This is another in a series of case studies from people I interviewed in 2005 about their blogging efforts. Now as we move to 2013, I find it interesting to look back at the early days of business blogging. I will only include cases from people who are still blogging now. These cases have not appeared on this blog before.
Renee Blodgett is CEO and Founder of Magic Sauce Media. It provides strategic consulting on social media, viral marketing, communications and branding for global companies, executives and startups. Renee also writes the blog, We Blog the World which looks great. She continues to write the blog, Down the Avenue. Renee has worked around the globe, having consulted for companies in South Africa, Australia, Holland, Germany, France and the U.K. She has been managing public relations campaigns, events and product launches for high technology companies for nearly 20 years.
When I spoke to her in 2005, Renee said that she started quietly blogging over a year ago, under a pseudo name. She didn’t start blogging initially for business reasons. One motivator for Renee was her many passionate interests, which were reflected on her blog. Travel is one. Many of her blogger friends were more introverted than Renee. Blogging was a fabulous way for them to connect and network with others, professionally and socially. Given what Renee does for a living, “connecting” has always been a natural for her. She described herself as “the connector” in Malcom Gladwell’s Tipping Point. Renee felt that programs like LinkedIn and Match.com are designed for “connectors,” like her to create a bridge to the rest of the world. Blogging is a bit like that. The difference? Renee says, “If you have something compelling to say, people will come back for more and then, you not only have an audience but hundreds if not thousands of new connections.”
The second motivator for Renee was her public relations and communication consultancy. At the time she had a few clients in the blog space. Every reporter and analyst who knew her personally and a few who didn’t said “with a name like Blodgett, how come you haven’t started a blog…you really should have a blog.” However, the main driver was all the personal stuff in her life that she loved to write about. Renee thought why would she consume valuable time writing about business and technology when she already dedicated ten hours a day to her business? Renee sensed that writing a blog could not only be addictive, but restrictive – meaning that committing to one might result in being slave to posting to it…..daily. It was huge time commitment to make a blog successful.
After Renee quietly started her blog, several well-known industry bloggers encouraged her to go live with her blog and told her not to worry what others thought of her content or her writing. Some had seen her anonymous blog because the topics that she wrote about sometimes showed up in their aggregator, including one of her clients. Her personality came through in her writing. They also told her not to worry about the initial focus of her blog since blogs evolve over time. The most important thing is to just get started. Once you get started, you start developing a sense for what you care about more than other things you write about and your blog writing then begins to develop its own personality. Encouraged, she went public in the summer of 2004.
One of the first things she did after going public was to blog the PopTech conference (www.poptech.org) in Maine. It was not only fun and inspiring to blog about, but it was well received. Now she blogs every conference she attends.
Renee recorded her thoughts about her own blog writing in this excerpt from one of her blog posts entitled “My Mother’s Kitchen.” “I think of my blog like I do my mother’s kitchen, which was warm and inviting. I vividly remember the colors, the smells, the texture of the carpet, the soft yellow walls, the faces and personalities who passed through over the years, the left out pie on the counter after a gathering. We all had a favorite room we retreated to as a child and today, as an adult…...you know, the room where we go to disappear and just be ourselves.”
“When I log on, I’m entering one of my favorite rooms, a place where I can think, express, be myself – just like the women in my mother’s kitchen. Here, I write whatever comes to my mind; things that I’m passionate about, people I care about and issues that disturb or alarm me. Standing up for and expressing our ideas, thoughts and issues make us feel “alive”…..beyond the wonderful physical experiences of feeling warm rain on your face, seeing a sunset and remembering how lucky you are, feeling the force of a strong wave wash you to the shore, running barefoot on a beach or rolling in autumn leaves with a child. When you express, you’re alive. Blogging can do that.”
As this quote indicates, like many bloggers that I have talked with, Renee engages in blogging more for a sense of community that to directly promote her business. Her blog is a private place made public where she can record and share her thoughts. She feels secure in this sharing and feels that she will be healthier as a result. Her blog writing relieves some of the daily stress through its openness and honesty.
Renee adds that blogging has made her more observant of things and people around her. She feels that we can so easily lose touch and become so unaware of what is “real,” and “true” around us. One of the things that both personal and business blogging has done for her is to enhance her awareness of everything she see and everyone she communicates with in business and socially. Now that her blog is an integral part of her life, she looks at a subject like an artist. Art has been a long interest and she may consider committing to time to paint again. She looks at the walls, tables, fixtures and clothing more carefully. She pays more attention to people’s eyes, their words and their expressions. She also pays more attention to interactions, perceptions and random news about ordinary things. And the more she thinks and reflects, the more likely she has something interesting to say or simply “something” to say about an experience. Renee feels that the increased focus she has about things is a beautiful aspect and ‘direct result’ of blogging. .
