A blogged book on Corporate Blogging

Robert Scoble has begun a project with Shel Israel to write a book on corporate blogging by using his new MSN blog to write it. This is really an innovative way to try to write a book, and he has just begun it. I have subscribed to the RSS feed for that blog so that I can keep up with the project and see it as it develops.

Why, you might ask, am I interested in corporate blogging?

In part the answer is that my friend, David Steele, and I have been discussing the value of blogging in the corporate environment for some time because back in October he invited me to help him stimulate the thinking of his employees in his new role as Vice Chairman of IEI Financial Services, LLC. His original idea was to send the employees a newsletter monthly about dealing with customers and invite them to provide questions and feedback on the ideas discussed in that newsletter. I declined that invitation because I thought the use of a newsletter with that much delay was an outdated way of doing things. Given the speed with which things change and the importance of immediacy in creating any sense of involvement by participants, I began introducing him to blogging as an alternative. He has been very receptive to the idea, but as yet we haven’t agreed on the right formula for doing it.

I believe that a corporate blog, even one that isn’t open to the public and is entirely behind the corporate firewall on their intranet, is an excellent way to give managers and employees a way to interact with each other about issues and policies within the company. There are issues, of course, that have to be considered and worked out. Whoever authors a corporate blog needs to speak with an authentic and authoritative voice and be open to views from the front line people that may be contrary to the company line or that may reflect an incomplete understanding of all the things that motivate the management to take the stances they do. And the management of the company has to know in advance that some will disagree, perhaps in hostile ways, with what is going on within the company. Many companies aren’t inclined to permit such dissent, preferring instead that people not rock the boat, but then again many companies also stifle the contributions that their people might make if the management were more willing to permit it.

A good model for the kind of openness I’m talking about is Robert Scoble, a Microsoft employee who has no problems with praising competitors and/or criticizing the company who pays his salary. That’s one reason that I think The Red Couch, Scoble’s name for his book and his new project, is going to be worth watching. I am hopeful that it can provide rationales and insights that will help to convince companies like David’s of the utility of such tools in achieving their goals.

I don’t want to be guilty of “having a hammer and seeing every problem as a nail,” but for the kind of concern David originally wanted me to help him address, I believe a blog is infinitely better than a newsletter both because it would be updated more frequently and because it would facilitate responses more easily. How long would a conversation last, for instance, if there were a month between responses? Though blogs are more immediate and more responsive, they require infinitely more time and effort than a newsletter would and they may carry more risk. So I understand why some companies may go slowly into this new way of communicating, but go they will eventually. Of that, I am sure.

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4 thoughts on “A blogged book on Corporate Blogging

  1. Anonymous

    Perry,I’m just not convinced the corporate world, as a whole, is there yet for blogs to be as open and interactive as you invision them or as some have demonstrated (i.e. Microsoft). I recently read a couple blogs where people were fired for posting dissenting remarks towards their companies (without even naming the company) on their personal blogs.A company the size of Microsoft may encourage and indeed benefit from having a venue where its tens of thousands of employees can readily communicate throughout the world, but the reality is that most companies are much, much smaller and one would hope there are communication avenues within these smaller companies that would provide an employee the opportunity to discuss their thoughts with the key decision makers, as well as their fellow employees, if they desire to do so. There is no doubt that this whole blog phenomenon has taken hold and moving like a wildfire on the internet, but it has a huge gap to fill to mature into a tool that will truly be embraced by corporate America. It currently is used by most as a journal and a way to connect and communicate with other people of like interests. One offshoot of the written blog is the photo blogs that now exist. I personally feel that many companies already have and perhaps will embrace blogging, because it seems to be the “popular thing” to do at this time, but they are not sincere in why they are adopting it. That will only taint the good intentions of others that see it as a natural way to communicate with their employees and their customers. Just wanted to share my thoughts and let you know you have a couple of your old friends and acquaintances thinking and talking about this here in Indianapolis.Darrell

