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By Jimmy Guterman

JimmyGuterman

Jimmy Guterman is editorial director of Collective Next and a curator of TEDxBoston. Previously, he served as a senior editor of Harvard Business Review.

Many of us started blogging to express ourselves and publicize some aspect of our personal interests. Maybe for you it was reviews of the latest tech gadgets; observations about politicians, athletes, or entertainers; or pointers to the best-hidden cat pictures. What those reasons all have in common is that they were all about you: your interests, your sensibility, your sense of humor. You wanted people to know what you thought. Over time, you developed an online voice that captured the slice of yourself you felt was most worth sharing.

It’s different when you’re blogging on behalf of your business.

Blogging is different when the boss is looking — in part because you have your boss’s needs and expectations in mind, as well as your own. And when you’re the boss, you have the company’s needs and expectations in mind. If your business’s largest customer is Samsung, for example, you probably don’t want to devote a series of posts to how much you hate the new Galaxy tablet.

That’s an exaggerated example, but the truth is that simply stopping to consider how your post might be read by your audience will usually result in work that is better for both you and your employer. Who are you writing the post for? What do you want them to get out of it? What change do you want to create in the reader? Do you exude authority? Do you seem human?

This may seem to be common sense advice – think about your audience, don’t do dumb stuff – but you’d be surprised to learn how regularly it is disregarded, especially if, like many people, you live double lives as a blogger, by contributing to both a business blog and a personal one. That’s fine, of course, but you need to assume that you can’t keep those two blogging identities completely separate. Even if you blog under a pseudonym, it’s not that hard for people to make the connection. Everything leaves a trace. Once you become a voice for your company on one platform, to some degree you are a voice for your company everywhere.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, and I don’t want this post to be a list of things not to do. You can, if you’re ambitious, take the energy and the passion that you express on your personal blog and preserve it on your company blog. You can be yourself everywhere, so long as you’re smart about it. The most boring company blogs – the ones that no one reads – are the one’s that simply regurgitate corporate messages, that don’t let the reader in on the fact that real humans do real things at your company. People want to read the work of people who are passionate. And if you’re not passionate about what your company is up to – why are you blogging for it?

So, go be yourself. But, you know, do it appropriately.

To learn more about smart business blogging, explore these Safari resources:

  • Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, is stuffed with ideas for how blogs and other media can “engage customers and ignite your business.” In particular, check out the particularly worthy section Save or Solve: Don’t Shill.

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