This page looks at corporate and government blogging.
It covers -
Mainstreaming of blogging - and reduced opportunities
for digital gurus after the excesses of the 1990s boom
- have been reflected in emergence of the corporate blog
or enterprise blog.
It is a phenomenon that has arguably attracted more theorists
and observers than actual practitioners, with a proliferation
of academic seminars, self-promotion by corporate blogging
enthusiasts and often uncritical reception by members
of the blogosphere. Estimates of uptake by business and
non-government organisations are problematical, as much
is presumably taking place behind firewalls on corporate
Corporate blogging has essentially taken two forms.
The first is blogging within organisations, sometimes
characterised as 'organisation memory', 'knowledge
blogs' (aka k-logs or klogs) or 'competitor intelligence'
It aims to capture an organisation's tacit knowledge,
provide a readily accessible repository of expertise,
facilitate project development, provide an annotated clipping
service about developments outside the organisation or
merely serve as a new communication mechanism across offices
The second form is blogging directed outside
the organisation, aimed at building a bridge between the
organisation and its customers or other stakeholders.
Such blogs have variously reported on a particular enterprise's
activities or sought to engage the interest of consumers
in a specific brand or product.
There are few accepted benchmarks for assessing the success
of uptake by organisations. It is unclear whether corporate
blogging delivers better results than traditional mechanisms
for sharing information or, more broadly, for building
a positive corporate culture.
blogging within organisations
Inevitably, media hubbub about blogging has been exploited
by the business consulting industry.
A range of pundits have accordingly explained how large
organisations can -
their tired internal newsletters (in print or electronic
formats) and blizzard of memoranda with a corporate
knowledge management (KM), organisation memory (OM)
and collective activity across units/locations through
group blogs published on the corporate intranet, supplementing
or replacing information sharing through mechanisms
such as Lotus Notes
teams ("the blog on your intranet is a club-house
... a tree-house for your people, where everyone can
competitor intelligence, equipping executives and staff
with a flow of news items or other information from
outside the information and enabling those readers to
'value add' by commenting on such news feeds
marketing through a blog aimed at readers outside the
effectiveness of such prescriptions is uncertain. As we
noted above, figures about intranet blogs and wikis
are contentious, if only because most are protected by
corporate firewalls. Few organisations disclose their
existence; fewer still provide an indication of costs
In considering blogs aimed at employees it is unclear
whether an intranet blog crafted in the internal public
relations unit or by the CEO's executive assistant will
be seen as more appetising, authentic or trustworthy than
current offerings. Blogging as a mechanism for sharing
expertise among staff - discussed later in this profile
- may be attractive simply because most technical manuals
are indigestible (although identifying the content and
status of information in a manual may be easier).
There are few serious studies about work-group implementation
and many of the statements about perceived benefits appear
to have been adapted from problematical assertions about
the value of blogging per se.
One "blog evangelist" for example argues that
voices can appear — In every workgroup there are
those who are outspoken and comfortable expressing themselves
in meetings, and there are those who aren't. When group
conversations are limited to vocal interactions, the
group often misses out on the opinions of those who
are shy or quiet. With the weblog as an additional communication
outlet, the voices that are rarely heard in meetings
may open up through writing. People who aren't comfortable
speaking on the spot may find the asynchronous nature
of the blog more appealing. Someone loath to suggest
an idea in a meeting may feel perfectly comfortable
proposing it to the group via the blog. The removal
of face-to-face conversation changes the dynamic of
the interaction, and that results in different conversations.
suggest that some voices might however be wary about going
on record: a spoken comment during a meeting is unlikely
to be as permanent as text that is accessible on the intranet
of a national or international organisation. Having a
keyboard - or a corporate treehouse - doesn't mean that
everyone can write or wants to play.
on organisations to
everyone in your firm ways to speak online in public.
Blogs, bulletin boards, wikis, whatever. Let them write
about anything. They spend 2000 hours a year working
for you so life at your company will bleed out into
the world through a multitude of personal voices.
help write thought pieces to guide the organisation
on a strategic path. Bloggers can collect and connect
information and provide useful overlays of context.
A UK government enthusiast embraced David Wyld's vision
in 2007, proclaiming that "blogging could become
a whole new style of management" (alas referring
to past quick fix fads such as 'management by wandering
When this idea was proposed in the 1980s, wandering
meant phyisically being someplace - a factory floor,
a store . . . or an employee or constituent's office.
