The rise of the blogger as the world’s most powerful influencer has been well documented in this column.
But when it comes to corporate blogging, firms need to be aware that harnessing this power may require a thick corporate skin.
To establish credibility, employees blogging on their company’s website must demonstrate their independence potentially by criticising their own organisations or its associates.
So how far ‘off-message’ should we let our staff go when it comes to corporate blogging?
I can feel PR and legal departments quaking in their boots at the thought of uncensored content appearing on their corporate websites. But to reap the rewards blogging can bring, control needs to be largely relinquished.
A corporate blog should be a human voice from within the often seemingly inhuman organisation. So much self-service and automation has been deployed by corporations that a blog is rare opportunity to prove there are reasonable, likeable people behind the machines.
However, not too likeable. Without vitriol, a blog becomes as bland as a press release, without getting as much coverage. But why court such controversy on your own virtual doorstep?
Apart from the massive search engine boost, there is brand-building mileage to be had. A company’s values are inherited from the people who work for it, or so the theory goes. Employers need to set a tone-of-voice for their corporate blog that suits their brands. Quirky, honest, innovative, playful or humorous all can work depending on the target audience.
Then there is the question of whether to allow readers to leave comments. The legal and PR departments are in a cold sweat at the thought of letting the public write on their websites. A corporate blog should be a conversation between a brand and its consumers, and without comments, there is no dialogue.
A certain amount of moderation is obviously needed to prevent profanity and libel, but largely comments should be posted unedited.
Addressing individuals’ gripes in public is a sure fire way of extinguishing the spark of a customer service issue before the viral nature of the web turns it into a major blaze.
Moreover, you can use your corporate blog to prove your critics are being unreasonable or gain valuable insight into your shortcomings.
But always remember, corporate blogs can be a risky business for both of you if your company can’t handle the truth.