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Our tech company would love to keep a corporate blog about all the interesting things we do. We think that, done right, it could help us reach and recruit valuable development talent; impress customers; that it could be a perk for employees who enjoy writing. The idea of a corporate blog has full buy in from the very top of the business. Our problem: no one is writing.

The key issues seem to be

  • everyone is too busy!
  • no-one is sure where to start
  • individuals with ideas lack confidence to write
  • writing a full blog post can be a large and daunting piece of work, even for those of us who write professionally

Also, we’re not sure what platform to use (Medium, self-hosting - etc)

What I'd like to know is, how do companies that blog habitually solve these problems?

It would be great to hear from people who have worked at companies where blogging hasn't worked, as well. What went wrong?

Edit: for context, we’re a tech company who would like to write about our software development practices and technologies. Example topics might be:

  • how-tos in tuning a database
  • a review of a new microservices monitoring tool
  • a piece on how we achieve constant uptime.

They would probably be written by developers themselves.

  • What is your role? How much authority do you have to make changes? – rath Nov 4 '18 at 22:13
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    Big companies simply pay professionals to do this. It's exactly like TV advertising. Blogs are just marketing/advertising trash. Like having a "new logo" or "a brochure". – Fattie Nov 5 '18 at 8:30
  • What are your goals for this blog? What is your company hoping to achieve with it? Presumably, you are using it to promote your business, correct? – Seth R Nov 5 '18 at 13:46
  • @SethR The main objective is really to entice applicants for our engineering roles. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Nov 5 '18 at 15:03
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    "We" would like to write a blog, but "we" aren't actually writing anything? Sounds like everyone's expecting someone else to do it... it's really easy to say something is a good idea that "we" should do, but if no-one is prepared to say "I" will do it, it won't happen. – BittermanAndy Nov 7 '18 at 17:56
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In companies I've worked at that have blogs, those blogs were handled by designated people in the marketing department, usually with a specialty in social media or communications. It wasn't done by random employees with spare time, it was done by someone who did it as part of their job. Very often, the blog posts are tied to a marketing campaign initiative, or at least carefully controlled for the messaging.

If it is a tech blog, like your update indicates, not a lot changes. While marketing may not write the content itself, they should still be involved to make sure the content of the blog is congruent with the image your company is trying to project. You also still want to make sure the writer of the blog is skilled in communication. That is not always a skill developers have. You should consider hiring a tech writer.

The company blog is a reflection of your company's brand, so it should be written by people who understand what that brand is and know how to use the blog to promote it.

  • 5
    My wife works in the communications department of a company. And while she doesn't work on blogs (that I know of) she does routinely handle FB and Twitter posts as well as even quotes from C level people. And yes it is all about staying on message, but also as important is crafting a message that is well written(both spelling and grammar) and to the point. I know that she could shred any of my writings in seconds - and I consider myself reasonably well versed in language. – Peter M Nov 4 '18 at 23:14
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    This would be a developer blog, and I think our vision always was that articles would be written by developers themselves. I’m not sure I can visualise a PR person writing copy about tuning a MongoDB cluster or reviewing a microservices monitoring tool without mangling the topic somewhat. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Nov 5 '18 at 8:56
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    In retrospect, I should have made clearer that this would be a tech blog; it seems like the requirements are quite different. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Nov 5 '18 at 8:57
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    @JimmyBreck-McKye, whatever the subject matter of the blog, if it is associated with your company it will be part of your company's brand, so you will want to take care that the people writing actually have skill in doing so. Bad content is worse than having no content. It also still stands that people probably aren't going to do it unless it is part of their job duties. Consider hiring a tech writer. – Seth R Nov 5 '18 at 13:32
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    Thanks! I think I'm coming round to the idea that this utopia of each developer writing on the blog isn't workable. We don't have a tech writer but a few of us in engineering do have copywriting experience: I think the best approach may be for us to interview the developers and liaise with marketing to come up with content that satisfies the brand without compromising on technical accuracy. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Nov 5 '18 at 15:01
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The marketing department should have someone whose responsibilities include the blog.

