How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications

[fr] Notes d'une conférence que je viens de donner à Zurich sur les blogs en entreprise.

As promised to the participants of this (Monday) evening’s event, here is my slideshow of the talk, notes, and links. note: notes written up on the train on the way home, I hope the links aren’t too broken and that it makes sense; let me know in the comments if there is anything weird.

Thanks to everyone for participating so well :-) Please feel free to add notes, comments, further questions, things you took away from the talk in the comments to this post.

note: the beginning of the notes are roughly what I said; questions and answers are not included — there were lots; I gave an accelerated version of the second part of the presentation, as we had talked a lot, and actually, covered much of what was important anyway.

For links related to corporate blogging, see those tagged corporateblogging and 20070924 for those linked to today’s talk. Click on the “related tags” on the right to explore further.

I’ve added slide numbers in brackets roughly when they appear. Not that the slides are that interesting, of course…

[1] [2] Blogging is a tool that brings dialogue, and the point of this talk is to see how that happens in a corporate context.

[3] Two main aims:

  • understanding the “bigger picture” blogging is part of
  • practical advice on introducing blogs into a business setting.

[4] As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not a Powerpoint wizard, so won’t be dazzling you with fancy slides and lots of buzzwords. I’d like to have something approaching a conversation with you. I’m obviously expected to do quite a lot of the talking (that’s what I was asked to come for!) — but you know lots of things I don’t, and you’ll have comments and questions. Please ask them as we go along… I’d rather go off-track from my presentation and be sure to address the things you’re wondering about. note: and yeah, that’s exactly what happened! got so caught up in our conversation that I lost track of time! This way of doing things, you’ll notice, is related to what blogging is about.

[5] First, I need to know a bit more about you. I know you’re communication executives and I’m told you’re already familiar with blogs — that’s a start, but I need more:

  • who reads blogs?
  • who has a blog? (personal, corporate, work-related?)
  • who is blogging this talk? (nobody — hopefully in 2 years from now, half the room)
  • who uses a feed-reader (NetNewsWire, BlogLines, Google Reader)
  • who is in a company that uses corporate blogs?
  • who has employees/clients who blog?
  • who has read The Cluetrain Manifesto? Naked Conversations? (required reading!)
  • who is in a company that is blogged about? do you know?

[6] Before we get to the meat (practical stuff), let’s clarify

  • what is blogging?
  • where does it fit in?

There’s a lot of confusion there.

Blogging is:

  • a tool/technology
  • a culture
  • from a business point of view, a strategy

Different layers.

Blogs@Intel · Intel Corporation

[7] Using just the “tool” layer often fails, because it’s just publishing “official communications” in a different wrapping. And official communications are boring — I hope I’m not breaking the news to anyone. Example of this: blogs.intel.com. Not very exciting.

I think a lot of corporate blogging failures can be attributed to stopping at the “tool” aspect of blogging, and underestimating the cultural aspects.

Listening and Learning Through Blogging

[8] Example that gets the “culture” layer: Listening and Learning Through Blogging on McDonalds’ CSR blog.

I’ve just finished my second posting, and I’ve realized how much there is to learn about the blogosphere. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other blogs, listening to what others are saying about what we’re doing, and picking up some suggestions along the way. (McDonalds’ CSR blog)

From a business point of view, adopting blogging is a strategic decision, because it impacts the culture. It’s not just a shiny tool we can use to do the stuff we do usually, it’s linked to deeper changes.

[9] So we’re going to concentrate on the “culture, strategy” side of blogging, which is the first part of this presentation. So we’re going to have to backpedal, zoom out, and look at the big picture: [10] The Internet, The Cluetrain Manifesto.

So, what’s the Cluetrain about? It started as an online rant, and grew into a book in 2000. It’s still valid today.

Basically, the Cluetrain says that conversations are happening, inside and outside your organization, and they can’t be stopped.

[11] People are tired of being talked at. They (inside: employees; outside: customers) are too busy having [12] real conversations with their friends, people they know and trust. Offline as well as online. They won’t listen to fabricated discourse (a lot of marketing). I know that when I receive my bank statements, I’m interested in how much I’ve spent, and the flyer giving details about my bank’s latest service goes straight to the bin. What about you?

