Using Storytelling Techniques In Your Corporate Blog — Expert Series Part 3

Posted on August 25, 2010

I Have A Story To Tell You

Corporate Blogging — Expert Series: Interview with Lou Hoffman. Part 3

Series Overview

While many companies have corporate blogs, few do them well. My goal is to share conversations with those doing interesting things in the world blogging and resources that will help you build a business blog that translates words in to sales, and taking it from good enough to great.

My interview with Lou Hoffman

In our final installment we learn about a few of the essential keys to creating a successful corporate blogging program. Here is the last part of my chat with Silicon Valley communications legend Lou Hoffman. – Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

(SF) What should a company do to create social participation for their blogs within their organization?

(LH) It’s an attitude that starts with a company valuing their employees participating in social media, not just blogs.

Such an attitude gets communicated by executives jumping into the social media scene and the corporate communications function facilitating, not controlling, the activity.

I find it ironic that the Department of Defense can turn its “employees” loose on social media when many commercial enterprises still fear a product manager sharing perspectives with the outside world in 140-character chunks.

Looking specifically at corporate blogging, it always sends a positive message when the CEO weighs in with a post. Just because a company might have official bloggers doesn’t mean others can’t provide ad hoc posts. Same goes for posting comments on company blogs. And the blog content should feed into the company’s other social media platforms such as twitter and Facebook.

At the next level, you’d like to see employees sharing blog posts via their individual social media platforms. For example, most employees have LinkedIn profiles which allows you to automatically pull WordPress content into an individual employee’s profile. You want to establish as many touch points as possible for the blog content.

But the multiplier effect comes when a company’ employees look beyond their own corridors, read third-party blogs and post comments on these properties. Even a pilot program that trains 20 employees on the blogosphere with the expectation that they’ll follow four outside blogs and post one or two comments per month can jumpstart connecting with the outside world.

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(SF) You blog about, and are known for, educating clients to use storytelling for effectively communicating their message. Can you talk about what you mean by storytelling and why it’s important to corporate blogging?

(LH) Given a choice between dull or compelling, people gravitate toward compelling. This is why more people watch American Idol than CSPAN.

That’s the idea of applying storytelling techniques to blogging. It pushes the content toward the compelling quadrant.

No one expects a scientist coming out of R&D to write like David Pogue from the New York Times. Geez, I wish I could bring such cleverness and levity to my own blog.

But that same scientist can absolutely improve his or her blog content by using techniques found in classic storytelling.

For example—

Just trusting your ear and writing with conversational tone improves a blog.

There’s a reason that anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the content in Economist articles are anecdotes. They entertain and show a certain realness.

Recognize that drama comes from contrast, showing the difference between “what was” and “what is.” The greater the difference, the greater the drama.

All of these concepts and others help people who don’t write for a living tell their stories in a more entertaining fashion.

Conventional wisdom holds that you shouldn’t be different for the sake of being different.

I disagree.

There are millions of blogs out there.

It’s tough to break through the noise.

If you’ve got a way to be different, give it a shot. Your Google analytics numbers will tell you whether it worked or not.

(SF) If a corporate blogger wants to start using storytelling in their writing, how can they start?

(LH) Read corporate blogs as well as mainstream blogs.

Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop does as good a job as anyone at capturing the top blogs by subject matter.

On the mainstream side, I think someone like Henry Blodget at the BusinessInsider combines strong opinions with the ability to turn a phrase as reflected in his recent post on the Hurd fiasco at HP.

A good example of a CEO who isn’t afraid to deviate from the status quo is Dave Kellogg at MarkLogic (not a client). His post “Dear CIO, Stop Writing Big Checks For Commodity Software” is a classic.

I’d also suggest corporate bloggers flag posts that they find effective, taking a moment to reverse engineer the content. What made it good?

In fact, this concept can be applied to everything you read including books and magazine articles.

Same goes for content that bores you.

If you can understand the “why” behind the good and bad, it starts to cultivate your own writing and voice. Train yourself to read with Post-it notes at your side.

In the book The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, he espouses the “10,000 hour rule,” that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything.

I’m not saying every corporate blogger needs to point to this 10K threshold to be successful.

But there’s no getting around the act of writing and striving to tell compelling stories will improve the corporate blogger over time.

About Lou Hoffman

Lou Hoffman is the President and CEO of The Hoffman Agency. It is an international communications agency with offices in Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America. You can follow Lou on Twitter at @louhoffman, become a client here The Hoffman Agency, and subscribe to his blog about the art of storytelling in business communications at Ishmael’s Corner. And here for more information on The Hoffman Agency’s A Workshop on Corporate Blogging.


You Might Be Interested In The Other Parts Of The Lou Hoffman Interview — Corporate Blogging — Expert Series

Where Does Blogging Fit In To Corporate Marketing And Communications? — Expert Series. Part 1

What Are The Steps To Creating A Team Of Internal Bloggers? — Expert Series Part 2

Using Storytelling Techniques In Your Corporate Blog — Expert Series Part 3