Posted by Phil Hall
Thou Shalt Not Bore Me with Corporate Blogs
I would like to make a statement that many PR people will view as apostasy: I think corporate blogs are, on the whole, a waste of time.
I would also like to make a statement that many social activists will cringe over: I love shopping at Wal-Mart.
Why do I love Wal-Mart? Simply because I am able to buy essential item at significantly lower prices. Anything from printer cartridges to aspirin to motor oil to padded envelopes to cans of sliced pineapple – I always enjoy my shopping experience at Wal-Mart.
And what do I think about the official Wal-Mart corporate blog? I have no opinion to offer because I never looked at it, nor do I have any desire to do so. This is not intended as a slur against the Wal-Mart corporate communications office, but it is plain common sense – I don’t give a flying fuck about the PR puffery of the blog. I just want to save money when I go shopping.
Let’s be frank: who’s the real audience for corporate blogs? The average consumer? Hardly! People like me are looking for quality goods at reasonable prices. Reading the blog posting of some CEO ruminating on this-and-that is of no value to folks like me.
And is the corporate blog audience is designed for the benefit of media observers? Let’s be frank, does anyone genuinely suspect the CEO is going to sit down and blithely bang out a 500-word blog post, then submit it online without anyone else seeing it first, and hope for the world is amused? Obviously, the media observer differentiates reality from fantasy, and everyone knows these postings are heavily vetted by committees of lawyers, risk managers, and other corporate officers who don’t want to see red flags flying outside of their windows. According to an article in the Connecticut Post, some insurance companies have started to build professional liability policies that cover comments made on corporate blogs.
And what about the investment community? Yeah, can you imagine the SEC giving the thumbs up for publicly-traded companies using blogs to communicate with investors?
And what about the haters? You know, the This-Company-Sucks.com crowd. They can use blogs to vent their spleen, in the feedback sections (provided one exists – if it doesn’t, then the blog is strictly a digital monologue and not an online conversation venue). But, hey, who wants to give that bunch a platform? Let them create their own blogs (which, of course, they have).
This is not to say that corporate blogs cannot be inventive. Last year, Wells Fargo created a fascinating blog highlighting the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. The bank, which is limited by regulations on what it can publicly communicate, used the blog format for historic purposes and created something that was genuinely fascinating and quite different.
Then there’s a smallish nutritional supplement company out of Ontario that I wrote an article about last year called Fusion Nutrition that has a corporate blog written by Chris Belanger, the company’s vice president of sales. That serves as more of a real blog rather than a corporate communications piece, with Belanger venting on a variety of subjects (I particularly liked his posting “Snap, Crackle, Pop” that detailed a soccer-induced broken ankle – complete with a photo of the cast-covered ankle and a none-too-happy Belanger). I must say that I enjoyed reading the blog, although it never inspired me to buy any of their products.
But beyond those examples – sorry, but I am not aware of corporate blogs being used as anything more than a poorly-disguised sales vehicle. If you know of some genuinely clever examples of the format, please share them here – I would love to learn about them and have a reason to change my negative opinion.
(Phil Hall is the former president of Open City Communications, a New York PR agency, and former editor of PR News. His latest book "The New PR" will be released later this year from Larstan Publishing.)
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Previously, I worked for a regional economic development organization. With the mission of telling the world about the business climate in our region - Orlando - we were constantly pitching and having reporters ask us about business trends and innovative companies in our area. We created a blog, which hasn't been maintained since I left, as a way of filling this need. The target audience was media and the subject was just about anything we felt would be of interest to them. Of course, this doesn't lend itself to a lot of comments, but we did make that option available. You can find the blog at http://orlandoinnovators.blogspot.com/.
That is a major problem with blogs of all types (corporate, personal, industry observer, etc.): getting it started is too easy and keeping it going on a regular basis is not.
For dealing with media, I would prefer to have an online press room (complete with high-res photos of all relevant corporate executives, products, logos, etc.).
Thanks for joining the discussion!
I disagree. I've created corporate blogs that work, but the commitment and content are the primary issues to make these successful. If you have some CEO yucking off about his company then it will fail. If you create a subject matter blog that means something to a constituency, then it works. Why? because people ALWAYS want good content.
How do you equate purposeful dialogue (i.e. control) with loose "conversation"? How do you equate loose conversation with good content?
Not that corporate blogs are boring, but I want to hear about this:
March 16, 2007
SORRELL CLAIMS SMEAR
WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell told a London court that he was the target of a vicious hate campaign by Italian executives of the company's FullSix media company unit in which they called him and a female executive "the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo," according to a report in the Times of London.
Good God! Two good great fights in one day. I though we were great communicators.
March 16, 2007
MURRAY CALLS WEBSITE 'INACCURATE'
Bill Murray, who joined PRSA as president and COO on Jan. 22, late in the day on March 15 sent an e-mail to an estimated 500+ "leaders" accusing odwyerpr.com of "a long series of editorials which are inaccurate."
Said Murray: "It's time we say, 'enough is enough.'"
He said the website's "constant and repetitive questions" are "frequently accompanied by abusive language and threats" and have caused PRSA to "divert valuable resources."
That is a new strategy! The last time I checked with the PRSA, they just looked at O'Dwyer as being a silly gadfly.
I think some of the best corporate blogs are those run by product managers and customer service people. Dell's blog would be one such example. Adobe blogs. Macromedia starting blogging in 2002 as a way to get information quickly out to their customers, maybe not consumers, but developers. Those developers want the latest on new technology developments and also give feedback on products.
Heather Hamilton's blog 'one louder is a good example of a corporate recruiting blog. I've interviewed blog readers for the blog and they enjoy it.
MASI bike guy blog run by Tim Jackson is another good blog.
The Indium blog by Dr. Ron Lasky is another blog.
I think there are a lot of examples out there, but as you say some people just don't bother to look.