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Business communication transparency through blogging

Posted by annplugged on May 3, 2007

My friend, and husband Attila has called my attention to a Wired article on The See-Through CEO, basically about the need to open-up as an enterprise to engage in any public discussion, or even better, to engage in business (2.0) at all.

Clive Thompson:

“it’s a cultural shift, a redrawing of the lines between what’s private and what’s public. A generation has grown up blogging, posting a daily phonecam picture on Flickr and listing its geographic position in real time on Dodgeball and Google Maps. For them, authenticity comes from online exposure. It’s hard to trust anyone who doesn’t list their dreams and fears on Facebook. So maybe it’s not very surprising that at firms like Zappos.com, the rapidly growing online shoe retailer, CEO Tony Hsieh can experiment with levels of disclosure that most executives would consider freakish. A company-wide wiki lets staff members complain about problems and suggest solutions.”

While reading the article I recalled some moments when I was blogging for my ex-company (a Hungarian search marketing agency) on the official company site that has been turned into a blog (partly because of my encouragement, and personal experiences as a private blogger). Needless to say, it was a completely different thing to blog for my workplace than blogging for myself (a private blog on search marketing, web tech and online media issues). Whenever I wrote a corporate blogpost, I asked my boss to read it through, and give a green light to it. Asking for permission in itself was strange – compared to my former personal freedom. Most of the time, he just said ‘great, go ahead,’ however, there were other times when he asked me to highlight a certain thing (give a sales pitch, for instance), or not to write about something, as ‘the market is not mature enough for such things yet,’ etc. We were working in increasing competition, and he was eager to level the message at points his intuition indicated as thresholds.

So, reading Thompson’s article in the light of going through months of ‘corporate blogging’ I have quite mixed feelings. Total transparency? Personally, I wouldn’t suggest it to everyone, to all enterprises – not in the first round, if they feel fear. But it is well worth testing some gradually growing pilot projects whether open-ended communication through blogging works for that particular company, and if so,

  • when (continuously or just for certain campaigns, periods),
  • how (team, individual, semi-controlled, free-rein etc. blogging),
  • by whom (the PR person/ team, or anybody who has time, or anybody the CEO wants to have time…),
  • on which platforms (The Official Site in its entirety, or just one pale link from the front page hidden at the bottom, or independent privately held blogs linking back to the HQ blog),
  • under what policy (anything goes, anything except for the dirty dishes and strategic points, professional articles mixed with personal experience, or topic of the week/ month, or mostly survey type posts etc.)
  • and so on, and so forth

And it is well worth not giving up after the first few negative experiences. Blogging is scalable, so there is room for experimentation on various lines. In the long run, the aim is to reach constant, consistent, co-operative and conscientious communication with all of the stakeholders.

There are three basic things to pay attention to in the pilot projects for entrepreneurial blogging:

  • what are the objectives of a specific pilot period (choose possibly one solid goal)
  • what are the topics to be covered in blogposts and for what audience (ideally for our customers, including suppliers, stakeholders, employees etc.)
  • how is success measured?

But back to Thompson: “It’s not secrets that are dying, as one reader named gjudd noted, but lies….Which illustrates an interesting aspect of the Inter net age: Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system. And that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.” Strongly agree.

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