Back to Basics: What is Corporate Blogging?

My name is Jessica Goodman and this is my blog on Social Media – Corporate Blogs & Bloggers.

With blogs becoming an increasingly popular Web 2.0 tool, it is important to know, “What is a blog, and how do they relate to the corporate setting?” Overall, blogs are interactive web forums in which an individual author or group of authors publish information, opinions, research, and other media about a specific topic of their choice. Blogs allow for feedback and conversations between individuals, promoting their interactive nature.

When used in the business setting, corporate blogs can be used to further internal and/or external communications within the company. Internal corporate blogs can help to bring together top management, company employees, and any others involved with the company on a more private level. On the other hand, external corporate blogs can help the company interact with its outside constituents, and employees alike. 

To find out more, explore my blog and feel free to comment. Thank you!

Corporate Blogging and Corporate Reputation

As my blog on corporate blogs and bloggers comes to a close, there is still one last point to be made. I feel that my blog will not be complete without mentioning the idea of corporate blogs and their effect on a company’s corporate reputation.

You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal with corporate reputation?” A company’s corporate reputation all depends on how its audiences, both internal and external, view the company, its business practices, and its ability to be both transparent and authentic. Corporate reputation, therefore, can have a large effect on the company’s overall profitability and bottom line because, for example, if a company is not being open and honest in its communication with its external constituencies, then they will begin to lose trust in the company and stop buying whatever product or service the company provides. 

But what does this have to do with corporate blogs? With the blogosphere becoming such a convenient, open place for individuals to share their thoughts and opinions with one another and receive feedback in return, blogs are becoming more and more popular. This being said, blogs are also becoming an easy and effective way for those individuals sharing their opinions to voice those thoughts and quickly reach a vast number of people. So, what if a customer, much like in the case of Dell and Jeff Jarvis, has a complaint about a company? How would that company know what is being said about it on the blogosphere if it is not listening? And how could it either combat or praise those online messages? This is where the need for a corporate blog becomes apparent. Without communicating openly with its audiences and hearing what they have to say where they are already engaging one another in the conversation, a company has little control over its corporate reputation both now and in the future. 

The following video is an example of this concept. During an interview on Fox Business, Rob Neppell, the President of Kithbridge, Inc., shares his advice on how bloggers can influence a company’s corporate reputation, as well as the importance of companies not being afraid to open up. 

On the other hand, the following Dilbert cartoon posted on Marketing Pilgrim is an example of how a company should not respond to bloggers on the blogosphere because, rather than using blogs as a way to engage its audiences in a two-way conversation in order to positively effect its corporate reputation, this cartoon illustrates an event that can damage a company’s corporate reputation online.

Dilbert Corporate ReputationIn the end, while there are numerous benefits to establishing a corporate blog within an organization, not all business’s have a need for a blog. Either way, I hope that my blog on corporate blogs and bloggers has taught you something that you did not know before!

The Official Google Blog: A Case Study

Now that I have introduced the idea of Corporate Blogs and Bloggers, and have shared both the advantages and risks behind blogging in the business setting, I feel that it is time to put all of that information into context. 

The Official Google Blog, a blog run and authored by various Google employees, is a blog that has consistently been ranked highly as one of the top blogs in the blogosphere by various rankings lists, including Technorati‘s “Top 100 Blogs” and the BlogPulse Analysis “Top Blogs for April 4, 2009” list. 

On Technorati‘s list, The Official Google Blog ranks 13th out of the top 100 as of Sunday, April 5, 2009. This is based on the blog’s Authority Number, which is 8,122 as of today’s post. 

On the BlogPulse list, The Official Google Blog ranks 36th out of the 40 listed as of Saturday, April 4, 2009, a ranking based on the blog’s rank trend, which is shown in the chart below that appeared on the BlogPulse Profiles site for The Official Google Blog.

blogpulse-google-blog

But why is The Official Google Blog consistently ranked highly as one of the best blogs on the blogophere?

To begin, Google’s blog is committed to providing its readers with any information that they want to know about the company including topics ranging from Google’s corporate culture and structure, to its products and innovate ways of thinking. This helps Google appeal to all of its stakeholder groups in one place, allowing each stakeholder to not only have his or her question answered, but learn about other aspects of Google as well by reading what others had to say. I also feel that, by having employees and specialists from each area of the Google company author and publish posts on their specific focus area, the blog is opening up the perspectives from which it is appealing to its readers and giving the company a human quality, allowing the readers to see and learn about the company in a more personal way. 

The blog is also updated frequently, keeping the content of each post current, which is important because otherwise readers will get bored and stop visiting the blog and hearing what Google has to say. From a stakeholder’s perspective, I also enjoy how Google keeps its blog very interactive by promoting conversations and providing such a large array of information that a reader with any interest in the company can find something on the blog that they can relate to. 

Overall, I feel that Google has done an amazing job in keeping their corporate blog personal and audience-appealing, while still remaining professional and keeping in tune with the Google culture.

