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Company blogs
January 24, 2005
Monday
Anonymous acts of blogging
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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Tom Reynolds - a pseudonym obviously - writes a popular blog called Random Acts of Reality, which is about his experiences as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the London Ambulance Service. He explains his blogging muse:

I realised that with the work that I do, I had a wealth of stories that I could tell, and that maybe some people would be interested in what happens in the ambulance service. I quite enjoy writing down the things that happen at work - whether it is a form of therapy for me, I can’t say – but I do get enjoyment from it.

There are more blogs of this type, which is the anonymous work blog. Employees in the NHS (National Health Service), police officers, magistrates, call center employees, teachers, fast food industry employees are blogging about their experiences under the cover of hidden identity.

Tom Reynolds opines:

I suspect that for many, the reason why they blog is much the same as mine. It gives me a chance to tell people about the ‘real’ NHS, that ambulance work isn’t like ‘Casualty’, and perhaps highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses.

Also, by letting people know what I do, I get some gratitude, which is something that I seldom get at work. There might also be partly some subtle form of ‘whistle-blowing’.

It is also the ability to be able to say things without a complex publishing infrustructure and access to channels of distribution. A blog is a one man’s publishing house and the implications can be (and are) immense. It did not take Tom Reynolds long to work out the power of a blog:

I believe that blogging within the NHS should be encouraged. Blogging represents an added value to organisations. If there is a staff blogger then that organisations ‘brand’ is going to get linked to, and spoken about, more-so than a more traditional website.

...

It [blog] would increase communication, boost morale and ultimately a half hour a day blogging would improve the way that people think about their job. At the end of the day a blog is just another form of content management. ...Which is easier, calling up a website and firing off an email, or posting a quick comment to a blog post? Put the blog on the system that you are installing, or send it as an RSS feed and invite people to submit suggestions or comment on problems. There would be a bigger feeling of community, and thus let people ‘invest’ in the IT project.”

It’s good to hear someone else to say nice things about blogging, and from an NHS employee! grin

January 20, 2005
Thursday
Earthlink, protection and blog
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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Earthlink, a large ISP has a blog whose goal is to provide people with information and help that enables them to evaluate the tools and resources to better protect their computers, themselves and their families while online, Earthlink Protection blog. The contributors are managers with responsibilities such as Privacy Officer, Product Manager for EarthLink’s Spyware Blocker, Director of Product Management for Communication Applications etc. They write well about stuff they understand and work with. The blog will provide some useful information to their customers and others.

The only thing that confuses me slightly is the categories. I can’t see any categories on individual posts and clicking on any of the categories in the sidebar just gives me a very similar selection of articles for each category. A structure for a blog where most people might be looking for specific information is important and categorisation should be the main tool, as should be a search option. Most people might not read it everyday, but will check it when they have a question, problem or simply are interested in what experts have to say. And that’s when they need to get to the information fast and easy.

And, I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, no comments or at least teensy-weensy trackback...?

January 12, 2005
Wednesday
Will GM’s Bob Lutz respond to a critical Instalanche?
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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Despite Bob Lutz’s blog (discussed previously here), Instapundit doesn’t think General Motors actually gets blogs, saying:

[A] company as big as GM doesn’t get anything that fast.

Based on how Michael Wiley, the guy in charge of GM’s blogs, reacted when offered some constructive advice on the Smallblock blog, and based on all the things that need to be changed or improved on GM’s blogs, I agree with Glenn’s assessment. I have a feeling that GM got some advice from PR people who claimed to know all about blogging, and it wasn’t all good advice and they left a lot of stuff out - probably because they’re not as clued up as they think. Aside from that, Glenn links to a troubling - though, sadly, not surprising - incident recounted in the Wall Street Journal:

A Texas computer consultant said he stumbled upon photos of a silver-blue Z06 on the Internet and posted them that afternoon on a Corvette online discussion forum he frequents. Five days later, on Nov. 14, two men from Securitas, GM’s contract security firm, knocked on the door of his Houston home demanding to know who gave him the pictures. He said he refused to let them in, and their parting shot was “We’ll see you in court.”

As soon as the security men left, the 36-year-old computer consultant, who requested his name not be used, posted details of the visit from the “two goons,” as he described them, on two Corvette Web sites. He also posted scanned images of their business cards.

As Instapundit says, a company that gets the internet (and, I would add, the conversations going on in the blogosphere and how to take part in them) doesn’t pull stunts like that. How Lutz reacts to being Instalanched on this one will also be a pretty good indicator of whether or not GM understands that not taking part in the conversation doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t happening anyway. Let’s see if Lutz responds, from the show floor or elsewhere, and how long it takes him.

