What was once a strange and uncomfortable adventure is now fully integrated to everything I do.
And -- if you're interested -- I thought I'd take a moment to share not only a few reflections about the experience, but my appreciation for each and every one of you who has helped me along the way.
I clearly remember the day when the PR team approached me. One of our smaller competitors had started to blog in earnest, and espousing a point of view that we at EMC didn't exactly agree with. What can we do about it?
Lots of discussions back and forth. My idea was simple -- err, why don't we do the same?
Another round of discussions on topics, strategy, process, layout, format, approvals, review, etc. I sort of threw up my hands and said "guys, you're making this way too painful".
Let me give it a whirl and we'll see what it's all about. I mean -- how hard can it be?
There was concern evident -- what if you say the wrong thing, or your views don't jive with EMC's official viewpoint, etc.?
My counter was simple: you folks appear trust me to speak to customers, the press, investors, etc. without a formal review process. I think you can trust me to write a blog. And if you think I'm out of line on something I've written, let me know and we can discuss.
EMC didn't have any real social capabilities or platforms way back then, so I went to TypePad, took out my credit card, and set up my account.
Those first posts are now very painful for me to read, these six years later.
I was finding my voice, my topics, my style, my audience, etc. It took a while -- and well over a hundred posts -- before I felt that I was starting to get good at it.
But I kept at it. I thought I was doing something of value.
Well, most of the time, anyway.
Let's Play Competitor Smackdown!
There was a distinct period of time where I felt obligated to use my blog to tear into what I believed were deficiencies in other vendor's offerings or rebut what they were saying.
As a result, there were ferocious episodes back-and-forth over various issues.
Sometimes, we ended up with a fairly civilized discourse. Too often, things got personal. Not good.
I'm sure there were people who enjoyed watching all of us go at it back and forth, but it usually wasn't productive. And, over time, more people expressed their annoyance at all of this bickering.
I moved on. Eventually, others did as well.
But I still enjoy a good competitive smackdown once in a while -- especially if one of them is starting to get uppity.
The Wider Perspective Emerges
About four years ago, I began to realize that I was fortunate enough to be gaining some valuable insights on some pretty big topics: insights about our customers, how they thought about things, what challenges they saw, how the industry was changing, etc.
My first thought was -- hey, I'm not really qualified to talk about that sort of stuff, am I?
But as I read what others were writing, I realized that I could bring a decently valuable perspective to the table. I was learning things and figuring stuff out -- why not share? And I found a powerful source of inspiration that continues to power many of my posts.
Feedback Loops Emerge
Over time, my audience grew and grew. Today, I can track about 5,000 unique page views per day against about 1,000 posts -- plus an unknown number of resyndications, often in languages I can't read :) I don't know if this is a big number, or a little number -- that's sort of irrelevant from where I sit -- only that I've got a sizable audience reading me, and that's all I really care about.
As my audience grew, some interesting things started to happen.
As various groups inside EMC were looking for creative ways to get their message out, they'd approach me. We'd talk, and discuss, and we'd learn something from each other. I built up a very broad perspective across the business as a result, not to mention a fair amount of informal "coaching" influence internally. I could better help people inside the company connect-the-dots to provide context that they might have not been exposed to.
Another interesting feedback loop happened on the go-to-market side. Customers and partners would read something I had written, get interested, reach out to their EMC rep and ask for more information. The first few times it happened, everyone was pleasantly surprised (including me!) but now it's much more commonplace.
Yet a third feedback loop has now emerged. Internally, EMC (like most organizations) spends a lot of time thinking through messaging, collateral and the like. Now, a few people have started to short-circuit the process, and start by thinking about how their new offer might look in a blog post, and working backwards.
I Do Enjoy Writing About EMC:
Products, Services, Strategies, Customers, Partners ...
Every time we announce something new, there are usually a handful of big ideas behind it. Often, these more powerful thoughts can get lost in the inevitably clutter that emerges around positioning, etc.
I do what I can to take many of them, dust them off a bit, and share what I find so appealing in the news. Although, our recent practices around MegaLaunches (42 NEW PRODUCTS ANNOUNCED!!!) can really get me backed up with a *lot* to write about.
Based on the blog stats, you enjoy these posts as well. Or -- at least -- you're mindlessly clicking on them without really reading them ..
Not Everyone Can -- Or Should -- Blog
There was a time where I thought just about anyone could learn how to blog effectively. Sadly, I've been proven wrong. I did spend a lot of time with a lot of people: motivating, coaching, critiquing, etc. I have had a few notable successes, and many efforts where it made more sense to just stop trying.
I've taught myself how to play the piano. I've taught myself how to speak a foreign language, and then promptly forget everything I'd learned. I've been able to learn a lot of new skills over time.
Teaching myself to blog took consistent effort and practice with plenty of feedback, just like anything else. Maybe a small modicum of talent and boatload of passion?
Learning to do it well is harder than it looks. But it can be done.
Long Term Trends
I fondly remember other bloggers in the vendorsphere who have come and gone. Not everyone sticks with this stuff like I have. Maybe I'm just stubborn enough to keep trying until I get it right.
There's less rancor, more polite discussion. Commentary has sort of moved off the blog, and onto Twitter, which makes it harder to follow how everyone is reacting to something, but that is what it is.
The longer you blog, the more Google becomes your friend. I sort of keep track who comes to my blog by intent (direct link, reader, etc.) vs. stumbles across something I've written through a search. Both numbers continue to grow linearly. I'll take it.
You also might be surprised at the number of people who appear to be gainfully employed to leave irrelevant commercial spam on my blog. And people who still think it's ethical to pretend to be someone else.
Fewer people ask me "how many people write for you?". Answer: no one and everyone. I get to reflect, amplify and lens all that is interesting around me. I still get asked "how do you find the time?". It isn't given to me, I choose to make it. And no, I don't get directly compensated for writing this blog .. it's just something I prefer to do.
So, Why Do I Blog?
It's entirely selfish. I enjoy sharing thoughts and ideas. I enjoy the discussion that frequently pop up. I enjoy the new connections and patterns that inevitably result. It works for me, it works for my cohorts, and it works for EMC. Our customers and partners tell me they like what I write. Everyone wins.
I used to do this communication stuff the hard, old-fashioned way. Endless presentations. Lengthy white papers. Long emails that no one would read. Lots of face-to-face communication. It was painful, and it certainly didn't scale.
Now, I spend an hour or two writing something up that I like, hit "publish!", and -- voila! -- thousands of people read what I write with no filters: raw and unvarnished.
And Many, Many Thanks To All Of You
Occasionally, I get unsolicited feedback. Someone reads something I wrote, gets some value out of it, shared it with others, good things happened as a result. That sort of positive feedback is priceless to me. For all of you who share your moment of positive feedback with me -- no matter how small -- I appreciate it greatly.
The same goes for constructive feedback. I got something wrong, I missed a key point, I forgot to mention someone's name, etc. -- that's appreciated as well. I tend to write hard and fast, and -- inevitably -- I don't get everything right. For those of you who gently remind me of this, I greatly appreciate that sort of feedback as well.
To all of EMC's customers and partners who I've had the privilege to spend time with, thank you. I've learned something from each and every one of you. Yes, much of it ends up on this blog, but I try to anonymize things as much as I can. Your experiences can help others, so I'm sharing.
For those of you who send me interesting reads, or call me up to discuss something you're thinking about -- thank you. We may not solve world hunger as a result, but we'll both take something interesting away from the discussion. And much of that ends up on this blog.
But, most of all, I want to thank you for your patience with me. Not everything I write is all that good, or valuable to you.
But I'm always working to get better ...