One example of this writing is her post, Let Music Take You,” about her experience at the Atlas Café in San Francisco after a day of house hunting. She starts with the observation about this unique coffee bar, and the music playing in the background, “You can’t imagine my truly wonderful neighborhood experience in a place where I was taken to a romantic lake, Paris, Budapest, New York and then back to San Francisco. Was it the music that took me there? Ah yes, the music.” Then she provides a detailed flow of her associations to the eclectic background music and her observations of the eclectic people who come and go. Renee concludes, “It’s a blend – the best of all of us in one little café, a place where you can decide – or not -- to let the music take you.” She made a few new friends through this post.
Renee’s blog is also a vehicle for the growth of her business, which in 2005 was a small consulting business focusing on public relations and communication for technology companies. It was a vehicle for conversations, a vehicle for new prospects, a vehicle for “her work.” Her business is communication and her blog helped to communicate herself in a more complete way. It allowed her to present her personality and the things she is passionate about. She felt that the value can’t necessarily be measured in the same way that “damn good PR” can’t be measured in the beginning. It takes time but it had already paid dividends. She re-connected through her blog with an old client of ten years ago. By reading her blog, he saw all the mutual friends that they had and felt more secure in working with her on a new project. Renee found that writing about her experiences is more interesting to people than an abstract discussion of PR. Renee found that many other PR related blogs are not interesting to her because they says things she already knows about.
Blogs build relationships after they start building trust. It takes time to build trust and establish a community. Renee raises the example of Walt Mossberg’s technology column. Walt’s column didn’t make him a superstar overnight. Granted, he had the WSJ/Dow Jones name backing him, but it’s the reputation he has developed over time that keeps people coming back for more – his content, his way of thinking, his insights, his intelligence, his ethics and his personality. Renee feels that blogs allow all of these qualities to come through in a more authentic way.
1) They tend to be more informal
2) They tend to be more transparent
3) It’s easier to read in between the lines and learn more about the author’s personality
After her blog was public, she set people to it. She disclosed to potential client prospects that it is a mishmash of thoughts, including personal ones. She also discloses when she writes about a client on her blog, whether it’s linking to an announcement or a fabulous article about one of their products.
The objective for her blog evolved as she knew it would. Renee realized the need to make her blog somewhat more tailored and if she does cover some technology trends or blog about others reporting on it, it needs to be somewhat focused. She tries to think. “how is what I’m doing here unique? What will get people to come back for more? What is it about my writing, my photos, my personality through words or something I offer ‘on my blog’ that will get people to come back for more? And most importantly, will I inspire them in some way?”
When we spoke, Renee had heard some professional journalists comment on their fear of blogging. They were used to being able to retract content before it becomes public because of the lag time in traditional media. In blogging, the content is available on the web immediately after you post something. The immediacy of blogging can be addictive. Some bloggers have let this immediacy go to their head and have blogged about stuff late at night after partying and drinking. Some may regret it the next day since perhaps some of that content shouldn’t be public. She also finds that some bloggers are not very social. They would rather blog about a conversation than have one and are uncomfortable without their laptop, even at a dinner.
The main source of content for Renee’s blog is her personal experiences. There are many categories to keep her varied interests sorted out. She writes about technology issues, blogging, and client activities, although discloses the relationship when she does. She also writes about politics and cultural issues. She is often frustrated with the narrow-minded thinking. Having lived in many countries, she appreciates diversity. She also writes about news items related to her work and her client base in technology. Add to this her mix of interests in music, the arts, dance, and there is a rich collection of stuff to read on her blog. Renee likes to insert new ways of looking at things to shake people up when they’re least expecting it and cause them to reflect. For example, she might insert a quote from Emerson or Thoreau into a business commentary or news article.
Renee offered this advice to prospective bloggers. Think through the goal of your blog in advance. Is it to make money? Sell advertising? Educate? Help and heal? Serve as a platform to publicize your product or service? What is your ultimate goal today and how would you like to see it evolve over six months or a year? Whatever it is, branding yourself should also be part of this goal. When she works with a company’s product or services, branding the CEO and top executives is always an integral and important part of the process. Renee says to think about the “bigger picture” and project a personality. In addition, people should really think about blogs as a way to build communities.
As communities expand as the result of blogs, a whole new paradigm of communication opens up and along with it marketing opportunities. For example, Renee knows a chiropractor who writes about his profession and includes alternative health tips for his patients and others in the community. He wants to he thought of as a leader in holistic care. A blog would serve him well, since he could post daily updates, insights, upload video and audio clips from broadcast interviews and develop a community of bloggers that stem from his blog.