But to be an effective leader today, we must wander
a question of corporate culture
Michael Herman perceptively notes that "for those
that have been around long enough, blogging is another
instance of the 'technology wheel of reincarnation'",
on scope for overplaying the analogy of corporate blogging
and water cooler conversation.
interaction is nothing like water cooler conversation.
Blogging is inherently neither two-way nor conversational.
Rather blogging is a high-tech version of bathroom graffiti
that enables a person to:
scan (and optionally read) thousands of cubicle walls
with little or no effort, and
b) during a moment of contemplation, add a few new
scribbles to their stall wall
blogger Philip Su apologised that
in the bowels of Windows (the business), there remains
the whiff of a bygone culture of belittlement and aggression.
Windows can be a scary place to tell the truth.
blogger reflected comments earlier in this profile, suggesting
companies don't see the value of having people document
anything, much less their daily thoughts. Mostly this
is an ROI problem (or a perceived one). Writing good
documentation is hard; writing a weblog that is worth
the company time it takes to write it (remember, most
people won't write on their own time to benefit the
company) is also hard ...
If somebody is a good writer, they're probably not going
to be using that energy for the benefit of the company;
they probably have their own weblog out there that talks
about stuff they really care about, or some other creative
project outside the company's control
of the hype about corporate blogging is an echo of misplaced
enthusiasm for groupware (from which few organisations
have secured the expected returns) and more broadly for
knowledge management, highlighted in works such as The
Knowledge Web (London: Kogon Page 2000), Working
Knowledge (Boston: Harvard Business School Press
2000) by Thomas Davenport & Laurence Prusak, Knowledge
& Communities (London: Butterworth 2000) by Eric
Lesser, Michael Fontaine & Jason Slusher and Davenport's
Information Ecology: Mastering the Information and
Knowledge Environment (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1997).
It also assumes that all organisations are the same or
- with a dash of klogging
- could be.
Many organisations are poorly equipped to launch and maintain
work unit blogs or wikis because there are
champions within the organisation or its peers
that blogging is not 'real work'
inability, in practice, to measure the return on investment
about the autonomy of authors
about responses if particular text is disputed or inappropriate
substantial existing investments in groupware (ie in
licensing, hardware, training of users and management
mechanisms) and content management systems
culture that doesn't support autonomous information
collection and expression, particularly to readers outside
Some intranet blogs, for example, have only come to public
attention when particular posts have expunged or the organisation
has belatedly developed a policy on internal and external
blogging. In 2005 Microsoft announced that it was "abbreviating"
Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs on its site and
in syndication, claiming a "bandwidth crunch".
It had earlier fired a temp who had naughtily hosted snaps
of Apple computers sitting on a MS loading dock. As part
of the big crunch MS ceased providing the full text of
MSDN posts via RSS, requiring the audience to follow a
link. Sony BMG on the other hand announced in 2007 that
all senior "creative" staff would be expected
Such concerns have not deterred specialist businesses
that offer to manage the corporate blogging process or
even ghost a blog on behalf
of a work group or the wider organisation.
One of our more irreverent clients compares that process
to 1970s experiments with poets in residence - creativity
was apparently supposed to diffuse from "an unwashed
zany longhair" and be absorbed by osmosis - and the
adventure training found in organisations that fell victim
to the paintball-&-chainsaw zeitgeist.
Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses
Talk with Customers (New York: Wiley 2006) by Robert
Scoble & Shel Israel exemplified euphoria about blogging
as an unprecedented mechanism for breaking down barriers
(or merely dissolving old institutional forms and large
corporations). By mid-2008 reality had hit, with Israel
seems to be a growing sense that social media just ain't
what it used to be that it too, is starting to emerge
as yet another wasteland for product pushers and shameless
is hardly surprising, given the shamelessness and self-interest
of many self-described blog evangelists.
from the front
A blogging advocate asks
Imagine the internal individual blog of a charismatic
CEO. Instead of (or in addition to) those Friday afternoon
pep talks and the monthly e-mailing of the vision statement,
what if the CEO was constantly communicating with the
organization through her weblog? The informal tone and
personal nature would move beyond the image of CEO as
corporate figurehead, and reveal the CEO as a human
is an attractive image. We wonder, however, whether reality
might be more difficult.
