We’ve had some ups and downs (thankfully mostly ups) and yes, we did win an award or two. The DIFF proudly and humbly accepted a couple of Silver W3 awards for best homepage, business and best copywriting.
Is writing for a blog considered copywriting? I always thought coming up with stuff like "Coke – it’s the real thing" or "Built Ford tough" is copywriting. I think of blog writing as storytelling – much less polished and more personal than typical business copywriting.
Anyway, when we launched the blog a year ago, we honestly didn’t know what to expect. We were a little nervous. I can admit that now. Would the blog be tagged as another lame corporate blog, a boring and uninspired attempt at doing something most corporations don’t do very well – communicate with customers? Would the blog be slammed by the sometimes unforgiving blogosphere? We didn’t know. But we launched the DIFF anyway.
And to our surprise – some people liked it! Typepad picked it as a featured blog just three weeks after launch and it’s been a good ride ever since. As far as we know, no one has ever publicly slammed it. We’ve had mentions in blogs as far away as South Africa and as close as WWJ Radio’s Michigan Future blog. Let’s hope the good vibes continue for another year.
I wanted to mention one of the biggest factors that have made the DIFF a good blog. It’s all about teamwork. Pretty much everything that has happens on the DIFF is a team decision. And the team has changed over the past year. A few notable folks have contributed and moved on to other gigs and they are worth a mention.
First, there was Amy Prior, the DIFF Ninja, who played a huge role in launching the blog and doing daily maintenance. Bryan Stapp, our former CMO, gave the blog his blessing (he could have put the shebang on the whole thing and there never would have been a DIFF blog) and for that we are forever grateful. Angry Ed Moffett, who left Detroit and returned to California just in time to enjoy the sweet smell of wildfires, wrote some of the most commented posts. Kathy Fawcett was one of our most frequent contributors early on. And then there was our awesome team of intern contributors: Edson McLean, Dave Rigotti, Mark Messing, Stephanie Powel and Cassie Bixler who contributed great writing at one point or another (Messing still does, and even got the attention of Netbanker blog with his post about Cuyahoga Falls).
We’ve also had some interesting commenters over the past year. My favorite has to be Billy Leopardskinhousen, who always takes an "interesting" perspective on our posts. Mullets rule, dude!
So, what have we learned about launching and maintaining a blog? A lot.
If I had to sum it up to 5 things, here they are:
- Get buy-in from the top and build it from the bottom up with trust
It took a little bit of lobbying to get top leadership buy-in for the DIFF. And it took more to get permission to post without PR or Legal approval of everything we write. It took trust. The buck stops with us (the writers) and we have to be accountable for what we put here. Despite how much I really would love this to be "Clayton’s blog," it’s not. It’s the Quicken Loans blog and everything we put here reflects on Quicken Loans. Like it or not, our opinions can help or hurt Quicken Loans if posted here. So we have to be careful. We’ve earned the trust of leadership. If we lose that trust, we lose the ability to write a good blog.
- We’ve built it, now stand up and cheer
Sorry Johnny-come-lately, but in case you didn’t notice, there are lots of corporate blogs out there. Welcome to the club. Heck, GM has been doing a fantastic blog for almost 3 years! So, just because you built it, don’t expect anyone to care. Make it interesting. Make it enjoyable. Post well and post often. You have to earn respect, so earn it.
- You can’t please everyone
Sometimes someone won’t like what you say. You might be criticized. You might be called to the carpet. It’s part of the game. Lucky for the DIFF team, the criticism has been light and the praise much heavier. It’s made life easy for us, but we have had comments that disagree with us. This scares some people. I follow a rule: It’s all right for someone to disagree with me. It’s not all right for me to offend someone. Again, this is the Quicken Loans blog and everything we say reflects on Quicken Loans. It’s tough to remember that sometimes.
- Sometimes what you write comes off differently than you intended
Christy B. wrote a positive post about GMability (GM’s corporate responsibility website – she and I both used to work on that site at our previous jobs). Well, to our surprise some folks thought the post came off negative and sure enough, I got the call just a few hours after it went live. "Why are you talking junk about GMability on the DIFF?" "We aren’t," I protested and pointed out that the post was positive. Don’t assume everyone reads something the way you do. Consider all angles. Remember, an offended person becomes a potential lost customer. Losing customers doesn’t really make much sense for a corporate blog, now does it?
- Keep it fresh, keep it real (interesting)
Update once a month and you will have visitors stopping by once a month. Update every day and they may just stop by to see what you have to say on a daily basis. But, more important that quantity is quality. If you can’t write, don’t. If you don’t have good stories, don’t tell them. If you have nothing interesting to say, don’t say it. That’s the bottom line. We struggle with this. Even with an open-ended blog like the DIFF, we find it challenging to write on a regular basis about interesting stuff. It ain’t that easy.
So here we are. One year and counting. It’s been a great year and I look forward to another year of finding the DIFF. We still welcome stories from outside, so please send them if you got ‘em. I’ll end this with lyrics from a great American poet and singer. First to guess gets a t-shirt and a Starbucks $5 gift card! Just leave the answer in a comment and make sure we can get in touch with you.
"Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been."