Corporate Blogs – Still Lightyears Behind Independent

Mark Schaefer recently shared a list of his opinion of the 10 best corporate blogs in the world. I Tweeted to Mark that they’re not bad, but still lightyears behind the best independent and personal blogs. Mark responded to me and asked me to flesh out that comment a bit more. So here we go.

First I think Mark and I both agree on why you should blog (or really, produce digital media with frequency to build a community – call it blogging, content marketing, whatever you want). I went back into the PR world from marketing for this exact reason – that every company is a media company and PR is the specialization that makes the most sense to lead these efforts. PR people can, naturally, create more sharable media than marketers because they have to in order to receive any coverage for clients. They have the mindset of creating ideas that are compelling first and selling second. Marketers have it flipped because of their respective histories:

  • PR had to create ideas worth sharing to entice media to have interest in the story.
  • Marketers had to create content that would persuade and sell – but it didn’t always have to be genuinely interesting because the world was a numbers game (consider AOL spent $300 million on direct marketing throwing as much spam as they could in the ’90s as an example).

With that said, the two specializations have reached an intersection point and need to work together. Traditionally used tactics for both are already dated. Marketing needs PR to create good content with consistency and truly flip their thinking from push to pull. But PR hasn’t previously had this type of control, their ideas historically had to within the design of others. This is where PR needs marketing – they need structure, process and analytics. And everyone needs better digital strategy. Direct selling and advertising is spam, companies need to build permission and communities.

The above sums up why corporate blogs are lightyears behind independent blogs. So few (if any) traditional companies have pivoted their marketing and PR to embrace the shift. Even less companies have truly phenomenal blogs that are on actually better than pure media plays in their categories. That is how I would define a superlative such as best, because everything is media.

Yeah I’m asking a lot aren’t I? Basically, for companies to compete against pure media. They have to: attention is finite and all media (independent, ad-based, and corporate) are in the mix together as power of distribution is democratized. Yet there are many independent blogs that are on par, in many cases even better than traditional counterparts. Businesses for the most part aren’t even close to competing with either and could learn a lot from both.

Some very few examples of companies that can also be considered tier-1 media in addition to their core business includes 37 SignalsTechdirt and SEOmoz. They have a true editorial voice and executive perspective on content. Their entire categories follow them, and those who don’t should. Their ideas are emotive, opinionated, well-researched, thoughtfully analyze the world around them (for the most part not even talking about themselves) and take a stance on issues. Again, they are extremely standout examples. And the funny thing is being this good is within your control – but almost no one is willing to follow through.

On the whole, independent blogs are not just a little, they are lightyears ahead of corporate blogs. From design, creative content, unique voice, agility, empowered community and devotion of resources. I think the resources issue is a big one: think about how much many of the brands Mark listed devote to their owned media vs. paid or placed – it’s absurdly off proportion which shows how little these brands really embrace the shift. Conversely those fully embracing an owned strategy spend a tiny fraction of funds on paid or placed because they don’t need to.

The problem is that most companies suck at embracing owned media, while it has quickly become a more potent play than paid or placed if you want consistent, organic attention. I’m not going to call out any blogs in particular in Mark’s list because my intention today isn’t to be antagonistic with specific brands about the issue. I’m just saying in the majority of content categories no one is excited to read corporate blogs ahead of specific industry trades or consumer publications. Until that’s flipped, the superlative of “best” in any sense is a bit silly. It’s like being the best junior high basketball team instead of the best NBA team.