What's The Diff?

The things Quicken Loans team members care about and want to share with the world

Celebrating one year of the DIFF with the Quicken Loans blog

The Quicken Loans blog celebrates one yearAwwww. Our little baby is growing up.  Yup, our beloved experiment in controlled corporate communication chaos turns one today. 

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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."

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  1. Congratulations on your one year anniversary! The Diff Blog ROCKS!!!

    Posted by: Angie B | November 1, 2007
  2. Cheers to another year!

    Posted by: Ann-Marie | November 1, 2007
  3. I know the answer to your lyrics question, but working on the DIFF everyday is reward enough for me! Happy Birthday, DIFF!

    Posted by: Kelly | November 1, 2007
  4. Ah, our little boy is growing up.
    Congrats Diff team.
    - One of the pesky PR guys you mention above

    Posted by: Aaron | November 1, 2007
  5. Happy Birthday to you! – And Many More!

    Posted by: Cora | November 2, 2007
  6. Thanks and congrats onna year… and yes, that post WAS negative… but no mattah…

    Posted by: Billy | November 2, 2007
  7. Billy, you’re always loved around here! Keeping it jumpin’.

    Posted by: Christy | November 2, 2007
  8. Congrats, Happy B-day, etc. etc. Fall’s almost over – Here comes the S**T! Make sure you wear your galoshes, and scrape a car window for me, guys!

    Posted by: Ed | November 2, 2007
  9. Congratulations and happy birthday! Thanks for the mention – it was great blogging for “The Diff!”

    Posted by: Dave Rigotti | November 2, 2007
  10. Congrats on one year, Clay & The DIFF team. And sorry to spoil it, but it’s a lyric from “Truckin’” and title of a Grateful Dead album. Clay – this isn’t some weird premonition in advance of Las Vegas, is it???

    Posted by: David Binkowski | November 2, 2007
  11. Thanks Dave. But the question is who (individual, not the band) wrote the lyrics. It’s not as obvious as you think.

    Posted by: Clayton | November 2, 2007
  12. Wow. A year already? COngratulations, Diff!

    Posted by: Charlie Kondek | November 2, 2007
  13. how the time flies…

    Posted by: mark | November 2, 2007
  14. “The title of the compilation comes from one of Robert Hunter’s most famous lyrics, the line from “Truckin’”: Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_a_Long_Strange_Trip_It's_Been
    Not that I would have known the answer, but it’s been two days! Come on!

    Posted by: Christy | November 2, 2007
  15. Oh, Clay C… Talk about comment baiting… Robert Hunter?

    Posted by: David Binkowski | November 2, 2007
  16. Wow Dave, Christy beat you with the right answer by 13 seconds. That’s kind of weird.

    Posted by: Clayton | November 2, 2007
  17. That’s okay. Dave gets it because it actually means something to you two, and Dave prolly used his own brain power and not that of “the Google.” ;-)
    Grateful Dead and the like just aren’t my thing, I guess. Matt’s probably ripping his hair out hearing that.

    Posted by: Christy | November 2, 2007
  18. Ok. Dave Binkowski wins a t-shirt and a $5 Starbucks gift card!!!!!
    Email me your address Dave and I send you your swag.

    Posted by: Clayton | November 2, 2007
  19. A $5 gift card? Clay, you are far too generous. :-P

    Posted by: Scrooge | November 3, 2007
  20. and a t-shirt!

    Posted by: Clayton | November 4, 2007
  21. Congratulations, Clayton to you and your entire staff at Quicken Loans on receiving the WOMMIE Award and on your first anniversary of creating “What’s the DIFF.” Good writing and creativity will always win over mediocrity. Also, kudos to Quicken Loans for encouraging such good work. Dad and I are proud of you.

    Posted by: Marcia Closson | November 6, 2007
  22. CONGRATS on your one-year anniversary! Go MC Clay C!

    Posted by: Amy Prior | November 7, 2007
  23. I still read these blogs, and I even started my own after posting on whatsthediff.com after my internship. People at Quicken Loans are in the loop, and I love that the company and people empower eachother to be the difference they want to see in the world. Happy Anniversary – thanks for a great read and fantastic writing outlet! Quicken people are the very best!

    Posted by: Stephanie Jean Powel | November 11, 2008

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Sunday, March 18, 2018