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The Art of Business Blog Writing
"It is precisely minds of the first order that will never be specialists. For their very nature is to make the whole of existence their problem; and this is a subject upon which they will every one of them in some form provide mankind with a new revelation. For he alone can deserve the name of genius who takes the All, the Essential, the Universal, for the theme of his achievements; not he who spends his life in explaining some special relation of things one to another." - Arthur Schopenhauer, "The Art of Literature"
"We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable. Consequently, society expects all earnestly responsible communication to be crisply brief. Advancing science has now discovered that all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability. Thus the specialist's brief for pinpointing brevity is dubious. In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual's leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which, in turn, leads to war." - Buckminster Fuller, "Synergetics"
What do you do?
We live in an age where people are more likely to ask "What do you do?" rather than the more proper "How do you do?". People are expected to specialize. Granted, I am speaking generally. I am a generalist.
But what if people were to heed the advice and warnings of a Schopenhauer or a Fuller? Is it possible they would become more fully human? More well-rounded as we say? More of a lady or gentleman, as was once the code?
Bloggers, from what I have seen in my years of blogging, tend to be more generalist than specialist, except for a few who are both...which is to say they have wide knowledge and interests, but also have one or two things that they know a great deal about.
Business bloggers, ideally, fall into this last category. They know a great deal about their company, service, products and so on, but also have a wide-band tuning which allows them to connect with people of all stripes, types and interests. After all, one should not expect that a customer or client know all the fine points of what they are seeking to buy, yet the seller should know those fine points, but also a good deal about the customer as well. This is where a wide-band understanding comes in handy.
The business blogger is a specialist AND a generalist. And if she's not, you might want to remedy the situation, one way or another. The kindest way is to educate them.
If they don't know the products or services...teach them about them. If they don't know how to write, how to deal with people, the give-and-take of conversation...you have a more difficult problem, but not an insurmountable one. Just one that may take more time. So when hiring your business bloggers, look first for those who have decent social and verbal skills. You can teach them the bidness in shorter time.
To Everything, there is a Seasoned Blogger
But...should you hire a seasoned blogger, or a new blogger? Would it not be better to create your own Frankenstein and have them simply say what you want them to say?
My vote is for seasoned bloggers, for a variety of reasons. The first being perhaps best exemplified in this quote also from "The Art of Literature":
"There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject's sake, and those who write for writing's sake. While the one have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, the others want money; and so they write, for money. Their thinking is part of the business of writing. They may be recognized by the way in which they spin out their thoughts to the greatest possible length; then, too, by the very nature of their thoughts, which are only half-true, perverse, forced, vacillating; again, by the aversion they generally show to saying anything straight out, so that they may seem other than they are. Hence their writing is deficient in clearness and definiteness, and it is not long before they betray that their only object in writing at all is to cover paper. This sometimes happens with the best authors; now and then, for example, with Lessing in his Dramaturgie, and even in many of Jean Paul's romances. As soon as the reader perceives this, let him throw the book away; for time is precious. The truth is that when an author begins to write for the sake of covering paper, he is cheating the reader; because he writes under the pretext that he has something to say.
Writing for money and reservation of copyright are, at bottom, the ruin of literature. No one writes anything that is worth writing, unless he writes entirely for the sake of his subject. What an inestimable boon it would be, if in every branch of literature there were only a few books, but those excellent! This can never happen, as long as money is to be made by writing. It seems as though the money lay under a curse; for every author degenerates as soon as he begins to put pen to paper in any way for the sake of gain. The best works of the greatest men all come from the time when they had to write for nothing or for very little. - "The Art of Literature"
Seasoned bloggers have written, oftentimes, for years for little or no money at all. People who say they will blog if you pay them may write what they are told, but in that case, why not write it yourself?
The Blog and the Walking Stick
"The pen is to thought what the stick is to walking; but you walk most easily when you have no stick, and you think with the greatest perfection when you have no pen in your hand. It is only when a man begins to be old that he likes to use a stick and is glad to take up his pen." - "The Art of Literature"
Another advantage to hiring seasoned bloggers is that you can see where they've been, see what they've blogged, learned whether or not they can sustain the writing over time. A new blogger may actually run out of things to say. Seasoned bloggers are seasoned because they are still writing. The others you call ex-bloggers.
New bloggers may enjoy blogging for a time, but then they are seized with youthful wanderlust, and the next thing you know they are out chasing phantoms. A good seasoned blogger, on the other hand, is interwoven into the fabric of the blogosphere, and is content to make his or her mark there. And because they are part of the blogosphere, they are not an island, but rather a constellation, or, in some cases, a galaxy. You have not hired one yea-sayer, you have hired potentially dozens or hundreds, even thousands of yea-sayers. I daresay that, in some cases, you may have won even millions of yea-sayers. These, of course, are few and far between, but the future is likely to look a lot different than the past.
And should you get the occasional chorus of nays, count your lucky stars that you have a free feedback mechanism. Your adjustments might prove far better press than the grunts that led to the change. And all companies change. Only some never learn the reasons why they should have, and suffer the consequences of their ignorance.
The question is not if. It is when. So when you hire someone (or a team of someones) in order to connect your company to the blogosphere, you may want to keep some of these points in mind. Your blog need not be literature, but there is nothing wrong with having a beautifully written, edifying body of work associated with your company. In time it may be your greatest legacy. For surely a future Twain or Faulkner or Ogilvy will be borne in these enabling laboratories of discovery. And the world needs more employment, not less. Choose, act, but act wisely. It's good to be first. But it's better to be good.
Dave Beckwith, a graduate of Harvard University, was named one of the top 300 Netizens in 1996, and has been writing on the web since 1994. He currently maintains close to 30 blogs, including Trade Street Journal and Idea Consultants, and is a researcher at Parker Web Developers. His own creative writing has been compared to Robert Benchley and Charles Dickens.
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