[13] These conversations are everywhere. They’re talking about you — you the companies. A lot of our day-to-day conversation is about brands, consumer products, services… These conversations [14] can’t be controlled. Control is a big issue when it comes to corporate blogging.

Is communication something you control? Are conversations something you can control?

[15] We know how important word-of-mouth is in marketing, and in the shaping of buying decisions we make. We listen to our friends (people we trust) way more than advertising.

Do great stuff. Care. Let people know. They’ll talk about you.

[16] Blogging is about jumping in there, being part of the conversation. And this conversation is bigger than just blogging.

Not that easy, but not that hard: remember what it is to be human. To be passionate about something. To care. Bring that into the conversation.

So the important question becomes: how will this fit into my corporate culture — or not? Is it compatible?

[17] What I mean by corporate blogging: blogging that has to do with corporations, businesses. Blogging beyond the tool (culture). Everything is possible.

  • internal
  • external
  • one author
  • multiple authors (group blog)
  • very official
  • unofficial
  • employee blogs
  • news outlet (with the danger of missing the “culture” and falling back into the “just tool” use)

[18] Some quick examples of real “corporate” blogs. A lot of damage control in my examples — one thing blogs are good at.

[19] Who should blog?

Corporations do not blog. Humans do, people. You can’t remove the person from the blog. Businesses with a “do the right thing” attitude. Enthusiasm needed! [20] Bad guys shouldn’t blog. Businesses who mistreat customers and employees shouldn’t either. Not if you’re dull or cheesy or very controlling. (See Naked Conversations, pp. 134-138.)

[21] Why should one blog? Very important question.

  • to communicate differently, humanise the company
  • not just another channel to push the same tired message through.

Where does blogging fit in strategically? => who, what exactly…

See possible objectives here. Basically, anywhere there are people doing things. Except probably high-confidential security stuff.

[22] How?

You want to get blogs going for all the good reasons, but how does one

  • start blogging [23]
  • blog well? (ongoing work!)

No real “one size fits all”. Many answers to this, depends on the situation/culture of the company in question.

Some general answers, however.

[24] Check out the corporate blogging 101, very precious stuff there.

enable blogging. Encourage employees to blog. Blogging is a grassroots phenomenon, but it needs support form the top. There are maybe people already blogging — find them, and use them to encourage more blogging.

[25] have a purpose (that important Why? question). Don’t blog to blog. Figure out what current needs can be adressed by blogging. You can start small:

  • event?
  • product?
  • “news”?
  • project?
  • office life?
  • expertise on one topic?

This is very context-dependant. Need to understand the context well to be able to choose/advise wisely.

Careful! If you’re using a blog to post the usual “official communications”, you’re missing something.

[26] learn the culture: this is the big bit. Listen to bloggers (online and offline, in-house and out). Get training (this is where it’s worthwhile to put your money, as you’ve saved on expensive software).

Before going to India, I studied the culture, but it couldn’t prepare me totally for what I found when I went to live there. You need to go to a foreign culture to really “get” it. Blogging is a foreign culture.

Learning to blog well can take time. Not everyone is a natural. Ongoing effort!

[27][28] Remember, blogging is about Me & You, having a conversation.

  • dialogue
  • relationship
  • people

[29] Listen. Read blogs. Read comments. Be open. Get a feed-reader.

[30] Passion. Believe. Be passionate. If you’re not interested, it’ll be boring.

[31] Style. HUGE subject. How to write on a blog. It’s difficult.

  • write for the web
  • use “I”
  • use links, make your writing 2D instead of 1D
  • informal
  • short paragraphs
  • simple, direct language
  • no jargon or corpspeak
  • tell a story, as if to a friend
  • author name, but don’t sign posts like e-mail

[32] Time. Don’t kid yourself, it takes time. Commitment. Easily an hour a session, a few times a week. But it’s fun :-)

If you try to remove any of these ingredients, I doubt your blog will be successful and survive.

Best practices?