January 10, 2005
Monday
Detroit Blog City
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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So General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz is now blogging. It looks like Michael Wiley and the GM PR crew learned some lessons from their initial stumbling with the GM Smallblock Engine blog - Lutz’s blog not only has links to auto sites, but even to other blogs. And the PR people aren’t (so far) deleting the critical comments which have been posted in response to some of Lutz’s blog entries. Encouraging. It looks like Lutz is writing posts that are then blogged for him in the back-end by a PR flack or maybe even a webmaster, which is disappointing - the ease and do-it-yourself aspect of blogging is one of the things that makes it so infectious and so useful. But still, good effort on the part of Lutz.

And, of course, it’s nice to see another non-IT-related exec blogging. I have a sneaking suspicion that he is the first of many who will take the blog plunge in 2005, especially in light of this revelation from Lutz:

You real people have more faith in us than many media seem to do!

Wonderful - yet another business exec realising that talking to people through his company’s own medium (instead of relying entirely on other media) yields unexpectedly encouraging, positive results. Tell your friends, would you, Bob?

Link via SMLXL

November 24, 2004
Wednesday
GM takes our advice - sort of
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Products & Services • Brand blogs 
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A couple of weeks ago, I critiqued the GM Smallblock blog here and in the comments of this post, along with Paul Woodhouse. Looking at the GM Smallblock blog now, I see that they have taken my advice on adding author names to posts...though the posts are still marred by a “posted by guest columnist” label at the bottom. Oh, well - take what you can get, I guess.

Michael Wiley, the GM employee in charge of GM’s blogging efforts, seemed quite hesitant to take any professional advice on how to improve upon the Smallblock blog. Indeed, his response when it was pointed out that engaging the petrolheads in the blogosphere would vastly extend the blog’s reach and effectiveness was as follows:

We fully understand the network effect possible with blogs but we are in no hurry to be everywhere.

GM fully understands nothing when it comes to blogging. You don’t have to be everywhere, nor should you want to be. But you do need to engage your curve of the blogosphere, and there is no business case for not doing so.

Link via Tinbasher

November 20, 2004
Saturday
Does my company look good in this?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Marketing & PR 
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Jeremy Zawodny of asks his readers: Does reading my blog affect your perception of Yahoo?

My goal is to get a bit more understanding how my writing about my job, workplace, and employer matters.

  1. Are you a regular reader of my blog?
  2. Has reading it changed your perception of Yahoo?
  3. If you answered yes to question #2, how has it changed?
  4. If you answered yes to question #2, why does reading this affect your perception of Yahoo? If you answered no, why not?

The answers in the comments are most interesting. They vary of course, from ‘yes, you have made Yahoo! seem a bit more personal and transparent’ to ‘no, not much really, I just enjoy reading your blog’ type of response, overwhelmingly on the former end of the spectrum. Yes, yes, that’s great news for someone like me, flogging blogs to companies… only, I am not really surprised. I just wish there would be an easier way to show people what difference a bit of conversation and engagement can make. Especially for corporate and impersonal companies that lost their way to the customers in the maze of branding, advertising and PR.

November 18, 2004
Thursday
Blogging smoke
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Products & Services • Brand blogs 
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Blowing Smoke is an independent film about what men talk about when women aren’t around. And when it cames to talking, the people behind the film want to carry on the conversation on their very own blog:

This is where Blowing Smoke’s cast and crew talk about all that is related to the experience of making the movie and the technology involved. It is also a conversation with those who enjoyed watching it as much as we did making it. This blog has no non-smoking section.

And, in fact, you may notice that the entire web presence is based around the blog. You can watch the trailers, download wallpapers and movie stills and read about the cast (although some bits there still need tweaking), which is pretty much the functionality of a movie site. Only for the Blowing Smoke people it means that they can update any part of the web presence as and when they feel like it. No need to go into templates, just add a cast bio, or a sidebar link, or a download as if you were putting up another blog post. How do I know this? Coz our tech and design guru built it that way…

But the real deal is the blog, where hopefully most of the cast will talk about the film that has quite a few things to recommend it. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but I am sure that there is an audience for a film that involves cigars, poker, a scantily clad chick and an occassional firearm. All in the best possible taste, of course. grin

The producer explains his thinking behind the film, which was produced using some groovy digital technology that makes for a truly stunning quality of the picture. I hope they get to talk about that on the blog eventually.

So there it is, a film blog that intends to engage the audience rather than stream things at it. Let’s see how it goes.

image

November 12, 2004
Friday
Smallblock blog redux
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Products & Services • Brand blogs 
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I swear, I do read other blogs besides Tinbasher, Butler Sheet Metal‘s blog - it just happens that a lot of interesting stuff is being discussed there.

