Defining the Role of a Blogger


Okay, let’s all take a breath. It’s a new week and I have something I want you to read. It’s a tweet I Favorited last month from Michael Gray.

Michael’s really good at tweeting sound bytes that stop you in your tracks. And that was one of them for me. Because that’s how I view my job. That’s what I think my role is on this blog: To make it interesting.

Truthfully, I think that’s the role of any good blogger. To make the conversation interesting and to challenge you each time you visit. It’s to invoke something in you and do my damnedest not to jump off the cliff in the process, even if I maybe, sometimes walk the edge a little.

It’s funny; I get told a lot that I’m “just a blogger”.  You saw it happen in the comments of Friday’s post. And make no mistake, it’s meant as a derogatory statement. It means that I’m irresponsible and a bottom feeder. It means that all I care about is causing controversy for the sake of comments. It means I’m only after attention and links. And as offensive as I find that to me personally, I think it’s even more offensive to you, the readers of blogs. Because it makes some assumptions as to your intelligence and your inability to recognize bait from substance.

I don’t buy into that. I never have. I don’t think that’s what blogging is.

I wonder a lot what other companies have in mind when they start a blog and elect someone to be its caretaker. I wonder if they want real conversation, to rally the troops, to put out their own fires, or just to regurgitate the news in a safe way that gives the illusion that they’re participating. I’ve come to the conclusion that most blogs want the latter. They want to speak in soft, soothing tones so that they get credit for blogging without taking any of the risk. Even if they won’t admit that’s what they want. But that’s not me. And, in my opinion, it doesn’t bring value to anyone or anything.

I think good bloggers find ways to constantly challenge you. They find ways to constantly be opening up that dialogue. And that’s what their role should be. There aren’t any rules to being a blogger (not really, anyway) or any definitions as to what it really means, but if I were to write an abbreviated blogger code of conduct, it’d look something like this.

As your blogger,

  • I will try to offer up viewpoints that perhaps you hadn’t thought of in order to get people talking and open a conversation.
  • I’ll do my best to be useful, creating resources worth your bookmarks. (See last week’s post on how to launch that small business Web site.)
  • I’ll tie events together to create a story you perhaps didn’t see.
  • I’ll take a polarizing stand if it’ll get you to think about things differently and question yourself for good, not just because I’m bored or because I can.
  • I’ll craft posts in a tone most appropriate for the subject matter, even if it means I’ll be written off as “sensational” for my choice of language. I’ll use my language as a tool to open people up, not a weapon.
  • I will never make links or fake debate my end goal.
  • I’ll bring attention to causes, issues and news that I think are important or that will benefit you.
  • And I’ll do it while being responsible and accountable for my words.

In a nutshell, that’s what being a blogger is about to me. It’s about being interesting, being useful and to respect your readers enough to challenge them when necessary.Or at least that’s the role I try to fill.

Corporations need to identify the role they want their blogger to take before launching them into the blogosphere. What do you want your blogger to do? You need to create yourself a road map so no one gets themselves into trouble. Are they a publisher? A news gatherer? Social media pusher? Conversation starter? Link getter? Fire starter? How should they respond in heated situations? Or should they respond?

Corporations are going to define the role of a blogger differently. It’s important to know how your business does and what your objectives are in that job. This way, when someone tells you that you’re “just a blogger”, the only response is “thank you”.

Your Comments

  • Joe Hall

    Once again another awesome post!! I think defining a blogger’s role is extremely important. As a business owner that hopes to hire a blogger in the near future, who do you think should define the blogger’s role? The blogger? Or the person hiring?

    I ask because I think many online business owners have (or should have) some what of a blog strategy and I worry if perhaps such a strategy only limits your blogs true talents.

  • Lisa Barone

    Joe: That’s an awesome question, actually. I’d love to say that it should be a team effort, but I think it’s really up the business owner. It’s their company and their name on the line. They need to set the tone for the company and find a blogger that is okay being that.

    Unfortunately, that often means bloggers are stuck sitting on their hands in certain conversations OR they have to really work to find a corporation that embodies their own beliefs for how things should be handled and what the role of that blogger is. The problem is, most corporations are (and justifiably so) *really* paranoid about ruffling feathers or getting people worked up, which means we have a lot of bland bloggers not really saying anything.

    It’s a give and take for most companies. How do you create something interesting without pissing everyone one off? :) Luckily, businesses usually see in time that the debate stirred by bloggers is *usually* good, as long as its done responsibly. But that takes time.

  • Jill Whalen

    Lisa, you are doing a bang-up job with this blog. If more companies with blogs would follow your advice rather than regurgitating the same old useless crap, the web would be a much better place.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Jack Leblond

    Providing facts, perspective and reason to consider other points of view – are you sure you are “just a blogger?” Sounds to me like you are actually a responsible journalist (is that an oxy-moron?). Too bad more journalists weren’t “just bloggers.”

