In its short lifespan, blogging has largely been a freewheeling exercise in online self-expression. Now it is also becoming a corporate job.
A small but growing number of businesses are hiring people to write blogs, otherwise known as Web logs, or frequently updated online journals. Companies are looking for candidates who can write in a conversational style about timely topics that would appeal to customers, clients and potential recruits.
Last year, Christine Halvorson was hired as chief blogger at Stonyfield Farm Inc., a Londonderry, N.H., organic yogurt company owned by Groupe Danone. She applied for the job after responding to an ad posted at Monster.com. A former freelance writer and Web content editor, Ms. Halvorson now writes four blogs for Stonyfield, including a blog about the company, the Daily Scoop, and Creating Healthy Kids, about healthy foods in schools. Her job entails researching, linking to news and providing personal insight.
“It’s wonderful to write every day,” Ms. Halvorson says. “The only challenge is keeping up with this rapidly changing blogging technology, like audio and video blogging,” she adds. She earns an annual salary in the mid-$40,000s, she says.
Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s chief executive, says he plans to hire one or two additional full-time bloggers within the next two years. “The blogs give us what we call a handshake with consumers, a bond of loyalty and mutual trust that’s different than the typical selling relationship, where it’s all about price,” Mr. Hirshberg says. “With the blogs, we are giving a little bit more access to us as a people with a mission.”
Mr. Hirshberg says he looks for candidates “who are comfortable writing in a colloquial voice and who aren’t overly programmed in their approach to writing.” He adds, “You have to be conversational, and that sounds simple, but it’s not.”
The notion of a corporate blog is a bit of a contradiction: Some paid bloggers get a long leash, as far as the topics and tone of their postings. Stonyfield Farms’ Ms. Halvorson says her job is unsupervised. “That doesn’t mean you can give away proprietary info,” she adds.
Even some independent bloggers think there is room for the corporate-owned blog. “If a company has a credible [blogger], whether or not that person toed the line for a company marketing message, that person reflects positively on the company,” says Paul Brown, author of pbblog, a blog on software-industry standards, and CEO of FiveSight Technologies, a Chicago technology company.
Heather Hamilton, who works for Microsoft Corp. as a staffing programs manager for marketing and finance, suggested that she write a blog to help in recruiting and has been doing it since last year. Hers is one of about 1,500 blogs written by Microsoft employees (available at Microsoft.com/community/blogs). She writes about what it is like to work at the company, jobs she is filling and hiring trends. “When I started my blog, I didn’t realize it would become part of my job,” she says. “I wanted to help people think about Microsoft as a career destination.”
Blogging as a job has emerged as companies of all stripes increasingly see the Web as an important communications venue. Blogs allow firms to assume a natural tone rather than the public-relations speak typical of some static Web pages, and readers are often invited to post comments. While some companies are hiring full-time bloggers, others are adding blogging duties to existing marketing or Web-editing positions.
Currently only 4% of major U.S. corporations have blogs available to the public, according to a recent survey by eMarketer, a New York research company. But ads for blogging jobs are popping up on online job boards in recent months. “Blogging jobs are growing in popularity,” says Jennifer Sullivan, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder Inc.’s CareerBuilder.com, based in Chicago. She notes that in March she recruited a communications specialist whose job includes writing CareerBuilder’s blog.
Flycell Inc., New York, an 18-month-old provider of mobile-phone content such as games and ringtones, posted an ad on the technology-job site Dice.com in April for a “blogger/copywriter/editorial-content producer.” The ad includes the following description: “Create, maintain and promote a blog that covers and reports about mobile-phone content and the marketplace … Must have experience creating and updating blogs, including creating links to other topical blogs … Blog savvy is a must.”
The annual salary ranges from $50,000 and $70,000. The job also includes duties, such as writing marketing copy and content for the Web site of the company, which currently has 15 employees, says Mark Lehmann, Web marketing director.
Dale & Thomas Popcorn, a Teaneck, N.J., gourmet popcorn company, is seeking an online-marketing coordinator to create and maintain a company blog on the love of popcorn, among other tasks. Paul Goodman, senior vice president of ecommerce, says he hopes a blog will enhance customer relations and help boost the company Web site’s search-engine rankings.
The new position, with an annual salary between $40,000 and $55,000, opened in April. Prior blogging experience isn’t necessary, Mr. Goodman says. “We’re looking for candidates who are good at expressing themselves. What they write doesn’t have to be perfect. It needs to be conversational and should translate our feelings to the community.”
He’s received about 100 applications, and is close to making a decision, he says. The blog will be subject to Mr. Goodman’s approval prior to publication, he notes: “This will not be an unauthorized blog.”
By Sarah E. Needleman