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Easy Read

Build business relationships with a company blog.

Blogs have gone from fad to phenomenon, so it's not surprising that blogging has made its way into business. "Most business owners who use Web logs [want] to communicate with customers while preserving a human voice," says Mena Trott, 26, co-founder of San Mateo, California-based Six Apart Ltd.-which offers blog publishing services Movable Type and TypePad-with her husband, Ben Trott, 26.

Before you allow customers, partners, investors, employees and even competitors a glimpse into your company via a blog, it's crucial to determine what you want your blog to accomplish. Also think about how you can develop a relationship with your readers without being too marketing-oriented or too personal. "Keep it professional, but with a strong personal voice," Mena counsels. If the words on-screen sound like a conversation, you're on the right track. And since Web pages can live forever in cyberspace, Mena advises you don't post anything you don't want on your company's "permanent record." Make sure the design is professional, and edit for spelling and grammar. Mena also suggests doing practice posts for two or three weeks before going live so you can work out any problems.

Offering commentary on your industry and related industries creates a blog your audience will want to read, Mena explains. White Plains, New York, brand and design consulting firm R.Bird & Co. Inc. recently launched ¿Ask Mariví?, a blog focusing on package design and branding for the Hispanic market. "We thought it would be a great way to reach out to the design community," says founder Richard Bird, 48. "Making our research public projects an image of growth, curiosity and knowledge."

Stratton Cherouny, lead developer on ¿Ask Mariví?, says it's vital to maintain a sharp focus in your blog. "In a casual publishing environment, it's easy to stray from the course and post whatever topic comes to mind. That's going to confuse your community and cause them to look elsewhere for focused dialogue."

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This article was originally published in the December 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Easy Read.

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