  • Therese Pompa

    I agree with a lot of what you have to say, although I think there is a fine line in which can be crossed, but as you said you have walked on the edge a few times. I would also be more inclined to ‘speak my mind’ more so openly in my personal blog vs. a corporate blog. I guess it depends on what type of corporation as well, but I would think it would serve better to write about your company, about your industry, and the employees of your company, etc. vs. something that is going to raise eyebrows.

    Not that I think there is something wrong with a President of a company giving his views on a specific article or issue in the industry, but for the most part I would think it should stick to what surrounds that specific industry as that is the audience you want to attract. Do not get me wrong I think a corporate blog should show that there are actual people and a personality behind the entries but that they should somehow be geared toward the industry audience. Did I contradict myself, I do that often.

    I do agree with the gist of your post, but I guess what I am trying to convey is that I am not sure this approach is for every corporation, and in giving your views do you think you attract readers that are going to give you a passionate debate and are going to remember your company for that post only as you cannot be sure in the light it is going to be remembered or does it actually bring in more business, is it productive? It surely works as far as traction, I never heard of you or your company or your blog before the other day – and I love reading these posts – I love that they make me think, but how do they fit into corporate blogging exactly?

    [edited a tad to make it easier for others to read. — Lisa]

  • Alysson

    …or just to regurgitate the news in a safe way that gives the illusion that they’re participating. I’ve come to the conclusion that most blogs want the latter…

    That really stood out to me. Like you, I recognized that tendency long ago. I’m not sure that is their sole intention, but companies simply don’t understand the purpose of blogging. They don’t know how to create content that interests people. Not only that, they don’t understand the social aspect and personality that a blog is intended to bring to their website and the company.

    Like a politician, company blogs tend to dance around in a very small circle – presenting information in a bland, middle-of-the-road, non-confrontational and, frankly, incredibly boring way. I’ve often wondered what purpose they believe their blogs to serve. The fact is that most blogs are started with little reason aside from “we need a blog”.

    What reason are they giving a reader to return? What incentive do they provide for readers to comment or participate in the discussion? If a blogger plays it safe, the blog will be a dismal failure and the effort put into creating the unimpressive, forgettable and uninspiring content is a total waste.

  • Jon Buscall

    I also like to think of it as helping companies tell the story of who they are. Blogs are ongoing stories and as such can and should pick up on the highs and lows, the tensions that go together with running a business.

    If company blogs (bloggers) constantly play it safe and don’t dare to take a position at least some of the time, corporate blogs come dangerously close to sounding like the muzak they play in malls.

    I want a corporate blogger to have:
    * personality
    * a sense of humour
    * an awareness that blogs are part of a conversation
    * the ability to surprise me
    and the ability to grow in public.

    There’s so much in the rhetoric of blogging that makes bloggers sound like know-it-alls. It’s refreshing to read people who are happy to share the journey of learning in public.

  • Lisa Barone

    Thanks, Jill. That means a lot coming from you. :)

    Jack: I go by what people tell me. :)

    Therese: Wow, okay that’s a lot to respond to in one blog comment. :) You’re right that these rules aren’t applicable to every blog out there. There will definitely be corporate or legal blogs that will have to play it a lot closer to the vest than this. But if i were creating a list for what a blogger *should* be like, in my opinion, the characteristics I mentioned above would be on it.

    in giving your views do you think you attract readers that are going to give you a passionate debate and are going to remember your company for that post only as you cannot be sure in the light it is going to be remembered or does it actually bring in more business, is it productive?

    I probably wouldn’t be doing it every day if we didn’t feel like it was productive and benefitted Outspoken. I think it’s a differentiator. I think it tells prospective clients who we are and what we’re about so it weeds out people who won’t like the kind of feedback we give them. I think it’s given Outspoken Media a lot more visibility and credibility than a company our age would have normally. I think the way we blog has done a lot for us. I do think it creates word of mouth. I think by not being afraid to be who we are, it attracts the right kind of people to our company. But I’m probably totally biased. :)

    Jon: Awesome comment, I totally agree! And I hope you seem some of those characteristics here in Outspoken. ;)

  • Therese Pompa


    Thank you for your response, sorry about the format. I guess it would of made it easier to separate my points vs. them being crammed together, huh?

    I can see what you are saying about attracting the right kind of people to your company, it makes a good point that they will know what to expect. I will say it conveys a passion that a lot of people are missing in their business whether everyone agrees with the views or not – if you attach that same passion that same conviction to what you do for your clients then I could venture to guess that you are great at what you do.

    I also want to note on something else. Not to get off subject, but I do not think your prior post was naive at all. Now that I think about it more I have been seen as maybe judgmental because how I have felt about a specific situation, I am sure we all have. Now that I think about it more and I relate it to myself I am thinking it was more along the lines of being the opposite of being naive. It seemed to come from actually going through many things in life and knowing that you have overcome things and not understanding why someone else does not have the same determination, that same will to go beyond their circumstances and to make things happen. (Sorry, I know this is off topic, if you want to delete this last part of the post – I understand completely)

  • Paul McIntosh

    Lisa, thanks for some more food for thought. I now I don’t comment as much as a lot of the other folks here. It’s just my way. That being said, I’ve always thought of your writing as above normal and something that will usually evoke some kind of response in most people.

