We are going to do... a blog!

We are going to do… a blog!

This is a series of posts on a subject that plays on my mind a little – the application of disruption, and innovation, when it is related through the filter of our use of language, and our desire to seem advanced.

The issue of people making grand statements of intent falls under the digital and business category of “all sound and fury, signifying nothing”, and the financial services industry is just as prone to these sweeping statements as any other. The statements are driven from people – and whether those people are the MD of an insurance broker or a farming conglomerate, those people have their own agendas, backgrounds, drivers, and prejudices.

As the market moves, and changes, faster than ever before thanks to the way technology and new media changes our expectations and behaviour, you find that organisations behind the “early adopter” curve start to make such statements.

The first bold statement

One of the earliest I ran across, in a financial services company servicing insurance and banking providers across Europe and the Middle East? Well, that was this: “Everyone? Everyone, listen… We’re going to do… a blog.”

Obviously, this one is a little bit of a blast from the past, and probably shows my age more than anything else! But I do remember a couple of examples of senior leaders in business making this kind of statement. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It sounds modern (for the time), it’s something new, a new way of engaging. Fantastic…?

Well, maybe. But in this instance, and in others I have come across since (and that I believe a lot of you will recognise), they forgot to ask themselves a few really basic, and really critical questions.

Why? – by this, I mean, why are you actually embarking on this blog activity? Is this something that customers have expressed an interest in, or perhaps competitors are doing? Or, as was the case on many occasions in the early noughties, was the decision to “do a blog” taken because it was “cool” or “current” – or in other words, a vanity activity? Did you decide to do this based on need, or ego? In this instance, do we really have a strong drive from the CTO of a bank, or the head of audit for an insurance broker, to read a blog from us?

Who and with what? – so, we have established that you might have a need for a blog. Excellent news, as a blog launched and managed effectively for the right reasons can be a powerful tool. However, have you asked the “who” question – from both angles? Who are you writing for and what is your audience? The language and subject matter you would use for someone in a technical role would be completely different to the business management, or the marketing team.

And, almost as importantly: who will actually be doing the writing on your blog, and what will they be writing?

After all, it’s all well and good to launch a forum or online blogging element to your site, but who will be creating the content for you? It may sound obvious – let’s be frank, a lot of these should be obvious – but the number of times that we will all remember having seen a blog launched and then stumble because the audience isn’t catered to, or the wrong content and authors are engaged… well, it’s a critical point of failure.

This actually extends beyond just a blog – these themes come back around for other “bold statements” which I will cover later, and I hope you find those useful, as hopefully you do this article.

How often? – now, by this I mean, how often will you be both adding content (publishing on your blog) as well as responding to any comments? It is important to remember that, if it is both useful for visitors through relevant content and structured and set up in the right way through the technology used, a blog is more than just a distribution channel – it’s an engagement channel. So the frequency question devolves into two parts:

  1. How often will you be publishing new content to the blog? When blogging first became popular amongst businesses, many of them had a familiar approach. There was a blog post announcing that the organisation was delighted to launch he world’s most amazing fintech blog. Then there was a blog post about the fact that they have had this stunning and ground breaking blog for a month. And then there was a blog post wishing everyone happy holidays about four months later.

To put it another way: a blog without regular content is actually less effective than not having one at all.

  1. How often will you respond to the engagement with your content? Your blog might be fully interactive, allowing users to post live comments and updates, or you might have any kind of vetting and approval workflow. What are your SLAs for response? Because, as with point one, having unattended comments or requests sitting there through your blog is almost worse than not having a blog at all.

What does success look like? – I know that a blog doesn’t always feel like the most measurable channel, or a channel that necessarily lends itself to SLAs and KPIs. But let’s not forget, this is a digital channel. That means it can be measured and tracked – and assuming you have a valid reason for launching this, and you have invested either money for content generation or your precious staff intellectual property and time on content engagement, measurement is critical. So, define what success looks like. Is it a certain improvement in time on site; share of voice; engagement with content?

Over the next few weeks, I will share some more “bold statement” posts – I hope that we all take this into account in roles as well. I am sure that we have seen other examples of these statements that I won’t list. They all have a common theme. If you haven’t asked the right questions, your bold statement of disruption and innovation will be like a 2004 blog – all sound, signifying very little.

By Jethro Grainger-Marsh, director, digital business and transformation, Criterion