Boarding a flight to Fort McMurray, a fellow consultant asked my opinion about what he called “Consultant Blogs.” He works for a local medium-sized Consultant which is considering their own blog.

The flight was full and we could not connect long enough for me to articulate my ideas. So here they are for his, and for your consideration.

Historically a blog is a personal diary. Next it is a space for personal opinions. The blogs I like most are ever new postings from one opinionated good writer. I like the verve and tension of a contentious opinion, of a perspective that may offend some, of a new way of looking at a tired issue. Those are, in my opinion, the essence of a good blog.

I am saddened to see the proliferation of so-called blogs that are nothing more than a serial news-sheet. I quickly close and never return to so-called blogs that are pale attempts to be a cheap newsletter, or worse, a propaganda machine for a crusading company. I hate the blandness of corporate-speak that passes the red pen of a nervous lawyer.

The point is a good blog should be personal, spontaneous, and slightly edgy.

The facility of posting material using blog-software makes the software and hence the format attractive to companies and organizations seeking a fast and cheap way to get their message out. Too many are already doing this and polluting the blogosphere. However, we blog-readers quickly learn to avoid them.

Hence if you seek to get your organization’s message out, do not use blog-software. There are many other, more honest, ways to spread your message and to communicate.

I write a blog for InfoMine about mining. I am beholden to the company for the computer and all the support that is needed to mount and maintain the blog. I am even paid something by them to write the blog. But my blog is not a “company” blog in the sense that I am required to tell of the happenings and virtues of the company.

To the credit of InfoMine I am given free reign to write whatever I think about mining issues. There are of course constraints. These include civil discourse and no overt criticism of the company. I am not required to link to the site or even promote their many products and services. Sometimes I do; but that is entirely my decision based on the rule that it comes to my attention, I am interested in it, and I suspect my readers will be too.

Writing a blog and keeping it fresh is a surprisingly demanding undertaking. To post a new opinion about an interesting topic day after day is a challenge. I mostly manage one “article” or posting each working day. I do it by reading the mining news and reading blogs on mining topics. I select a story, item, or opinion that seems to me interesting and a little way-out. Then I bash the keyboard until there is at least a semblance of decent prose and a conclusion (opinion) that maybe even I had not hitherto realized I hold.

Sometimes I succeed. Many times I fail and the result is a platitude. You can easily quantify this by following the access statistics. Google and the blog-reading public are ruthless about judging blog quality.

Thus if you as a consultant establish a “company” blog, you need to find somebody who is: (a) prepared to write regularly and fast; (b) whose prose needs no independent editing; (c) whom you trust not to mouth-off your company; and (d) who has a wide enough range of interests not to repeat [too much] and hence tire and drive away your intended audience.

You must be prepared to pay them. And you must have a clear and fixed agreement about the objective of the “company” blog. Microsoft supports staff blogging as long as the blogger writes about technical issues that ultimately result in a productive interchange of ideas about technical issues that could benefit Microsoft. InfoMine supports me as part of their objective to be the site that is all things about mining to all people.

I know of no blog supported or put out by a consulting company in those aspects of life in which I move.

I can conceive of a company-supported blog in which the writer posts regular “articles” about the happenings in the specialties in which the consulting company specializes. For example, a company providing groundwater services to the mining industry could well pay one of their staff to regularly update the “company” blog with pieces on happenings and opinions related to or stemming from news and views about mining-related groundwater events and issues. If well done this would prove the intellect and knowledge of the blog writer---and maybe his/her company.

I can conceive of a blog to which a number of groundwater specialists in the consulting company contribute, thereby proving the merit and worth of the groundwater consulting group. But immediately this raises the issue of editing, control, and liability. Recall that, in my opinion, the essence of a blog is personal spontaneity. My multi-contributor blog would quickly fail that test.

Do not, as a consulting company, start a blog to keep staff informed of news. There are other better ways to do that, including newsletter software. But if you insist on using blog-software for the obvious reason that it is cheap and easy to use, at least make it clear that this is not a blog in fact, but simply a regularly updated sequentially-posted series of company happenings. It could work.

Do not, as a consulting company, start a blog to advertise your services. It could work, but you will soon grow weary of the editing and fussing and fury a good “blog” entails. Rather stick to the tried and trusted advertising formats.

Never, as a consulting company, start a blog as a “discussion forum.” That does not work. In fact I would recommend you never undertake a discussion forum on the computer whatever software you decide on. All e-discussion-fora I know are pathetic collections of silly questions, evasive answers, and embarrassing expositions of ignorance and stupidity.

That said, I must sign off, for I have to generate a new item for posting on the blog I write fully supported by InfoMine. I think we are succeeding. We are no geniuses. So maybe you too can belie my opinions and make blogging work in a new way for your consulting company.