Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Company Blog Checkup: Patagonia

Patagonia is an outdoor-clothing company that not only sells clothes designed to help you stay comfortable in different environments, but the company is also serious about the issues that affect those environments. This gives Patagonia an excellent opportunity to build its blog, The Cleanest Line, around larger issues than the company itself, issues that appeal to its customers. Let's see how the company does.

I normally like to start by looking at the blog's content first. But with The Cleanest Line, let's instead start with the About section. This section spells out exactly what the purpose of the blog is, details the blog's comment policy (while encouraging readers to contribute), and explains that the blog has a section for links on the sidebar to articles that the staff believes will be of interest to readers. And saving the best for last, The Cleanest Line also encourages readers to submit their own posts to the blog, and tells readers exactly how to do so. I emailed Patagonia to confirm that they are indeed encouraging readers to contribute posts, and Kasey Kersnowski, The Cleanest Line's editor, explained that they do indeed publish reader submissions, and these are 'introduced' by one of the writers for The Cleanest Line. I've got a VERY good feeling about this...

Now let's move to the content itself. Most posts cover environmental issues or news stories. Which is exactly the type of information that Patagonia's customers would likely be interested in. There is some attention paid to Patagonia's products and stores, but there's definitely a good ratio here, in fact I would think that Patagonia leans toward spending too LITTLE time talking about itself, as opposed to spending too much time on self-promotion.

The Cleanest Line's writers do a decent job with staying on schedule with posts, but there's still some room for improvement. So far this month, the writers have left 12 posts in 18 days. That's pretty damned good. But yesterday the blog posted 2 entries, and none so far today. This should never happen for two reasons: first, visitors will be more likely to become regular readers if there is new content up every time they visit your blog. Also, when you leave the second post in the same day, the lead post will 'bury' the second one, making it less likely to get noticed by future readers. If you are going to post 2 posts over a 2-day period, only post one on each day. Still, The Cleanest Line does a much better job of posting regularly than most of the blogs I've profiled so far.

Now we turn to comments. I immediately notice that of the 12 posts left so far this month, 11 have comments. That bears repeating: 11 out of 12 posts left so far this month, have comments. That's a sign of a blog with a vibrant community of readers. The one problem I have with the comments will carry us over to the sidebar, but at times in reading the comments, I couldn't tell when I was reading a comment from a reader, or one of the blog's writers.

And that brings us to the sidebar. To carryover from the previous point, I'd really like to see a section on the sidebar clearly identifying who the blog's writers are, with pictures. And I'm sure the readers would appreciate it as well, since they are obviously big fans of the blog, based on the number of comments they are leaving.

As mentioned before, the sidebar also contains links to articles on environmental issues and news stories, which is excellent. And The Cleanest Line also has a section highlighting recent comments, categories, archives, and a link to the blog's RSS feed. I do wish they had RSS buttons for Bloglines, Google Reader, etc., but again, this is picking nits, as the blog's sidebar is far better than most.

Overall, The Cleanest Line is a home-run of an effort. There are no major weaknesses, only a few minor ones. The Cleanest Line's focus is clearly on the readers; the content, the sidebar, everything is aimed at meeting their wants and needs. The readers are even openly encouraged to submit their own posts. All in all, The Cleanest Line isn't perfect, but it's damned close, and a true example of the potential of a blog to create a community of excited ambassadors for your company. Well done guys, very well done.

And now let's go to the scoring:

Content: 33 (Out of a possible 35) - Strong focus on the environment and sustainability. The content clearly resonates with the blog's readers.

Comments: 23 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts get comments, but I'd like to see the writers become more active in replying to existing comments.

Posting Schedule: 12 (Out of a possible 15) - Right at or above a post every other day. Very good for a company blog.

Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the recent comments and Delicious links, hate that there's no writer's pics/bios.

Total Score: 76 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Patagonia wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both.

If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on (even if it's your own company's blog), feel free to email me!

Tags:, , ,

Email Me


Anonymous said...

Mack, sounds like they really did their homework and have a clear vision of where they want to take their community. Bravo to them. As you have shown us -- many companies should be taking notes.


Anonymous said...

Based on your review, it sounds like Patagonia is a great model for company blogs to follow. I agree with you though that clearly identifying the writers for company blogs is something that is too often overlooked. As a reader, if I like the content on the blog, I always like to read about the author. I actually prefer a blog to have one author and one voice.

Mack Collier said...

Susan I think The Cleanest Line is an excellent example for other companies to follow, and its the best company blog I've reviewed so far.

gianandrea said...

Mack, I was going through Patagonia and its blog just a couple of days ago. I've to admit that I love the brand for its inner value and it seems to me that the blog reflects it 100%. What I would like more, it's an extension of the Ambassadors concept of the website to the blog: they have several top people for each discipline who join Patagonia for the company's value. They should probably be more present not for commercial but for sharing experience. Anyway, this is a company I'd love to work for. Hey, anyone listening?