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The Perils Of Corporate Blogging

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-03-28

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With any topic, there are believers and nonbelievers, and the rest float, agnostically bounced from pundit to protestor. The role of the blog in corporate communication channels is no exception. An open door is a chink in the armor; a human voice is a liability.

Microsoft's voice in the blogosphere is Robert Scoble, co-author of the corporate blogging book Naked Conversations. Widely considered by many a pioneer in this realm, Scoble caught the ire of many after a weekend rant against an Australian journalist and a few choice Internet publications.

"Whenever you see a story that says 60% of any OS is gonna be rewritten you should demand that the journalist who wrote that be immediately and publicly fired. Totally 100% incompetent. Did NOT do their homework," wrote Scoble, before a subsequent post about not linking to certain sources.

Business writer Nicholas Carr, formerly of the Harvard Business Review, used Scoble's short-lived paroxysm as a case against corporate blogging, calling him a "bully" who is not helping Microsoft's own bully image. In a post entitled "Seven rules for corporate blogging," Carr's first rule is not to have one, period.

"If you give bloggers too much freedom, they may "go native" and tarnish your reputation by writing something stupid. If you try to rein them in, you'll be attacked for being a dinosaur. That's a lose-lose situation - the kind companies should avoid if at all possible," said Carr.

If the first rule is ignored, Carr gives six more rules on how to manage the information being channeled through employees. Carr advocates a highly controlled medium with clear goals, an editing process, and carefully selected writers who consult attorneys before posting information.

As for allowing comments:

"This can lead to another lose-lose situation: If you don't censor comments, you'll end up with stuff that can embarrass your company. If you do censor them, you'll be accused of, well, censorship."

Scoble, after admitting he'd made a mistake, being human, and having a "bad weekend,"
disagreed with Carr's assessment.

"I guess he wants a PR machine to blog. A committee. A group of editors. People who will ensure that nothing wrong, or bad, or insane will ever get onto blogs.," writes Scoble.

"We aren't machines… if you expect corporate bloggers to be machines that'll always smile and always take the crud that's out here without making mistakes then you'll be sorely disappointed."

Suffice to say this debate may never be settled and two camps will emerge. It may come down to any given company's corporate philosophy. The hard questions are:

Do we build trust and business through transparency?

Do we maintain a professional and always in control (albeit mechanical) reputation?

If you have a case for one or the other, let us know in SyndicationPro.

Other reading on corporate blogging:

Blogs Away: Why Blogs Are Important To Market Strategy

He Said What? Reigning In Corporate Web20

Gaining Street Cred In The Blogosphere

Blogs Make You Immortal or Infamous


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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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