My Amazing, Undercover Blogging Experiment

From Neil Sagebiel:

I didn’t plan to create one of the top independent golf blogs on the Web. It was a happy accident.Neil Sagebiel's photo of Tiger Woods during practice, Masters 2008

I’m a freelance writer whose primary work is marketing communications for corporate, agency and university clients. Three years ago I intended to start a blog for my business but took a sharp detour. I decided instead to explore blogging “undercover.” I would learn the ropes and see if I could sustain a blog before I hung my shingle on one.

So one summer day I created the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG, and a pen name, “The Armchair Golfer.” Golf was a passion, something I knew. I took stock of other golf blogs and started posting.

Few people visited my blog in the early weeks and months. Nonetheless, I kept posting and refining my voice. It was fun!

Then a major surprise came after a little more than a year: My blog appeared on the first page of Google search results for golf-related searches. Soon after, occasional emails arrived inquiring about advertising.

I was shocked. All I had done – but don’t miss this – was post on a regular basis and develop a style. I had also exchanged links with other bloggers and attracted inbound links from a handful of quality golf sites.

Since then I’ve interviewed tour pros and bestselling authors, been syndicated at major news sites such as and the Chicago Sun Times, written for Golf Digest (India), and traveled – with all expenses paid by a major tour sponsor – to cover a PGA Tour playoff event. I also have a New York City literary agent who is marketing a book idea spawned by my blog.

All this from my undercover blogging experiment. And yes, I finally did start that business blog a few months ago. It’s called HEADLINES FROM FLOYD.

The photograph of Tiger Woods was taken by Neil Sagebiel at the 2008 Masters.

Neil Sagebiel is a Floyd, VA-based freelance writer who specializes in B2B marketing communications and writes about professional golf. He blogs at HEADLINES FROM FLOYD and ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG.

Added 12/22/08:  Neil Sagebiel appears in the December 2008 issue of Golf Digest (India). His piece, The Decline of American Golf, is here (.pdf).

Valley Business FRONT – To Be Known

Witnesses to an accident will give investigating officers entirely different versions of what happened.

One reality, multiple perceptions of it.

Business blogs featured in Valley Business FRONT A reporter and the subject he or she interviews have a similar set-up.  Will the reporter perceive the subject’s reality?  Will the subject be able to express his or her reality well enough to convey some sense of it?

I heard this quote at a workshop years ago by someone whose name I can’t remember, nor can I remember the source, but it’s woven in and out of my thinking for decades now:

“What each of us really wants is to know and be known, to love and be loved, to touch and be touched.”

How I felt when I read Keith Ferrell’s“New Way of Talkin’” and Tim W. Jackson’s “In the Beginning Was the Blog” in the November 2008 issue of Valley Business FRONT was touchingly, surprisingly known.

Keith Ferrell’s “New Way of Talkin’” addressed using social networking technologies for business purposes, including blogging, and quoted excerpts of his interview with me.

Ferrell wrote:  “’A business blog,’ Clelland says,’ should be truthful every day.’”

He heard me.  Yes and yes.  It’s for what I strive in the early mornings as I write blog posts like this and others. 

And in “In the Beginning Was the Blog,” Tim W. Jackson’s kind profile of me, begins by describing those early morning hours.  I felt as if I were reading my own diary. 

My reality, perceived by two other witnesses, as I perceive it.

What a stunning, stirring, inspiring experience.

I was moved.  I am honored.

Thank you Keith Ferrell, Tim W. Jackson, and Valley Business FRONT.

Team-Written Blogs

If your 2009 marketing strategy includes an online initiative, here's advice to consider from Jim Barney on creating a team-written blog. 

Jim Barney is the Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Click & Pledge, and one of the co-authors of the Click & Pledge company blog, A Better Way to Do Good.

Rules of the road for the blog posts:  

  • 250 words or so 
  • Make it interesting
  • Be careful about offering up strategy/tactics about the company
  • Submit your entry to the blog coordinator a day or so early for review and discussion
  • Make it personal
  • Make it useful for your customers
  • Have fun with it

Click & Pledge, an expert in online fundraising, is a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks.

