Corporate Blogging In An Anti-Corporate World
Many people still believe that corporate bloggers have it easier than the self-employed blogger who has to work really hard to build a presence before he begins to see payment.
It’s certainly true that blogging on a huge authority domain is a huge advantage, especially since there are something like 500 million blogs on the web (in 2020). However, as Brian Morrow, a leading Aberdeen web designer explains, despite the fact that ‘every man and their dog’ can set up a blog cheaply, easily and quickly, there is still a place for the corporate blogger in today’s increasingly diverse and disruptive blogosphere.
While many blogs provide news on a particular subject, some function as online diaries or as we’ve seen, personal blogs. However, the corporate blog is thriving and far from becoming obsolete as earlier marketing pundits had suggested, it is becoming well established as an online marketing tactic.
With the rapid growth of social media and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, new strategies are required to ensure the corporate blog complements, not competes with these platforms.
According to a eMarketer report, currently 1 in 3 US companies maintain a blog and 43% of US companies will be blogging by 2019.
There are however, huge discrepancies between corporate blogs. It is believed that tech blogs dominate the sector, and this may simply be because they have the understanding and manpower to create innovative, interactive and outstanding designs.
The ones that ‘get it’ are bound to have spoof sites and spin off’s, which can generate further publicity – good or bad – for the master brand. An example is TUAW.com, which bills itself as the ‘Unofficial Apple Weblog’
e.g. IBM< SAP, Oracle
Social blogs like those seen by hotels and companies like Starbucks cannot be ignored. They get their message across via true stories that shock, motivate, encourage and inspire. The also get people engaging in a conversation by connecting their blogs to their social networking sites like twitter and facebook, thereby bridging the chasm between the two that is often seen in corporate blogging.
Still others have taken the idea of multiple division to their blogs as well. By not spreading themselves thin, and instead creating blogs based on the various departments or industries, these companies have allowed their target audience to connect on a personal level with each blog site. An example of a company that has done a fine job of this separation is Caterpillar which has established blogs for not only each of their industries, but each of their sub-industries as well.
A very common example you’ll find in the blogging world of a company which has taken an unusual approach (which works!) is with Friskas. Their problem was they had to promote a simple, common, everyday item, the scissors. Their solution? Take four very different women who share a passion – that of scrapbooking. Friskars has allowed each of these women to blog about topics they feel strongly about, and relate it back to Friskars. Has it worked? Today, Friskars is one of the most popular blogs that individuals interested in scrapbooking will visit.
Blogs can add a whole new marketing dimension to a business, especially as employees begin to accept and integrate blogging as part of the corporate identity. While there are no hard and fast rules in smaller companies when it comes to the business blog, in larger companies, protocol must be maintained, especially if the blog is to be shared by a number of employees.
Questions arise as to how much information the individual blogger is allowed to share about the internal workings of a company. For example, can a blogger who writes about a new mobile app actually divulge the programming that goes into it? Can a coke employee reveal the secret ingredients of coke’s formula. And even if the entire process or all the ingredients were not revealed, how much is enough?
Likewise, employees are not allowed to criticize the company they work for. But what if they are having a particularly bad day and want to rant about it? Can it be misconstrued. It most certainly can. And get tweeted, retweeted and discussed all over social media forums, until the situation receives its own special unwarranted attention.
Still another question that will need tackling is how much time are employees allowed to spend on a company blog? While a lot of it can be classified as promotional time, one may argue that it is hard to define, or set limits on the time an employee should, or should not be allowed to spend on blog related pursuits.
It is clear that for those companies that wish to venture into corporate blogging, certain rules and guidelines must be defined at the very start, which employees are instructed to follow. While this may then bring up questions about creative writing being stifled as time limits are imposed, it may equally well serve the purpose of legally and morally protecting the company.
The following are starting guidelines which a company can use to create their own set of blogging rules:
- Set a limit to the number of bloggers per blog site. If there are more than the defined number, the business should consider creating blogs per industry or department.
- Define at the start how long a blogger can or cannot spend on a company blog during working hours.
- Specify the blogger should not be allowed to criticize the company.
- Determine that the blogger should highlight the opinions stated are their own, as opposed to those of the company, unless otherwise agreed to.
- Agree that the blogger should respect the company’s confidentiality and proprietary information.
- Allow, if there is doubt, that the blogger should be able to contact a senior manager for a final decision.
- Agree that the blogger should not use the blog post as a medium to overtly sell the company’s products or services.
- Agree that the blogger should be responsible for handling comments if and when they arise, or direct them to the responsible party.