The Opportunities and Challenges of Corporate, Team, and Personal Blogs

We’re in a new era, never before, with such great ease has an individual been able to create their own personal brand using cheap –and sometimes free– online publishing tools. Google, our new Yellow pages, makes it easy to find, sort, and prioritize individuals based on keywords.

Before, most employees (aside from executives) were hidden behind the logo, unable to show their personal faces, have you ever looked at a corporate homepage only to find images of stock photos? As a result, millions are rushing to establish blogs, LinkedIn accounts, and personal websites, to share with the world what they have achieved, and what they hope to achieve.

There’s a lot of great opportunities to creating your own personal brand, it gives you flexibility, control, and makes it easy to find from recruiters (the ones I meet in the tech industry certainly sift through blogs). It’s easy to figure out what you are trying to broadcast to the world, you can look at your own tags and categories, or generate a tag cloud of your own blog. Broadcasting and what the world actually perceives is often different, go to Delicious to see how people actually tagged you on Delicious, or to Technorati to see who agrees –and disagrees– with you.

Now all of the above is good, well for the individual perhaps, but unfortunately there are some risks for the company that employ them. Companies are being nudged and encouraged to show the human side of their company, as consumers and customers adopt social tools, brands realize to get near the trusted discussions, they need to act –and be– like a trusted friend.

As a result, blogs are appearing at many brands, there are three types of blogs, now each of these types of blogs has strengths and weaknesses, some may give a very personal and memorable touch, some may carry the brand further, and others may appear to be ‘off the reservation’ and garner more trust from the community.

The Corporate Branded Blog, this is often of a thought leader, executive, or knowledge holder, the site is clearly owned by the company. The corporate branded blog, often written by an individual (type 1) can really help brands move reach and show the human side, and demonstrate it’s tied to the corporate brand. It’s rare to see these blogs speak opposite of the company mantra, as there is somewhat of a risk. Examples include Jon Schwartz Blog, Hu Yoshida, and Chuck Hollis.

The Team Blog, similar to type one, but it involves many different voices. I’ve heard arguments for and against (type 2), the team blog, while it may be a safe way for brands to distribute the workload of writing, sometime it can appear faceless or unpersonal to the market. Examples include Dell One to One, GM Fast Lane, and Southwest’s blog

The Personal/Career Blog, often created by the individual, sometimes without the support of the company. In some cases, the personal blog (type 3) may have a stronger way to reach customers, it’s not over branded, and feels less threatening. On the other hand, there’s an inherent danger of that individual growing their personal brand, getting too big for their britches and moving on to the next company. I’ve seen this happen quite a few times, including to myself. Often, the benefits are far greater than the risk, and some realize it’s difficult to stop this trend. Early examples included Robert Scoble (where he humanized, the left Microsoft), Jeremy Zawodny (Who has now left Yahoo, reasons unknown), and, Dan Schwabel (who focuses on personal branding).

Stop to think of the Implications
So before you rush off and create a blog for your corporation, or start to build one to build your personal brand, stop and think about the implications, strengths and weaknesses of each type, but first, start with an objective in mind and outline your –and your companies– long term commitment.

  • http://curiouslypersistent.wordpress.com Simon

    No.3 can certainly be quite awkward. I don’t have the stat to hand, but believe that only a small proportion of corporations have official blogging policies.

    You mention that individuals have set up without the company’s approval. This seems risky, as there have been several examples of people being fired for things written on their personal blogs about their employer.

    But I guess that’s where the anonymity of the Internet comes in useful :-)

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Simon

    Often, personal blogs appear, with and without approval, but many companies, don’t have policies in place, and many personal blogs are launched before companies realize the impacts.

    With that in mind, good employees keep their ethics policy in mind, behaving appropriately offline as well as online.

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  • http://associationmarketing.blogspot.com Lindy Dreyer

    You make type 3 blogs sound like a good basis for a made-for-tv movie. I’d watch it.

  • Krismet

    Thank you for the timely article Jeremiah! I am in my first full-time content strategy role at a great startup, and we are in the middle of developing a blogging strategy. Your insight is helpful as always.

  • http://movinghelp.com Kevin McGourty

    Good blog. I appreciate the fact that you are one of the few that I have read that states the downside of blogging. I think blogging is great, but I wonder how many are getting caught up with the hype and what will we all be saying about this experiment five years from now.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks Kevin, I strive to keep an objective viewpoint.

    Social media is not the end all is all, each tool has risks, and traditional successful marketing does not go away.

  • http://www.personalbrandingblog.wordpress.com Dan Schawbel

    I’m working on a blog policy right now for my company and it’s way more complicated than you can ever imagine. The reality is that there is a command and control issue in corporations right now. How much power we want customers to have vs how much legal, pr, etc has to intercept and protect.

    Good ideas Jeremiah. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.connectme360.com Brian Hayashi

    A classic case is that of the hotel concierge. The concierge is employed by the hotel to build relationships that help them make arrangements for guests. When concierges use their own Facebook or MySpace page to make or nurture relationships, what happens when the concierge leaves?

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  • http://blog.stealthmode.com francine hardaway

    I blog for three companies that we advise or invest in. All small. I sit down with the CEO, discuss the objectives of the blog and where I fit into them, and then sort through what I read daily for things that fit those objectives, or through internal company happenings and initiatives for things stakeholders might want to know about the company. Each blog is different.

    For a bigger company, what I do would not be approopriate or possible, but for startups we are advising it works well.

  • http://helenanm.wordpress.com Helena Makhotlova

    I agree that social media and blogging have been too much of a hype lately, and many companies embrace blogging too readily without conducting enough research or having no long term strategy in mind. It is important to remember though that corporate blogging is a long term affair, and demands high degree of commitment.

    I’ve done the research on blogger relations, and it seems that although it is always possible to engage with publics in some kind of social way, blogging is not always the right way to go. I think that all three types of blogging mentioned above is worth considering, and maybe even combining them, provided that there are resources for it. Still, as you rightly point out, it is the corporate objectives, together with the nature of a company’s industry which should be considered firtsly before making a decision to engage in corporate blogging.

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  • http://volunteer-boston.blogspot.com Casey @ On Your Feet Project

    Great classification of the three options available for corporate bloggers. I do think that it’s possible to have different voices as part of Type 2 – the different bloggers just must make sure to keep each of their voices as consistent as possible so readers can easily differentiate.

    One other potential “negative” – make sure your corporation has the resources to maintain the blog long term! There’s nothing worse than coming across an abandoned blog.

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