Every marketer knows they need to have a company blog to drive SEO, content marketing, leads and [insert next week’s buzz word here]. But do you really need one if it’s just going to suck? No. A bad blog is worse than no blog.

Four reasons corporate blogs often fail and suck:

1. They are impersonal. The anonymous, sanitized voice that often comes out of corporate blogs is numbing and boring. The information might even be good, but if it’s too polished and too corporate-y, it’s a turn off and feels like “marketing.” The best blogs are from a person, whom readers feel they get to know through their insight and commentary. Think of it as a conversation, rather than a marketing communication. This means writing in first person and using a casual, conversational voice.

2. They are promotional. Nothing will turn anyone off of a blog faster than promotional content. And even some of the top marketing systems advocate “calls to action” within blog posts. I totally disagree with that practice. If you were having a conversation with an awesome, knowledgable person who was giving you some really great advice, but then ended it with—so, you want to buy my product? Would it leave a bad taste in your mouth? Yep. I promise, if you write awesome, conversational, helpful blog posts that come from a person, not a robot, people will think more highly of you and the leads will follow.

3.  They are about what you want to say, not what the reader wants to hear. Writing a good blog isn’t about you and your agenda, though surely you have one. It’s about providing a great resource to the people you want to attract. If you’re writing about your latest product launch or all the ways that make your product amazing (yawn), you’re not hitting the right note. This is also thinly veiled on many corporate blog posts I’ve seen. Something like, “why all marketers need automation tools,” if it’s written by a marketing automation tool company, well, it’s still going to be all about you and your readers know it before reading the first word.

4. No one “owns” the blog. So often blogs are owned by a committee, or the whole marketing team is expected to just “pitch in” when they have time. That really doesn’t work. Everyone owning it means no one does. Someone has to care for it, love it, evangelize it and protect it from the items in one through three on my list. This can be time consuming and frustrating.

What you need are regular writers who will get passionate about the business you’re in and write about things your clients and prospects will like to read about. These people can be hard to find and they are not always the ones you think. The quiet developer in the back might be the best blogger or the customer service rep who hears from clients all day, might have unique perspective. Don’t limit your writers to the top brass, they are often the ones with the least time and inclination. Once you get some passionate souls on board though, your blog will shine and maybe you’ll need two or three blogs just to expand on the awesomeness.

I’m a big believer in blogs (clearly), but it pains me to see so much time and effort wasted. I know marketers pay PR firms and writers thousands a month to write blog content so they can get the Big SEO. They’re missing the point. Blogging is a way to network with your clients and prospects and develop real relationships with them. If someone is doing the writing for you, who is your audience supposed to develop a relationship with?

These fine companies are rocking their blogs—find some inspiration:

  • Moz.com – These guys have gurus who are the authorities on topics in the web, search and marketing.
  • Hubspot – They have mastered the art of providing interesting information that helps their clients and prospects. Top notch content.
  • Whole Foods – The natural foods power house is rocking their blog too—tons of advice, recipes and foodie info. Yum.
  • Patagonia – The least corporate blog ever. Travel and interesting news from around the world abounds. It’s perfect.
Photo credit: “building_gap” by Louis du Mont