The Hypothetical Entrepreneur – In Conclusion

From Adam Scouse:

Just three short months ago I was sitting in my desk chair pondering how to begin my first blog post.  I ended up writing the body paragraph first just because I couldn’t think of a first line.  Now, a semester later, I’m looking back on my internship with Handshake 2.0 and wondering how it is over already.

The series of blog posts I wrote began with the idea of creating a hypothetical business based around selling ginseng.  However, after following the advice of my supervisor and blogging mentor, Anne Clelland, my internship began to broaden its scope and allowed me to experience new research opportunities that I would consider invaluable.  Not only was I able to add to my knowledge of non-timber forest products, but I had a great introduction to entrepreneurial practices. 

I presented a brief summary of my internship to Professor Lorraine Borny’s management class in Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.  I pointed out to the class what I considered the highlights of my internship.  While I enjoyed exploring the blogosphere for the first time as a researcher, the most valuable aspect came from the number of interviews I was able to conduct.   The Interviews were set up by the networking power of Handshake 2.0 and its founder Anne Clelland.

After being introduced to blogs through this experience, I hope to continue using them as a powerful source of information as I graduate this spring.  Two of my currently favorite blogs are and FastLane Blog.  Lifehacker helps keeps me up to date on technological stuff and Fastlane I use to read opinions about the possible GM economic bailout. 

So what were the keys to my success as an intern for Handshake 2.0?  The first and foremost unbreakable rule was to keep deadlines.  Because much of my blogging could be done from home, I was responsible for submitting quality material by my weekly Tuesday deadline.   It was also extremely helpful to have friends look over my material and provide proofreads.  That being said, it is important that an intern enjoy writing, because, well… you do a fair amount of it.  So if you excel at working on your own without heavy supervision and want the freedom to make your own schedule, then Handshake 2.0 would be the place for you.

As I finish up my final entry in The  Hypothetical Entrepreneur blog series, I want to say thanks to all of those who helped me along the way.  Many people took the time to meet with me and provide invaluable information and feedback about my internship.  Thank you to all of those who made it possible.  It truly is all in who you know.   

Adam Scouse wrote the The Hypothetical Entrepreneur series for Handshake 2.0 as intern at Virginia Tech during the fall of 2008.

High Five – 2009 To Do List for the New River Valley

From Bob GilesHigh Five from Handshake 2.0:

  1. Form a new identity (or around an emerging one) with a voice, membership, and structure for potential economic, political, social, and natural resource action.

  2. Get your goals (or objectives) clarified and quantified (such as from this example).

  3. Collect (or catalog) information within your boundaries and at the edges for cost-effective common uses.

  4. Plan new transportation strategies (at least) for schools, hospitals, and major service centers for society re-localizing as fossil energy becomes less available.

  5. Reduce infant deaths, child abuse numbers, and expand caring parenting.

  6. Increase disease prevention, first aid abilities, Valley wellness score, and awards for basic nutrition knowledge.

  7. Reduce broad demand for drugs and substance-abusive behavior.

  8. Plan and begin developing new centers as dispersed living becomes more impractical.

  9. Use optimization processes throughout government and business. (“On average” can be deadly.)

  10. Develop business, education, and church conglomerates; rural system groups; unique unions; neighborhood watches; group tours, conferences, and parties. (Teamwork is now essential.)

  11. Report consistently in one place (as well as others) collective progress.

  12. Report monthly major scores of Valley quality of life based on goals (or objectives). (Teams need self-actualizing messages.)

  13. Move past “monitoring” to feedback – quickly fixing things, strengthening and expanding those that work.

  14. Expand your view of the future through the print media, TV challenges, and student and organizational efforts.  Then get ready now for that in which you feel most confident.