Would the staff retrospectively savour the musings of
the CEO about loneliness at the top - or the chairman's
exhilaration about racing his 72 metre yacht - on hearing
that a division is to be eliminated or offshored to Bangalore?
What if they are all able to scribble on a cubicle wall
... and interact with members of the public or competitors
who can read the digital graffiti?
The New York Times commented in 2006 that
the technology field, only one other Fortune 500 company
has had a C.E.O. who has called himself a blogger, John
P. Mackey of Whole Foods Market. Mr. Mackey has made
a total of six posts over the course of 10 months, and
these consist of reprints of speeches and interviews
and similar materials created originally for a different
purpose. Using blogging software to park a reprint once
every two months does not a blog make.
And would bloggers within a government agency bother to
put paws to keyboard if they knew that comment about the
latest budget cuts or bold ministerial initiative would
be identified and expunged by a corporate PR or IT unit
that has never embraced the 'tree-house' model?
Those concerns - and anxieties about inappropriate disclosure
of sensitive information, personal defamation, exposure
to liability or misplaced criticism of competitors - are
not restricted to blogs.
They are the same issues that have inhibited a range of
corporate media such as newsletters and have proved resistant
to prescriptions by Freire, Bakhtin or Michel de Certeau
evident in works such as Christine Boese's 2004 paper
The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling
for a Knowledge-Log Revolution, with claims that
a hidden and newly awakened army of interactive participants
who may be experiencing the kinds of unsettling (to
the powers that be) critical consciousness that is within
the goals of an increasingly democratized culture
blog comment on that paper hails de Certeau's
of the "wig" - a diversionary tactic, in which
workers pursue their own agendas on company time (without
actually pilfering, or being unavailable for "real"
work should they need to reprioritize)
concept that will gladden the hearts of Negri & Hardt
but presumably not delight managers and colleagues in
most SMEs or large organisations.
In practice much 'human face' writing appears to be like
the following gem
from Demos ("a greenhouse for new ideas") -
of the coolest pieces of kit in our new office is by
far the saddle stitcher on our Canon. Alright, so I
may be alone in my evangelism, but it does do one thing
very, very well. It prints pdfs as A4 and A5 booklets.
For that matter, drop in a stack of single-sided pages,
tap a few keys, and after a bit of rumbling it spits
out a nicely folded, properly paginated, double-stapled
book -- while using only a quarter of the paper you
management guru Jerry Bowles offered five reasons why
CEOs shouldn't blog -
"Just as CEOs dont do their own television commercials
they should not blog. Blogging is a form of public performance
and unless you are a natural ... you might embarrass
yourself and your company."
2 "Blogging is timeconsuming. Unless you can spare
and commit to the three-to-four hours a week that it
will take to write a couple of decent posts, don't do
it as you'll end up with a deserted blog"
3 Legal hurdles - "You may come up against intellectual
property issues, possible defamation claims or unhappy
employees or customers chasing common-law tort action
4 "Fading fads ... the CEO Blog has been over-hyped
and may not age well"
5 "The foot-in-mouth syndrome ..."
Wyld's 2007 The Blogging Revolution: Government in
the Age of Web 2.0 (PDF)
instead offers "10 Tips for Blogging by Public Sector
1: Define yourself and your purpose
2: Do it yourself!
3: Make a time commitment
4: Be regular
5: Be generous
6: Have a "hard hide"
8: Dont give too much information
9: Consider multimedia
10: Be a student of blogging.
CEOS and celebrities appear to be deciding that it's all
too hard (or that, unsurprisingly, their time is better
spent elsewhere) and are accordingly relying on ghost
The US Blog
Council, established in 2007 as "a community
for official corporate blogs and bloggers that represent
major global corporations", announced that
blogs, small-business bloggers, and blog experts don't
face the same business issues that we do.
• We need to speak for our corporations while
being a responsible member of the blog community.
• We have to speak for a corporation, but never
• We have to reconcile the often contrasting rules
of corporate communications and blog etiquette.
• There are few resources specific to the unique
needs of this community.
And we have to learn how to do it live, real-time, in
the public eye.
from legitimating the new 'corporate blogging professional'
the grandly-named Blog Council aspires to act "as
a strong advocate in support of responsible, ethics-based
corporate blogging", presumably with the same credibility
as advertising councils have supported "responsible,
The ongoing market for 'reinvention' of government (particularly
through application of the latest communication tool or
management fad, is evident in suggestions that blogging
can bridge gaps between votes and their elected representatives
or energise an inward-looking unresponsive bureaucracy.
