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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

The Training Department Blog, I: Why?

put aside all those knee-jerk reactions and consider an internal blog

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Should your training department have a blog? And if you have one, are you using it as you should?

Don't dismiss the idea out of hand ("this article doesn't apply to us!") without knowing how a blog can help you and your organization be more successful.

A blog (short for web log), if you haven't encountered them, is basically a web site that makes it easy for you to post entries, categorize them if you wish, and allow others to read those entries, search for them by category, and, if you like, comment on what is said. Some people use them almost as diaries, but many, many companies and consultants use them to share valuable information with their audiences.

So, please, humor me a moment! As soon as I say, "Start a blog" to people, they can think of a million reasons it won't work. And many of them don't see the point. In the next couple of issues, I'll deal with both of those responses, with a quick overview here.

The common objections I get really don't stand up to scrutiny, most of the time:

  • We don't have enough to write about. Writing scares a lot of people, and you may not think there's enough content for your training function to share. But as we'll see, it doesn't have to be all that scary, and if you really can't come up with any stories and ideas to share, you may not be all that effective as a training department!
  • We don't have time to mess with the technology. Blogging is one of the easiest things, technically speaking, you can do with your computer. Software is designed to make it easy to just write an entry and post it, with the software doing almost all of the work to make your blog easy to use.
  • They'll never let us put a blog on our intranet. "They" may not want to bother, but if you make this form of communication a valued element in your own department plan, they will come around. And don't listen to any guff from the technical staff about this being too hard or expensive to do.
  • Nobody will read it. If you don't cover the right topics for the right audience, well, they shouldn't read your stuff. I'll have more to say about what you should be writing in a later issue.

Why bother? If you aren't familiar with blogs, you might be overlooking some of the things they offer:

  • Visibility: frequency is your most powerful tool in delivering your message. Simple communications, delivered often, will overwhelm the highly packaged, formal annual presentation every time.
  • Appeal to Your Younger Employees : maybe you aren't into blogs yet, but there are a lot of employees in your company (mostly, but not exclusively, the younger ones) who do read them. Why pass on a great vehicle for reaching the people who will be running most of the company a few years from now?
  • Stealth Influence: blogs are kind of informal, friendly, and personal. Compared to your official pronouncements and more formal "face," your blog can do a lot to build relationships with people working in other areas of the company.

I'll expand on these themes in coming weeks. In the meantime, you might want to do a little homework . . .

Before You Even Start . . .

A couple of typical responses to this "start a blog" suggestion are:

  1. "Oh, no, we can't do that, don't know what we'd write about, they wouldn't allow it, don't know how to do it . . ."
  2. "How do I set one up? Is there software I need? What's the best way to produce and organize it?"

Better than either of these responses is a little research, building a little awareness of how this works. Before you reject the idea, and before you try to implement it, get a little more comfortable with it:

  • Debbie Weil's introduction "The Corporate Blogging Book" is a good start. Quick read, basic concepts, the decisions you need to consider, covered in a short space. (Much of the book deals with blogs for external audiences, but it will be helpful for this kind of internal blog, as well.)
  • Follow a few blogs that interest you. Get a little experience as a reader, and you will be much more comfortable when it comes to producing a blog of your own. ("You", in this context, is plural -- if you have several staff in your department, get them all thinking about blogs, and encourage all of them to spend some time reading the ones that are already out there.) To find blogs:
    • Do an internet search for phrases that are relevant to your work, or phrases important to your training activities. Then look for links that include "blog", "blogspot", or "wordpress" in the URLs. Once you find the first couple of blogs, they will point you to others.
    • Call up your counterparts in other companies and find a few people who are blogging on their intranets. Talk about it at networking functions.
    • Visit Technorati, a site that catalogs blogs of all kinds, and enter your terms in their search box.

In short, dip a toe in the blogging waters, get your bearings, and I'll have some answers to the "what do I write about," often the scariest question that comes up, in the next edition of The Training Tipsheet

© 2009 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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