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 I declined that invitation because I thought the use of a newsletter with that much delay was an outdated way of doing things.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.