Corporate Blogging

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Fredrik Wackå

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The President of Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz, does it. Nike too. Microsoft’s Bill Gates is thinking about it. And they are in good company – corporate blogging is growing as a tool for corporate communications. Blogging, a geek thing just a few years ago, has become a serious alternative for organisations that wants to strengthen both external and internal relationships.

Blogs, or weblogs, are commonly defined as online journals with records of personal experiences or observations. They are characterised by frequent updates, an author’s voice and a multitude of links to other blogs and web sites. A blog is published on the web, but rather than visiting it regularly most readers subscribe to new content with the help of online services or news aggregator software.

Initially the discussion focused on blogs as tools for participatory journalism. This perspective was also the first to trigger PR professionals’ interest. Now, blogs are more and more used as direct communication channels by companies and organisations. The Corporate Blog is here.

Solving the drawbacks of e-mail and the Web
If blogs wasn’t the talk of online marketers before, they certainly became just that when Bill Gates at the Microsoft CEO Summit in May gave a speech and said: “…so if I do a trip report, say, and put that in a blog format, then all the employees at Microsoft … or even people outside, they can find the information. And so, getting away from the drawbacks of e-mail -- that it's too imposing -- and yet the drawbacks of the Web site -- that you don't know if there's something new and interesting there -- this is about solving that.”

Like with the web itself, Gates and Microsoft hasn’t been a player in the development of blogs. He is merely underlining, perhaps reinforcing, something that has been going on for a while especially in the US.

-We have created a place where customers and prospects spend more time with our brand. Blogging by its nature is more personal than other marketing communication. I think that strikes a chord with people, says Todd Sattersten, blogger for 800-CEO-READ, a company that sells business books.

Relations and positioning
Todd Sattersten’s statement highlights a usual conclusion: Blogs are mostly about relations. CRM, media relations, internal collaboration, knowledge management – all of these are potential functions for a blog. John Mudd, a real estate agent in Florida with a well-known blog, agrees.
- Current and past customers read it and send e-mail comments on what I write. They enjoy reading it, they tell me. It's a great way to network with current, past and even future clients. I think people like it because I'm not trying to market myself to them. I'm sharing my thoughts with them openly and honestly, and considering how rare that is in the modern world, it's no wonder that I'm able to translate blogging into business, he says.

For many the blog provides a way to become their industry’s thought leader.

-The specific benefit of marketing is that I get maybe 1,000 people to think about what I'm saying every day - and therefore thinking about me. While I hate the word, blogging can turn you into a guru quicker than any other way right now, says Russell Buckley, The Mobile Technology Weblog.

Challenging corporate hierarchy
Still, corporate blogging isn’t for everyone. First of all blogging is a skill. The publisher must know the unwritten rules of the so called “blogosphere”, the world of blogs. Concerns have also been raised on legal and regulatory issues in relation to publicly listed companies – even though Jonathan Schwartz of Sun argues that his blog is a way of taking the regulation of fair disclosure to its logical extreme. But most of all, blogging challenges the organisational hierarchy. The blogger becomes a very visible individual. The blog can give this person a position in the eyes of important target groups that don’t necessarily match the organisation scheme. And that requires an open corporate culture.

Europe lagging behind the US
Corporate blogging is, or has been, a US-focused phenomenon. Corporate blogs in Denmark and Sweden are easily counted. The same goes for all other European countries. But things are changing. PR bloggers all over Europe are discussing the format, testing it, learning from the US examples. Undoubtedly some organisations will try and fail. But some will try and succeed. Those organisations will be equipped with a potentially powerful tool for branding, storytelling and strengthened relationships.

You should consider blogging if you want to…
·position yourself or your company as industry experts
·create more personal relationships with your customers, provide tips or insights and receive feedback
·create a channel where media regularly check what you have to say
·make internal collaboration, knowledge management and project management easier
·facilitate recruitment by establishing a channel your business will pay attention to
·rank high in search engines – Google and other search engines rewards sites that are updated often, that link to other sites and most importantly, that has many inbound links.

Be aware that…
·you must be persistent, the blog needs daily updates
·you must get to know the format well before launching a corporate blog
·you have to be personal – it’s a conversation out there and you will fail if you view the blog as any other means of (mass) communication
·you must dare to be open and honest
·you might meet internal scepticism, after all you are about to publish content you haven’t published before in a voice you haven’t used before.

Links:
CorporateBlogging.Info (basics, cases, testimonials):

www.corporateblogging.info

Jonathan Schwartz’s Blog: http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan

800-CEO-READ Blog: http://www.800ceoread.com/blog/

Blogging With The Boss's Blessing (BusinessWeek):
http://www.800ceoread.com/blog/

Blogging goes to work (The Economist): http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_id=2477025

Why blogs could be bad for business (The Guardian): http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/comment/story/0,12449,1052072,00.html

About the author
Fredrik Wackå is a PR consultant in Malmö, Sweden, with almost ten years experience of web content development. He started his first corporate blog in 2000, long before the term was coined. At www.corporateblogging.info he provides an information service on blogging for communicators and entrepreneurs. Fredrik can be contacted at +46 40 13 42 00 or “fredrik (at) wpr.se”.

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