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Tom Elgar

The Unremarked Death of Another Business Blog

By: Tom Elgar | September 4, 2013 | 
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The Unremarked Death of Another Business Blog

By Tom Elgar

The Content Marketing Institute produces an extensive report each year, which includes a list of the biggest issues faced by content marketers.

In 2013 the biggest issue was producing content.

The second biggest issue was producing engaging content.

The third, variety of content.

The biggest issue with content marketing is, clearly, THE CONTENT.

There are many great tools to solve the issue of how to promote and manage your content: Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and the social networks themselves.

For most organizations though, as we can see, that is the least of their worries … as they have no content to manage and share.

At passle, we carried out our own research, and found more than 70 percent of companies cannot maintain ANY social presence, and only 13 percent can successfully run a business blog. The problem of creating content exists with the most professional of content marketers all the way through to the small business owner.

Inside Information

This is certainly the situation that presented itself at the last organization I worked at. I co-founded, with my brother Adam, a company called Serverside Group. We created a really nice-to-use Flash-based tool to let bank customers personalize their  cards with pictures of their kids, pets, or anything else they loved. We had some great successes, and sold it to some of the biggest banks all over the world, such as Wells Fargo, Barclays, ANZ, ING, Fortis, and Capital One.

We had a strong, motivated team based in three continents with offices in London, New York, and Auckland. We were very web savvy, with a very visual product, and were the experts in our field.

We saw interesting developments in our industry all the time. We monitored the marketing efforts of most of the world’s banks on pretty much a daily basis: Their moves in social media, their ideas about customer engagement, sport marketing, all sorts.

Fail Business Blog

I say all this simply to point out that we were in a great spot to create some really interesting marketing content, for ourselves, and for the industry.

Ultimately, our business blog was designed to achieve two things:

  1. Be a resource for the industry. We had a vast amount of focused knowledge on what these banks were doing, where, and why… and we had a unique take on that information. It would, without doubt, have been valuable to bank marketers all over the world as a springboard for ideas.
  2. Show that we knew our stuff. In the content world, people often talk of blogging as a method to create ‘thought leadership.’ We didn’t see ourselves in that light, but we did know a lot about the industry. We wanted our blog to get our name and product out, and prove we really cared: Cared about the market, cared about our product, as well as security and uptimes. We wanted to show  we were a reliable and thoughtful organization.

That would have been hugely valuable to us. And to others. But it didn’t happen.

Actually what happened was we wrote a post or two and then realized we weren’t going to be able to maintain the business blog. A good PR professional was hired to help us. He wrote some quite amusing, but pretty generic bits. Certainly not the content we could have – and should have – been creating. After a while, he started to do other work for us. The business blog link just sat on our website, looking sad and lonely.

Eventually the new marketing director took control, and one day he walked our business blog quietly off into the snow and shot it.

It seems this is an all too familiar story with businesses everywhere. People might be experts in their field, but for many reasons – lack of time or resources, waning motivation, staffing issues – just cannot display that expertise to the world via their business blog.

Blogging takes a ton of work. It requires a consistent flow of high quality content, but the returns via reach and word of mouth marketing make the time and effort worthwhile. That said, your blog will die if you don’t pay it the time and attention it deserves. Don’t let that happen to you.

About Tom Elgar


Tom Elgar is co-founder and CEO of passle, which aims to make it easier for businesses to maintain an up-to-date and engaging blog. Prior to passle, he also co-founded Serverside Group, which created software allowing bank customers to personalize their payment cards (presently somewhere around 75 million designs have been created). The company was bought by Gemalto NV in 2009. He coded his first website in 1995 for Netscape 1, and lives in Oxford, UK. 

36 comments
photo chris
photo chris

Tom- this is all very validating, but, what do you do when management thinks it can just be done *snap* like that?  And then hires an "seo expert" who tells him long content is too long and seemingly doesn't know about Yoast?  

dbvickery
dbvickery

Managed to keep my own blog going for a couple years, but now I am taking on the challenge of "herding cats"...umm, thought leaders...from our company with the hopes of generating content for all of our disciplines.

That's always a challenge if you want the content "straight from the horse's mouth" in regards to the thought leader...and that thought leader is already pulled in several directions for billable projects generating revenue for your company.

Latest blog post: 4 Types of ETL Code Reviews

KateFinley
KateFinley

Tom ... I owe you an email :) Thank you for sharing your experience. It can be so hard to make the time to blog, especially if you're trying to run a business or department. Having a schedule and plan of attack is crucial to successful blogging, as is enlisting the right help to provide consistency. 

Good post!

- Kate



treptalks
treptalks

Blogging definitely requires "commitment" and "consistency". Unless it is being done for personal amusement, it does require full-time attention, can't be a side project.

