So, I’ve been working for a company in the manufacturing industry. And one of my tasks there is to grow brand awareness using the Internet — develop a slick new website, optimize it for search engines, set up a pay-per-click and banner advertising campaign, and so on. And, most importantly (for the purposes of this article), launch a business blog.

Now this company isn’t new to e-marketing, they’ve been publishing an email newsletter once a quarter for some time. But this strategy really functions like an electronic quarterly report. Content is high on self-congratulations, but low on education, product marketing, discussion of industry related issues, or any attempts to drive traffic back to their site.

And now, with the development of a new website on the horizon, they want to convert their email newsletter to a blog. Why? Because, (to quote Paris Hilton) ‘it’s hot’.

At first I agreed. Blogs are hot. So, why not make the shift? They’re easy to manage, messages can be short, and the informal blog format lends itself well to our modern, casual way of communicating. But, when I began to look at the company (150 employees and a formal management structure with a variety of agendas) the market (heavy
industry – not too techno-savvy) and the information they wanted to push out (carefully constructed messages that don’t give away too many details) I wondered if the medium was right for them after all.

Then, when we began to map out who was going to blog, how it should be managed, and what was going to be said, or more importantly not said, blogging for this particular business began to look like a pretty complicated endeavor.

On a personal level, blogging is simple. What’s a blog but a scrolling online journal – a basic website dedicated to writing (and encouraging discussion) about whatever gets your intellectual juices flowing —,, — etc, etc.

But, blogging for business can be tricky. Business blogs or b-blogs take that casual, immediate, engaging format
and (most effectively indirectly) attempt to leverage it for marketing and PR purposes. They can be very valuable relationship building tools for businesses ready and able to use them. They can help position a company’s leaders as experts, and provide the opportunity to communicate with an audience in a more informal way than other marketing mediums allow. And, all the fresh content that gets posted online certainly helps with search engine rankings.

But, if you’re used to the newsletter format — pushing out more traditional direct marketing messages to a targeted audience comfortable with email and paper, is switching to a blog simply because ‘it’s hot’, the answer?

It seems that I’m not the only one stuck in the newsletter versus blog dilemma; the discussion is being had all over the Internet. Case in point: the folks over at One Degree ( recently posed the question to their readers and received a flood of responses for and against both mediums. But, one reader’s comments stuck out.

This reader highlighted three things one should consider when faced with such a predicament. I’ve examined them here:

Is your audience ready for a blog? First, you need to know your audience. Who are they are and what do they expect of you? If they’re not likely to use the Internet to find you, they’re not likely to read or comment on your blog. If they’re not techno-savvy enough to want to learn how to use RSS, you may have trouble keeping them coming back.

Consider your audience’s age, gender and income level – blog readers tend to be male, younger and more affluent. Consider the kind of information your audience would be receptive to. Are your customers or clients itching to communicate with you? Are they comfortable with informal communication?

How much of your audience is made up of your peers? Are you targeting direct customers and partners, for example? If your audience consists of other experts in your community, a blog may be the perfect medium for discussion of industry related issues. If you have wisdom you can offer, a blog is also a wonderful medium. But, if your target market is solely end users who care more about the utility of your product than anything else, then a newsletter may be a more effective choice.

That said, another question arises here: Can you build an audience foryour blog? Of course you can! If your audience is hesitant, think in baby steps. Explain in detail on your blog how to subscribe to RSS. Offer a familiar email subscribe on your blog. Take advantage of the blog format — don’t turn off the comments function — encourage discussion. Talk about things you think your readers will want to respond to. Comment on other people’s blogs and don’t forget to link to other blogs and sites of interest. And, when you develop a good post share it — via email if you have to.

What are your communication objectives?

Then, you need to think about what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to show a more personal side to your company? Are you trying to engage your audience? Do you want to collect new kinds of information from your web visitors? If so, a blog is the ticket.

Do you want to grow traffic to your website? Build your brand, increase your search engine rankings, develop a loyal following, position yourself as a thought leader, or manage crisis situations? More good reasons to develop a blog.
But, be careful if your objective is to directly increase sales. For now, there’s an unwritten rule in the blogging world — no direct selling. Blogs are meant to appear more objective than newsletters, and readers tend to squirm when they see businesses using their blogs to sell products or services. So, heed this warning: use a blog with a sales objective and you could be doing your company more harm than good.

Do you have the internal resources to develop and manage a

Most importantly, you need to be realistic. Do you have the internal manpower to make a blog work? It’s as important to look at the administration and maintenance of a new communications strategy as it is anything else.

Do you have articulate, expert personnel available to regularly write for the medium? And, if needed, do you have managers to screen what the experts write about to ensure confidential information isn’t inadvertently leaked out? Do you have staff on hand who are capable of responding appropriately to discussions that can quickly become
heated in a removed, yet immediate medium?

Do you have the resources to track visits and watch movement of your conversations online? Measuring the effectiveness of a blog is not as easy as firing out a group email and watching who opens and reads it.

And finally, if you’re still stuck on the newsletter format, not sure you want to make the leap to blogging, here’s a creative suggestion courtesy of another One Degree reader:

“Have an e-mail newsletter [that links] to a corresponding web page on your website. Those archived newsletters will continue to be powerful in maintaining your search engine visibility. Now here is where you get maximum bang for your buck. Create a RSS news feed of all your website newsletters. Those prospects who are into news feeds may well pick up your new newsletter via a Google Blogsearch when doing a keyword search. What in effect you have done
is to turn your archive of newsletters into a blog…and voila! You don’t have to choose.”

Problem solved.

Reprint. Originally published in’s The Server Room