Then, they can help solicit content from others. They can:

  • Get people to write whole articles
  • Have people write draft articles then polish them up themselves
  • Interview people to get the information to write an article
  • Have people do webcasts or white papers or other stuff that can be repurposed into one (or multiple) blog posts
  • If you have evangelists or other content creators, make it part of their gig to generate a blog post every other month or whatever

If you don't have anyone at all in marketing or anywhere comfortable writing blog posts (and if that's the case, then you don't have anyone comfortable writing Web pages or press releases or marketing copy or...) then you shouldn't engage in a blog until you have someone with the necessary skill sets.

As for platform, that is literally the least interesting question ever, you use whatever your Web site platform has built in if it has one, otherwise a private branded wordpress/wpengine, wix, or squarespace (or one of the dozens of other random business-friendly blogs, it doesn't matter especially if you're just getting started and have no ideas about functional requirements other than "the words go up").

5

One option for you would be to hire a technical writer if you do not have one working for the company already. A technical writer's role is to communicate about technology. Despite not being developers themselves, these individuals are communication professionals who are trained to communicate accurately and clearly about technology. They generally take on roles such as documenting software, writing complex manuals, and creating technical training materials, but frequently write other technical, customer-facing pieces such as blogs. They are able to understand and communicate about technical content, but will also ensure that the blogs adhere to core principles of good communication (e.g., using plain language, ensuring that the piece is audience appropriate, ensuring that the piece is structured well, checking for grammatical correctness). A knowledgeable tech writer will likely also be able to answer some of your questions about where and how to host the blog in the form of an overarching content strategy.

Basically, a good tech writer will be able to bridge the gap between very knowledgeable subject matter experts (your developers) and whatever the target audience is by using their expertise in communication. About half of the technical writers in the country work as contractors, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find someone to take on the project without having to hire someone full time if that's more in the budget. If you're in an area with lots of tech companies, there should be lots of tech writers present as well.

Conversely, if you can motivate your developers to write blog posts as you mentioned you are trying to do, I would still recommend that a communication professional of some variety read over it and add input. If there is an existing marketing department or communications department, they could assist with this. Otherwise, hiring a technical editor (similar to a technical writer, but strictly editing) would be another option. Effective communication is a field in and of itself, and unless you've got someone on the team already interested into digging deeply into best practices, having a professional communicator of some kind can help make the most of this endeavor.

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One way to do that is to convince people it's worth their time. StackOverflow make Public Artifacts a metric of their salary calculation. If you make it part of your incentive structure, people might suddenly overcome those issues.

The line at my company is that people can add public posts (and are officially encouraged to), and any errors will be caught up by their colleagues. Of course it's not part of our performance metrics so it gets rather neglected as well.

  • Downvoters, how can I improve this answer? – rath Nov 5 '18 at 14:56
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In the case you intend to publish very technical content such as programming howto's (i am thinking about something in the lines of Digital Ocean tutorials - which sure is a lot more visible to a dev like me than a general "we did this and that") I'm going to disagree with many answers here by saying developers should do most if not all the work. The reasons are multiple :

  • They know what is interesting content for their peers, and developers are very content oriented
  • They will need to direct the technical content anyway
  • They should have proper credit for their work
  • They can do it part-time, for example once a month, if you can't affoard to hire for this job

everyone is too busy!

Make sure this is a proper task included in a time schedule. From experience, a good, quality dev post takes half a day to a day to execute (when already knowing what subject to write about).

no-one is sure where to start

It doesn't seem glorious but some easy blog posts involves compiling information directly taken from other sources.

It would be great to hear from people who have worked at companies where blogging hasn't worked, as well. What went wrong?

I can't say it wasn't successful but it went a bit dead after a while. Keeping the pace wasn't part of our time schedule, the responsibility was split and everybody went "too busy". The volonteering basis of the blog didn't help to make it survive in the long run. Per post though, we usually reached a number of clicks worth our time.

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