Corporate blogs are still in the infancy phase. Yet many have been launched in recent years. There are many considerations an organization needs to weigh when thinking about launching a blog -- or encouraging the use of social media tools on behalf of the company.
Clearly not every company should have a blog. Last year I wrote about how to build a social media strategy. Without one, there can be no clear path to success. To me the most important point to consider is the organization's cultural readiness. As well, there needs to be commitment to stick with it over the long haul. This is no short term program. Looking at the issues from the inside I can still see both pros and cons.
A corporate blog can be:
- A tool that helps the organization fulfill a business goal - if you're thinking about publishing a blog for your business, make sure it's not just to have one. I strongly believe that businesses need to keep the best interest of the organization in mind. Redeploying scarce resources just to have a blog makes no sense if there is no business case for one.
- A useful extension of the company image in the marketplace - it is however no substitute for bad products or lack of commitment to customers.
- An opportunity to open a two-way channel between employees and customers - there are potential pitfalls like inadvertent disclosures you should address up front. The other big issue companies need to address here is that of the star blogger(s). What if the blog becomes popular and they leave? To which I propose you ponder: what if they leave because they feel their talent can be invested elsewhere?
To me it all comes down to practicing a natural and responsible human voice, one that companies may have discouraged by publishing and enforcing overly strict rules and policies not updated to change with the times. By not revisiting rules in years, some organizations may have created "sacred cows", discouraged inquiry and thus stilting innovation and fresh approaches.
A blog can break through "this is the way we do things here" in nanoseconds. Which is good, and scary at the same time. The easiest path for companies to rationalize starting a blog is for the purpose of sharing information on products and services. Many are also starting to realize that a blog can give them Google juice on keywords and organic searches.
In many of the blogs I visited, comments are moderated, which is perfectly acceptable. Not accepting comments at all however, or never approving the comments submitted, is a total turn off.
Rather than starting a new list, I will point you to an existing wiki that contains (hat tip to Mario Sundar):
- Corporate blogs with recently added listing -
- like Coca-Cola Conversations authored by Phil Mooney, the historian/archivist for The Coca-Cola Company for the last 30 years;
- JNJ BTW a three dimensional view of Johnson & Johnson, edited by Marc Monseau and authored by a team of 4 communications professionals at J&J;
- Delta Airlines Under the Wing authored by Jacob Morris, a product manager, Robin Maiden, a 767 First Officer, Chris Babb, Manager of Global Product Development, and several other company employees.
- European Corporate Blogs organized by country
For a New Relationship with Customers
Corporate blogs are not only interesting and useful, they are also helping the companies that author them develop a totally new relationship with their customers. In some cases, the blogs have helped the company move the needle in reputation, likability and thus purchase consideration.
- Direct2Dell - this team is extremely plugged in the blogosphere and social media in general. This is one of those blogs where I would welcome being part of the blogroll. The about statement is right in the banner: "A blog about Dell products, services, and customers".
- Southwest Airlines - the tone reflects the company brand. The content and the information are top notch without being overly done. From their about statement: "Nuts about Southwest is all about our Employees, Customers, airplanes, and airports. We really are Nuts about Southwest and we hope that our Readers will share that passion by posting their own comments."
- Google Blog, the official - with 619,000 RSS subscribers and a very extensive blogroll.
- Baby Babble by Stonyfield Farm - a company that provides content on child health advice. This is an implementation of thought leadership. From their welcome note: " We invite YoBaby parents to stop in here to The Baby Babble and see what's new in the world of parenting and kids. Here you'll find news of the latest research, the quirkiest fads, and the most frustrating bugaboos in child behavior. Here you can join the conversation--chime in with your comments, ask other parents for advice, or just rant. Our comment line is always open!"
- GM Fast Lane blog - is opening up interest in GM cars and rejuvenating the company image.
There are many positive outcomes that businesses can derive from adopting social media. I wholeheartedly agree with Shel Holtz that it's not about employee rights, he says: "employee engagement in social media is based on my belief that doing so will produce far greater benefit—in the form of enhanced constituent relations—than risk, particularly when it is managed strategically."
What about the risks? One year ago Kami Huyse listed the Top 10 Risks for Corporate Blogs and the likelihood that they will occur. The highest risks are:
- negative comments - for this one I suggest you get your team in a room and put the worst case scenarios on the table to understand how you would address them.
- loss of control over message - let's face it, it is much worse for your business if the marketplace is not talking about you at all. For this one I suggest you train your subject matter expert team to be facilitators of conversations or hire people who already are. Plus, when you put the customer at the center, it's about them, not you.
- neglect - this is probably the biggest hindrance to starting. I recommend setting aside a good number of posts before going public, just like many prolific bloggers do. The content strategy will also help here. If you create series of posts on certain topics (especially after you see interest/traffic) or regular themes, it will be easier to know what to write about.
I will do a separate post to talk about content. Thoughts? Reactions? What have I forgotten?