Outsourcing blogging is like outsourcing DATING. You can't have someone else go on a date for you :)


ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

So Tom, what you're saying is there is an issue with the content?? When I speak, this is one of the first things I tell people: Blogging is hard work. Even after you've built a community and a reputation, the work doesn't get easier. It's one of the hardest things you'll ever do. But it's also very rewarding if done well. It builds brand awareness and credibility. It drives thought leadership. And it increases sales. 

Randy Milanovic
Randy Milanovic

I suspect many would disagree with me, but there's a reason copywriters exist. I see no harm in a writer helping you generate content for clients who are not writers. However, it's up to you as a marketer to ensure that content is on target, relevant to the audience and personalized.

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

Cool of you to share your experience, Tom. 

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

Love the honesty in your post Tom - and I completely agree, blogging is a huge time commitment! But like you said, if you put in the time and effort, it will pay off in the end.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Hi Tom great post. I blogged about this scenario this week. Not specifically for blogging. Just initiatives in general. It is easy to have a great idea ram it up only to realize how much resources and effort it will take and then you leave it in the wind.

What shocks me is there is a Content Marketing Institute. Marketing/Advertising has way too many splinter groups and way to many conferences and award events. Makes the entertainment industry seem humble.

Tom Elgar
Tom Elgar

@dbvickery Ah the 'Thought Leaders'. Quite rightly busy doing their jobs. At the risk of bleating on endlessly about our (free) product. You could set up a Passle Think Tank (I think you need to click a link on the 'naming my blog' page as you sign up). 

That would allow you to get all of the 'cats/ thought leaders' equipped with a browser extension. When they find something interesting online (breaking news or what-have-you)  then can grab the interesting bit, add their expert opinion (and a link to the article) and send it to a private group.

That way you get a flow of expert commentary and it is hopefully easy for you to turn it in to well written content / slideshares etc.

ConnorKinnear
ConnorKinnear

@ginidietrich I think that is the best description I have ever read for the benefits of a business blog:

-  It builds brand awareness and credibility.

-  It drives thought leadership. 

-  And it increases sales.

Beautifully put.

Tom Elgar
Tom Elgar

Actually what I guess I'm saying is (and our research shows) is that for most companies, most of the time, maintaining a blog is just too hard. 

The advice is generally 'try harder'. But that, to people who are running flat out being accountants, engineers, dentists or whatever, just doesn't really help. They can't. 

The idea behind Passle was to make that consistency possible with quick and easy news commentary posts and then encourage people to write their 5 long-form posts a year as well. 

photo chris
photo chris

@Randy Milanovic I'm confused, isn't the marketer and the copywriter the same person? Or is it just me wanting to keep a foot in both boats (and getting fairly wet!)?

ConnorKinnear
ConnorKinnear

@Randy Milanovic I think you are definitely right - but as you can see from the article a content writer was brought in.  The biggest challenge when you bring in a writer is ensuring that the expertise within a company is channeled through to that writer so that new content does justice to the knowledge within that organisation.  Getting the knowledge from across the organisation to the writer is the very difficult bit.  Some writers do this by interviewing different people each month which seems to work pretty well - but is not very reactive to breaking industry news.

Kato42
Kato42

@SpinSucks Insanely busy! New job, moving to a new (but nearby) city. Looking forward to implementing more of those great Spin Sucks tips :)

photo chris
photo chris

@Howie Goldfarb they're having a conference next week in Ohio! I'm attending the small bus. summit only on Thursday- anyone else? Bueller?

Tom Elgar
Tom Elgar

@Howie Goldfarb Thanks. It seems like the blog is a special case because 1. you can never stop and 2. it has to have high level support. That is pretty rare I think in marketing and consequently has a uniquely high failure rate. 

As for the conferences and awards, my old company did once get an utterly meaningless super-niche award and we made a whole big show about it being 'industry leading' or some guff, so I' m not the man to comment :)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@Tom Elgar  I traded my nobel prize for a fifth of scotch and a bag of skittles. It was just sitting there not doing anything to earn its keep.And ironically @biggreenpen had a fifth and some candy and needed a paper weight (she works outside and it is windy there).

Well marketing can never stop but tactics can change and yes blogging as a tactic is a long term endeavor.  So is social media if you want a community or network on twitter or Facebook it takes time and if you stop the community can die. I think it is easier for brands with money to just do paid campaigns and be done with it.

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  1. […] Elgar, the CEO of passle, recently wrote a blog post called “The Unremarked Death of Another Business Blog.” In it, he describes how difficult it is to not only start and maintain a blog, but to grow […]