Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More From BlogWorld: Corporate Blogging

As promised, here is more from our learnings from the BlogWorldExpo. Again, we think that blogging and social media participation will become imperative to your successful direct marketing strategy.

One of the first sessions that I attended was on CEO and Corporate blogging. Needless to say, this was a very interesting session. Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book, did a great job of moderating the session. Corporate bloggers on the panel consisted of Jennifer Cisney from Kodak, Pete Johnson from HP, John Earnhardt from Cisco and Paula Berg and Brian Lusk (AKA BlogGirl and BlogBoy) from Southwest Airlines. So, all in all, a good cross-section of Corporate Bloggers.

Here are some of the key learnings from this session -- and we think, excellent ideas to consider when pondering whether or not to start a corporate blog.

  • Blogging is the beginning of a new revolution. Those corporations not jumping into it are not doing so because they are either fearful of losing control or of being criticized. Those who are should not be . . . the bottom line is that you set the rules for your blog and can control it. Think of it as your editorial channel and a great way to get the good word out about your company. In addition, you are providing an excellent opportunity for your customers/potential customers to not only get to know your company but to actively engage them to participate and interact with your company.
  • CEO Blogs rarely work -- except for Mark Cuban's (see yesterday's post). This is because many CEO's simply aren't the best writers and/or communicators. However, you can definitely highlight your CEO in your corporate blog by including his or her insights or interviews with them from time to time on your blog. Some even ghost-write for their CEO's -- and anyone at the conference can attest that this is, indeed, quite the controversial topic.
  • There are different ways to go about creating a corporate blog -- and all are equally effective. For example, HP has over 50 blogs. Anyone at HP who wants to do a blog within HP can. They are careful to keep it to a technical discussion of their products and keep customer service out of it (i.e., they refer customer service questions to the customer service department). Cisco also encourages employees to host a Cisco blog in order to participate in meaningful discussions with their audiences. And, here, the Cisco CEO does both participate and see the value of this -- he does one video blog per week. Kodak does it somewhat differently -- they have employees post poignant stories of how they've used Kodak products. You can imagine it -- how getting your photos out when your house burns down helps to ease the pain of loss, the pictures taken during the birth of your children, etc. Very cool blog. Southwest uses their blog to run ideas past their customers -- trust me, I'll be commenting on their latest numbering system. It turns out that I was a big fan of the cattle call.
  • Moderating your blog is a must to protect your brand. Most companies allow people to post pretty much anything -- but most moderate the comments to get rid of swear words or personal attacks. In addition, if your company issues a press release, it's a good idea to blog about it so that people have the opportunity to comment about it. Southwest did this for their new seating idea and immediately got 700 comments -- they got immediate and passionate feedback from those who vote with their dollars -- their customers. How valuable is that? Talk about direct marketing -- this is as direct as it gets!
  • In order to have an effective Corporate blog, you have to have an inside evangelist to take a leading role and convince the leadership that it's worth it. Most corporate bloggers contribute along with doing their real jobs. All panelists seemed passionate about their blogs and insisted that everyone involved really wanted to be involved. They also said that it's important to ensure that your blog is deliverable by email. Sometimes the RSS feeds are behind Corporate firewalls, so those who may wish to subscribe to them can't.
  • Your culture is important. If you are like Southwest whose culture allows the employees to take risks, your blog will probably be more successful than a company who is more risk averse. Also, blogging can make your company very transparent. So, if your corporate culture isn't all that great, a blog is probably going to expose that fact. It may be wiser not to blog if this is the case. : )
Overall, this session was just full of great stuff to ponder. I hope you've gleaned some good ideas from this post on launching your blog -- Corporate or otherwise. For more on this session, please see another great blog -- The Scratching Post. You'll love KT Cat -- I know we do!


K T Cat said...

Great post! I'll throw you a link right now.

Nancy Arter said...

Thanks KT Cat! And right back at ya!

Ted Grigg said...

Awesome post Nancy.

Blogging encourages what is now an essential element of building the brand. It puts the company’s personality and the firm’s real people in the mix.

But most importantly, top management at the sponsoring company gets closer to its customers and leaders learn a lot about how they relate to the organization’s products.

What are customers feeling about the company? Keep it genuine and open. And don't fear the complaints.

If even a few customers complain about the same thing, then deal with it openly in the blog.

Customers know the company is not perfect. They just want to know that officers of the company are not ignoring them and dealing seriously with the real issues.

Talking with such customers in the blog openly demonstrates the company really cares what its customers think.

Keep those terrific blogs coming.


Nancy Arter said...

Hey Ted,

Thanks for the kind comments -- and you are right on with your ideas. It was interesting to see the take of large corporations and the different ways that they approached blogging.

I agree with you about being open to your customers and how this can actually create customer satisfaction by giving your customers the opportunity to voice their opinions. In fact, Southwest really believes in this. At times, when something controversial has gone on, they'll get up to 2,000 comments on the subject when blogging on it. By effectively moderating these types of discussions, you can really nip issues in the bud and create loyal, interactive customers.

I just love the idea of it -- Thanks again, Ted!

fiat lux said...

Here's a question to ponder: is a bad corporate blog better than no blog at all?

Nancy Arter said...

That IS an interesting question! I'm betting there will be lots of differing opinions on this one. My opinion is that if you can't or don't have the ability to create a great blog, it's probably better to not have one at all.

It sort of gets back to the whole corporate culture argument . . . if you have a bad or unhealthy culture, it will become readily apparent through your blog. As I stated in the post, a blog makes your company more transparent. So, if it's a bad blog, I think that certain conclusions may be drawn about how that correlates to the products and services your company sells -- and that would be even more detrimental to your company than having no blog at all.

That's my humble opinion . . . : )

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Jeremy Lichtman said...

I've followed Mark Cuban's blog for a while. I think that an articulate CEO can make a very powerful statement by opening up a channel to the public like that. Its an extension of the effect you get from reading Berkshire Hathaway's annual reports - deep insights from the horse's mouth.