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Five things to do before launching a business blog July 7, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in Naked Conversations.
2 comments

In the first part of Naked Conversations, Shel Isreal and Robert Scoble are the ultimate blogging cheerleaders. They strongly advocate the power of online technologies for business to have real, honest and transparent conversations with their stakeholders.

I agree with them for the most part. The rules of business communication have changed.

However, the great thing in the second half of the book, in my opinion, is that Scoble and Isreal first begin to explore the potential dangers of blogging.

In recent years, blogging has become “en vogue.” Often times, a CEO or other C-suite executive will hear about blogging while listening to NPR or reading Business Week and instruct her professional communicators to create a blog for her. These decisions are often made devoid of strategy. They are executive dicta, much like what was referred to while I was working for the U.S. Army as “GOBIs,” or “General Officer Bright Ideas.”

Scoble and Isreal make a good point that corporate blogging is not for everyone. As an addendum to their thoughts, here are five things to do before starting a CEO blog:

  1. Stop. Take a breath and ask yourself “why?” Why am I creating this blog? What am I trying to achieve? Who am I trying to reach? Can I do this better in some other way. Keep asking yourself questions until you run out of them to make sure you have fully explored the purpose of creating a corporate blog.
  2. Research. After thinking about what the topic of the blog will be, look for others who write about your issue and become familiar with the existing community.
  3. Decide who will be authoring the blog and talk to the communications staff about the time commitment. Do not have the blog ghost written by a professional communicator; it should be written by the principal.
  4. Commit to openness.  Allow comments on the blog and be willing to accept criticism. If you can’t do this, don’t blog.
  5. Jump on in. The best way to learn about the space is to jump in. Mistakes will be made as you work through social media. Do not let these setbacks discourage you or prompt you to shut down your blogging efforts.

Blogs and business culture February 25, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in Blogs, Naked Conversations.
2 comments

Finally.

In the second half of Naked Conversations, we finally get to any potential downfalls of businesses using blogs as communication tools. Until chapter 9, Scoble and Israel are nothing but blog cheerleaders. I agree that they are powerful, and that the way they allow people to communicate has fundamentally changed. But they are not without their pitfalls.

The appeal of blogs, for readers, is that they are expressed in human voice. Business, however, is anything but. True, business are made up of people. But the exciting thing about blogging is that it is fluid and can be done at any time. It is free and unrestrained. Organizations, are not.

A coworker of mine put it best — communications officers are there to present opportunities; lawyers are there to present risk. Unfortunately, most businesses are risk averse, desire to be safe and in control, and will reject the use of blogs for communication purposes.

The risks are numerous:

  1. Negative comments
  2. Disclosing confidential information
  3. Loss of message control
  4. Time vs Audience
  5. Employee misbehavior

And others.

I truly believe in the premise laid out by Scoble and Israel. Blogs do have power, and there is plenty of potential for businesses to leverage them (I wouldn’t be working where I do and doing what I do if I didn’t believe that.) However, presently, I think many businesses are, culturally, not in a position to truly embrace the blogosphere. Over time, this will change. People will become more accustomed to blogs as they seep further into popular culture. As this happens, business culture will begin to accept them as well.

Still, cultures change slowly. This is going to take some time.

But we’ll get there.

The power of blogs February 11, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in Blogs, Naked Conversations.
1 comment so far

The subtitle of Naked Conversations — how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers — is no hyperbole. The way businesses are communicating is changing, and Scoble and Israel illustrate this well in their book.

Although the latest Edelman Trust Barometer indicates that that trust in business is on the rebound around the globe and that, as an institution, business is trusted more than media and government, only about half of people have a high level of trust in business. The majority of Americans (and people in 17 other countries surveyed this year) say that they place the greatest level of trust in “people like them.”

That is the benefit of blogging. Blogs are inherently conversational. Consider the features of blogs:

  • They are generally written in first person and express the voice of the writer
  • They link between and respond to other blogs and bloggers, creating a virtual community
  • They allow for visitors to leave comments on the blog and engage in conversation with the blogger and other visitors

These qualities add a human dimension to a faceless technology. Rather than just sitting in front of a computer, blog visitors are able to engage and see the human side of the blog author.

I think Scoble’s recount of how Microsoft bloggers put a human face to Microsoft is a particularly poignant example. Referred to as “the borg” or “the evil empire,” Microsoft had a public perception problem. By embracing the bloging phenomenon and creating an environment where their employees could blog freely allowed people to see that Microsoft wasn’t an evil empire — it was an organization powered by real people.

As media fragmentation continues and people continue to slide down the spectrum from consumers of news to participants in history, conversational marketing will become even more important. I am not sure that it will continue to be in the form of blogs though.

Shel Holtz, was right when he warned that corporate blogging should not be overrated (p. 109). While powerful, it is just one tool, and a sea of new technologies exist around the corner. Some of these technologies, things we might not even be imagining right now, may prove to be 100 times more effective than blogging.

What is important (and Holtz, Scoble an Israel all agree on this point, as do I) is that the rules for corporate communication have changed.

And blogs are a great way to communicate in this new communication environment.