I want to be totally transparent: Blogs are hard to sustain. That’s especially true when you’re a small business that’s busy, er, running a small business. The sheer irony of this message is that I run into this very thing: I’m so tied up in part ghost-blogging for other businesses that I struggle to keep up with my own blog!
It’s not that I don’t love what I get to write about. It’s not that I don’t think I may have something of value to share. It’s not that I don’t know the importance of keeping content fresh for SEO, thought leadership and new business development. I get all of it, because it’s what I spend most of my time explaining to other companies that are just trying to do right by content marketing.
After a recent vacation where I tried but failed to sit on the beach and not my computer, plus the untimely kickoff of a ski-resort project, I got behind. Then, while I was digging out, I got frustrated. The problem with keeping a steady blog is you have to work for free (and often in your free time). That’s a tough choice to make when you could be working for money. At least, that’s how I see it—work is work; free time is free time. Not free-ish work time or free time with a sprinkle of work.
As someone who is sold on the value of content marketing, my advice for tackling this constant conflict is simple: Formalize the process. Don’t think you can wing it by coming up with strong topics on the fly, whipping out salient blog copy once a week and assuming awesome imagery will float down from the sky and land on your desk on a pleasant little cloud. Give your blog value by making it a proper project. It will demand accountability, and slowly, over time, you will either learn to love the process—or hand it off partially or entirely to a professional.
Here are some of the ways that you can start to formalize your blog:
Make an annual calendar.
There is absolutely no better way to make your blog start working than to carve out a couple hours—in a room, door locked, no distractions—to brainstorm a year’s worth of topics. If you can, start by reviewing your brand story—the core attributes that make you stand apart—to set the tone for your creative session. Include a variety of staff members to add greater insight and diversity to your discussion. Then structure a topical calendar for seasonality, and assign stakeholders, deadlines and post dates for each blog. Don’t forget to include some backup ideas for quick access in case a topic doesn’t work out for whatever reason.
Get some support.
Are you the only person tasked with generating ideas, writing/editing copy, finding photos, optimizing content and posting for go-live? That doesn’t even include reading Google Analytics to measure how well your blog is performing. Look at that list: It’s a lot of stuff. Start to consider how you can hand off or share some of these tasks, either with members of your staff or with a professional writer who understands digital content marketing. You can assign different topics to the right in-house stakeholders and hold them accountable with deadlines. These people can write the whole darn blog or just send some key talking points to your writer. Also consider giving junior-level folks some more task-y type work that can occur simultaneously while you focus on idea generation and writing. This might include sourcing/sizing photos; optimizing/posting content; managing the calendar/deadlines/communication; learning Google Analytics; etc.
Let it loose.
If maintaining your blog is simply too much of a burden for the size of your company, just turn over all the details to a professional. I’m saying outsource the sucker! This doesn’t have to mean losing control of the tone, topics and translation of your business blog. An expert in content marketing can help you maintain brand consistency but also take over all the worries that come along with that. A pro can identify assets you already have that you can re-spin for fresh content; generate and locate sources for new ideas; add variety by integrating photos, video, infographics and other interactive elements; optimize blog topics and format based on performance data; and, most crucially, keep your blog up and running full-time while you focus on your business.