Shel Israel, online public relations guru and co-author of Naked Conversations, says that people listen better when you simply talk to them and listen back. This is the foundation for conversational marketing and the reason that many corporations are trying their hand at blogging.

A blog is a Web site that, although highly individual, usually contains regularly updated content, related links, graphics and videos. Blogs give readers the ability to interact with the site through comments and other means, thereby enabling what we call “conversational marketing.” When a company engages in conversational marketing they are breaking down the common assumption that marketing is a one-way conversation and replacing it with the idea that marketing is a dialogue between company and consumer.

So what exactly is gained through conversational marketing? A real relationship with consumers and clients, for one, and insight into the world of the customer, for another. Not to mention, of course, that a two-way conversation builds credibility and trust in a world where those are almost foreign concepts. Blogs listen to and spotlight the customers’ point of view, while putting a human face on the company.

The Southwest Airlines blog (http://www.blogsouthwest.com) is an excellent example of what a corporate blog should be. It is engaging, entertaining and genuine. It is called “Nuts About Southwest” and includes blog entries, photo albums, a video blog, a news section and even a poll. When you visit the blog you may see a video of a day in the life of the culture committee or read about a Southwest employee’s unexpected delight at the new splash stick designed by Starbucks. You can take a poll about which team you supported for the NBA Championship while learning that Southwest transported the trophy. It is no wonder that “Nuts About Southwest” was named one of the best corporate blogs in the 2007 Blogger’s Choice Awards.

All businesses could learn from some of the great corporate blogs of our day, like that of Southwest Airlines, because creating a blog that truly achieves the goals of conversational marketing is no easy task. So here is some advice for crafting a brilliant business blog: be genuine, be constant, be interested in your customers, be humble, be attentive, be personal and be real. If you let the personality and passion of your business shine through your blog you can build real relationships with customers and clients – based on honesty, enthusiasm and real conversations.