Blogs have become one of the hottest communication tools on the Web. Offering the opportunity for anyone to create their own free Web site, encouraging opinions and interaction, blogs provide forums for individuals to create their own highly personal presentations to the Web audience, and for consortia of all types to experience the sort of online community feeling that was pioneered by early newsgroups and by the phenomenal success of AOL in the 1990s.
Blogs have reached into the corporate and government sectors as well. What started out as an outlet for teenage expression and grassroots journalism has turned into a lucrative communications tool for small and large businesses alike.
Corporate Blogging refers to a company producing or supporting a blog that it uses to accomplish business objectives. While there are drawbacks to blogging, followin these seven "best practices" can ensure your company reaps the optimum benefits.
- Fine Print. Blogging can lead to legal issues. Companies should have real concerns about liability, exclusions and limitations, and indemnity. Although there are laws that protect against libel, misappropriations and other injuries suffered as a result of posts on the Web, companies can still be held “vicariously” responsible for statements made by employees that are harmful to others. Since there are so many legal issues surrounding blogs, it is imperative that the site has some sort of disclaimer and limitation of liability.
- Know What You’re Doing. Senior management should be educated by the corporate communications and legal department about what blogs are and how they might affect business. That way, they can be contributing members of the blog, further improving employee relations. Their support and participation is often what makes a blog more effective.
- Create blogging policies. In any medium where an employee is sharing information, there is the possibility of leaking trade secrets or financial information. Blogging also has a tendency to become personal. A company should have a list of policies regarding blogging to ensure that trade secrets are kept secret and personal lives do not become public. Policies may include keeping financial information from being posted, as well as severe consequences for anyone using the blog for negative publicity.
- Avoid the Marketing Blog. Making your blog into a blatant marketing campaign is a bad idea. Customers are looking for real answers and honest opinions. They will pick up on insincerity instantly. Use the blog for what it's for, transparency. This is an opportunity to make a real connection with your customers. Don't ruin it by filling it with empty advertising.
- Keep It Fresh. Blogs are usually judged by their amount of new content. Easy to add on to, they are designed to be updated constantly. To keep your readers coming back, make your content relevant and timely. Don't forget, content can include anything from product releases to job openings, recent news to thoughts from the CEO. It's practically impossible to run out of material.
- Reinforce the company’s core values. Use your blog to reflect your company's inner soul: its mission, goals and direction. A blog is just another medium by which you interact with your customers and employees. It's another part of the brand experience. It should be consistent with the impression the company wants to make.
- Encourage employees to use it. Give them an atmosphere where they feel comfortable asserting their concerns and opinions. Make sure, however, that you remind them of the public nature of blogs and the ramifications of their actions should they choose to make a questionable post.
Kari White is a Content Developer for Brook Group [http://www.brookgroup.com], a Web site design firm near Washington, DC. For more articles by this author, visit Usability and Branding [http://www.usabilityandbranding.com].