How to Blog: Humanizing Your Brand

Illustration of woman at computer Copywriting

Isla McKetta Apr 24 2013

So you’ve realized the benefits of having a kick-ass blog. Now what are you going to say on that blog? You could go the route of taking all that carefully-prepared corporate branding, and using your blog to put out press releases about things that you want your customers to care about (but really only matter to shareholders).

Don’t.

Remember the real reason you’re creating a blog is to connect with your customers readers. You may think it’s to educate customers about your brand and to get them to buy your stuff—that’s true (to a certain extent) but none of that happens without a connection. The best way to do that is to…

Be human

You want readers to trust you. That means you have to let them know that you share their values and beliefs and that they know what to expect from you and your brand. Potential customers need to know that you are in it for them. Then, when they are ready to buy, they will come back to you—that friend they made on the Internet that one time.

Don’t sell products, tell stories

People relate to people, not to companies. The more your writers can tell specific stories about real people, the easier it will be for the customer to empathize with the stories and thus the brand. Kate Spade uses their blog to introduce readers to the people behind the brand.

Be a resource

Sometimes a consumer doesn’t even know the solution you offer exists. Be the friend they need. For example, MomAgenda, a company that provides organizing solutions for busy families recently wrote a post about how to create family time. Notice that the post doesn’t mention their products at all. Friends give before they ask.

What about the blog voice?

Companies often worry about how much the blog should reflect the established company voice and how much should reflect the employees’. My vote is for the employees (and not just because I’m a writer). Remember, relationships are all about the personal connection. Introduce your employees, use bylines, and establish Google Authorship for your writers. You hired good people who believe in your company. They might need a few editorial guidelines (see below), but let them surprise you (plus, this is a great way to not sound just like your competitors).

Create a style guide

About those guidelines… think of a style guide not as a rigid set of rules that confine your writers to a corporate voice. View it instead as a strong platform that makes sure your writers are all playing on the same field. Once everyone knows the rules, set them free to find new levels of excellence.

You’re going to want to include nitty-gritty grammar quirks and also some fun stuff.

Grammar choices to make

If you aren’t a copy editor, this bulleted list might read like gibberish. Trust me, it’s not. Many people who do know what all of these are care less about which camp you choose than that you are consistent.

  • To Oxford comma or not to Oxford comma?
  • En dashes or em dashes?
  • Smart quotes or straight quotes?
  • One or two spaces after a period?
  • How do you spell industry-specific jargon (e.g. e-book, ebook, or eBook?)

Find a good copy editor and let them help write your style guide. Your blog will achieve a level of consistency and organization that 99% of readers will only appreciate subliminally, but it’s worth it.

Lexicons and other fun topics

I’m not kidding. Building a lexicon (a list of words you will commonly use) is really fun and can be a great tool to get your writers to stick to a consistent tone. Consider the difference between a blog that refers to weddings as the “big day” “celebrating you and your beloved” and one that uses phrases like “ball and chain.”

What else do you need to consider?

  • Pick three things your blog is about and insist that every blog post include one of them. In the above wedding example, I’d suggest wedding etiquette, fashion advice, and planning tips. David’s Bridal covered planning tips by adding their voice to the “do wedding websites make for generic weddings?” fray.
  • Create a persona for your ideal audience member(s). For weddings, write for the bride, bridesmaids, and ideally, the groom too. Not all posts will speak to all people, but make sure your content targets the right people. A “How to Do a Bachelorette Party Right” post appeals to a very different readership than one providing event set-up tips for caterers.
  • What can’t be said? Some writers respond best to knowing exactly how far they can push things. Will your bridal blog acknowledge shotgun weddings? How about gay weddings? The idea isn’t to make a list of every prohibition. Instead, you are providing parameters for success.

You’ll be amazed at what a good writer can do with these little tidbits of information.

The bottom line

Because you’re a business, it ultimately comes down to money. Here’s how that works. You use the blog to connect with your customers (readers) as human beings. Once they learn to trust you, your name is top-of-mind when they need the services you offer.

Don’t believe me? Use Google Analytics to see how many people convert after visiting your blog once, twice, or many times. Which posts keep people coming back? Write more of those.

What are your favorite blogs written by humans? Tell us about them and dish about corporate blog fails in the comments.

tags : BloggingBrand Buildingcontentcopywriting

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9 Comments

  1. Good read Isla! This blog gives a reminder to all bloggers out there, who are using blog in a wrong way.

    • Isla McKetta

      Isla McKetta

      Thanks, Kenneth!

  2. Well said Isla.

    I’ve been telling companies to “be human” and “tell stories” on their corporate blogs and social media accounts for awhile now, but I hadn’t considered your (very tactical) suggestion of putting more of a focus on the writer(s) and their “characters”. Great tip.

    And the analytics freak in me has one suggestion: Set up and measure micro-conversions! It’s definitely not very likely that you’re going to get someone to go buy your products (macro-conversion) right after reading your blog for the first time, but you might be able to get them to subscribe to a newsletter, comment, follow socially, or RSS subscribe.

    Mike

    • Rebecca Bridge

      Rebecca Bridge

      That’s a great suggestion, Mike.

    • Isla McKetta

      Isla McKetta

      Thanks, Mike! Your tip on micro-conversions is a good one. I read your SEOMoz post about measuring content ROI and would love to run an analysis to see if there is a correlation between creative license given to the writers and ROI. If I wasn’t inherently biased, that is.

  3. Great tips, Isla! We’re trying to employ a really specific voice behind our blog. Trying to sound like everyone else only makes you sink into the crowd, and no one wants to listen. Being unique (and having expertise to share) is how your audience finds you.

    Agreed that storytelling is an important tool nowadays. Oh, and I also read and enjoyed Mike’s post on SEOmoz on measuring content ROI. Super helpful.

    • Isla McKetta

      Isla McKetta

      Glad to hear you’re championing a unique voice! I think also that it’s natural (and quite human) to continue to tailor your voice to where you get the most interactions. We’re all a work in progress in that way.

  4. Ignite

    Totally agree with this. It can be hard to get a new client to understand though. They always want everything to sound so formal. But this is spot on.

  5. Great advice Isla, it’s all about connecting and only you have highlighted all the right things to do here.

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