Case in point: Paul Woodhouse, Butler’s blogger/businessman extraordinare, and I are talking to Michael Wiley, who is in charge of GM’s Smallblock blog (which we have written about previously), about what is missing from that blog. Michael seems a little defensive about the blog, but I’m sure he wants it to work as effectively as possible - so I hope he takes on board Paul’s comments and my suggestions.

If blogging for companies was a no-brainer - and we have established that it can be damned difficult to get it right without proper guidance from experts - the Big Blog Company would have no reason to exist. If experts give you free advice, it is - to put it mildly - worth hearing us out. 

November 11, 2004
Thursday
A business blogger on why businesses should blog - and how
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Products & Services • Brand blogs 
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Blog. Don’t Blag is a great piece of blog evangelism from a business owner who has seen the benefits to his business of blogging. Paul Woodhouse - about whom we have written previously - writes:

Your web presence lies. Everybody does it. You aren’t the only one who’s built an all singing, all dancing website with more bells and whistles than a schoolful of referees whilst your actual workspace resembles a bombed-out Anderson shelter.

Initially, the ability to be able to present your business as you’ve always dreamed of is intoxicating. But it’ll come back to haunt you in the long run - mark my words. You need to present your business as it is now otherwise you’ll find yourself deluged with enquiries for work you can’t do, or worse still, no enquiries at all. Let a blog make you honest.

But what about metrics? comes the perennial cry.

Before I started up The Tinbasher again, the Butler Sheetmetal site had been bookmarked twice. This week alone it’s been bookmarked fourteen times. We’ve also received as many hits this week as the whole of August and September combined. I appreciate arguments can be made about of all this, but that’s not my point. More people are visiting the site since the reincarnation of this blog and more people want to return to the site too.

I read alot about metrics and ROI (return on investment) and I agree you can’t measure it scientifically. But let’s be perfectly frank, you don’t need to. I see hits going up, stickyness going up and, most importantly, enquiries going up. It’s out of your hands once your salesperson or sales department gets hold. But at least they’ve got something to get hold of! And don’t claim you can’t write or don’t have the time. You can look at your blog in the same way as you’d look at a business meeting with a potential client.

There is more, all very quotable - go read the whole thing.

Business Blog Chamber of Commerce?
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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I read about the idea via Tinbasher, the sheet metal blog. Strange world, interesting idea.

November 09, 2004
Tuesday
Another big biz hippo spots the blog birdies
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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Charlene Li of Forrester Research comes out in favour of business blogging in a research paper Blogging: Bubble Or Big Deal? When And How Businesses Should Use Blogs. Well, at least judging from the executive summary…

Although Weblogs (blogs) are currently used by only a small number of online consumers, they’ve garnered a great deal of corporate attention because their readers and writers are highly influential. Forrester believes that blogging will grow in importance, and at a minimum, companies should monitor blogs to learn what is being said about their products and services. Companies that plan to create their own public blogs should already feel comfortable having a close, two-way relationship with users. In this document we recommend best practices, including a blogging code of ethics, and metrics that will show the impact of blogs on business goals.

You can purchase the report for a princely sum of US$349. Or you can talk to us, the blog birdies themselves… Or you can do both. grin

November 02, 2004
Tuesday
Smallblock engine blog
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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GM has launched a blog to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the smallblock engine. Steve Hall has reviewed the blog and reports that the first entry was October 21, discussing how the Chevrolet Corvette became a sports car once it had the GM smallblock V-8 was put under the hood. Another couple posts review smallbock milestones over the last 50 years.

If GM does, in fact, have plans to launch more weblogs, the medium could gain more mainstream corporate awarness and be embraced by many more companies likely sitting on the sidelines pondering the viability of the medium.

October 27, 2004
Wednesday
Savoir-faire should not be an optional extra
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Marketing & PR 
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One of the people I met with while doing business in Paris last week was Elizabeth Albrycht of CorporatePR. It was nice to meet up with a fellow Yank and to trade notes on our respective lives as “modern nomads,” as Elizabeth put it.

Over our lunch at La Robe et Le Palais, Elizabeth related to me some of the challenges she had encountered in getting various companies to blog. Let’s face it: If it was easy to do, then tBBC would not have a business model and would not have any clients. This is what we do for a living. Even those who may be longtime bloggers themselves will generally be at a loss when it comes to helping a company to blog successfully.

I see now that Elizabeth has made some of her experiences accessible at The Kitchen. Reading through, several points jump out at me - points that are worth making to those who are trying to champion blogs for businesses.

October 20, 2004
Wednesday
Afraid to blog - afraid to talk?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs 
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Scoble has a good post about corporate fear of blogging, which he sees as an an artifact of a management system that doesn’t empower its employees to act on behalf of customers. Many people have been asking him for ways to convince their boss to ‘get’ blogging. Scoble’s answer is one word: Kryptonite.

