From the category archives:

Corporate Blogging

Miller Beer Blog Terrorizes Rivals: Another Reason Your Company is Insane if They Aren’t Blogging

by Steve Broback on April 23, 2008

I wrote a post a year ago about how the fear of blogging had been replaced by the fear of not blogging. Boy, was I wrong about this being the case on a national level. A few months later I discovered that (at least for businesses in and around Chicago…) most of the dozens of directors of marketing I spoke to were still terrified or completely apathetic about the idea of blogging. Almost zero had any interest in our conference we built significantly for them. We had to cancel an event that in San Francisco drew 300 rabid attendees.

I’ve noticed that there’s barely a startup in Silicon Valley that doesn’t have a company blog. I dare you — find me a company that’s announced a round of funding that doesn’t have a blog. Okay, maybe a few don’t, but for every one that’s not blogging there are at least ten that are.

Now I read in the Wall Street Journal about how in the heartland of America, Miller Brewing Co. has created a very successful blog whose intent is primarily to needle their rival Anheuser-Busch:

The corporate marketing battlefield has long been strewn with pithy digs in ads and selective news leaks about others’ business woes. But it’s unusual for a company to go to the trouble of creating its own media arm to grind out news on the competition. While the site lets Miller tweak its famously tight-lipped rival, it also gives the company a platform to take a first crack at spinning industry news.

“They are trying to aggressively go around the gatekeepers” in newsrooms and the trade press, says Stephen Quigley, an associate professor of public relations at Boston University. “It’s something you couldn’t do five years ago,” before the proliferation of blogs.

The article doesn’t say if Anheuser-Busch is responding with their own blog, but the implication is that they’re largely in denial:

Anheuser declined to answer specific questions about Brew Blog or make an executive available for an interview. It wouldn’t say whether it considers the site a concern. “Our focus is on our consumers and delivering great brands,” Dave Peacock, Anheuser’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

Hey big companies: If this whole “transparency” thing is still terrifying to you, wait until competitor blogs are launching assaults on you and you have no defense. Hey wait, maybe your competitors will let you comment on theirs!


Acquia gives social publishing platform Drupal an Enterprise boost

by Jason Preston on March 11, 2008

According to George Dearing at InformationWeek, Acquia has raised $7 million to develop and sell a “suite of services it says will make Drupal enterprise-ready.”

In other words, Drupal will be getting the structure and support that many enterprise-level customers like to see.

Dearing is also absolutely right about the existence of social publishing opportunities, and I think he’s also right about the larger shift they indicate.

We’re starting to see more and more clients in the social media space looking to build ambitious and robust community systems on the LAMP stack, and we consistently recommend Drupal for the more expansive projects.

I think Acquia is making a good investment here.


Why Errant Blogger Lauren Turner Could Be Google’s Princess Diana

by Teresa Valdez Klein on July 5, 2007

I’ve had a couple of friends cite the recent incident at Google as a good reason why companies should stay out of the blogosphere. The fracas got started when a Google blogger shared her personal opinion of Michael Moore’s controversial new documentary on one of company’s blogs. The blogosphere assumed that her opinion represented that of the company and decided to tar and feather Google for being insensitive to the needs of America’s uninsured.

It’s true that if you give your employees a megaphone, sooner or later, one of them is going to use it to say something you’d rather they hadn’t. They’re human beings, human beings screw up, and screwups are a part of business. You learn and you move on.

Google is taking that approach to the incident. Today, a Google spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle, “we hope to get even better at it over time, but we’ll probably also make more mistakes.”

The beauty of blogs is that they help to put a human face on a monolithic company. But human faces have wrinkles, scars and imperfections. In many ways, the issue facing companies today is similar to the central dilemma of Stephen Frears’ masterpiece The Queen (iTunes).

In the film, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) is bowled over by the public outpouring of grief in the wake of Princess Diana’s death. Diana’s foibles and flaws put a beautiful human face on the British monarchy, and the people loved her for it. But from the Queen’s perspective, Diana’s death is a private one. She sees no place for a royal presence in the mourning period for an ex-HRH.

