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