Alison Kenneyeyesight "chart" at a rest stop asked this question yesterday in a Facebook group I belong to:

“When it comes to your own website, do you think a blog is a must?”

You’re reading this blog on a business website, so you already know what my answer is. However, let’s examine this a little more closely.

Why do people ask whether or not you should host your own blog?

Usually, two reasons:

1. There are several platforms that want you to produce long-form content on their sites. Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, Medium … the list goes on. Some of these come with built-in networks; that’s one of the reason LinkedIn Publishing has taken off the way it has. Some of them have artfully used your networks to build their own (Quora, most recently, Ello).

So when you have a bunch of “hosts” out there, all ushering you into the window seat, why bother with the hassle of creating your own?

2. Blogging – the physical activity of creating content – takes time. Managing your own blog takes time. Finding out which distribution and engagement mechanisms take time. And it’s time that business owners find hard to justify, when there is not an immediate return on their investment.

Must and must not

First, despite all protestations to the contrary, there is no “must” about anything when it comes to marketing. No matter how many posts you read on what you should and shouldn’t do (and that includes here on WUL). The only “must” is what works for you. But if part of your “must” and marketing strategy is long-form content and thought leadership, then blogging is most likely going to fit in there somehow.

That doesn’t mean it has to be on your blog; you could successfully devise and implement a strategy where you build up visibility and thought leadership through a smart guest blogging program. Several years ago, when I was editor of the Women Grow Business blog community, Robin Ferrier wrote a piece I still remember to this day, about how smart blogging doesn’t always mean starting a blog.

But at some point, you will want backlinks to your own content, and if you don’t have a place to send them … well, you see where I’m going with this.

Second, if you want to maintain ownership of your content, then the safest thing to do is to publish that content on a platform you own. LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., are not. This is one of the primary reasons why we strongly suggested to a new client that they build their (new) self-hosted blog on WordPress, as opposed to Medium. I’m happy to report they agreed!

Third, using good content in conjunction with smart SEO can help you rank higher in search engines, which can often lead to a prospect inquiry, or serve to reinforce your thought leadership and lead to other things (see my experience below).

One of our colleagues in the group pointed out that no one is Googling “PR blog” for answers and finding us as potential agencies/consultants (I paraphrased her exact words). This is true. But they are searching online for answers. If we’re answering those questions well, that can lead to our blogs surfacing in search results, often along with, or perhaps even preceding, content from more traditional media outlets.

Ultimately, you have to know what your business objectives are, how your overall communication strategy supports those objectives, and plan your tactics accordingly.

What are the business results of blogging?

Everyone has different experiences as to what their blogging has led to. Ann Marie van den Hurk says her blogging led to her being offered a weekly column, which that led to a book. Lisa Gerber has found blogging has helped nurture prospects along the pipeline to the close of a deal.

And Lisa made an important point for those of us in the business of content: “If we don’t have [a blog], [our prospects] certainly aren’t going to pick us if content development and digital PR is part of the scope [of work]. It’s an opportunity to share personal perspective – and if I’m preaching it to the CEOs I work with, I better be doing it myself.”

My own experience has been that blogging has: led directly and indirectly to clients; it definitely checks the “thought leadership” box (Ragan is using my name, among others, to publicize its new measurement guide, and I’m very grateful, make no mistake) ; it results in media opportunities and speaking engagements; there are more shares of, and engagement with, my content around the social web; and it helps to place me (and therefore SBC) on shortlists of consultants in various ways… which brings in more business (when I win, it sucks when I don’t), and keeps the proverbial lights on.

This is why we spent the last several months redesigning WUL and bringing it under the SBC umbrella. In retrospect, I would have done this much earlier; it’s been a PITA trying to set, or re-set, stuff like Google Analytics.

However you decide to approach your PR efforts, please do what’s right for you, and not what others tell you because “you should.” But do make sure you are thinking about how they ultimately support your business objectives. Else it’s a colossal waste of time, energy and resources. And no one needs that, least of all you.

I’ve had my say, what about you? Has blogging worked for you, or did you throw your hands up in exasperation? Or, are you firmly in the “I don’t want to go there” camp? Whatever it is, do share, I’d love to know!

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke