learnings here.
I’ll end by saying this: The Gojek blog was the cornerstone for our engineering, product and design equity in India. It was the single most powerful tool for us — a brand without a product in a market we were desperate for talent.
If anyone questions the power of writing, and how it can help the brand, show them this post among the billion others you’ll find on the internet. Peace. ❤️