The British people disagree. Diana was a beloved public figure and still a member of the royal family in their eyes. When the Queen neglects to properly share in their grief, she becomes a target. At the height of the public outcry, one in four Britons are of the opinion that the monarchy should be abolished outright.

As the Queen so eloquently puts it to her mother, “there’s been a fundamental shift in values.”

Corporations are a bit like the British crown. They struggle to be understood by ordinary people. So when an opportunity to humanize any monolithic organization comes along, it should not be ignored. Even at the risk of mistakes.

I don’t mean to say that every corporation should immediately start blogging and try to make mistakes. But they should be aware of, and accept that mistakes come with the territory. In the end, it’s better to screw up and apologize than never to take a risk at all.


Jeff Nick Interview: WordPress, Enterprise 2.0 and the EMC Innovation Network

by Steve Broback on July 3, 2007

I had the good fortune to sit down with Jeff Nick CTO of EMC at the excellent Future in Review conference a few weeks back and we discussed the EMC Enterprise 2.0 initiative he calls the “EMC Innovation Network.” A video of the interview is here, and my notes follow.

EMC is trying to achieve two objectives with the Innovation Network. One idea is that the network will create value earlier in the product development pipeline. Traditionally EMC has been very strong on development, but less focused on pure research. Nick is anticipating that the initiative will enhance this dimension of their R&D efforts. The second objective is on collaboration — to provide a means of getting cross-cutting capabilities and innovation across business units.

EMC has grown organically and also through a set of acquisitions. Within business units information flows fairly freely, but the challenge has been breaking through the independent silos so ideas can cross divisional boundaries. Nick feels the systems they’re implementing will provide a collaboration model that cuts across business units.

EMC is not alone in this challenge of propagating knowledge across divisions . Nick’s discussions at FiRe with Mark Bregman and Tom Malloy (the CTOs of Symantec and Adobe respectively), made it clear to him that other organizations are also also challenged with cross-divisional knowledge transfer.

Nick told me that initially he focused on providing a platform for process innovation. He identified a set of areas where crossing the seams between business units would be a priority. He began with the intersection of security and information management, and then where resource management and information management came together.

Content management and collaboration are key to the initiative. Nick feels these are arenas where Web 2.0 technologies excel. In the collaborative sphere, the requirements for EMC were:

    • To get people to be able to find each other
    • To communicate and socialize ideas
    • To harvest those ideas
    • To iterate across organizational boundaries
    • Enable rapid sharing, and materialization of collateral

Nick and his team investigated the capabilities of current open source collaborative tools and also talked to companies providing proprietary technology. EMC finally settled on what Nick calls a “framework model” which allows for integration of a variety of different tools. They specifically did not want to be locked into any particular monolithic platform. Nick’s team also preferred tools that their user community was already familiar with, and liked to use.

EMC largely settled on open-source applications including WordPress. The only proprietary technology they’re using is Documentum which is designed to securely share content and documents, but not a great way to collaborate. These tools have been enhanced by EMC with code to provide enhanced security, and some WordPress plugins are in development.

Nick’s team now has blogging and Wiki capabilities, along with RSS feeds, and instant messaging.

The collaboration is not just internal — the collaboration includes many university partners and these outsiders are granted access to the full capabilities of the system.

We’re working to get someone from EMC to our upcoming event to discuss the specifics of the tools they’ve implemented.


The New York Times will find your blog

by Jason Preston on June 28, 2007

There’s a story in the NYT today about the Bear Stearns hedge fund hullabaloo, which isn’t unusual or noteworthy in an of itself—after all, we expect news from the New York Times.

However, Julie Creswell, the journalist who wrote it, clearly sat down and Googled the management involved before she wrote the article. I know this is what happened because

a) It’s exactly what I would do were I writing the article, and
b) it explains why she found Richard Marin’s blog:

In the midst of the turmoil, Richard Marin, the head of the Bear unit that ran the troubled funds, “stole away” from the “crisis-hedge-fund-salvation-workaholic weekend” to see the new Kevin Costner thriller “Mr. Brooks.”

His advice on the film?

Take a “pass,” Mr. Marin wrote in a review he posted that day on his blog,

That’s in the first 100 words of the NYT article. This goes hand in hand with some of the social networking and personal presentation issues that Teresa has been musing about recently.

