Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Blogging for Business - Boom or Bust?

I've been trying to figure out for some time whether or not blogging will become a significant business tool.

Blogging is cheap, it's personal, it's interactive, it's immediate. There's an intimacy and honesty to blogging - so far - that you don't find in most business communications. It is superb at connecting people of like minds and opinions. But will it tie business closer to its customers?

I think it can - but it has to be done exceedingly well, and that’s the stumbling block. To communicate consistently in a compelling, warm and strategic manner is asking a lot of any business person – especially the busy CEOs who are being urged to take personal responsibility for their own blogs.

Which, to my mind, creates a clear and sustainable advantage to any CEO who does like to write, who enjoys communicating both personal and corporate messages, and who is capable of doing it for more than three weeks before losing interest. Obviously, I don’t think there are a lot of people like this out there.

Still, here's a contrary opinion. Susan Solomon has a story called “Attention, CEOs: It's Time to Blog,” at the always useful MarketingProfs site, http://www.marketingprofs.com/5/solomon1.asp. (Be warned: link may be time-limited.)

Solomon, a communications prof in California, makes three interesting points. First, corporate governance rules are promoting “transparency” in corporations today: what’s more transparent than a company official writing every day?

Second, she says, blogging supports businesses’ other current obsession: “branding.” “A blog provides a daily (or weekly, if more doable) report of a company's activities. It's an opportunity to demonstrate how the brand is regularly "lived out" by the organization's leaders.”

And finally, blogging can mean a lot to one of your most neglected customer groups: your own employees. “Internal audiences also want to hear from the top brass,” says Solomon. “In some organizations, the only instances when employees hear from their chiefs are during the holidays (the cheery ‘here's your gift certificate for a turkey’ note) and when cutbacks are looming (the dreaded ‘these are challenging times’ letter). A blog lets employees know what's happening in their organization and helps manage messaging, sometimes usurping the all-powerful grapevine.”

I hope she’s right. In my experience, though, businesses that can communicate consistently, honestly and interestingly are rare.

And raising employee or customer expectations unduly may be worse than doing nothing at all.

But what do you think?

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