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A Blog, a Blog, My Kingdom for a Blog

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief Social Media Strategist at xynoMedia

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

“How much should we expect to invest in setting up a blog?”

I just returned from speaking at the Executing Social Media conference where the guy from Blendtec (Will it blend?) actually blended a rake! (I had no idea that Pasadena was so gorgeous.)

Howmuch The "how much" question was the number one question I was asked. This is like asking an architect how much it will cost to build a house. What kind of house? Brick? Wood? Stone masonry? How many people will live there? On what kind of terrain? What upgrades and amenities do you want? What time of year do you want to build it? Can you see how we can quickly slide down the rabbit hole?

And, the “how much” question is the one that tips off an unscrupulous blog consultant that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. That’s when she moves in for the kill with slick layouts (that do nothing for search engine rankings), widgets, plug-ins and alphabet soup talk.

Should you decide to work with someone who can help you set up a blog, you can avoid this trap, by making your first question: “Can you show me some of your work?” However, don’t let the consultant send you a PDF file filled with blogs that are no longer operational. Ask to see only operational blogs, and ask the consultant to tell you exactly what she did on each project. Some blog consultants just design the colors and graphics that you see, and the back-end part is done by someone else. Be clear about your needs and their capabilities.

The next thing to ask is: “If we were to work together, what steps would you make to help me make sure my blog is successful?” If she starts talking about fancy designs or platforms, run for the hills. The appropriate response should be something along the lines of wanting to understand more about your business and how it works or what you want your blog to do. Some experts use blogs for thought leadership, information sources, and fodder for upcoming books, still others simply want to foster an on-going dialogue with their market or manage their reputation. Again, be clear about the way(s) you plan to use your blog.

This is where you should have done your homework. One would think that price comes now, right? Nope.

Now, present a list of everything you want your blog to do, look like and have. Don’t worry about lingo. Explain what you want in plain English. It’s the consultant’s job to translate for you. Why should you have to learn a new vocabulary to communicate with someone you’re hiring to help you? Over the course of time, you’ll come to know the correct names for the various technology bits and bytes, but for now, just focus on a simple list of must-haves and would-like-to-haves.

Remember, no one can tell you what you want. If the consultant you’ve selected is any good, she should be able to ask clarification questions and make best-practice suggestions once you present your ideas, but no one can detail what you want.

Use examples. Provide links to blogs you like and blogs that make you cringe. Tell the consultant the reasons why you like or dislike a blog. Point out specifics.

If a consultant wants to skip these first couple of steps - be wise and move on. If she doesn’t have the time to help you determine what you want in a blog, how can they submit a proposal?

It’s also important to get proposals from more than one firm. I recommend that you get three to five proposals from different consultants, but definitely no less than three. This way, you will be able to examine the price points and see which consultant is low-balling just to get your business (and probably won’t do a good job anyway) and who presents a serious proposal that requires a reasonable investment.

Bottomline: When it comes to technology, you always get what you pay for.

P.S. I've been invited to attend the Network for Executive Women event tomorrow (June 3rd) at the Sheraton Meadowlands. The focus of the evening is on digital strategy. If you'll be there, look for me. I'll be the one with the laptop at the speaker's table. ;)

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