More importantly, employees are blogging—maybe not about your company or your product—but they are blogging, and the news media can find those blogs as easily as anyone else. Clearly this caught Bear Stearns by surprise:

A spokesman for the company said, “We have no comment on his personal blog.”

Having a corporate blogging policy is a great way to make sure that when the New York Times calls you up to ask about an employees blog, you aren’t caught flat-footed. We’re going to have an entire session on corporate blogging policies at our next conference.


Building Bridges and Brand Loyalty: Using Blogs to Connect With Your Customers

by Teresa Valdez Klein on June 25, 2007

Everyone knows the adage, “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” But the changing face of customer outreach compels companies to find new ways to build affinity with wired and wireless consumers.

Taking a page from its past as “America’s Storyteller,” Eastman Kodak Company has embraced new media — including blogs and podcasts — to synch with consumers. Kodak’s blog isn’t a product showcase, or a feed of executive corporate-speak. Instead, everyday employees write and photograph the people, places, and things they’re passionate about.

In this session, Kodak’s manager of new media, Denise Stinardo will describe how the Kodak blog began, and how it continues to help Kodak build new relationships with customers in a digital era.


How long does it take to write a good blog post?

by Jason Preston on June 22, 2007

Posts come in all different shapes and sizes. Every blogger is unique in the way they compose and present their posts, which is one of the things that makes the blogosphere such an interesting place. The other interesting thing is all those crazy widgets.

There are people who write in a long, rambling, off-the-cuff style like Bob Lefsetz. There are people who tend to write essays like Tom Evslin. Still more people write somewhere in the middle, like Fred Wilson.

But regardless of your writing style, a good blog post usually happens when you take the time to put it together well. Think about how you want to structure your post. Do you want to jump right in, or are you writing about something that needs an introduction? Should your tone be lighthearted or serious? Does the title include the right keywords? Will your first sentence pique the reader’s curiosity? Will Scoble read your post?

A good blog post doesn’t necessarily escape the rules of good writing just because blogging is a relatively new medium. Don’t get me wrong—personality is important, but you can have a human voice without littering a post with errors. How does the saying go? “To err is human, to proof-read is unusual?” I think I made that one up.

It tends to take me between fifteen minutes to a half-hour to write a post I’m satisfied with, but that’s only after I’ve decided what I want to post about. I’m also including the time I take to re-read before I post.

Taking a little extra time to re-read an entry before you post it will often give you a stronger piece, and one good blog post is worth several poor ones, regardless of its shape or size.

If you want to see topics like this at our next conference, feel free to propose a session for the community to vote on.

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New Horizons in Editorial Development for Our Next Business Blogging Conference

by Teresa Valdez Klein on June 15, 2007

We’ve been spending a lot of time recently on developing the roster of sessions and speakers for our upcoming conference in Chicago. This happens to be one of my favorite parts of working with the Blog Business Summit because it gives me the opportunity to review experts, ideas and best practices from all over the emerging field of business blogging.

This year, we’re working to bring more corporate speakers than ever before to the podium. Big corporations have a great deal to gain by blogging, but they also have a long way to fall if their initiatives are not well-crafted. In order to give our corporate attendees the information they need, we are drawing speakers from the growing pool of corporations who are blogging and engaging with bloggers successfully.

And while successful business blogging remains the primary focus of our conference, the Blog Business Summit is about more than blogs. New media for online communication are emerging all the time, and we know that our attendees want to be on top of those trends as well. This year’s conference will take a look at emergence of online social networks as powerful media properties in their own right. Understanding how these networks function and how users respond to commercial engagement with their communities is just as important as understanding the rules of successful corporate blogging and blogger engagement.

Another new horizon in our editorial development process has been the launch of our session submission and review system. A lot of successful conferences in the technology space take on an “unconference” model. That is, the attendees shape the editorial and direct how the conference forms. We think this is an interesting idea, but we run a conference that is primarily targeted at the business community.

We started asking ourselves, “how do we adapt our business-oriented conference to a more democratic model without sacrificing hard-hitting business oriented editorial?” We decided to put our money where our mouths are. After all, we’re always talking about listening to community when it comes to product development.