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  2. Perry

    Darrell, First, thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your thoughtful comments. I agree that not many organizations, let alone “the corporate world as a whole,” are yet ready to adopt blogging and the openness it imples. You and I have shared the experience of being a part of at least one organization in the past where feedback and openness to differing points of view was praised in public, but the on-the-ground reality was quite the opposite. And you are right that there are instances where bloggers have been fired for what they have posted. So the world we see out there isn’t different, and I don’t disagree with you at all about that reality.The point at which we apparently disagree is what to do about it. The safe route is to play by “the rules” and cover your ass, don’t ever disagree with the powers that run such organizations, and get along so that you can draw a pension some day from that company. It is a time-honored course of action that many, many people have chosen through the years.The other possibility is to choose to be a change agent for that kind of corporation. Corporate blogging doesn’t have to be confrontive to be valuable, and in such organizations as you and I have described it might need to be shown to be of value first by stimulating dialog about less controversial things such as how to deal with customers’ issues. Change comes about slowly in most organizations and occurs only in small steps sometimes. I’ve seldom met a leader of an organization who didn’t say he or she wanted employees to provide feedback on the corporate culture and the environment at work, at least until someone actually provided it. Unfortunately, years of withholding honest and authentic feedback by employees often means that when they do finally react they do so without much tact, and they unload with both barrels. Then they sometimes get burned, and the stories of such harsh reactions to feedback only serve to further harden employees’ resolve to “keep it to themselves.” I hope for a better day. Maybe I’m too much an idealist in this regard, but that’s who I am, so I’ll keep advocating that tools like corporate blogging (which is only the current trendy tool to address these issues) be used. It is the courageous leader in such an organization who can make a difference, if they are willing to do so. As someone once said, you can tell who the leaders are because they are the ones with the arrows in their chest.I’m pleased that you chose to express a differing opinion, and that you folks there in Indy are thinking about the issues raised by this discussion. Just getting you and others to think about it and the possible benefits as well as the potential risks is something of an achievement to me. I really believe that “none of us is as smart as all of us” so don’t ever give up your commitment to trying, in your own way, to make the corporate world (indeed, the world as a whole) a better place.Perry

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  3. Anonymous

    I found the perfect cover art… ;)Harlequin Sitting on a Red Couch (Pablo Picasso)http://www.abcgallery.com/P/picasso/picasso12.htmlHarlequin – ‘Hârlukwin – a clown or buffoon (after the Harlequin character in the Commedia Dell’arte)———Kevin Trudeau of Blogdom, eh? Well, then it needs an infomercial…”i-got-a-microsoft-way-cool-job-and-made-all-these-friends-and-get-invited-to-all-these-tech-parties-and-hobknob-with-all-sorts-of-techie-vips-and-i-did-not-really-have-to-do-anything-except-be-a-shrill-with-a-blog. and-yes-you-can-tooooooo-if-you-only-follow-my-blogging-policy-advice-and-buy-my-book. i-have-tons-of-people-that-heed-my-advice-including-ceos-with-nothing-better-to-do-than-to-tap-into-my-wealth-of-blogging-knowledge. every-modern-lifestyle-problem-can-be-fixed-by-blogging-your-ticket-to-richness-untold-in-this-fast-paced-21st-century-digital-lifestyle. the-future-is-thine. guaranteed! money-back-if-not-100%-satisfied-but-wait-there’s-more!!!”Disclaimer: Results not typical. Individual results may vary.

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  4. Anonymous

    Perry,As I have continued to think about this, I don’t disagree with you on this subject of corporate blogging at all. You seemed to find the central point of my concern and expressed it better than I attempted to. The fact that management within corporations must deal openly and honestly with this new means of communication is the key to its use and acceptance. The way people receive others’ ideas and thoughts and how they react when the response isn’t quite what they would like to see or hear, will remain an obstacle to successful implementation of corporate blogs. As you well know, I am one of those persons that is not comfortable telling management what I think they “want to hear” and certainly was not willing to sit back and wait for that comfortable, pedictable pension (even after investing 28 years of my life) in lieu of trying to be an agent for change. That of course led me to a personal decision to leave that environment and begin anew in the private/public sector. It was a great decision!I am sure David and I will continue to examine this whole corporate blog idea and have some ongoing genuine discussions over a few Martinis and Cigars in the near future. In the meantime I’ll keep looking at your site for some wisdom!Regards….Darrell

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