To Byline or Not: 5 Reasons Why Your Blog Should Identify Its Authors

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Must your company identify the author of each of your blog’s posts with a byline? Or is it an acceptable social media best practice to publish blog posts that are credited to an anonymous company voice?That seemingly simple question - asked of our Minneapolis PR firm last month by a client - reminded me of what happened with the first corporate blog our firm helped create. A prominent Twin Cities technology company wanted our help in launching a blog that would distribute a stream of commentary about new state and federal regulations that affected hundreds of key clients. But who would be credited as the author of these posts? We recommended then that each post be credited to the executive in charge of tracking those very regulations - the thought leader who was the source of that knowledge. Let’s call her ‘Tina.’ The resulting ‘Tina’s Blog” proved wildly popular with its narrowly-focused, but enormously lucrative, audience. When Tina would wander across trade show floors, prospects would spy her name tag, grab her arm and treat her like a celebrity: “Oh, my God - are you Tina? We love your blog!” 

That’s the power of business blogging at its best: personal, expert and human content that ignites a back-and-forth conversation between your company and the customers with whom you want to build long-term relationships - and revenue.

5 Reasons Your Blog Should Identify Its Authors

So how should your company handle the authorship of your blog? With some help from General Mills’ Manager of Corporate Social Media Kevin Hunt, Digital Missile managing director Gabriel Israel Grinberg and Deluxe’s earned media director Adam Dince, we answer the Hamlet-esque question, “To byline or not to byline.” Why should you name the authors of your corporate blog posts? Let me count the ways…

1. Bylined Bloggers Infuse Your Company With Humanity, Personality

KevinHuntGMQuote“Establishing that your company’s blog is written by an actual person,” says our agency’s social media director, Christina Milanowski, “not only helps to advance your expert positioning and thought leadership platform - it also makes your content more relatable from a human perspective.”

That’s arguably the reason PepsiCo paid singer Beyoncé $50 million to serve as its spokes-celebrity and endorser. There’s no corporate personality for consumers to grab onto with giant PepsiCo, but grafting Beyonce’s charisma and popularity on the 274,000-employee, $66+ billion corporation helps humanize it.

Your blog authors - if identified by name - can serve that same purpose. “Readers of corporate blogs want information, but they also want some personality from it - a unique point of view or perspective,” says Kevin Hunt (left), who manages the lively “Taste of General Mills” blog. “They want to see a face and a name on the posts, so they can weigh the experience or role that the author brings to that blog.”

2. Bylined Bloggers Suggest You Have a Broad Bank of Talent

There’s more to the historic lineups of the New York Yankees than Babe Ruth or Alex Rodriguez - there’s also Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and more. And there’s more to the Rolling Stones than Mick and Keith (well, not MUCH more, but Charlie Watts is still pretty awesome). Similarly, by clearly identifying the roster of up to five bloggers who contribute to your company’s content, you make explicit the depth and breadth of your talent. 

John Lincoln of San Diego’s Ignite Visibility adds, “Research shows that 63 percent of people feel multiple authors promote the credibility of a blog, when compared to a single author or no stated author.” Check out the ‘Taste of General Mills” blog, which credits no fewer than 125 authors, a mosaic of intertwined blog voices for General Mills. “I’m a big believer in corporate blogs having a name behind each blog post,” says Hunt, “and that’s been our approach. It’s allowed General Mills to showcase a variety of employees in a variety of roles across the company, each with their own unique voice. Nameless blog posts come across as news releases or statements from corporate communications.”

3. Bylined Bloggers Build Trust, Loyalty and Engagement

I love my agency’s lawyer, accountant and banker - but most of my loyalty is not with their law firm, CPA firm or bank....it’s with the specific person I’ve grown to trust, not just the institution that employs them.

So if you cloak your blog’s authors in the invisibility of the Great and Powerful Oz, you miss out on the chance to build trust and loyalty with a human-to-human connection to your audience. What’s more, promoting the authors of your blog is a critical part of establishing employee advocates for your brand – advocates who can extend their value through branded e-books, speeches, webinars, podcasts, infographics, YouTube videos and much more.

Gabriella Israel Grinberg (below), managing director of the Minneapolis agency Digital Missile and a former social media staffer at Select Comfort and Target Corporation, told us: "Whenever possible, a company blog should identify and highlight authors of its blog posts, for several reasons. First, unless the post is an official company announcement, readers want to know who they are reading and what kind of credibility or credentials the author has. Providing a blog author’s name helps your company develop a following on social media, and also highlights talent within the company. What’s more, providing recognition to employees within your organization allows them to feel more engaged and encourages them (and their peers) to share the blog content with their networks, allowing for greater online distribution.”

