How to Build a Successful Corporate Blog with Tommy Walker @tommyismyname #VCBuzz

How to Build a Successful Corporate Blog with Tommy Walker @tommyismyname #VCBuzzMany business owners setup blogs simply because they have heard it’s something they need to do that. There’s no much planning or understanding why they need it or how to make it a success.

Today we are chatting with the editor of one of the most successful corporate blogs out there. Hopefully we’ll learn some actionable tips today!

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About Tommy

Tommy Walker @tommyismyname is editor-in-chief @ShopifyPlus and former editor @ConversionXL.

Connect to Tommy on LinkedIn

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital editor? What’s your career path? How did you manage to get hired by huge brands?

I stumbled into it. I was consulting for a while, but there were problems in the business, and I ended up in a situation where I had to blog for dollars. After looking for gigs on the @problogger job board, I found a blogging position from some guy named @peeplaja who was running @conversionXL, and I submitted an article.

He rejected it.

Not taking no for an answer though, I submitted a second piece, which he accepted, and I wrote another and another. (The rejected piece wasn’t all bad, he helped me get it placed on @smashingmag)

But after a few months of writing, Peep sent me an email at the end of the year that said “Congratulations… You’re the Number 1 and Number 6 most trafficked articles on the site!

Tired of working on a Per article basis, I replied back with “Congratulations! You’ve got a new editor in chief… Let’s talk steady pay

After some negotiation, we came to an arrangement and it worked out really well

Apart from getting it out there on the usual sites @growthhackers @inbound and contacting people mentioned not really, but, and it’s important to stress this, @peeplaja has some very rigorous editorial standards. The content HAS to carry itself. No Clichés, no research everyone has already heard, you have to DIG.  Plenty of the pieces we wrote had me begging for mercy, but it’s because of that the blog did so well. And @iamalexbirkett has set an even higher standard and has done amazing things with @conversionxl since.

Q2 How do you explain the value of the blog to the business decision makers?

I’m in a very fortunate position at @Shopify that I don’t have to explain the value. Everyone is very aligned there.

However, when I was consulting, I would show research that showed how much people look for when making a decision, and ask basic questions about the business. Where can I find this? Who do I talk to? How much? etc.

But then when asked where that information was available online and how much time do they spend answering the same things the value would become apparent in the time they would save by not having to answer the same questions over and over.

Q3 How to develop a business blog? Is blogging for any niche?

Ask questions. Talk to sales. Talk to partners. Talk to customers. Talk to execs. Talk to non-closed prospects.

Talk to everyone. Gather as much information as possible, and make a plan to bring those voices forward.

This goes with @jessytroy’s question too, it’s not just answering questions, it’s about anticipating in them.

The blog can be used to handle objections, showcase company culture, give advice, highlight trends, and brag on customers.

Companies that have poor culture, or unenthusiastic customers, or no lifestyle to support, blogging may be forcing it. More pages. More information. More accessibility, absolutely. The information needs to be there, but capital B blog… no.

It’s not that prescriptive as companies that should or shouldn’t. A boat parts supplier could have a blog if the culture could keep the content interesting. BUT… if there’s no way to keep it interesting, stick to a FAQ page.

Essentially, yes. “Blog” to me is content that’s fresh and interesting and has a unique angle. If you can’t find that you’ll just end up writing the same thing everyone else does, and wondering why you’re not getting anywhere.

Q4 How to find a blogging talent and get them work for you? I know you are great at that! Aaron Orendorff @iconiContent claims he wouldn’t work for anyone but you!

Lol, you’d have to ask my team!

From MY perspective, I’ve gotten really lucky and I’m incredibly humbled by the level of talent that has chosen to work WITH me.

That said, I’m a writer’s editor. I’m incredibly focused on craft and technique, and I go into a new publication with a strong idea of what the “soul” of that publication should be, based on the initial research I do.

From that research, I create A Publishing CODE that sets forth rules of engagement with the audience.  It’s not prescriptive, like “articles need to be this long” but more essence based, like “don’t talk down to the reader.”

Having that, influenced the copy I wrote for job postings, which then, I think, attracted writers who were hungry. Everything after that, perks, pay, etc is icing on the cake (plus, the culture and HR team at Shopify makes that simpler)

Unfortunately, I can’t share it publicly 😛

“Ask better questions” in my Code isn’t about the top level. It’s about questioning the research you’re finding. “Sales increased by _%” Ok… Why? What else were they doing? What Psych factors were at play? Is this a trend?

I generally reject the first 3 assumptions I make about any piece of research, and question the deeper meaning.

“Research” in that case is a lot of meetings to listen to perspective and trying to be a good mirror.

Q5 What are your favorite writing and editing tools?

I keep it simple. @GoogleDocs, @Slack, @Grammarly, @Trello. On the day-to-day, that’s mostly what we use.

On the workflow side, I have a ton of things going on with @zapier that automates roughly 80 hours of tasks per week.

Getting tools to talk to each other. A big one is how I have trello comments push to slack for updates on a piece. Sending slack messages when new blog posts drop, triggering intake forms on slack commands… Things like that.

Our previous content editing chats:

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