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.