To blog or not to blog – that’s the question

Blogs (weblogs) are more popular than ever.
Apart from supplying a plat form for personal opinions or promoting a cause, bloggers have also voiced their opinions about the companies they work for, office politics and products and services.
As a result, some bloggers have been fired from their jobs for what they thought were innocuous posts.
Blogs show up in search engines – sometimes a blog has a higher ranking than the company that is discusses.

News is often posted on blogs with comments, which makes it hard for PR department to monitor or manage it.
The media go more and more directly to the blogging staffers to get hot news from the horse’s mouth, thus neatly bypassing the official company spokesperson.

Especially investor relations departments are having legal nightmares – an innocent remark on a blog (including the corporate one!) can reveal critical info to the general public before investors are being informed.
David Hornik wrote an interesting article about the legal complications on ventureblog.

For companies that consider starting a corporate blog, there are some items to take into consideration.

Does having a blog fit the corporate image?If blogging is not standard in the industry that the company operates in, it might be wise to consider if being a blog pioneer is appropriate.
In the case of Google (owner of blogger.com), having a corporate blog makes perfect sense.

What are the benefits or having a corporate blog?A blog might be a better and more efficient way to be in contact with the target audience.
Stone Creek Coffee introduced its blog to enhance customer relations.
Asking the advice of blog readers on a new product idea is an efficient way of doing market research.
It is also an efficient way to give information to (potential) customers and directly target their need for specific information.
A good example is the Ford blog on the safety of its Mustang.
However, just having a blog for spreading news might not be the most efficient option.

What are the expectations of the blog?
The company and its employees must know what the blog is all about and support its goals.
A blog is only useful when it has added value to the company.
It should never replace another avenue.

Who can blog?The company must define who can blog – depending on the goals.
Sales should blog if the goal is product information.
PR should blog if the goal is more transparency and branding.
Marketing should blog if the goal is market research.
Microsoft allows two of its employees to blog for the purpose of recruitment:
Gretchen Ledgard, a senior technical recruiter at Microsoft.

Who manages the blog?
It is crucial that one department (corporate communications/PR) manages the blog entries and comments, as well as the frequency.
The blog is another marketing/PR tool and should be comply with the corporate brand and style.

How does the company blog?Since the blog is part of the whole corporate branding, it is important that the writing style is in sync with the other corporate collateral, including the corporate website.
Similar to newsletters, the blog must follow a certain format: length, content, contact details and frequency.
An interesting case study is the one of Cheskin.

In short, a company blog can be a great addition to the marketing and PR mix when handled properly with a sharp eye on trends and legislation.
Since blogs are dynamic, they must be managed well and in sync with the corporate guidelines. Due to legal ramifications, the company must make sure that there are strict guidelines and procedures.
The corporate communications department should be in charge, working closely together with the different contributing departments as well as the legal and human resources department.