Wyld indicated that
we can develop a typology of four different types of
blogs for public officials.
First, the Travel blog: These highlight elected officials'
travels in and around their district or jurisdiction,
or perhaps foreign trips.
sceptic might question the wisdom of publishing accounts
of an MP's labours in the Bahamas while the voters and
subordinates shiver in Buffalo?
Wyld continued by proposing -
Second, the Blow-by-blow blog: These emphasise reports
from elected representatives while their respective
deliberative body is in session. In this way, officials
can update constituents on the status of pending bills
and other actions.
Third, the Personal blog: These provides elected officials'
views on particular issues, perspectives on events,
and/or updates on their activities and even those of
their families and friends.
And fourth, the Team blog: these allow a caucus or group
of elected representatives/officials to share a blog.
... Creating a common site reduces the burden on individual
officials to administer the blog, while creating the
prospect for more frequent updates because of the number
of contributors to the blog.
A final option for blogging by public officials is to
post on other blogs rather than maintain one of their
own. By posting on such a third-party site, such as
that of a newspaper or magazine, the official is freed
from having to maintain the blog. However, once a post
is made to another blog, the member does lose control
of the ability to control the message and the comments
made to it.
notes that "there is often skepticism among readers
when any famous name appears associated with a post as
to authenticity". Quite.
2004 and 2005 saw chatter in the blogosphere about blog-related
firings, ie dismissal of employees for comments made in
Contrary to some hysteria at that time there does not
appear to have been an "epidemic" of dismissals
in Australia, the US, Canada or elsewhere.
That has variously been attributed to -
relying on persuasion rather than terminating what one
contact characterised as "gabby staff"
use of non-disclosure agreements in firing personnel
reliance on other justifications in dismissing employee
(eg the offensive blog post may have been the real reason
for departure but the employer used other reasons in
identifying why the blogger was let go)
rarity of egregious posts by employees and a sensible
attitude by employers in dealing with inappropriate
or even indifference on the part of employers regarding
what personnel are posting on company time and on a
purely private basis.
Blog-related exits are discussed in more detail later
in this profile.
Forward-looking organisations seeking to avoid unpleasantness
have typically developed protocols covering blogging by
Sun for example has issued guidelines (PDF)
on blogging by its staff, with "important rules"
that include -
Do not disclose or speculate on non-public financial
or operational information. The legal consequences could
be swift and severe for you and Sun.
2. Do not disclose non-public technical information
(for example, code) without approval. Sun could instantly
lose its right to export its products and technology
to most of the world or to protect its intellectual
3. Do not disclose personal information about other
5. Do not discuss work-related legal proceedings or
controversies, including communications with Sun attorneys.
6. Always refer to Sun's trademarked names properly.
For example, never use a trademark as a noun, since
this could result in a loss of our trademark rights.
7. Do not post others' material, for example photographs,
articles, or music, without ensuring they've granted
appropriate permission to do this.
on such guidelines includes 'Untangling The World Wide
Weblog: A Proposal For Blogging, Employment-At-Will, And
Lifestyle Discrimination Statutes' by Shelbie Byers in
42 Valparaiso University Law Review (2007) 245-91,
'You Got Fired On Your Day Off?: Challenging Termination
of Employees for Personal Blogging Practices' by Aaron
Kirkland in 75 UMKC Law Review (2006) 545-568.
Other pointers are here.
Print publishers and conference organisers have arguably
made more money from books about blogging than actual
bloggers. Primers for corporate bloggers abound; most
are distinguished by chutzpah and enthusiasm rather than
They include Blogging for Business: Everything You
Need to Know and Why You Should Care (New York: Kaplan
2006) by Shel Holtz & Ted Demopoulos, The Corporate
Blogging Book: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
to Get It Right (New York: Portfolio 2006) by Debbie
Weil, Publish and Prosper: Blogging for Your Business
(Indianapolis: New Riders 2006) by DL Byron & Steve
Broback, Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging
(New York: Butterworth Heinemann 2007) by John Cass and
The Blogging Church (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
2007) by Brian Bailey & Terry Storch.
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