What makes my professional experience set so unique is that I have major-market experience in using the Web for business minus all the usual awe and overselling of promises about today’s technology. I am a realist with the professional experience of a decade and a half of communicating and marketing online.
Most importantly, I was born into a world just before there were computers and the online experience to automate one’s life. This means that I had no technological shortcuts at my fingertips growing up, and I had to learn how to think about successfully meeting business objectives and how to write for business without computers and the Internet. In short, I discovered that communicating successfully does not dependend on technology. Successful communication and writing requires knowing how to use your brain to make the correct choices in how to communicate and write. By itself, technology can never help you succeed in communication and writing. Most people born after 1980 do not understand this simple fact.
Before There Was Blogging
In 2001, I created one of the first blogs to provide professional services out of Washington, DC. My work was one of the earliest examples of what today is called Web 2.0. The site I conceived of and launched was not even called a blog because that term was not widely used until around 2004. My goal was to create an internal communications website for employees only using what we now call blogging software.
Because of the heat that is generated over partisan political blogs, it’s real easy to mistake all blogging as serving primarily the function of stirring up emotions and initiating public action on issues. However, I can tell you about the real world of blogging for business—without any and all partisan political controversy.
The reality is: Blogging is only one small part of today’s use of the Web for business.
I created an internal communications website known as Message Center in 2001 to keep employees “on message.” This internal communications website was for the well-known Washington, DC nonprofit association for older Americans, AARP. This is the modest look of that website back in the early part of the 2000s:
Pioneering Business Blg
Message Center was a pioneering business blog exclusively to service AARP employees. It ran in continuous operation from December 2001 through February 2006. Management changes that year within the organization established other priorities for internal communications, and this influential Web 2.0 effort on a dedicated channel was abandoned. However, my blogging efforts in Washington, DC stand as pioneering because few organizations in the early 2000s had yet to start using the Internet for their own, internal business communication and marketing purposes.
I persuaded AARP management to recognize the need to inform employees about what AARP was saying in its public communications. Employees across all 50 states and in the six different U.S. time zones needed to be “on the same page,” so to speak, when it came to how AARP communicated its opinions on important public policy issues such as Social Security, Medicare prescription drugs, older drivers, grief and loss, grandparenting, and so forth. The management at that time followed my guidance to use the Internet and blogging software to help AARP employees stay “on message” no matter what time zone they happened to work in. Being “on message” was why this internal communications website earned the name of “Message Center.”
I chose to use blogging software for the AARP Message Center website because that particular software—which was new in the early 2000s—enabled AARP to make frequent (sometimes daily) postings online in reverse chronological order with links to summaries, digests and full text. This use of technology was essential since AARP is large and decentralized, with staffed offices located in over 60 locations in all five of the United States time zones, including the states of Alaska and Hawaii. I decided in the early 2000s that using blogging software online was the most practical way to share up-to-the-minute documents and details will all employees no matter where they were geographically situated.
Initially, I conceived of and wrote HTML and PHP code to do what today’s blogging software does and I worked with a technical advisor at a Web host to develop customized software for the AARP Message Center site. Eventually, the availability of off-the-shelf blogging software increased during the early 2000s, and I chose wisely not to reinvent the wheel and made the switch to PMachine, which is now known as ExpressionEngine. Ultimately, a software platform named WordPress became available. I used WordPress to power the AARP Message Center for communicating and marketing online.
What is Most Important to Know
The AARP Message Center blog (regardless of the software that powered the site) provided extreme flexibility in the continuous sharing of knowledge, approved language and documents with thousands of employees over the Internet at a cost savings and time savings compared to using traditional, low-tech alternatives such as mailing hard copies through the United States Postal Service.
This practical, everyday business use of blogging certainly is not “sexy” like today’s sizzling commentaries in partisan political blogs. And that’s a good thing!
Blogging or today’s social media need not be perceived as “sexy” or “hot” when it comes to your everyday business needs. In fact, I demonstrated vividly with this blogging effort in the early 2000s a very important fact: Strip away the fanfare and your organization can nonetheless derive many tangible cost-saving and time-saving benefits by choosing to use blogging software to interact with a decentralized target audience such as employees, business partners, stakeholders, existing customers, and potential customers.
Interactive Web for the United States Military
In 2006 I was hired by a marketing consulting firm in the Washington, DC market to provide editorial management of a US military outreach effort. I led the efforts until 2008 to upgrade their outmoded website into an interactive online communications vehicle to motivate people to remember and honor those who support our military service members. The US Army’s Freedom Team Salute program was cancelled in 2010 due to rising concerns about trimming federal spending.
After my accomplishments with that outreach program on behalf of the US Army, I led the social media outreach for another segment of the US military, the Department of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (see their website). I served as the architect of the Real Warriors campaign start-up deployment in May 2009 of three online channels to interact with target audience members—Facebook, Twitter, and an online discussion forum. Without my leadership efforts, this outreach initiative might not have launched with the solid social media footing that I gave it. I enabled the Real Warriors campaign to move forward and grow beyond modest beginnings in its first year. I continue to believe in the validity of using so-called new media for outreach even amid the growing interest to trim Defense Department expenditures. The outreach that I led using digital channels on behalf of the Defense Department was cost-effective especially since social media efforts often will be far less expensive than traditional public relations outreach in terms of both dollars and personnel.
Today and Tomorrow
Today I provide thought leadership and apply over a decade of professional experience in communicating and marketing online. The future is clear: Using the Internet for communicating and marketing is a proven business strategy. We may use tech-sounding terms like Web 2.0 and blogging and social media, but the practical reality is that technology is not what matters most.
Communicating and marketing online needs to be led by seasoned professionals like me who understand that technology is merely one tool to reach the business success you desire for yourself and for your organization.