In my informal poll of CMOs, the top three reasons given for not blogging include:
- Don’t have time
- Not a good writer
- Uncertain of the value
Roberto Medrano, CMO of Akana (formerly SOA Software), started blogging three years ago as a way to start and lead the dialogue on critical issues in his industry. Like most CMOs, Roberto had no shortage of things to do, including repositioning the company from legacy software applications to what Akana calls “powering the API economy.” But he made the time to blog. As for his writing skills, Roberto does not profess to be a writer even after crafting 30 or more highly engaging blog posts. Oh and did I mention the fact that his native language his Spanish? Roberto found a way to get his point-of-view across while seeking the help of colleagues to edit and proof his posts.
As for the value of blogging, Roberto frames them in our discussion below. First, these posts helped demonstrate that Akana is a true thought leader, raising issues and opportunities long before their competitors. Second, it helps coalesce internal points-of-view on where their industry (and company) is headed. Third, once he showed the value of blogging, other members of the executive team started to write as well, furthering the reach & conversation. Fourth, the press began to seek out Akana’s posts as a source of content for their own stories. Finally, and the one Roberto downplays given his already establish reputation in the industry, is how it raised his personal profile, culminating in his ranking as the 12th most influential CMO in the US.
I would add one other personal benefit to blogging–writing leads to understanding. So if you’re still insufficiently motivated to start blogging, read on. I found Roberto’s personal journey quite enlightening.
Drew: How long have you been blogging and what motivated you to get started?
I started blogging about three years ago. I felt the need to communicate Akana’s point of view as an industry thought leader besides just sending press releases or asking the press to take a point of view. And there are less press reporters now. That motivated us to say, “How do we do that?” And we also saw that other companies were using blogs effectively. So then, we said, “Okay. We got to do our own” and I was the guy who started writing them.
Drew: Who was your target?
Our initial target was enterprise architects who are thinking about doing mobile applications, people that are doing cloud applications and people leading digital transformation to their internal applications.
Drew: How did you decide what to write about?
Whatever we thought would be relevant to our target. We wanted to provide insights about security, mobile, cloud, application lifecycle development and some related business, with the use of APIs. Now in the digital world everything is connected thru APIs. We covered the technical aspects of building APIs and building applications. Or for companies looking to use the cloud, we covered what applications have to have to be able to be cloud ready. We just wanted to make easy for our customers and prospects to find relevant content, whether it was high level or more detailed technology use.
Drew: Did you court controversy?
Of course, some of the topics were and continue to be controversial. With the controversial ones, we usually take a position especially if it was a topic lots of people were debating. People appreciate that. For some, our point-of-view would really resonate. And even the folks that disagreed might still refer to the blog post, send it around, comment and do all those things that happen with blogs.
Drew: A lot of senior marketers tell me they don’t have time to write or don’t like doing it and these are folks for whom English is a first language. Was it particularly hard for you to get started given that Spanish is your native tongue?
I never really believed that I was a writer but I do have some ideas to communicate to people. So, I started thinking of to how communicate those to a broader audience in a written fashion. At first, I felt very uncomfortable because I don’t consider myself a reporter that publishes writings, and now a blogs are publications. I felt quite responsible and not very comfortable. I had to get some initial help from people that were actual writers and proofreaders to review some of the write-ups before they we’re actually published.
Drew: Did it get easier?
I have become more comfortable over the last three years as more and more posts got published. I do a lot more of the editing myself, but still pass the posts by others for comments or edits. The editing has been less and less in terms of style and more about the details of the points that need to be communicated.
Drew: Do you get a fair amount of feedback from your readers?
I get a lot of feedback from the people that read it on our corporate blog and when I repost it on LinkedIn and other publications. What’s amazing is that I’ll get comments on posts that were published six months ago. Blogs can be read for a long time and still be current.
Drew: Have there been some results that surprised you?
Well, I didn’t expect that some press would read my posts and refer them in their articles. That was not in my radar. I see more and more reporters referring to my posts, which is kind of interesting especially since we have never promoted the blog to press. Recently, a reporter asked “Do you have a blog?” and told me they would wait for my post on a particular topic and then quoted from it a day later. That’s definitely a new thing for me and its reassuring since it means the press believes there’s something of value in these posts!
Drew: Any other results that surprised you?
The other aspect that’s happened to me is that I get recognized at conferences! I’ll be walking around and then some people just come up to me to talk about something that I published. I don’t know these people, or they just see my picture and they recognize me. They want to talk to me about the blogs. I’ve never gotten anything really negative in person where somebody will come and argue with me which is a relief!
Drew: Do you always have internal agreement before you issue a point-of-view?
Not always. We do a lot of research with our customers and sometimes the results are controversial internally and some people don’t agree. When a clear and potentially new point of view emerges, it is important to get it out there in the marketplace ahead of the competition. And sometimes is just takes other people longer to get on board but they generally do come around especially when they see a competitor pretty much copying our stuff!
Drew: Are there other benefits of having a disciplined regular blogging program?
Yes, because people subscribe to the blog and read it regularly, they have a more interesting connection with us. And they want to connect to see what we’re thinking about. In many cases, they go back — even when there doing evaluation for a product, they go back in the blog and try to see what posts are related to what they’re thinking about doing.
Drew: Was it hard to get other execs to write?
If you look at the first couple of years, I was the only guy blogging even though I would send emails to the company and say, “write something that could be interesting” nobody was doing it. Slowly, others started writing too. But if look at the blog today, you’ll see I’m one of many that posts blogs every month.
Drew: What are CMOs missing when say they’re just too busy to blog?
So, you’re missing out on an opportunity to communicate with an audience that wants to hear something from you. You’re missing a chance to be part of the conversation that simply can’t happen with ads and press releases. You’re missing the chance to help your company be perceived as industry thought leaders.
Drew: You were ranked 12th (of 250) of the most influential CMOs in the marketplace. Does this recognition in your mind help Akana?
Well, in my mind, it does, because we are recognized as part Akana the company. The recognition is for creating a perception about the company and you are compared with many other great companies with all the marketing activities you manage and the results you produce. In terms of blogs, It’s not my private blog. So, the fact that the blogs are quoted on some publications that gives another dimension to whatever the writing is from that press and the value for the company and for the CMO.
Drew: Last question, what would you say are the top benefits of consistent blogging?
The more content you recreate, the more ideas you have in the marketplace, the more there is for people to find and look at. The organic search benefits are huge. If people are looking for certain topics like APIs, SOA and “enterprise service bus” which we are against, our blog comes up at the top. And if the content is good enough, people will subscribe and continue to share your content, your point-of-voice that will establish you and your company as legitimate thought leaders.