Posted by Amanda Chapel
Survey of Fortune 1000 Released
This just in... According to the findings of a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, senior executives at top companies don't think corporate blogs are a credible corporate communications medium. Last February a sampling of director-level and above executives at a cross-section of Fortune 1000 companies were surveyed. The study found that only a small minority of top executives think that blogging is growing in credibility either as a communications medium (five percent), brand-building technique (three percent), or a sales or lead generation tool (less than one percent).
The survey also found that:
But apparently blogging is now appearing on the corporate radar as a potential threat:
Actually, the above is based on a purified revision of a PR release Wednesday, "Fortune 1000 Senior Executives Slow to React to the Growing Credibility of Corporate Blogs." The Benjamin Disraeli quote comes to mind, "There three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." It never ceases to astound me what PR does with numbers. The essential fact is that as of April 18, 2006, only 29 (5.8 percent) of the Fortune 500 reported active public blogs written by their employees about the company or its products.
AND FOR GOOD REASON! The hierarchical and command-and-control natures of business are essentially incompatible with blogging. Period. They are slow to react to it as a credible corporate communications medium because THEY DON'T THINK IT IS A CREDIBLE MEDIUM. IT'S A THREAT!
To position it as "Senior Executives Slow to React to the Growing Credibility of Corporate Blogs" is elitist hooey. To even suggest that you want to compare the business smarts of senior-level corporate execs with the likes of the rag-tag PR Blogger "A List," is just plain silly.
This is a fucked-up case of a surreptitious proposal begging for facts to support it. Typical in PR, it is seldom if ever a matter of facts that coalesce to form a story. It is a story motivated by a hidden agenda that looks to find or create facts to rationalize it to a target customer audience.
Here, mixed in with the release, listen to the words of the PR firm that sponsored the study, Makovsky & Company. EVP, Robbin Goodman said:
But Robbin does have a clue apparently:
See... PR firms have a single motivation when recommending various communications tactics or tools, i.e. MONEY. Blogging represents a whole new potential vein to mine. If they get out in front of it, as it is communications related, they can be the rightful heirs. It promises a windfall! Some are not so coincidentally calling blogging PR's "killer app."
But, what they fail to realize is the Net, blogging or otherwise, is essentially a dis-intermediation machine. The very thing these self-proclaimed "pioneers" want to lay claim to it, will likely send them packing.
One final comment with regard to Makovsky's release. Not two months ago, the president of Makovsky & Company, Ken Makovsky, wrote and article titled, "Truthiness." The word, chosen by the American Dialect Society as the 2005 "word of the year," refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wants to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. Makovsky said, "People are playing fast and loose with the facts in an attempt to sound credible but, in reality, the most credible position is always the truth. Tell the truth! Take the facts and present them to the advantage of the organization you represent. But don't play with the facts and craft something that's not the truth... just something you wish were true."
I believed him.
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Corporates slow to react to blog credibility gains
A survey out last week shows that while Fortune 1000 companies are aware of blogs and blogosphere they are failing to recognise the growing credibility of blogs as a medium and few have blogging plans or policies in place.Â The Makovsky 2006 State of ...
Weblog: Strive Notes
Tracked: May 08, 08:19
Corporate Execs Thumbs Down on Blogging - What Are They Scared Of?
Earlier on today, and through one of the many mailing lists that I am subscribed to, I was pointed to the following weblog post by Amanda Chapel: Corporate Execs Thumbs Down on Blogging for some interesting and controversial reading on...
Weblog: elsua: The Knowledge Management Blog
Tracked: May 08, 19:50
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Bill Gates was sceptical about the internet in the early 90's. He was wrong and so are the invariably embalmed corporate executives. Cluetrain anyone?
At the end of the day, they make the law, they own the lawyers and they have all the money.
To assume that execs are embalmed is some kind of preposterous elitism? They are not "embalmed" by any means. They are going to protect what they own.
Cluetrain has its points. It also has its limitations. Man's got to know his limitations.
Charles: Money in the conventional sense doesn't matter anymore in this economy. there is anew currency - reputation.
As you as aware, I am a huge fan of yours. But that pitch beaned the batgirl in the visitor's dugout. Seriously.
One word. Google. In the next 5-10 years, everyone on the planet will have been indelibly fucked up besmirched on Google. Reputation? Forgetaboutit. Reputation with whom?
Money is all that matters. Everything else is window dressing.
Don't understand the meraphor as I'm a a Brit but I'll assume it's a side swipe that basically says' 'you're a numb nuts on this one.' To your substantive point. Shall we exchange current bragging rights on the demonstrable value of building and maintaining reputation? Google is not a big factor for me, now or in the immediate future. But then I'm not anally attracted to Big Boys. Sometimes skinnies can be just, if not more, valuable to both myself and the community at large.
