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January 03, 2005

Business Blogging

The last sections of Hugh's book talks about the benefits of blogging as opening up new two-way communication channels. There's a lot of truth to that, although the way blogs will be used will probably look a lot different from what Hugh suggests.

There are, I think, a couple of fundamental roadblocks to blogs being used the way he envisions, and they don't just come from the attorneys. (Although, I've no doubt that the reason lawsuits from blogs haven't happened is that most bloggers don't have deep pockets.) But that doesn't mean that good, creative businesses won't use them, just the same.

While narrowminded legal objections are one source of roadblocks, there's also a question of content. Good blogs can range over an entire range of issues and questions, economic, technical, ethical, public policy. Most CEOs spend some time dealing with these things, but usually in the context of corporate strategy that they may or may not want to advertise to their competition.

There also just usually isn't enough internal news to justify daily postings. Perhaps senior management as a whole could generate enough postings to be interesting. But then, there's the danger of wrongheaded tea-leaf reading, either by employees or by the market.

That said, many of the best CEOs like to write think-pieces for the Wall Street Journal or other business periodicals. A personal blog, intended not for internal company communication but as a sounding board to the world at large would probably attract a lot of interest and feedback.

This doesn't have to happen at the senior management level to be interesting. This Wired article suggests two uses. Steve Rubel is only a VP at CooperKatz, but runs MicroPersuason. It's a place to air out ideas without affecting the company so directly.

Secondly, company or product fan-clubs have been around for a long time. Hugh suggests hiring the best writers outright. I think that compromises their integrity and their "earned" eyeballs. A better idea would be to troll blogs for news and buzz about their company and its products. Companies are already reselling this service.

If any of the blogs feature good, insightful writing, the company could establish informal relationships with those writers, treating them as reporters, inviting them to company events and using them to float trial balloons. Obviously there's risk here, too. A blogger who becomes to closely identified with the company can lose his credibility, while a company who manipulates a blogger or uses him for disinformation runs the risk of losing its source. These, however, are problems attendant not to blogs, but to media as a whole. "There is nothing new under the sun."

Hugh quotes from Ecclesiastes (Kohelet, to those of us who know Hebrew): "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity," in order to break it to the bloggers that their dreams of longstanding influence are so much vapor. He might well have quoted another verse: "There is nothing new under the sun." Business is both more innovative and more conservative than we think. For a while, blogs will be an extension of current practice. Eventually, they'll be used in ways we can't imagine now, but it'll take a lot of trial and error to get there.

Posted by joshuasharf at January 3, 2005 11:11 AM | TrackBack

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