Possible Risks Involved With Corporate Blogs

In my previous blog posts I have been positively discussing the idea of companies establishing corporate blogs. While I do feel that company-established blogs are a helpful tool that every company should at least look into implementing as a part of its communications efforts both internally and externally, I feel that it is necessary to present a few of the potential risks involved with corporate blogging as well. 

In her blog post titled “Top 10 Risks for Corporate Blogs,” communications consultant Kami Huyse discusses what she believes to be the top 10 risks that corporate bloggers face when they decide to implement a blogging strategy within their organization. Though all are relevant points that any corporate blogger needs to consider, I feel that points one, four and five deserve extra attention.

Beginning with point one, the idea of opening up a space on the Web where interactivity in the form of comments is not only allowed, but actively promoted, no matter if the comments are negative or positive, scares many CEOs, and rightfully so. However, by publishing a company-authored blog and allowing for both positive and negative feedback, a company is both making it easier for themselves to track down and respond to negative feedback from its audiences, as well as allowing themselves to appear more open to public opinion, in turn establishing themselves as a transparent company.

I also feel that point four is important for companies to understand before diving head first into the blogosphere because many companies have been trained to use certain technical jargon and communicate with their publics in a more professional way. While I feel that it is important for a company to maintain its professionalism while blogging, I also think that, in order for a company to successfully relate to its blog’s readers, the company needs to understand that the blogging culture is one based more around being open and personable. 

Going along with point four, point five is also an important factor to consider when beginning a corporate blog because, if an employee has been asked to author the company blog and does not know the culture behind the blogosphere, the company’s culture, or the messages in which the company wishes to convey using its blog, then the blog can end up being a disaster rather than a helpful social media tool. The photo below, courtesy of photobucket.com, is an example of this idea.

 

"Blog the Blog"

Tips for Corporate Blogging Practitioners

In my previous posts, “CEOs Enter the World of Corporate Blogging,” “Why Corporations Should Consider Establishing Employee-Controlled Blogs,” and “The Role of the Employee Within the Corporate Blogging Arena,” I discussed the idea of who within a corporation should have the responsibility for blogging, as well as what each audience is able to contribute to a corporation’s blog that is unique to that particular audience.

However, no matter which audience, or audiences, a corporation chooses to author a company blog, there are specific tips that every corporate blogger should know before publishing their work on the blogosphere. And while the list is vast, Jason Campbell, an author for the Web magazine CMSWire, discusses the “Five Immutable Laws of Corporate Blogging”  as introduced by Dan Greenfield, Earthlink’s former Vice President of Corporate Communications. 

After reading over the list that Campbell presents in his article, I feel that it is important for any current or soon-to-be corporate blogger to pay close attention to law number three, the fact that all blogs, both corporate or otherwise, must promote interactivity rather than one-way communication. If there is no force driving the reader to the blog, such as new, frequent posts and the opportunity for the reader to provide his or her feedback on that newly presented information, than both the blog and the blog’s author will eventually become obsolete, destroying the intent behind the blog’s creation.

I also feel that law number four is crucial to understand before establishing a corporate blog because it is important to realize that one of the main factors behind establishing a corporate blog is that they allow a company to have a space on the Web to communicate with its stakeholders and give them a voice in all situations, not just during a crisis. This will allow a company’s stakeholders to feel valued for their opinions regarding any company topic or issue, rather than just informed when the company sees a need to get the word out.

Finally, I feel that law number five represents the most important rule to consider when executing a corporate blog. Without staying consistent with the company’s overall messages and mission, the blog, no matter who the author, has no merit because it is lacking authenticity and providing the reader with mixed messages about the company and what it stands for. This confusion influences how stakeholders view the company, and may eventually lead to a decline or loss in the credibility of that company, ultimately affecting the company’s bottom line and financial status.

The Role of the Employee Within the Corporate Blogging Arena

In my previous post, “Why Corporations Should Consider Establishing Employee-Controlled Blogs,” I generally discussed why I feel that it is advantageous for a corporation to establish a blog within its organization that is authored by its employees, whether those employees aim their discussions about the company at external audiences, at other company employees, or at the company’s top executives.

After writing that post, I then realized that when discussing the idea of corporate employee blogging, it is important to focus in on the idea of establishing an employee blog that is directed at external audiences versus a blog aimed at allowing for internal company feedback. Though both have their advantages and disadvantages, how does a company choose which one, if not both, is the right fit for that company in giving its employees a voice?

To begin answering this question, I feel that it is important to understand some of the basic differences between the two. An employee blog that was established to be aimed at a company’s external audiences allows the employees to be the blog’s authors and, therefore, communicate their opinions about certain company issues or products to the public. This can help to give the company a face and a personality rather than a large, corporate feel.

