Blogging: Personal vs Professional. The delicate dance.

duckfaceBlogging is a delicate dance between personal opinion, which includes emotion, and professional standing. I started writing a long time ago and blogging is just the latest platform that has become popular. It’s a powerful medium for personal and company branding, however it is also filled with risk.

This blog is based on a presentation to the Institute of IT Professionals

The best definition of blog I could find is: a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

The key words that are important are “regularly”, “informal”, and “conversational.” Blogs are not written in formal style. They are written in your own personal style and that is what sets them apart from other writers. I think that you should always write in the same style that you would talk to someone in. If that makes sense.

Blogging connects you to your customer and audience instantly and personally. This is what gives a blog value for a company. There is no need for a media liaison or other similar resource. The blog is personal rather than a stuff news release. Over time it connects you to other bloggers and commentators, which further allows your words to be spread.

And spread they will be. When I started my two current blogs a few years back I remember writing that I was doing it for the love of writing and it mattered little whether people read them or not. For me, it was cathartic. I still find it strange that nearly twenty thousand people read, or at least follow, my blog. It is quite humbling.

There are risks, dangers, and annoyances with blogging of course. Defamation is a nasty creature in New Zealand, we are not afforded the freedom of speech that other countries have. Trolls are a distraction from time to time, as I am told, are stalkers. I can’t say that’s every been an issue for me. New Zealander’s in particular have a predication to attack the messenger and not the message. Other countries citizens far less so. Of course, you must own your words as well, so anything you say, regardless of the level of professionalism, will reflect on you directly. As will poor grammar and spelling, for which I am endlessly guilty.

Blogging definitely has risk and reward attached to it. Currently, thanks to certain prominent New Zealand bloggers, they word has a great deal of mud attached to it. I think in some respect that this is because bloggers try to hold themselves up as independent journalists (not all of them) or citizen journalists and the “Dirty Politics” affair proved that we are anything but. Bloggers in my opinion are not journalists. I am not a journalist. I have opinions and I try hard to source my facts, but I have no overarching editorial review (unless a blog heads to the NBR or other media outlet), nor do I sign up to any guidelines or other ethics. Blogging is personal opinion.

People often ask what kind of guidelines they should stick to when blogging, this list has served me well over the years:

  • Use your own name
  • Do not allow un-moderated or anonymous comments
  • Take ownership for comments
  • If you can, get someone to vet your posts before they are published
  • Use the word “opinion”
  • Source your facts
  • Write about what interests you
  • Write regularly
  • Use images
  • Ignore trolls
  • Personalise your posts
  • Imagine every post on the front page of the newspaper
  • Never blog about your customers, unless they give you permission
  • It is ok to express emotion
  • When you get it wrong, apologise

The other question I also get, is “should I let me staff blog?”

It’s tricky. You can’t actually stop your staff writing about their lives, which, will reflect on your company if even in a very small way. You can work with staff to develop guidelines if that is useful, you may ask staff to mention your company. Again, it’s tricky, because people do have the freedom to write about what interests them. Hopefully, you already have some kind of social media policy that sets down expectations you have not just about blogging, but all the other social media that exists in the world.

I’ve found wordpress a great tool to use. Because you are all going to run off after this and start blogging. Find a quiet spot. Think of a theme. If you are partial to a wine or beer, have one. Then get started.

Golden rule: Never blog in anger. It’s ok to write a blog when you are angry, it is a very different proposition to push publish on it. If you can, hold off until the next day or even the next week. Remember everything you write does reflect back on you ultimately and as well, it’s a permanent record. Even deleting a blog does not remove it from the Internet’s memory.

I think finally, the reason that I like blogging is that it connects you to people in a very personal way. It’s tricky wearing your heart on your sleeve when the world is full of anonymous people who just love to take pot shots. But it’s worth it. I have made great friends, excellent connections, and covered some amazing companies doing some really cool things.

Blogging Presentation – IITP February 2015

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