Posted on 06 Oct 09
Previously we’ve discussed blogging with Rick Morgan, Aartrijk consultant, as a valuable social media platform for communication and content-delivery and how it can help promote your brand and convey your message. At the Aartrijk Brand Camp, a panel moderated by Maureen Wall Bentley, VP, Aartrijk, included a discussion around the blogging experiences of: Cindy Donaldson, Marketing Director, Founders Insurance Group, an independent agency in Connecticut; Kristin Rielly, New Media Developer, Irwin Siegel Agency (ISA), an insurance and risk management organization in the Social Service field, and one of our Storefronts; Nibby Priest, CIC, Vaughn Insurance Agency Company, an independent insurance agency in Kentucky; and Laura Mazzuca Toops, editor of American Agent & Broker. Here is some of what they had to say to help you with your blogging efforts…along with a “view” into their blogs.
Nibby fell into blogging for the agency accidentally when in January ‘09 the Kentucky area was hit with an ice storm and he needed a way to communicate to customers. He began blogging about how to report claims and which contractors were opened for people to call. “I wanted to get the message out and began to use my personal blog when I realized this wasn’t going to work,” says Nibby. So he set up an agency blog using WordPress (http://blog.govaughn.com) to get the word out. The Vaughn Insurance Agency got immediate feedback. In fact, the local television station showed up at their offices looking to them as the experts to turn to during an ice storm. From there, the blog took off, and most recently (actually, one night after the Brand Camp session), Nibby blogged about a question one of his customers asked regarding teenage driver education. “It’s a commonly asked question, especially now that so much data is coming out about teenagers and driving and being distracted. It took me 10 minutes to post the blog.”
Cindy began Founders Forum as she wanted to enhance the company’s brand awareness. “The goal is to make the blog interesting to consumers…to go beyond just insurance,” says Cindy. “People like to see another side to our lives. It’s a way of getting to know the people with whom you do business. It humanizes you, your company.” You can see in the blog that a good mix of insurance and non-insurance topics is included (http://foundersgrp.wordpress.com/). Chris Garlasco, Owner & Managing Partner of Founders, among others at the company (including salespeople), also blogs on the Forum. “Our purpose was to brand the name so we wanted to identify our principals with the Founders brand,” says Cindy. Cindy explained that at first Chris was resistant to blogging -- he thought he wouldn’t have the time. But now “Chris writes all the time.” Cindy helps with certain blogs, making sure that the talking points are hit – and making sure they get done on the schedule they have established.
What is key, confirmed by all on the panel, is that you are consistent with your blogging. Start out with a timeframe that you will adhere to, even if it is every two weeks or once a month. You can always blog more. If you commit, however, to blogging every day or every few days and then don’t maintain it, the relevance of the blog is diminished. Another key point every one agrees on is that the articles should not be very long.
ISA’s blog is not attributed to any one person. “We wanted to highlight the stories of support professionals in the Social Service field,” says Kristin. The blog http://siegelagency.wordpress.com/ provides a forum for professionals to share their stories of struggle and accomplishments in the field. Kristin promotes the blog on the Irwin Siegel Agency’s website (http://www.siegelagency.com/), via press releases, e-mail blasts and the like. “Also, there is a free service, ‘Feed Burner’, which allows you to send out email notifications when you make a new post on the blog. The feeds basically permit instant distribution of content and the ability to make it ‘subscribable',’’ says Kristin.
Cindy says the blog is all about “buzz.” “I send notifications of posts to my media list so that the industry trade and local press pick up what we are doing; I got a write-up on one of the blogs we featured in the local paper that we are hiring in tough times. My blog posts also go out on Twitter, Facebook, and there is an RSS feed to our blog on our e-newsletter.”
As part of the rebranding and repositioning of American Agent & Broker, Laura wanted to reintroduce herself to the industry and began to blog. “It’s important to have authenticity,” says Laura. “I’m also a consumer so that needs to come across in the blog.” As an editor, Laura takes time with her blogs. “I sweat my blogs. I spend a lot of time researching the subject, checking facts to support what I am saying. I also include links and photos in my blogs.” Check out Laura’s recent blog (http://agent-for-change.com/) about Branding in the world of Web 2.0 and the info garnered at the Aartrijk Brand Camp.
Laura reinforces that the blog has to be a part the entire package…one thing feeds into another: the website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and so on. Nibby says that the blog helps his agency get a consistent message out. All the bloggers agree that finding your voice and being authentic is essential when doing a blog.
Additionally, a blog is an effective way to drive traffic to your site and to advance your ranking in search engines. Blogs appear higher in search engines than a company’s website in Google, for example. And from the blog, a person can easily get to your website if it’s all tied into your brand.
Check out Nibby’s, Cindy’s, Kristin’s and Laura’s respective blogs…and check out services such as WordPress, TypePad, and Blogger to set up your own blog.