An example of a company that has established this type of employee blogging structure is Wal-Mart. Their employee-authored blog titled “Check Out: Where The Lanes Are All Open” is directed towards Wal-Mart customers that are looking to the opinions of Wal-Mart employees and merchants to influence their buying decisions. As Michael Barbaro discusses in his article “Wal-Mart encourages employee blog,” customers are also able, and encouraged, to leave comments on the employee’s posts, helping Wal-Mart’s top executives to receive valuable consumer feedback.

On the other hand, a blog that centers around employees offering their feedback to a company is also a valuable tool for a company to consider. Whether the blog focuses on employees sharing their thoughts on company structure, new company policies, or even the food selections in the corporate cafeteria, it is important to provide an outlet for that feedback. This allows a company to engage in two-way communication with its employees, making the employees realize that their opinions are valued. However, it is important to note that committing to this kind of open communication means that a company has to listen to its employees and respond to their opinions as well.

Dell is an example of a company that has established this type of employee-authored, internal communication. Their blog, titled “EmployeeStorm,” is focused on giving Dell employees an online arena to generate and provide feedback on company issues. In the following video from Ragan Communications, Dell’s Internal Communications Manager, Vida Killian, talks about EmployeeStorm.

In the end, it is up to each individual corporation to evaluate which, if not both, employee-authored blogging style is the right fit for that company, though understanding the basic differences between the two is a great place to start!

Why Corporations Should Consider Establishing Employee-Controlled Blogs

Imagine that you are the CEO of a corporation. You are aware of all of the aspects of your company, you know your industry like the back of your hand, and you realize how important it is to uphold a positive relationship with all of your constituent groups in order to help your company’s bottom line. Now, as discussed in my previous post, “CEOs Enter the World of Corporate Blogging,” it would seem like a logical decision to have you, as the CEO, blog about your company and any related topics. However, you have noticed that a few of your employees have taken an interest in the company blog that you author, and they seem to have opinions of their own to share with both you and the rest of the blogosphere interested in your company. You then begin to wonder, “Should our employees have their own, employee-authored space in the blogosphere to share their thoughts and opinions about the company?”

ABSOLUTELY! Though a company’s employees are located internally, they are a very important constituent group that the company needs to be aware of and engage in a dialogue with because the employees are the ones carrying out the company’s business plan, and therefore, affecting the bottom line. If they are unhappy with a situation, whether it is occurring inside the company or involves external audiences, it is important to provide them with a controlled outlet to voice that feedback. A company’s employees are also the face of the company to their friends and neighbors, making them a very important stakeholder group to communicate with and receive feedback from.

But why establish an employee-authored blog?  This is because blogs are interactive, easily allowing employees to engage in conversations with one another, with outside audiences, and with the company executives. Microsoft, for example, encourages its employees to blog about the company, whether their audience is other Microsoft employees or the company’s external audiences. As Microsoft employee and blogger Robert Scoble states in the article “A Blog All of My Own”, having the company’s employees blog helps to give Microsoft a face and a down-to-earth appeal. To learn more about Microsoft’s employee blogs, please visit the Microsoft Community Blogs Web page.

An employee blog established by the company also has the potential to be monitored more easily than typical “water cooler conversation,” allowing the company executives to get a more immediate, clear understanding of any issues that the employees feel need to be addressed rather than having to search various places for employee feedback. Finally, setting up an employee blog also helps the employees to see that their feedback is valued within the company because they are being given a place on the Web of their own to voice their thoughts – just don’t forget that it is imperative that, as a company, you listen to and respond to those opinions!

CEOs Enter the World of Corporate Blogging

As the idea and practice of corporate blogging becomes more prevalent in the business world, the question now becomes, “Who within an organization should blog? Should the CEO have his or her own personal blog? If so, what should he or she post about?” 

Throughout my research and in using the knowledge that I have gained through my Media Arts and Design classes here at JMU, I feel that within an organization, the company CEO should definitely be a part of the blogosphere. This helps to give the CEO a voice and a personality that exists on the Web to employees, customers, and any other publics outside of the company, while also allowing him or her to interact on a more personal level with various constituents that he or she may not otherwise have a chance to receive feedback from. As Jonathan Schwartz states in an article interview that he did with Industry Week in August of 2006 titled “CEO Communique,” the blogosphere is a place where people come to participate, and having a CEO that is willing to not only be a part of that sort of interactivity, but start the conversations himself or herself, is amazing and brings forth the potential to open various doors for future participation outlets and feedback loops within the company.

However, creating a space for conversations to exist between the CEO and others is not the only advantage to beginning a CEO blog. Having a CEO that blogs personally within a company is also helpful in getting the company’s news out to employees and to the public from a trusted company source, allowing the organization itself to be the first point of contact when any news breaks on an internal or external level.

In the end, however, you might be asking yourself what the CEO should know before beginning to blog. In her article, “The CEO as Chief Blogger,” Jeanne C. Meister says that having your CEO decide on an audience, whether internal or external, is an important decision because it will set the tone for all posts and blog communication. She also mentions that the CEO should talk with the company’s communications department before joining the blogosphere in order to receive any blogging tips and to make sure that the purpose of the blog aligns with company strategy.