[33] DO:

  • eat your own dog-food
  • trust your bloggers
  • read other blogs
  • be part of the community
  • use a feed-reader
  • link! even to competition, negative stuff
  • be human
  • learn the culture
  • use an existing blogging tool
  • discuss problems
  • define what is really confidential
  • give existing in-house bloggers a role (evangelists! learn from them!)
  • tag, ping, use the “kit” and other social tools

[34] DON’T:

  • try to control
  • use a ghost-writer or outsource blogging
  • “roll your own” tool
  • ignore established blogging conventions, they’re there for a reason
  • copy-paste print material in posts
  • use corpspeak
  • force people to blog
  • write happy-clappy stuff
  • write blog posts or comments as if they were e-mails (starting with Hi… and ending with a signature)
  • be faceless (signing with the name of the company instead of the person)

[35] FUD: fear, uncertainty, doubt. Cf. Naked Conversations pp. 140-145 for discussion, really, it’s all there:

  • negative comments
  • confidential leaks
  • loss of message control
  • competitive disadvantage
  • time-consuming
  • employee misbehaviour
  • ROI absent…

[36] ROI of blogging (google for “ROI blogging” — without quotes). Comes up often (need for quantitative measurement), but still very debated topic. Respected experts all over the map, from “it doesn’t/can’t apply” to “here is a way to calculate it”.

Distinguish:

  • hard returns
  • soft returns

There is a return, it’s a worthwhile investment, say those who do it. How to measure it is another story. Sorry :-(

[37] A closer look at some examples… coComment [disclosure: ex-client]:

coComment blog -- Corporate Blogging Example

[38] Read the first sentence… what is wrong here? Not a human speaking. Don’t post press releases as blog posts. You might cite them, or link to them, or comment on them, but don’t stick them in there as posts. How does the reader think his “feedback” will be received when he’s being spoken at to start with?

coComment -- Corporate Blog Example 1

[39] Privacy concerns raised on other blogs. Good to address the issue and respond, instead of hiding! (it would just get worse… cf. Kryptonite). “Click here” looks bad, though, and hints that the medium (blogging) isn’t really understood.

coComment blog -- Corporate Blogging Example

[40] OMG. What is this doing here? Did somebody smoke something? First-time author on this blog — an introduction would have been more appropriate.

coComment blog -- Corporate Blogging Example

[41] Note that this is a multi-author blog, which is usually the case with an “official blog”, though often there will be one “main author” who carries it. Apology for painful upgrade, that’s good. E-mail-like signatures on each post, however, again point to incomplete understanding of the culture.

Flickr: great example (and great photosharing service too, sign up today).

Flickr Blog -- Corporate Blog Example

[43] Look at that outage notice. It’s fun! Really fun. And there are updates. Two of them. As a user/customer, I feel that they give a damn.

Flickr Blog -- Corporate Blogging Example

[44] Coverage of what’s going on in the community. Blogging is a lot about community, nurturing it.

Flickr: it's not just blogging

[45] Here, a forum post. It’s not just about blogging, remember the “bigger picture”? But same kind of attitude. How you engage with others in the community. Treat them as people and not like numbers. Look at how well this issue is documented, with links and all — and this is a “problem situation”. We’re not shoving the dirt under the carpet here.

Moo note: if you got a business card from me, this is where they come from!

MOO | Blog -- Corporate Blogging Example

[46] So, this is a promotional posting (ad, marketing, oh my!) but look… it feels like she was e-mailing a friend, rings true.

Up for debate (bloggers will tell you “yes”): can you feel if somebody put his/her heart into a post?

[47] Closing notes:

Blogging is a strategy. Deep change in communications. Not pushing a message anymore, but

  • conversations
  • relationships
  • trust
  • people

The question to ask is:

Is my company/department/team ready for this?

Blogging is a grassroots phenomenon, so bottom-up (you can’t force people to be passionate about something and blog about it), but needs support from top-down. There are maybe already blogs in your company, and you might not know it!

Read The Cluetrain Manifesto and Naked Conversations to start. (I’m serious.)

Eat your dog food. If you’re going to introduce blogging in your company, you need to start blogging — before. Open a WordPress.com account and start writing about stuff you’re interested in. Use your blog as a backup brain, writing things as they occur to you. For you first, and for sharing with others in case it’s of interest to them.

Blogging is technically cheap, but culturally expensive.

[48]

Some extra stuff, off the top of my head (some from off-presentation discussion):

Blogging tools: WordPress, Movable Type and Typepad (SixApart), Drupal.

