Let’s get this out of the way first. Blogs are online journals, incredibly easy to publish, with powerful abilities to link between posts (individual entries), and between other blogs. Bloggers write and post short messages and ideas and comments. They write articles. They link to relevant posts from other sites on the web, and they can publish audio and photos on to their blog. Blogs make it really easy as a reader to follow your favourite sites by subscribing to content feeds. The last two years have seen an explosion, with literally millions of blogs out in the “blogosphere.” They are here to stay.
Can blogging help your career?
Let’s talk about the different types of blog themes.
The following could refer to the subject of the blog, or to specific posts.
Corporate Blogs: This is a blog officially sanctioned by the organization you work for. As such, you will be representing the company and as such will have certain constraints, and opportunities.
Workplace Blogs: There have been many, under the radar blogs about what happens in the blogger’s workplace. Understandably, a lot of them have been anonymous. However there have been increasing instances of people getting fired as a result of this kind of activity. I recommend you simply stay away from commenting about what happens in your organization, unless it is officially sanctioned.
Personal Blogs: Most blogs in the blogosphere are personal in nature. Within this subject area could be a lot of topics. If you have a business or career development intent for your blog, and your audience might include people whose professional opinion you care about, then I advise that if you go this route, you find an angle that is engaging, reflects well on you professionally, and doesn’t air the unprofessional sides of you. (Note, I am not suggesting that I don’t like personal / family / hobby blogs. Not at all. If you go that route, simply be clear that there is no career development upside in it.) Examples that might work could include the ups and downs of being a travelling sales person, or a working mom, or a young adult just starting their career. Another great and growing idea is for President’s and other senior executives to blog, with the intention that their audience is the staff as a way of keeping everyone informed, and building buy-in.
Profession, Industry or Market Blogs: I think there is a lot of potential in this kind of blog as a means of developing your career. You might observe and write about branding or direct marketing best practices, the evolution of the supply chain industry, notable happenings in the retail industry, or the latest online teaching tools. The topics are endless. The trick here is to be an industry observer, or be of service to the industry in a way that isn’t at odds with your employment. Best to run it by your boss.
Personal Interest Blogs: This is another very popular, and often fascinating blog format. In this case, the author dedicates their writing to a specific personal area of interest like digital cameras, a topical health issue, political commentary, their favourite music, or pet care.
What would your purpose be in blogging?
The key question is why? Why do you want to do this? What do you hope it will do for you? Some of the potential upsides could include:
- Building a virtual relationship with people in your network, and expanding your network as a result of the blog
- Demonstrating a different or deeper side to your profile
- Establishing and building on your reputation as an expert in your field, or in a new field.
- Increasing your profile with your target community
- Exercising that itch to be creative, or write, or connect people with interesting information
- Perhaps make some money from your efforts, but only if you work very hard
- Lastly, it is an amazing launching pad for becoming self-employed, or if you are already out on your own, to build your profile and business.
What are the potential downsides and risks?
Employer Risk: Even though a personal blog may be none of your employer’s business, it could be a good idea to let your boss know what you are up to. An industry or professional blog may or may not be at odds with your employment contract. Bring them into the loop, save both of you from an unpleasant surprise down the road and set the ground rules. If there is a problem with your idea, it is better to find out now, rather than later.
Professionalism Risk: The real question is whether this activity is going to enhance your image. The answer depends to a large part of what industry you are in, and the nature of your level and position. In general the higher up you are, the more you have to think about this. Picking your theme is the first step. Setting-up a professional site (which is very easy to do) is second. Third and most importantly, editing yourself as you go along to ensure that you do stay professional.
Time & Attention: It takes time and attention to maintain a blog, and to build an audience. There are bloggers who post many times each day. You do not need to do that, but it will be hard to attract and keep readers if you post once every 3 months. There are no rules, but you should set a conservative schedule, and try and stick to it.
There is no shortage of fantastic tools to take up the blogging banner. Your first job however is to be very clear why you want to do this, what you are inspired to write about, and to ensure that you can do so in a way that enhances your employment relationship, supports your business, builds your professional profile, or at least, doesn’t damage any of these. Good blogging!