“Creating a conversation” and corporate blogging

George+OrwellThe writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose… 

…words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different

George Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language

Within social media marketing, “creating a conversation” has become, what BrainJuicer’s Tom Ewing recently referred to as, a ‘handwave cliche’ in which “the reader rushes to fill the gap with their own understanding of what a word means”.

In this way, “creating a conversation” is frequently interchanged with “engagement” and often just means receiving a reply to a tweet or a comment on a blog. Who they are and what they have to say apparently deemed irrelevant.

However, I think it is actually quite useful to think of a corporate blog as being a conversation: one of the goals being to encourage debate both outside and within the organisation itself.

This helps to encourage critical thinking and, in the process, demonstrate the thought process that takes place at the company.

This isn’t simply reflected in the number of comments below the post or tweets gained in response either – effectively an inverse form of digital dualism in which only online praise or complaints matter because there’s a possibility other people might see them.

The conversation can also see members of a company exchange opinions; reflecting the fact the blog is a collection of the thoughts and ideas of individuals within an organisation, not always the company itself.

In that sense, I’d like to follow up on Andrew’s last post in which he quoted content marketing consultant Sarah Mitchell in stating that “while traditional newspapers may be in trouble, journalists will easily transition to online, corporate environments.” He suggested this would make it a “good year for journalists“.

Having spent three years studying for a Master’s degree in Journalism (and having worked for some small local newspapers in Ohio in the process), I find these words quite troubling and strongly disagree with his conclusion that this makes it “a good year for journalists”.

I don’t think I really need to elaborate on why society thrives on strong investigative journalism that can only ever function without competing interests.

You only need to look to Watergate to see evidence of why that’s the case.

I don’t actually see anything fundamentally wrong with individual journalists moving into the corporate environment either. However, I don’t think any of us would like to live in a world in which our best writers are compelled to leave declining newspapers to write for companies instead.

I also want to make it clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing for a corporate blog either, not least because I’m writing this on one.

However, I think the people doing it should have a relevant background and experience in what they’re writing about, otherwise the blog just becomes a series of press releases and the focus exclusively on self-promotion; an approach that’s unlikely to ever achieve real success.

There are a plenty of posts written about good blog writing and many merely encourage tactics like linkbaiting or the compilation of lists, with scant regard for the content itself.

While I think making the writing and ideas accessible and the blog easy to read is extremely important, most recommendations of this type appear to focus solely on maximising the number of views and volume of social sharing, as though these were the end goals in themselves.

A good corporate blog can only hope to create positive perceptions about an organisation if it aims to have something original to say and isn’t afraid of sharing an opinion that not all of its readers may necessarily agree with.

It’s also the most effective way of creating a conversation.