Looking up stuff in blogs: use Technorati or Google BlogSearch. Use Technorati Cosmos to see who linked to a given blog post.

The “Because Effect”: I make money because of my blog, not with my blog.

Discussion of trust and reputation in the blogosphere. Auto-regulating medium.

A few sketches I made while preparing this talk, but didn’t use:

Cluetrain 101 Sketch 1

Cluetrain 101 Sketch 2

Cluetrain 101 Sketch 3

Open-sourcing the invitation copy.

Good example of an “event blog”: LIFT conference (and go to the conference, too, it’s a great event).

promotional ;-) note: if you would like to have me come and give this talk (or another!) elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. This is one of the things I do for a living.

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This entry was posted in Connected Life, Corporate, Social Media and the Web and tagged blogging, blogs, Blogs et entreprises, businessblogging, cluetrain, companyblogs, corporateblogging, employeeblogs, Events, examples, notes, Online Culture, présentation, screenshots, slideshow, Social Software, talk. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications

  1. Connie says:

    Hi Steph Thanks for the entertaining and lively event yesterday – it was great fun and a wonderful learning experience at the same time. A job well done! Connie, MScom Alumni

  2. serena says:

    Hi there, Missed the meeting yesterday evening – and now catch-up through Connie’s wrap-up e-mail. Wow! Great, wish to really learn more about this. It is the first time I got involved by just reading the day after about the event! Steph seems to really know what she is talking about – I will have more question for her. Many thanks for this ‘catch-up’ opportunity… serena

  3. Stephanie says:

    Connie, Serena: thanks for your kind words. It was a pleasure meeting you all, and I’m really happy about the great discussion we had!

  4. Barbara says:

    Hi Steph Your presentation was just excellent, also the documentation in your Blog. I guess the fact, that a “Blogging-Freshmen” like me just writes the first comment in a Blog says more than words. Thanks again, Barbara

  5. Luc says:

    Bonjour Stephanie, Mes connaissances en anglais ne me permettent pas de tout comprendre ;-) (c’est surtout un peu long…), mais je suis touché de lire que la vie d’un Domaine viticole genevois peut-être un exemple de “corporate blog” ;-) ) Au plaisir

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  10. MB says:

    Bonjour, merci pour cet article intéressant que je viens de découvrir. Il y a encore un potentiel de développement important pour les blogs d’entreprise : selon une première approximation réalisé par mes soins, 90% des entreprises du CAC40 ( les 40 plus grandes entreprises françaises cotées en Bourse) n’ont pas de blog ( voir mon billet “le cac blogue-t-il ?” http://www.moncar.net/2007/10/le-cac-blogue-t-il.html )

  11. Stephanie says:

    MB: mais qui en doutait?

  12. MB says:

    certes Stéphanie, mais le pourcentage de 90% est néanmoins frappant, et d’autant plus frappant pour ceux qui baignent dans la blogosphère – et dont je fais partie – qui peuvent avoir l’idée erronée selon laquelle les blogs sont désormais un outil massivement utilisé par les entreprises.

    De même l’outil bien plus simple que sont les flux RSS est bien souvent ignoré.

    Aussi je reste très prudent lorsque je lis des articles ( “sap et le web 2.0″ http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/10/sap_web_20.html ) sur l’irruption des réseaux sociaux dans l’entreprise, qui sont des phénomènes encore plus structurants.

    Je pense que tous ces outils et ces usages portés par la vague du web 2 peuvent apporter beaucoup pour les entreprises, et (surtout) pour les gens qui y travaillent. Mais force est de constater aujourd’hui que ce phénomène en est encore à son balbutiement – du moins en entreprise.

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  16. Jon says:

    Excellent presentation Stephanie, very useful. I with I had found this earlier as I have just written an article for a local IT/Media business network and would have linked to this! All the best…

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  22. greg says:

    I like point 21 – about how blogging can help humanize the company. The importance of this is something few big corporates understand. Max Soutter wrote great article about here – http://bizsetup.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/the-trap-of-corporate-speak-aka-gibberish/

    How and by the way, i ABSOLUTELY loved the Clue Train Manifesto. Probably the best book written yet about the fundamentals on how marketing 2.0 really works.

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