And I didn't say there wasn't an economic payoff. Of course there is. Otherwise I'm urinating in the wind in the hope of developling an unsustainable case for non-carbon fuel generation.
But then you knew that Amanda...
Sidebar and for the record: you are probably my favorite writer on the planet presently. :) All good Dennis. All good.
To the point of reputation, it is but one form of currency. There are many. Money is universal.
Send me scheckels - I'm sure I'll find some drug dealer to take them.
Send sheckles, i'm sure I can find some Russian brothel keeper to exchange them - for discounted â‚¬. And all at Yahoo! prices - no trading floor required.
Getting back on topic (if there is one) William Gates is a corporate icon with just a few shekels and employs more than a few corporate executives of the type outlined in the original post.
Now is the proposition being asserted above (before the calumny that emerges later) that the Microsoft model of money-is-stronger-than-reputation, more so than that of Serge and Larry's. Because they came about from nothing. Which I think was my original point.
(Embalming suggests a certain stiffness and is undeniably justifiable elitism)
I wrote about this a little back in early April. (I'm thinking about getting some half-nekkid glamor shots done to see if I can get a few more engaged readers. Any tips?)
In the meantime, I agree with you and add a couple of related thoughts. Here's what I wrote:
Corporate blogging on a slow boil. As it should be.
Leading corporations aren't exactly rushing like rabid hyenas toward Blogsville. Not yet, anyway.
A current count shows that only 27 -- less than six percent -- of the nation's Fortune 500 companies maintain public business-related blogs that are written by employees or management.
As you might expect, 19 of those 27 companies are in the technology, Internet and other geek-related arenas. And for every corporation in any industry using blognology to engage the marketplace, there are a dozen more wasting it on insipid marketing promotions and grip-n-grin spin.
There's no doubt that web journaling will evolve to walk upright into the corporate toolbox. That's a given. Many industry leaders without official blogs are actively drawing up plans to launch their own efforts soon.
But even more companies of all sizes are taking a logical wait-and-see approach. These are the same folks that took their sweet time to launch a web site, connect vendors to an extranet and give voicemail to employees. A lot of them have been around for a long time thanks in part to this mentality. They aren't going to let anyone rush them into the next big thing.
So when it comes to blogs, they're happy to let others figure out how to manage the process, stay out of trouble and pull tangible value out of the chaotic, mostly irrelevant clutter of 32 million neighbors.
Most successful companies will come to embrace blogs as part of their broad business strategy. In the meantime, however, they'll ignore the false urgency of flacks and self-appointed experts who sell blogs as the end results of themselves.
. . . . . .
I think that it comes down to a fundamental understanding of the corporate animal. Is it conservative or liberal in nature? Conservative is the pyramid and command-and control-structure; liberal is the flat model where the corporate boundary becomes amorphous and your customers become a part of the amorphous org.
Now the blog evangelists will tell you that blogging is the cure to all the earths ills. These are the same liberal and elitist thoughts that think democracy is just a universal good that must be supplanted by force. Nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. Certainly, you'll find liberal corporations that do well. Better as a rule? Nonsense.
It comes down to this: The corporation at its very core is about property. It's my stock. I own it. I hire people to pick my apples. There's not a lot of conversation necessary. Actually, if they're standing around talking about picking apples, they're probably not picking apples. As to conversation with my customers, not only is it not necessary, it invites rabid criticism and gives it a huge platform and presumption of "credibility." Why would I do that? To produce more apples? Nonsense. To grow better apples? Nonsense. To sell more apples? Nonsense.
Not so. The original assertion has segued into a political delineation when the opening premise was much more salient. Lets take a step back:
Hypothesis: Corporate Execs don't believe in the influence of blogging.
Response : Corporate Execs are not necessarily consistently smart: cf Bill Gates' underestimation of the Internets potential in the early 90's
Post Rationalisation : They don't have to be smart they move on money; a higher intelligence.
Side Show: Reputation is the new money (Comment: Money is speech, and thus reputation which is now easily Googled. Warren Kremer Paino Advertising just learnt this lesson)
Counter Response: If so how does an upstart like Google ever supplant the all powerful corporate pyramid? If money protects unconditionally, than why not it's own territory as a starting point?
Answer: Corporate Execs aren't consistently smart. They are invariably risk-averse, hierarchy addicted and slow to identify continental shift as opposed to tactical change.
Synopsis: Media has invariably been a top down mono directional model of content to consumer. The trend towards collaborative media content i.e. bi-directional, is inescapable and time will only prove that if it hasn't already. Money will always 'talk', but outside of the emerging corporate mortuaries a large community of media-emancipated thinkers have evidently identified other values outside of monetary wealth acquisition as their motivation. Honest, I'm not making this up!
