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The risk of blogging

When I speak to audiences, one of the most popular questions is how a company can deal with the “risk” of allowing employees to blog. I like to tell people that there is no risk at all with blogging—none. Rather, it’s an absolute certainty that someone will eventually do something stupid. The question is what do you do about it when it happens, not how to prevent it. Because the only way to prevent the damage is to give up the monumental benefits that come from improved brand image and improved customer relations that stem from the human face that blogging puts on your company.


But I also recommend that you have blogging policies that lay out what is allowed and not allowed. And I was brought up short on that while reading David Meerman Scott’s new book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. David apparently sent me his new book months ago (with a nice personal inscription which pointed to his mention of me in the book) and it got tossed onto my stack of books that I swear I will read some day. (That stack is a fire hazard.) Well, I have been doing a lot of traveling lately and I dipped into the stack and grabbed David’s book and found that he had personally sent it to me. (Such are the joys of being a D-list blogger, I guess.) So I rescued it from the pile of books from Amazon and I have been reading it—it’s terrific.
David modestly says that some of the chapters could be skipped if you already understand this stuff. Don’t! Even experts can learn things here. Because I didn’t skip his chapter on what a blog is, I had my eyes opened to a great point about blogging.
David says that it is not necessary to have a blogging policy. Instead, have a policy that covers employee behavior regardless of the media. So, for example, employees must not divulge confidential information and they must not sexually harrass anyone. Not just in blogs, but using any means.
That is so simple and it makes so much sense and it covers any new thing that comes along, not just blogs. (You proabably don’t want employees harrassing anyone on Twitter, do you?) I wish I had read David’s book before I finished mine so I could have fixed that piece of advice. Well, there’s always the second printing.
David also has a great point on the “risk” of blogging. He asks if you allow your employees to send e-mail. It’s a great question because so many companies were slow to adopt e-mail because of fears that corporate secrets would be divulged or that employees would insult customers and ten other scary things that lawyers are paid to obsess over.
Are the lawyers wrong to worry? No. But we must train our employees to behave properly rather than walling off employees from our customers. So, do your employees send e-mail? Even to angry customers? If they do, then expect some of those e-mails to get posted on blogs—to be made public in some way—whether we like it or not.
We might as well accept that marketing and PR can no longer be left to the specialists. Yes, marketers and PR professionals are the experts and must lead those activities, but they must also evangelize, train, and coach the rest of the company to engage with the public, too. The communication experts must communicate within the company to teach communication to all employees. That way those employees can blog, participate on message boards, and interact directly with customers—always knowing how to conduct themselves to help the company’s image.
Does that risk errors? Yes. But the biggest error of all is to hide from the conversation and expect that customers will somehow respect that. They won’t. In fact. they may even get mad. So do a search for your company name. Is the #3 result yourcompanysucks.com? If it is, it’s time to start listening, to start engaging, and to start responding. And if you’re one of the lucky companies that has no hate site, maybe you can reduce the risk of one starting up by doing the exact same things.
And a great way to start is by buying David’s book. Blogs don’t have to be scary and David’s book is full of ways to get the most out of blogs, whether all you do is read ’em, or you take the plunge and start writing one yourself.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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