  15. Consider the least costly and most timely and important items as #1 and #2.

  16. Encourage each other through #12 to suggest the roots of the total list and what might be done for the future.

  17. Be good; do good well.


Robert H. Giles, Jr. writes High Five for Handshake 2.0, a technology business news and business blog service venture of Handshake Media, Incorporated, a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks.  The opinions Robert Giles expresses are solely his own and are not necessarily shared by Handshake 2.0 or its sponsors or advertisers. 

You can follow Robert H. Giles, Jr. on Twitter @Bob_Giles


Robert H. Giles, Jr. is a Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus with a vision for a rural land management system.  He writes two blogs, The Survivalists and Faunal Force. 

Take on TORC for the Valley Cup

From David Cutter, TORC Technologies:

TORC is already declaring the New River Valley Triathlon Valley Cup will be theirs.

For a bunch of engineers, TORC claims to be rather athletic, participating in softball leagues each year, and even sponsoring their first men’s basketball team this winter.  A few avid bikers, runners, and even a high-school swimmer or two mix it up with their sky-diving CEO, and they love a challenge.  Training has begun, and TORC is confident it will take home the Valley Cup

Any other companies want to step up to the plate and try to take on TORC in the New River Valley Triathlon corporate relay challenge for the Valley Cup?


TORC Technologies is automating dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks by commercializing intelligent robotic technologies into interoperable off-the-shelf products, providing the essential building blocks for rapidly enabling autonomy on virtually any platform.

Located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, TORC is a rapidly growing company widely recognized as a leading source of teleoperated control and autonomous navigation solutions for unmanned vehicles.

Registration for the New River Valley Triathlon corporate relay challenge for the Valley Cup opens on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, at 7:00 PM.  Some Virginia races fill within an hour.  The New River Valley Triathlon will be held on Sunday, July 12, 2009 at the brand new, state-of-the art Christiansburg Aquatic Center.

The New River Valley Triathlon benefits the Mental Health Association of the New River Valley, Inc.

What the Business Blog Post Reader Really Wants

Perhaps your company's 2009 digital marketing strategy involves launching a blog.  Perhaps you, instead,  plan to save start-up delays and maintenance costs by placing blogs posts on strategic business sites, like on Handshake 2.0

Either way, we share some ideas about how Handshake 2.0 does business blogs that might be of service to you.

Given what a business blog reader wants, when Handshake 2.0 tells your company’s story in a blog post, these are the responses we hope to hear from our readers:

“I want to read this blog post.  I am engaged.  Through a combination of the quality of the writing and the quality of the story, I want to read from beginning to end.  On an individual level, I am gaining personal satisfaction from reading this.”

“I am getting an advantage from reading this blog post.  The news, information, perspective, strategy, or ideas I am receiving give me the sense of having an exclusive edge over others who have not read this post or are not taking the meaning from it that I am.”

“I feel respected as a professional.  This blog post wears a business suit to its interview.  The writing is stylistically and grammatically correct."

“I feel valued as an individual.  My time is beyond price to me and your blog post is just the right length to convey the message.”

“I can trust your blog post.  You have written with authority and supported your content with links to authoritative sources.”

"In the offline world of 'It's who you know,' and in the online world of 'It's still who you know,' I think I'm getting to know you.  I feel more like contacting you than I did before I read the post."

“I can take action on what you have written to achieve business results.”

And business results are what the the business blog post reader really wants.

Read more posts on business blogs from Handshake 2.0 in our H20 Biz Blog Guide.

Connecting People in the RNR – Chris Chmura

Handshake 2.0 brings you the fourth edition of Connecting People in the RNR with Stuart Mease, featuring Chris Chmura, Chief Economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics.

"RNR" refers to the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley of Virginia.

Stuart Mease writes the blog Connecting People.  On Stuart Mease's about page, you can find myriad ways to connect with him online and in person.  You can find out more about Stuart Mease on Handshake 2.0.

Connecting People in the RNR
a video show by Stuart Mease
for Handshake 2.0

The opinions Stuart Mease expresses are solely his own and are not necessarily shared by Handshake 2.0 or its sponsors or advertisers.