Monday, April 03, 2006

WSJ Inside View of Corporate Blogs

In today’s WSJ, William Bulkeley makes the statement: “Employee blogs can put a human face on companies. But that’s not always a good thing.”

* Because many corporate image specialists foresee a confusing array of corporate messages – some so sanitized that they lack credibility.

* Because lawyers fear that some employees’ thoughts may provide fodder for plaintiffs’ lawyers or give away company secrets or advice that a company prefers to sell.

Knowing these risks, corporate blogs are growing in number – Why?

Because being left out of the online community by not adopting this ‘burgeoning communications medium’ is a greater risk to business.

Corporate blogs provide the means to:

* Get to know companies (such as GM’s current challenges and changes)
* Contribute to company policy (such as Thomas Nelson who uses suggestions from comments on their company blog)
* Confront controversy (such as Cisco’s response to critics over their equipment used by the Chinese government to censor)

Companies need to establish blogging policies:

Companies and employees blog to communicate, but discretion is involved. With employees fired (“dooced”) for blogging, such as the reporter from Dover Post, companies are including blogging policies within company policy.

A survey of 1,000 employees by Employment Law Alliance found only 15% of companies have blogging policies. Blogging policies are needed to justify the firing of an employee for inappropriate blogging that harms the company.

Companies also need to require bloggers to use their real names because, “Many fear that a blogger who isn’t using his name will still be identifiable as a company employee and attract attention by denigrating rivals, blasting politicians or sneering at the boss”, reports Bulkeley. When bloggers take ownership of their posts it encourages constructive input and accuracy.

The credibility debate continues between top executives that may not seem believable compared with independent bloggers who are free to write their wants.

Companies can preserve credibility by publicly accepting criticism:

Yesterday, I discovered a great example of published public acceptance of criticism on the Hewlett Packard Executive Blog of Duncan Cambell – Vice President of Marketing, StorageWorks Division: (Click on picture to enlarge)

Some corporations are open to this strategy to validate individuals who have concerns, and to take action on the criticisms where reasonable and appropriate.

Many companies, such as IBM and HP, expect bloggers to register before leaving comments that removes the “anonymity” issue, guides decent expression, and builds credibility.

In addition, many of companies also moderate the comments before they appear on the corporate blog.

The blogs mentioned in this article are listed in my blogroll for reference.

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