Earlier today I was having a discussion at work that involved my weblog. This certainly isn't the first time, but this one really got me thinking about things in a different way. Without going into any real detail, the person I was talking with asked if I bothered to talk to internal groups before I say something good or bad about them, their products, or their competitors on my weblog. This is not the first time I've been asked that either.
At the time, I simply said what first came to mind then and before--that I do sometimes but not all the time. In the case of my Travelocity rant I did. In other cases I did not. The best reason I could think of this was the effort involved--real or perceived. Sometimes I know folks involved with a particular product or service we offer. It's easy to approach them and point things out or get questions clarified. But in other cases, my observations don't pass my internal threshold for it being worth trying to figure out who to get in touch with. Maybe that's because it can be difficult to find the right person. (We're a big company and that that can make it harder than maybe it should be. More on that some other day. Maybe.) Other times I just don't think the issue is that significant to warrant bugging someone about it.
It turns out that I might not be the best judge of what's significant and what is not.
I don't think I'm alone in operating this way. I suspect that other bloggers I work with (at least the ones who mention work stuff from time to time on their weblogs) find themselves in a similar boat. And I believe it's true of blogger friends at other companies too. I'm not naming names just in case some of them are trying to remain under the radar. It's hard to know sometimes.
But why do we bother blogging this stuff if it's not even worth telling people internally? Is it because the blog world is a bit of an echo chamber at times--one in which we like to hear ourselves talk and read others who agree with our complaints, suggestions, and trivial observations?
Soemtimes it is.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I guess that my blog is the path of least resistance for getting random stuff off my chest or out of my brain and into a more permanent medium. The fact that it's public simply encourages me to do so in a way that's at least minimally comprehsible. I try not to rant as much as some people, instead providing a sampling of all the stuff (weird and otherwise) that passes through my head. Much as my linkblog has replaced all but 5 of my bookmarks, my weblog is an outlet for stuff I'm thinking about--thoughts I'd rather not see lost entirely in the depths of my poor memory. It's a sort of running public braindump that's only slightly edited and censored from time to time.
Amazingly, people read this stuff! :-)
Seen from another point of view, there's a communication problem here--real or perceived. And that's a little funny because many folks advocate weblogs as a way to break down communication barriers. Apparently mine has done that on a few more occasions that I actually knew about. It sure wasn't the optimal solution, but the message got across.
That then got me thinking (again) about corporate weblogs. Because, you know... if it works on the outside (for some value of "works"), maybe it'll work on the inside. Or from the inside out. Or even from the inside out and then back in.
Here's some of what I'm seeing and thinking...
Corporate weblogs seem to come in several varieties. Companies like Microsoft and Sun seem to be doing a good job getting some of their employees to get in the game and write in public in an officially sanctioned way--or hiring experienced bloggers to get things rolling. They're building relationships with their customers, users, enemies, etc.
Examples: Tim Bray who's now at Sun and Robert Scoble at Microsft (and the Channel 9 folks too, in a different way). Both were respected bloggers before joining their respective companies. (Hmm, how important is that?) Of course, Ben and Mena of Six Apart built their company around weblogs have been using theirs as a communication vehicle.
Those "inside out" weblogs seem to be working quite effectively.
Another example of an "inside out" corporate weblog is the recently launched Google blog, which had a bit of a rocky start. It is different because it's not attributed to a single individual. And then there's the SEC mandated quiet period they're in right now. It'll be interesting to see how that goes. And how it changes after they're a public company. Many suspect it'll take on a less personal and more PR-oriented slant.
Lots of folks have talked about internal company weblogs over the last year or two. I've long been down on those for reasons I don't completely understand. I think that's because I haven't thought hard enough about what really makes my weblog seem "worth doing" every day. But we have internal weblogs here at work. I don't read any of them. I started one of my own but abandoned it after a month or less. But maybe we're just missing some of the key ingredients to a thriving weblog community.
Are those ingredients different inside the firewall than on the outside? I suspect so but can't that I understand why yet.
I wonder if Don's corporate blogger's dinner would have shed more light on this.
I also suspect that back when I asked "what would the internal-only weblog buy me?" I was only looking at half the issue. I never stopped to ask "what would the internal-only weblog buy the company?" That's another way of asking "why would anyone read it?"
I clearly need to think about this more. I have a lot of disorganized thoughts on the matter--far more than I've time to put here right now. This is not all the conversation got me thinking about, but I suspect others have been down this particular road before and might have ideas to share.
Semi-related to all of this is the stuff that Steve Rubel writes about in his Micro Persuasion weblog. He's got his eye on the the intersection of weblogs and traditional public relations--corporate and otherwise.
Sorry for the rambling...
Related older posts:
Oh. That reminds me. I'll soon have an update on my audible.com rant that contains a few lessons about customer service and the power of an on-line voice.
Posted by jzawodn at May 18, 2004 11:39 PM