BLOGSCANNING

Some bloggers are known by the company they keep

The astute employer or executive is watching the phenomenon with interest.

Janelle.jpgBlogs are quite possibly the most democratic form of mass communication. Anyone with an Internet connection can set one up for free and share thoughts on anything imaginable with a potential audience of millions. They’re used for many purposes, from promoting activism or providing knitting tips to just plain journaling daily life. Some of it is brilliant and some of it mundane. Regardless of the topic, a blog provides the reader with a window into someone else’s experiences, which can be especially interesting when people blog about their jobs. This kind of blogging gives the average reader a glimpse into the life of a lawyer, a paramedic or a PR exec that they usually only get through highly-dramatized Hollywood movies.

Some have gotten in trouble writing about their companies (particularly when they post disparaging comments). But the astute employer or executive is watching the phenomenon with interest because there are some obvious ways to make it work in the company’s favour.

On the local level, Ottawa residents can get a glimpse inside the political machine that engulfs this city through the politicians who maintain blogs. A prime example is former-Tory MP Garth Turner (www.garth.ca/weblog) whose very candid commentary on politics is believed to have led to his ouster from the Conservative Party. Mr. Turner, who represents the riding of Halton, is now a member of the parliamentary Liberal Caucus.

Those who monitor the technology sector get an insider’s view from Nortel CTO John Roese (http://blogs.nortel.com/ctoblog/), who provides detailed explanations of the company’s technological processes that wouldn’t normally have an audience anywhere outside a trade journal, along with chronicling Nortel’s work to rebuild the brand. Recent posts have focused on Nortel's work getting into the upcoming fourth-generation (4G) communications system as new wireless spectrums are opened up in the United States (the SITT division at Industry Canada is expected to do the same for Canada in the near future).

Meanwhile, Hill and Knowlton Canada vice-president of digital communications Brendan Hodgson dishes pretty openly on his company blog, Collective Conversation (http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/brendanhodgson/), about public relations and social media. He criticizes and praises various marketing campaigns, pokes fun at the news media and goes back and forth on his love/hate relationship of social networking sites.

Of course, corporate blogs also serve to promote the company. On shift+control (http://76design.com/shiftcontrol/) workers at Ottawa creative services firm 76Design write engaging posts about the company, but also veer off into more standard blog territory by highlighting quirky news items and offering up a personal commentary, a way of bringing readers back to the source of promotion.

In this new era of digital media, blogs can be an important tool for corporate communications. Roese’s blog provides investors with an idea of what Nortel is doing without having to wait for quarterly reports or shareholder meetings, while the 76Design blog provides potential clients with not only a better idea of what the company does, but reveals some of the personality of the people who work there.

That said, the companies that are still holding out (and even going so far as to fire employees for blogging about work) are going to have to reconsider some strategies. Customers and shareholders are now getting used to the transparency provided by companies that do allow blogging. In fact, some companies have even begun to mandate it.

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