If you don’t know the story, do a Google search for Kryptonite and “Bic Pen”. We’ll wait.

We just watched the destruction of an American brand. 75% know about it. Why? Because of one or two weblogs and the new word-of-mouth network. Yes, Engadget and Gizmodo do have that kind of power. Engadget alone has 250,000 of the most influential readers the world has ever seen.

My second question is: “What have you heard from Kryptonite about this issue?”

Not a single person has been able to tell me the answer yet (yes, they have an official response on the home page of their site, but no one in my audiences has been able to articulate the answer to me). Why not?

I went looking for the answer. I searched Google for “Kryptonite Weblog.” None found. “Kryponite blog.” None found. I went looking for executive names. None found. So, I couldn’t look up whether any of the execs had a blog.

Only a press release on the home page. No way to have a conversation. No way to tell the company off. I looked for comments from the company on Engadget and BoingBoing. I didn’t find any, but maybe they are there somewhere. Dave Sifry, founder of Technorati, tracked the Kryptonite story in the blogosphere and did some interesting graphic analysis.

Now this is a powerful example. There are more every day although not as visible and so easy to point at. For us, bloggers, this is basic stuff that we have been learning all along with daily blogging. But how do you explain this process and the emergent mind-shift to someone who has never heard of blogging? That is a challenge we face every time we get a questions “So what’s this ‘blogging’ anyway?” It is astonishing at times that there are many people in large companies who still haven’t heard about blogs although they may be in positions where it should be their job to know about blogging. Usually their job descriptions are something like head of interactive media or community managers, or customer relations etc. Sigh.

But there is more from Scoble, namely six reasons why companies should let their employees blog:

  1. People don’t trust corporations.
  2. People don’t like talking to corporations.
  3. That old “markets are conversations” thing.
  4. Which is more believeable? (A press release from, say, Ford Motor Company, or a few blog entries from the people who designed the new Ford Mustang’s powertrain.)
  5. Blogs build customer evangelists.
  6. Blogs build market momentum and get adoption.

Responding to Scoble’s observations is Michael Gartenberg on Analyst Weblog. He says that there may be good reason to be afraid to let employees blog:

There are real issues when employees blog. Some companies have very specific legal regulations what they can say or what they can’t say. Like it or not we live in a litigious society and words as we know can come back to haunt us.

He also challenges the example:

The Kryptonite example isn’t a good example either, there were issues discovered and the company chose to be silent. A weblog wouldn’t have changed that and they could have reacted without one.

I think he dismissed the benefits of the kind of communication a blog would enable too fast. A blog would have changed the way people perceive the company and how much credibility direct and immediate communication can generate and diffuse many negative reactions. Silence should really not be an option for a company in crisis, what with the flood of information, their problems are going to be discussed. Why let others tell your story? The company can become the leader of the news on the crisis (as it should be) and its communications instead of becoming a flustered, sweating and evasive victim of the hounding media (or increasingly blogs).

There is also the issue of organisational culture and as Michael Gartenberg points out not all are suitable. Agreed. He then identified three types of blogs associated with a company:

  1. Using blogs and other tools to monitor the company and brands.
  2. Official corporate blogs.
  3. Employees personally blogging but identified with the company.

The first is just common sense and staying on top of new tools. The second one is what we do. Blogging guidelines and training are essential, they bring out the best in potential bloggers and keep at bay the worst.

They need to often be careful of language used that can have ramifications down the road. It’s not just as simple as getting a copy of MT and putting out your message to the world. Establishing policy and knowing who is saying what is critical. There are worse things in the world than not having a weblog and corps are right to tread lightly and to carefully establish policies and rules before they jump in.

Exactly, the legal dos and don’ts now need to be explained to blogging employees. To me it can only be a good thing to treat them as intelligent agents and educate them in the consequences of their actions. The word empowerement springs to mind…

As for the third one, employee personal blogs that are not directly sanctioned by the company is indeed trickier, however, as Michael points out a policy on personal blogs should go some way to manage the potential risks.

All in all, the benefits of blogging outweigh the risks, which is not to say that the risks should not be mitigated. That is why we have spend considerable time trying to understand the legal implication of this new medium and its impact on company communication. Oh, and have a section on bloglaw manned by our trusty blawger, David Carr.

October 12, 2004
Tuesday
Contented Cow
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Products & Services • Brand blogs 
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Yeah, it is a blog! The proprietor, Norman Butler, uses blogs to promote both his pub, the Contented Cow and his Indian restaurant, Chapati.

He publishes his menus, events, blogs about events, adds pictures, even moblogs. It looks like there are contented customers in there somewhere.

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