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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Whiteside 07.07.07 at 5:21 am

I think “blogger sharing personal opinion” is an inaccurate take on what happened here. It was “corporate blogger expressing personal opinion to sell more ads for her employer,” which is a whole other story. Yes, corporate bloggers will sometimes inject personal opinions into their writing, but when it’s part of a sales pitch, it’s quite fair to look at it as a corporate statement.

2 Teresa Valdez Klein 07.09.07 at 1:05 pm

John: That’s a good point! My guess is that she was looking for a way to tie her personal opinion about the film to the blog’s general editorial structure and got a bit heavy-handed.

I disagree that her attempt to drive revenue to her employer turned her personal opinion into a corporate statement. But it does muddy the waters considerably. She should have done a much better job of drawing the line.

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