So we worked with our team of geeks to develop a massive custom WordPress plugin that would allow us to make blog posts the fundamental unit of editorial. In short, one blog post = one conference session. The plugin allows us to provide additional meta-data to each post (time, location, editorial track, speakers, etc.).

The plugin also manages and reviews the ratings and proposal system. This allows anyone who is interested to submit a session for review, and to vote on proposed sessions. We think this hits the sweet spot between community participation and the top-down editorial model favored by most business conferences.

Stay tuned in the coming days for some very exciting session and speaker announcements. Sessions will appear right here on the blog (and in our RSS feed) as individual blog posts.

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First Impressions at FiRe Conference: Blogging Becomes Status Quo for Corporate America

by Steve Broback on May 22, 2007

I’m currently at the excellent Future in Review Conference (FiRe) in San Diego and have been polling the attendees regarding their blogging status. I’ve asked a half dozen corporate thought leader and marketing types from various organizations “are you blogging?” and five out of six have responded that they are.

Seems to me like we’ve rapidly transitioned from “fear of blogging” to “fear of not blogging” to “of course we’re blogging!”

Just like we predicted back in 2004…


Kaiser Permanente, Enterprise Blogging and Why the Blog Business Summit Team Talks Out of Both Sides of Their Mouth(s)

by Steve Broback on April 24, 2007

This morning’s Wall Street Journal has a cover feature detailing how Justen Deal, an employee rabble-rouser was able to create a public relations nightmare at Kaiser Permanente with one widely-broadcast internal email criticizing the company’s efforts to digitize sensitive patient information.

The e-mail was sent on a Friday after most employees had gone home for the weekend. Kaiser IT staff spent much of the weekend trying to purge it from the e-mail system, but they met with limited success. According to the Journal, “by Monday, the mass mailing had reached an estimated 120,000 computers at the company. It had also leaked into cyberspace.”

The highly critical epistle was picked up by the blogosphere and became a major issue for the company. Some even speculate that it could have affected Wall Street perceptions.

According to the Journal:

“Mr. Deal…quickly became a cause celebre in the blogosphere and beyond. HIStalk, a popular health-care IT site, featured ‘an exclusive interview,’ with Mr. Deal. One stock analyst says that Kaiser’s tribulations could alter the competitive landscape for IT vendors.”

We’ve said for years that a blog post is “an email to the world” and it’s obvious that when this mail jumped from someone’s in-box to a blog entry it took on a life of its own.

Justin Deal– the author of the email was not a blogger, so to send a large-scale message, he had to cobble together a mailing list via manual means:

“But it wasn’t as easy as pushing a button. He didn’t have access to a company-wide “send all” address, so he improvised. He says he bought a cheap software tool that helped him gradually build a list on his own computer.”

Consider this: if Kaiser had been using an enterprise blogging system (like Blogtronix, iUpload, Marqui, and others) instead of e-mail for internal workgroup communications, Deal’s embarrassing efforts would likely have been stymied because it would have gone out as a blog post with a central location rather than a mass mailing. Furthermore, this posting could have been held for management review before being made public. Posts peppered with terms (as this mail was) such as “conflict of interest,” “recklessly,” “losses,” “inefficient,” “exposed,” “internal resistance,” “ignored,” “problems,” etc. etc can automatically land in a “potential rants” folder for review by superiors before propagating.

This is one reason we work with corporate clients to set up blogging systems that accommodate several blogs, some public-facing, some internal. This platform allows management to exercise control over what is said and when. It also means that public-facing employee posts are driving link love and Google Juice to the corporate domain.

That said, it’s obvious to us that it’s not always in an employee’s long-term best interest to create a media property — especially in their spare time — that they can’t take with them if they make a career move. When Scoble left Microsoft, his blog went with him. If the blog had been a Microsoft property, his value to another firm would arguably have diminished significantly.

So. In many cases we encourage employers to have their staff populate blogs owned by the corporate entity, while at the same time we tell friends, relatives, and clients who are independent consultants to avoid investing a lot of personal time in any blogs that can’t migrate with them.

Yes, we are consistently inconsistent.


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