MARKETING AND SALES STRATEGIES

Does your company allow employees to send email? (Really?) Then how about letting them blog?

As I work with companies to help develop a blog strategy, I see much consternation inside of corporations about the issue of allowing people to blog (or not) and allowing them to post comments on other people's blogs (or not). It's been fascinating to both observe and participate in the debate about blogs in the enterprise. Just like the hand-wringing over personal computers entering the workplace in the 1980s, and also echoing the Web and email debates of the 1990s, company executives seem to be getting their collective knickers in a twist about blogs these days. Remember when executives believed email might expose a corporation to its (horrors!) secrets being revealed to the outside world? Do you remember when only "important employees" (executives!) were given email addresses? How about when people worried about employees freely using the public Internet and all of its (gasp!) "unverified information"?

It's the same debate all over again today with blogs. On one side of the corporate fence, the legal eagles are worried about secrets being revealed by their employees while creating content or commenting on blogs. And on the other, there's the feeling that so much of the information being created today is just not to be trusted. Corporate nannies want to make certain that their naïve charges don't get into trouble in the big scary world of information.

Well, duh. We're talking about people here. Employees do silly things. They send inappropriate email (and blog posts, too), and they believe some of the things on TV news. This debate should be centered on people, not technology. As the examples of previous technology waves should show us, attempting to block the technology isn't the answer.

So my recommendation to organizations is simple. Have guidelines about what you can and cannot do at work, but don't try to make a specific set of blogging guidelines. I think it is much better for organizations to establish policies about all communications (including verbal communication, e-mail, participation in chat rooms, and the like) rather than to focus on a new medium (blogs). I'd suggest implementing corporate policies that say that employees can’t sexually harass anyone, that they can't reveal secrets, they must tell the truth, they can't use information to trade stock or influence prices, and they shouldn't talk ill of the competition in any way or via any media. The guidelines should include email, writing a blog, commenting on blogs (and online forums and chat rooms), and other forms of communication. Rather than focus on putting guidelines on blogs (the technology), it is better, in my opinion, to focus on guiding the way people behave. However, as always, check with your own legal advisors if you have concerns.

Some organizations take a creative approach to blogging by saying that all blogs are personal and the opinions expressed are of the blogger, not the organization. That seems like a good attitude to me. What I disagree with is putting in place draconian command and control measures that say employees either cannot blog (or submit comments) or that they must pass all blog posts through the corporate communications people before posting. Freely published blogs are an important part of business and should be encouraged by forward thinking organizations.

David Meerman Scott

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