What do the best corporate blogs do well?

Recently my friend, colleague and fellow blogger Aaron Pearson asked me to speak to his class at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. The topic was corporate blogging.

I entitled my presentation "Is corporate blogging dead?" I hope we all know the answer to that question. (And yes, I was having a little fun with the title.)
 
Twenty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have a public blog, not a bad number, especially since we're talking about the biggest of the big. So, corporate blogging is not dead.  So, of those that do blog, which companies blog well?
 
By now we've all heard about the Southwest Airlines and Starbucks blogs of the world, but what about the blogs of other large companies? The companies that we might not hear about as often, but that continue to blog month after month, and do so with what appears to be some success. Here are five companies people don't talk about as much when it comes to blogging, but are doing it well. In what follows, I’ve noted what I think works and the lessons we can extract from the blogs:

1. Boeing: Randy's blog

Have a personal voice
 
Instead of going uber-corporate, Boeing lets Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing, do the talking. It's a shrewd move, as it gives Boeing more of a "face" online, but it also gives Tinseth a chance to talk about his many travels, personal experiences and thoughts on the great things Boeing has in the queue.
 
Offer perspectives from the road
 
Tinseth travels a decent amount. Many of the posts on the blog are recaps of his travels and trips abroad to visit partners and see some of Boeing's newest jets in action.
 
Include great visuals readers can't find elsewhere
 
I heard the Boeing folks speak at an event in Seattle last year, and one thing stuck with me: There are so many people who care about Boeing jets. Boeing worked hard to cultivate this community, and it knows what the people want: visuals they can't get anywhere else. 
 
Have a Spartan design
 
Despite the great visuals, the blog's design isn't all that impressive. In fact, I'd label it as Spartan. But it doesn't matter. The content is so good no one really notices the design.
 
Brands often get hung up on the design of an online property. If a brand would channel that energy into the content and strategy behind the blog, it would be much better off.

2. Whole Foods: The Whole Foods Blog

Use different kinds of posts
 
I love that Whole Foods uses the full complement of blogging devices. List posts, profile posts, tip posts, personal experiences—you name it, Whole Foods uses it. And it provides a breadth of content few corporate blogs can match.
 
Connect with a variety of stakeholders
 
One of the benefits of using many different kinds of posts is that Whole Foods can connect with the stakeholders it serves. Take vendors, for example. What better way to shine light on this group—and build community—than to profile them in an ongoing blog series? It's simple, but brilliant.

3. IBM: The IBMlr

Use GIFs
 
IBM uses Tumblr, and plays to the strengths of the platform. You regularly see a number of GIFs on its blog, incl
uding those that highlight some of the organization's new innovations. 
 

Find creative ways to inspire and recognize people
 
IBM recently featured a series of posts to highlight its 50th anniversary Fellows Class. By profiling each Fellow with a separate post, IBM produced ample content while giving each Fellow the stage, even if just for a post.
 
Highlight innovation through videos/infographics
 
I love how IBM uses a platter of videos and infographics to tell the story of IBMers who are innovating. Remember, use inspiring visuals that are also shareable.

4. Google: The Google blog

Share breaking news
 
This one might be more relevant in the technology world since more tech reporters and media outlets follow blogs than reporters in other industries—and seemingly every tech company has a corporate blog—but Google breaks its news on its blog. Google announced the Chromebook Pixel last month, and the post was shared 1,500 times on Google+.
 
Allow CEO to communicate with key stakeholders
 
This is one of those points people always make about why companies should start blogs, but you rarely see CEOs take the opportunity.
 
Google is not one of those companies.
 
Larry Page doesn't post that often, but he does use the blog to share key insights and decisions, like the recent transition of Andy Rubin off Android at Google, which was a big move in the industry.
 
Showcase new products
 
This one is a no-brainer for tech companies like Google. But what I like about Google's approach is the way it incorporates multimedia into new product posts. Google always has a video that either explains the new technology simply, or seeks to entertain and educate. It's a simple idea, but it's brilliant.

5. Target: A Bullseye View

Use celebrities
 
Target does this well and, having worked with celebrities for a couple clients over the years, I can tell you that it is not easy. Target uses multimedia to bring the power of celebrities to life—usually through video—like a Q&A with Nate Berkus.

Mix tips, ideas and entertainment
 
Much like the Whole Foods blog, Target excels at this. Instead of focusing on one kind of post, it does a nice job of mixing it up: tip posts, ways to use Target products in daily life, and plain old entertainment, like a post featuring Justin Timberlake.
 

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