    That for me is one of the main reason I read the blogs I do. This being one of the more prominent ones. I don’t have enough hours in my day to waste it on reading the same regurgitated information on how I should use the latest social tool.

    As for the “bottom feeder” comment I still feel, as I always have, that that should be reserved for ambulance chasing lawyers. Of which you are most decidedly not.

    I’m as sure of the fact you’ll continue to kick ass with your writing as I am that I will continue to read it.

  • Jon Buscall

    I hope you seem some of those characteristics here in Outspoken. ;)

    Absolutely. Recently discovered your blog and added it to my A-list in NetNewsWire immediately.

  • Internet Strategist

    Did you see the news story that said: “The internet is fast becoming a “cesspool” where false information thrives, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said”. I have the link if you’d like it but wasn’t sure of your link policy so I didn’t include it here.

    I sincerely hope people will not fall for this idea that we are all so lacking in discernment that they need to censor the Internet and only allow “trusted brands” to contribute content.

    This smacks loudly of censorship and is quite possibly aimed at bloggers who can see the big picture and share OUR truth with our readers – not the Corporate-sponsored so-called truth.

  • melanie

    Well, what is “good blogger” anyway? I still believe it all depends on the one who’s reading the blog. Isn’t it the essence of blogs? But you have a good point there. And for me, making a conversation interesting is a challenge itself. I just hope a lot can read your post…

    Have a nice day..^_^

    Sell Anything Like Crazy

  • ALan Bleiweiss

    I am so upset I am steaming! This blog article was clearly designed to cause a reaction in your readers (your link bait is showing again) and…



    Against all odds, once again Lisa Barone you have written a truly intelligent blog article that really delivers on your above stated “Blogger Code of Conduct”.

    These kind of blogs are the most enjoyable to read, and as happens much of the time, actually learn from.

  • Jim S

    To me this is pathetic…
    ‘It’s funny; I get told a lot that I’m “just a blogger”…’ I mean, for someone to tell you that is the epitome of being an @$$hole imho. I don’t know you, don’t really follow you but end up at a few of the same sites… have seen your posts etc. They look good to me. If nothing else social media helps bring to light what a lot of others probably already knew… who the real a-holes are.

    Keep up the good work.

    ~~ Jim
    ~~ @seo_web_design

  • Tania

    Oh yay Lisa, what an awesome post. I wish I had something wry and pithy to offer as a response but really…I can only sit here and clap my hands and squeal like a 12 yr old who just got tickets to see the Jonas Brothers.

    This may seem like an over reaction but it felt really good to read something as smart and interesting and useful as this. REALLY good.

  • Lisa Barone

    Jim: If it’s okay with you, I’d like to print out your blog comment, put it on some cardboard and hand it out to the next as–, er, nice people who tells me I’m just a blogger.

    Tania: [walks…away….slowly….]


  • Tania

    …I get that a lot. (sigh)

  • cat

    be entertained

  • monica

    great post. but for the purpose of “offer(ing) up viewpoints that perhaps you hadn’t thought of ” … i’d like to poke at a few of these ideas.

    1) “as YOUR blogger” — who are you talking about, exactly? the company, or the blog’s readers? because i’d think, if the company’s paying your tab to write (or advise them on writing), that means they’re the customer … and while it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always right, i think it does mean that they deserve your respect for their concerns (concerns which are probably driving the pablum-style, low-risk content you disdain).

    2) “But that’s not me. And, in my opinion, it (referring to ‘getting credit for blogging without taking risks’) doesn’t bring value to anyone or anything.” but when you’re a service provider, it’s not about you, and it shouldn’t be. it’s about the company, and what’s in the company’s best interests, as viewed by people both within and beyond the blogosphere. you seem quite certain that all conversations you’re seeking in the end are going to add value to the company’s brand, as though the act of conversing is enough and the content of the conversation matters not (or less, anyway). not sure i’m as certain…

    3) “I’ll do it while being responsible and accountable for my words.” — which is great. every adult should take responsibility for everything s/he authors. but when you’re writing on behalf of a company, you realize that obviously you’re not in a position to do that, because the company can suffer grave losses based upon what you write. it could really only take one “sensational” comment to piss off an important customer, and away goes somebody’s livelihood and college educations for their kids. i think companies want to have real conversations, but not at any price.

    4) couldn’t agree more on the need for corporations to define clearly their goals and expectations for their blogs — and for their bloggers, if they decide to outsource that function. some companies/executives just aren’t cut out for this (ref seth godin’s “meatball sundae” on this topic). some are, and i’m sure you’re doing a great job of serving those whose thoughts align with your own on this stuff. but for some of us in the middle, who don’t really want to challenge our customers/constituencies as much as we want to engage with them, perhaps there are other ways of going about this?

  • xaasha

    Hi Miss Lisa,
    And i wanna know .. Do you think that bloggers are opinion Leaders in the new public sphere of internet? in the characteristics of opinion leaders.