About Business Blogging
I am reading Blog Rules, a best practises handbook for business blogging. The book is indeed useful, at least in answering some of the key questions I had in mind. For example, why blog for business? I have always found this blog an wonderful platform to talk openly and honestly about my life and feelings. Though I would have made occasional comments on my employment and the project I am involved in, the same candour was impossible to achieve.
This isn't just because of any rules laid out by my company. As far as I know, my employers are yet to set any policy for blogging. However, business is a social activity and it is impossible to exclude information about other people and their work if one has to talk about the workplace. And, while one can be candid about themselves [or engage in a 'blind conversation'], it is immoral to do so involving other people.
However, indeed, blogs are important for business. This is just because they are an important communication medium today. Millions of people read blogs, search engines include blogs in their search results. So, it is something like that newspaper, which you may not read yourself, but must include in your communication planning. Because if you don't talk on your own behalf, someone else will.It was interesting to know what businesses use blogs for. Most people surely treat this as a PR tool, another medium which must be covered.
It is interesting to note that blogs are used to give a human face to the organisation and 'commission' a honest voice. I know about Robert Scoble being commissioned by Microsoft already, but I am not sure whether he is being able to maintain an independent voice. I remember reading his blog in the middle of the controversy regarding Microsoft's 'bribe' to bloggers on the wake of Windows Vista launch in December 2006 [when Microsoft sent out 90 top-of-the-line ACER Ferrari laptops to influential bloggers, yours to keep], and Scoble thought it was a 'fantastic idea' and defended Edelman and Microsoft vigorously. The whole thing seemed like an unusual way of influencing opinion - just like PR.
But there is more to a blog surely than just another medium. Blog is an active medium, a platform to conduct person-to-person conversation. Like any other opportunity, consultants and lawyers will attack this medium and set out rules [just like Nancy Flynn tries to do] and make some money in the process.However, it is a bit early to judge whether it will all go right. The rules here are evolving slower than the technology, and the opportunity thereof. I see the blogs to be the predominant medium for a new kind of communication, one based on stories and human fables.
Of course, I read Made to Stick and found the Heath brothers rule of SUCCESs [Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories] to be the cornerstone of successful communication. Blogs offer an unique platform to tell such stories - one which can demonstrate an unexpected candour, credibility of being straight from the heart, concreteness of being experiential, emotive of being personal and necessarily simple, everyday thoughts. I am not sure corporate blogs, rule-bound, can actually take advantage of such attributes.
I actually think blogs are much more useful for non-profits and smaller organizations. Corporate Communication may still endeavour to buy up the mainstream media and blogs along them, but the grassroots nature of the blogs can create a level playing field for smaller organizations and not-for-profit. They have stories to tell and personalities to project, to start with. Besides, they will fit perfectly with open-collar culture of blogging. However, these blog rules can actually send wrong messages to such organizations, which actually need to go out and harness the power of the blogs at their free, independent best.
Excellent post on blogs! Thanks.
In your last paragraph, you mention how blogs are a great fit for non-profits. I would only add two points:
1 - Blogging gives non-profits an effective and affordable way to increase their search engine rankings. Blogging allows non-profits to produce substantive content within a very specific niche topic. Google, Yahoo and others tend to prefer highly-relevant content focused on specific topic areas.
2 - Blogging creates a unique "employee retention strategy" for non-profits. Because non-profits typically pay less than for-profit corporations, HR folks need to come up with creative ways to attract and retain talent. Giving the opportunity to write blog content to key employees will make them feel valued and more invested in sticking around for the long term.
Humanistic marketing for non-profits
Indeed, blogging can increase Search Engine visibility and give greater participation and prominence for the volunteers and employees. Besides, this can also help them build communities around the causes they are working for. They should find it much easier to do than most companies - how many corporations really have a cult following like Apple?
But I am not sure that this has still caught on with non-profits - they are definitely behind the technology curve in Britain. On the other hand, while they can create a gentle, participative blogging culture, they need to lay down certain norms - not rules, but expectations perhaps - from their bloggers. For example, one would expect bloggers to stay away from disclosing the real identities of the victims of domestic violence - things like that. It is not about gagging the bloggers, or unleashing a PR machine, but initiating a conversation, honest and frank, but one which respects the existing social norms.