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“Second, without an author, your blog post could look 'fake,' meaning the content was just churned out by an intern or third-party content farm,” says Grinberg. “Most importantly, your company should select employees who have a unique blog writing style that matches and/or complements the voice of your company." 

4. Bylined Bloggers Build Employee Retention

Marketing directors have confided to us about concerns that if they promote particular employees as blog/social media authors - and those content creators build a following for their posts - the company risks losing that following if the employee moves on.

AdamDinceQuoteAdam Dince (right), director of Earned Media (SEO, Social and Content Strategy) at Deluxe Corporation, doesn’t buy that argument. “With so much competition for digital talent, many businesses hesitate to highlight their employees’ writing talents through proper blog authorship attribution,” says Dince. “In my opinion, this fear-based mindset is a big mistake. Employees who feel limited in their ability to get credit for the work they do (especially thought leadership work like blogging), will eventually leave and go elsewhere.”

“But more than that - when employees know that their personal brand is tied to their professional writing, more effort is put into the quality of their posts,” adds Dince. “Take it from someone who has lead and managed teams for years. You’ll experience far greater attrition through stifling employee voices, than being a resource for them to grow and flourish - including through expressing themselves by blogging!”

Adds General Mills’ Hunt: “I think it’s misguided for companies to be overly concerned about their employees raising their profile by blogging, and possibly leaving for another company. You should want to show the world that you have smart people working for you, and show your employees that you value their thinking. “

5. Bylined Bloggers Build Search Visibility on Google

Two words: Author Rank. Okay, three words: Google Author Rank. 

Why wouldn’t your company take advantage of the Google algorithm that ranks blog authors based on the prominence, influence and topical content of those content producers? In the words of Movable Media’s president Andrew Boer, “Google thinks it is the authors who really matter - since it is authors, not brands, who ultimately create content. So if you only publish a blog with a corporate voice, you are missing out on building up the rank and reputation of your writers.” Resistance is futile: we must identify blog authors as the Google Mothership commands us.

Every one of the blogs that Forbes’ magazine featured in its “10 B2B Companies That Show What a Killer Blog Looks Like” identifies the author of its posts. But there’s always an exception - consider the case of the Groupon’s blog - Groublogpon-The Serious Blog of Groupon. This B2C blog is essentially anonymous, but vaguely attributed to its feline author, “Cat.” While no human author is listed, the attitude of Groupon’s blog is wickedly subversive - one recent post introduced the new start-up, Grouber, a “revolutionary new car service with feline drivers” that uses “GPS-guided red lasers to signal the correct route to the four-legged kitty captain behind the wheel.”

*   *   *

So we must look back to Elizabethan England to ask: why have scholars argued so fiercely about whether William Shakespeare himself (or purported ghostwriters such as Sir Francis Bacon or Edward DeVere) actually wrote William’s plays? Because the identity of an author’s voice matters. Consumers of content - whether it’s of ‘Richard III’ or your company’s next blog post - recognize that knowing the human being responsible for what we’re reading enables us to establish trust. Name your blogger (and his or her expertise), and you’ve empowered your prospects to evaluate whether they should believe (and follow) your blog author.

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In this age when customers value transparency and authenticity above all else, is it anything less than brand suicide to camouflage the authors of your blog content?

Which is why we end this blog post, as we’ve ended all 100 posts that have appeared in the MaccaPR blog before, with the identification of its respective author.

But first, here are a few of our favorite clearly-bylined corporate blogs:

  • The HubSpot Blog: A perfect example of a corporate blog that identifies the diverse personalities of each author is this blog from the inbound marketing experts at Boston-based HubSpot. You’ll see that each HubSpot post prominently who the author is, along with the author’s Twitter icon and a clickable link to the author’s biography, head shot photo and best of all, a historical compilation of previous post they’ve created.
  • AdKnowledge Blog: The digital ad technology company AdKnowledge celebrates its five bloggers as “Featured Authors” with head shots and clickable links to the quintet’s latest blog posts. Best of all, each blog author boasts a biography, along with links to their Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles.
  • Canva’s Design School Blog: Another strong example of a multi-authored blog.
  • Intuit’s Labs Blog: Here’s a great example of how Intuit builds trust between prospects and employees - in this case, through a three-part blog series written by Intuit design strategist Amanda O’Grady. Notice how the post opens right away with Amanda’s bio, and how it establishes an intimate, first-person “I love Zappos” tone.



Image Sources: Maccabee PR, Ben Sutherland

About the Author

Paul Maccabee

Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Content Marketing, PR Perspectives

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