Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Whys and Wherefores of Corproate Blogging

I've been asked to contribute a piece for a magazine article on the whys and wherefores of corproate blogging.

My first effort needs editing down but I'm quite pleased with it as a first draft.

The blogging phenomenon has actually been with us for quite a few years and has only recently reached the point where it is accepted as a corporate tool. I started the first of my blogs in 2000 and I expect the early adopter blogging companies of today to become more sophisticated in their blogging use in the coming years with blogs for internal staff, blogs for customers, partners, suppliers and the rest of the world.

Currently there are two industries leading the blogging charge, technology companies and marketing/advertising agencies. This isn’t altogether surprising given that these two industries are the ones most affected by the Internet and Interactive Media. Close on the heals though is the entertainment industry with particular emphasis on film, television and music. There is a lot of debate currently as to whether a blog written to promote a film should declare that it is a work of fiction or not with the latest example being lonelygirl15, which also opens up the idea of video blogging. Another example which brought derision down on the company which made it concerned the video blog by Agency.com for a pitch for Subway sandwiches. In both cases the video blogs were recorded according to a script rather than being genuine accounts of what happened at the moment. It is the difference between a genuine reaction to something and an attempt at acting.

Blogging does open the doors to your organisation and make you transparent which is recognised by most as a good thing, but you don’t want to give your competitors an edge by tipping them off with sensitive information at least until your clients and partners have been fully briefed (most corporate secrets fail to stay secret after that point usually).

Of those that blog there are two distinct approaches. The first is companies who encourage their staff to keep personal blogs about their working life hosted by the company and therefore give a personal lens view of the organisation. No two lens views will be exactly the same but overall a picture forms of the orgnisation. Microsoft and Google in particular are very good at this, encouraging staff to keep personal blogs and also read each other’s, whilst also reminding staff of their contractual obligations not to make sensitive information public. The Mark Lens firing by Google following entries in his blog stands as a warning to all, but has not resulted in mass firings for those who do not tow the company line on their blogs. It did however make people sit up and raise a few eyebrows at Google, and the technology giant did seem to come off worse in the blogging PR stakes after the incident. It seems though to have been an isolated case with lessons learned and most companies choose to deal with any hiccups privately rather than with public disciplinary procedures. When Robert Scoble left Microsoft his exit interview was recorded on the Microsoft blogging ‘network’ for all to see and many of his comments reveal a lot about how blogging inside a large corporate is viewed by the people actually keeping the blogs. His interview is at :


Within Microsoft a ‘blog smart’ ethos was developed but with over 2.5 percent of this enormous company’s staff blogging, it cannot be ignored that the perception and reputation of Microsoft amongst developers and customers has not been higher for over ten years. Much of this is attributable to blogging. IBM and Yahoo have followed a similar pattern with similar guidelines but interestingly enough their reputation in the marketplace has not increased to anywhere near the same extent. There will always be some who will question whether a company like Microsoft can ever be trusted fully to present itself truthfully given their history. I must admit I am one of them.

The second type of blogging company has an official blog in the company name, which designated members of staff can contribute to on a daily basis. Typically this is how smaller companies handle blogging. Some set this for senior management and department heads whilst others encourage the entire organisation to contribute. Wieden Kennedy’s blog “Welcome to Optimism” is a good example of this. They keep write-ups of pitches they have done, new work just released, company night’s out, late nights at work, new hires, and really show what its like to work with this extremely talented group of advertising people. It therefore serves as a recruitment tool but also showcases work to clients and prospects alike. A new prospective client gets an extremely good view of the agency and gains valuable information as to whether this is a team that they want to work with. The question though in these circumstances is whether clients really want to know what it is really like to work inside an agency or whether this is more truth than they can handle. Wieden Kennedy’s growth for the year seems to indicate that this isn’t the case and the rest of the personality of the agency is clear for all to see whilst the industry reads their blog hoping to pick up some tips on how they produce the excellent work they do.

It is difficult to say which companies in this area are handling blogging badly because there does not seem to be a right or wrong way to do it, only a choice as to how much you share and how regularly. There does however seem to be a lot of companies who are not blogging at all and seem to be oblivious to the tool which is surprising given the amount interest coming from clients. Certainly an agency that is not blogging shouldn’t really be giving advice to clients on the subject, and any blog by a company which attempts to hide it’s identity in favour of promoting it’s products is seen in the blogosphere as dishonest and those that have tried this approach have very quickly been out-ed with resultant damage to their brand.

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At 7:29 pm, Anonymous Greg said...

I'm curious about your assertions that Microsoft's reputation is as high as its been in a decade and that IBM in particular hasn't seen the same PR 'bounce' from blogging that MS has. What is your basis for these claims?

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