The blogging phenomenon has started to make companies view the potential benefits of corporate blogging. They all agree that blogs achieve a mass media effect through the high level of networking in the blogosphere wherein news disseminates very rapidly. The blogosphere (online community of blogs and their writings) has heralded a new communication tool that can influence public opinion of a company. However, companies are slow to react to the growing credibility of corporate blogs as communication channels.
A recent list of Fortune 500 company blogs shows that only 5% of the United States’ corporations have joined the blogging arena. Companies are treading this still unfamiliar territory with caution and skepticism. Company executives, public relations people and legal experts are just starting to figure out how they can utilize the potential of business blogs without subjecting themselves especially their companies to possible complications. Indeed, some companies are hesitant to plunge into the “scary” world of blogging for fear of encountering legal and business risks inherent in blogging such as libel, slander, lawsuits and disclosure of confidential and proprietary information.
Despite the fear, some industry leaders like Microsoft, IBM, Sun Microsystems and General Motors, to name a few, have dived headlong into corporate blogging. These companies recognize that a blog is an immensely effective yet low cost way to boost corporate communications and marketing objectives and at the same time connect with customers and prospects.
Basically, a blog (short for weblog) is published with easy to use software that enables a blogger (blog author) to create and update blog pages from which he can express his thoughts on a particular subject. Written article on a blog is called a “post” and can be linked to other blogs, websites, news features, photo images and audio files. Links added to the text of blog posts allow blog content to be indexed and accessed by popular search engines such as Technorati and then disseminated in the web.
A corporate blog makes it easy for readers, be they customers or prospects, to find the latest and most accurate information about its new products and services. It can help achieve customer familiarity with the company products or services. Through the corporate blog, a company can converse directly with customers and prospects. Two-way communication creates trust and builds customer relationships. A corporate blog is the perfect choice for interacting with existing and potential clients. Corporate blogging serves as a channel for a company and its customers to meet on common ground and to know each other more. A corporate blog allows a company to closely track where and under what condition its products or services are being discussed online. Through the corporate blog, a company can keep an ear to the ground to hear what is being said about the company and speaking up when the situation calls for it. A more personal or understated benefit of a corporate blog is that it gives a human face to a perceived faceless and detached business entity. A corporate blog conjures images of people who are passionate about their products or services and are eager to engage customers and prospects.
It is a risky world out there and the blogosphere is no exception. For companies who are contemplating on setting out into the world of corporate blogging, it is in your best interests to have knowledge of some basic dos and don’ts of corporate blogging.
First on the agenda is do determine whether your company needs a corporate blog. A blog might be inappropriate for your company. Not all corporate cultures can tolerate the open, direct communication inherent to make a corporate blog successful. There are instances where blogs could not be reconciled with business practices and regulations. Clearly, there are risks to consider. Risks lie mainly in the content and the character or tone of comments which admittedly can only be censored to a limited degree.
If a corporate blog can fit your company culture, selecting the individual or employee who will write your blog is doubtless to say the most important decision. An ideal corporate blogger is one who is an expert in his field. He should also write with passion and sincerity. The object of your blog is to engage your customers and prospects in conversation and the most effective way to start a conversation is to be sincere and honest in your blog while writing about topics that are important to your company. He should have good writing skills. More importantly, he should be one who is respected by his peers and reacts calmly to outbursts. Blogging is an intense medium. The individuals who will blog for your company should be the ones who can keep their cool despite critical comments. Most likely, the ideal individual is not your CEO. Corporate speak won’t thrive in the blogosphere.
In corporate blogging, goals/missions are of prime importance. For a blog to yield value, it has to be created with specific goals in mind. Some of these goals may be to increase company credibility, enhance customer service and interaction, and give customers a peek of the behind-the-scenes “feel” of the corporate culture, showcase new products or services and more. The important thing is to be clear about your goals. You have to be sure about what you are trying to get done and stick to them. As with any corporate undertaking, you also need to periodically evaluate how well you are meeting these goals. If blogging is proving to be futile, then make changes. If it still does not work, then discontinue blogging.
Do take time to know your customers or prospects. Find out what your audience care about, what they are interested in. You have to identify what their needs are and what service you can perform for them. To get their attention, work out a way to participate in a conversation credibly. To be credible, come up with worthwhile content – ideas, insights, news and information. Content need not be long but should be interesting. Corporate blogs should not veer away from its chosen categories or topics. This is not to say you cannot be personal in your blog posts because you should, but the audience you are trying to connect with do not want to read through your blog if it is injected with a litany of personal rumblings.
Do engage your audience in lively and substantial conversations. Take into account what they say and reply to their comments. Respond in a professional and businesslike manner whether the comment is positive or negative. Allowing comments from your audience will definitely mean some complaints and criticisms. Don’t take them personally. Respond honestly and your company credibility will rise. Allowing audience to make comments is a distinct characteristic of blogs. Openness is important for successful blogging. That said, use a feedback filter or comment moderation to monitor and control comments and delete comment spam (useless comments).
For a blog to accomplish its mission, do update regularly. Post frequently and consistently, daily or weekly, at least. Do be generous with your links. Linking is one reason why blogging has become a popular online communication medium. The best corporate blogs, more often than not, have lots of links in each blog post.
Do draw up a set of corporate blogging policies. Set limits on what information can be made public. Make clear what is allowed and what is not. Legal issues crop up in blogging. It is better to have some safety nets. In drafting blogging policies, it is advisable to do some research on it and publish proposed policies to get some feedback.
As for what not to do, do not close down existing employee blogs. More often than not, an employee is already writing a blog. It might be full of grievances about the recent spate of oil increases or it could be snapshots of a relaxing vacation in the Maldives. Maybe this employee is singing praises of the company’s new product. Why not engage this employee blogger in a dialogue about what your corporate blog aims to achieve. Don’t wait for a crisis to break out before creating a corporate blog. It takes time to see potential results of blogging. Don’t keep your corporate bloggers anonymous or hidden behind some make-believe characters. The audience will know and it will have detrimental effects.
Lastly, a blog is not a miracle cure. It will not single-handedly turn your distressed company around. Corporate blogging should be incorporated with other marketing and communication tools to achieve desired results.