Property, law, money... these are the pillars of the system that allows for democracy and its byproduct "social conversation." If you dare dilute any of the three... you lose the system and its byproducts.
Here... imagine the world where someone else's speech could assume your property. Imagine begin harmed and the law you rely on for just relief is easily manipulated by your adversary to your detriment. Imagine blogging in exchange for products.
Blogging, and the like, has its place. But it is grossly overestimated by those that have a vested interest in the power shift that it anticipates. That's all.
A vested interest is the state or condition of having a special interest in protecting or supporting something for the purpose of self-interest, gain or benefit, often financially or politically. I gain if I continue to make 30 second commercials. But I'm more interested in the new dialogue and the conversations that are emerging.
Just a thought.
Here's a way to look at blogging from the c-suite: Stalin was quoted as saying that there was no such thing as problems, per se, people are the problem.
Now rethink the push for broad-market "conversation." Very select and managed maybe but the idea of broad is a silly myth.
In case you missed my response to your comment on my post about the survey:
http://insidethecubicle.blogs.com/blog/2006/05/big_businesses_.html , I thought I would share it here for your readers.
I agree that the idea that companies are "slow to react to blogging" is a mischaracterization in many cases. Certainly, some companies are aware of blogging and have simply chosen not to actively publish their own blog.
However, I vehemently disagree with you on several points:
1. Companies don't get to decide whether blogging is a credible medium, consumers and journalists do, and already have in many cases.
2. Regardless of these particular numbers, every survey has revealed that senior executives at major companies express a lack of knowledge and/or confusion about new media. To say that they are making an informed strategic choice to avoid blogging is clearly not the case.
3. None of your arguments excuse the companies who are turning a blind eye to blogs. People are blogging, whether companies want them to or not, and that can have real consequences in terms of the brand and the bottom-line.
I'd think you would give me a little credit given a) I pointed out that these numbers are largely bogus b) I never argue that every company should have a blog, only that companies should consider all the communications tools available to them, so they can select the ones that make sense.
1. They certainly do get to decide whether blogging is a credible "business" communications medium and it what form that will take.
2. To assume that corporate execs are in some ivory tower and disconnected is oddly elitist. They are us.
3. Wrong. I not only excuse them, I agree with them. Inviting a mob into the c-suite is just silly thinking.
With regard to giving you credit... I apologize.
These are my beliefs:
Conversations in the market place are going to be taking place regardless of whether or not Fortune 1000 CEOs are blogging.
Monitoring and participating in these conversations is good for business.
Blogging in and of itself is not the MarComm cure all.
There are some industries in which blogging yields little or no results (read: not all businesses need to be blogging).
The overall efficacy of blogging will be proven over time.
You told me that, "Bloggers have to stop drinking their own cool aid." Might I suggest that you drink a bit of the blog water?
"Blog water" sounds a little like "bong juice" to me.
Okay, how about this: rather than deciding that any company who blogs is brilliant or any company that doesn't is an elitist, grasping, power-monger, let's look a little at the reality.
The reality is:
1. Nobody knows how to use blogs to directly generate revenue for the company (as opposed to advertising for the blog).
2. While blogs can produce some PR from time to time, frankly, nobody is sure exactly what the purpose is of having an official, corporate blog.
3. Large companies are inherently of a sit-back, "let's see what happens" attitude. This saved innumerable companies a ton of money during the dotcom era. After all, they have the money to jump in full force whenever they want to.
4. Anything done corporately with a blog is, given the information above, an experiment. More companies should experiment, but few do.
5. Blogs are difficult on a corporate level because they generate too much traffic / conversation to be reasonably readable. It is more realistic to have a "Purchasing Blog", "Manufacturing Blog", etc.
6. The second that blogs start to generate money for the core business, 99 out of 100 companies will have blogs out the wazoo.
7. While the pioneers get the arrows, the cost of blogging is low, so the companies that are playing around with it now are likely to get it right 1st and get a ton of PR as a result.
Just my simple-minded thoughts...
Dan, Some nice level headed points. However we were talking about the issue of dialogue driven revenue just last night and I can assure you that not only are there both tangible and intangible ways of creating revenue/stripping costs though Brand Blogging but they are much more salient in terms of creating strategic direction for Corporate Boards to heed the advice of the customer base and stakeholders.
It's not that hard if we all just sat down and thought about issues such as NPD, Qualitative and Quantitative Primary Research Methodologies and say listening to great ideas from people who use and love your products and/or services. Conversations empower people and that's a good thing for all concerned.
Well said (and I agree), but decidedly from the PR / Marketing view of the world.
As I'm sure you're painfully well aware, there are a number of companies with Boards of Directors who dismiss the value of "conversations" held with anything other than a credit card in hand.
To me, it is these companies that are giving blogging the big "thumbs down".