Lurking Sharks, Looming Dangers – Corporate Bloggers Beware
Jason Teitler, Partner Porter Novelli
The Rising Tides of Corporate Blogs
Blogging has been a communication medium of choice for social free thinkers, political activists, community builders, evangelists and journalists for quite some time now. Through blogging, allies are sought, communities developed and the corporate world policed. Many corporations backed themselves into the blogging world to find staff ranting about their employers and sharing trade secrets with critics and competitors who use the information to inquire, attack and analyze.
Quickly, the rising tide of blogs and bloggers loomed their way into corporate communications departments and caught the attention of senior management, who realized that they simply could not ignore this highly-networked sphere of influence. Even now, for many corporations, the blog ocean still seems murky and turbulent, and many wonder if it is time to dive in and embrace, or simply turn away.
Dangers of the Blog Ocean
Without strategy or proper counsel, many corporations jumped into the blog ocean only to find lurking sharks and other dangers. Some have heeded warnings of information riptides and hustled to find solutions to deal with the strong current of inaccuracies, attacks and threats as well as ways to shift through the opportunity available. Some of the solutions considered include setting up their own corporate blogs, participating in and posting comments on other blogs, pitching bloggers, and monitoring this space for brand and industry coverage. Some of these tactical steps were met with success, while others failed, and sometimes at their own brand’s expense. The upshot is that many corporations remain uneducated and unfamiliar about the benefits and dangers of blogs.
Thanks to a cluster of pioneering corporations, there are some key lessons-learned for those considering or conceiving their corporate blogs. A recent joint-study by Porter Novelli and Cymfony, a market influence analytics company, surveyed corporate blog owners to shed light on resource management and best practice of corporate blogging programs. Here are some highlights of the findings:
- A clear majority of respondents (63%) report that they started their corporate blogs because they felt the need to participate in the medium, rather than to satisfy a specific need.
- The majority of companies surveyed (76%) indicated that they have noticed an increase in media attention and/or website traffic as a result of their blog(s) — suggesting that corporate blogs may be attracting a new and somewhat untapped online audience.
- Despite general success, 71% of respondents are not happy with the level of interaction on their blog(s).
The report suggests that corporations that have successfully leveraged the practice of blogging, specifically by setting up their own blogs, were those who have set and reached specific communication objectives. For many others, however, there were expensive lessons-learned and yet others that need to be taught, including the following:
A well-thought-out strategy is paramount to successful blogging.
Many bloggers practice only “freedom of speech” while embracing “responsibility of speech” when it becomes convenient to their cause. In the autonomous world of blogs, very few boundaries or rules exist. Corporations need to recognize this fundamental characteristic and use it to master communications in this environment to protect the company’s brand and reputation.
Blogging is integral and influential towards corporate communications.
Blogs could be used as an asset for or a weapon against the company and, since blogging does influence other forms of communication, including media relations and internal communication activities, it must be monitored and nurtured so that message management doesn’t get unwieldy. Remember, any blog posting can be reported on, linked to or commented on by the media and the general public.
Blogs have to be frequent, current and genuine.
To realize the full power of blogs, corporations need to be active and bloggers need to post frequently so that the level of reader interaction is continuous and engaging at all times. Without rich, updated content, blogs simply cannot achieve what they are set out to do – fostering ongoing, interactive dialogues.
Strategy, Strategy and Strategy
Many companies recognize and acknowledge the importance of blogs and find it a powerful medium with incredible growth potential. Unfortunately, not many of them have identified clear and measurable objectives around their blogging activities. The blog ocean, though a highly volatile environment, has a unique place in the communications mix. Transparent communications, not marketing messaging, is required of blogs. Developing a strategy and dedicating resources to build momentum is key to blogging success. The blog ocean may be full of sharks and noticeably dangerous, but it may not be absent of rewards if you tackle it with the right strategy.
Jason Teitler is a partner with Porter Novelli and an expert in experiential marketing including alternative media, interactive and blogging. Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org