A dozen huge companies — including Dell, Microsoft, General Motors, Cisco, Coca-Cola, Nokia, Wells Fargo — have just started a corporate Blog Council.
I’m glad that these big guys have embraced blogging. But I have one bit of advice for them:
Change the name now.
It’s not about blogging. I hate to call on the obvious platitude, but I will: It’s a conversation.
When I was in London, I sat with folks from the BBC in an afternoon devoted to blogging, and the woman next to me was troubled, bearing weight on her shoulders from having to fill her blog and manage her blog. To her, the blog was a thing, a beast that needed to be fed, a never-ending sheet of blank paper. I turned to her and said she should see past the blog. It’s not a show with a rundown that, without feeding, turns into dead air. Indeed, if you look at it that way, you’ll probably write crappy blog posts. I’ve said before that if I think I need to write a post just because I haven’t written one, I inevitably come out with something forced and bad. Instead, I blog when I find something interesting that I’ve seen and I think, ‘I have to tell my friends about that.’ You’re the friends. So yes, I said, it’s just a conversation. And reading — hearing what others are saying — is every bit as important as writing. It was as if scales were lifted from her eyes and weight from her back: She’s just talking with people.
And that is how I think the Blog Council should look at this: It’s not about them writing blog posts. It as much about them reading everybody else’s blog posts. And, besides, there are all kinds of new tools for the conversation: Twitter, Pownce, YouTube, Facebook, Dell’s IdeaStorm, and more being invented in dorm rooms coast-to-coast.
The other problem is that the language on the Council site is much about marketing — marketing to us. That’s understandable because these are marketing guys and it’s also likely true because this is being run by a leader in the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, a group whose existence and name has given me the willies. It implies that they can manage our mouths when, indeed, that’s the one thing that we, the customers, are fully in charge of. If they truly realize that we, the customers, are in charge, then that changes the way you comport yourself in this conversation. Again, you listen more than you speak.
So have the Council. Not a bad idea. But I suggest you call it the Conversation Council. Or better yet, the Listening Council. That alone would say as much as the best blog post.
: Guardian Unlimited’s Jemima Kiss is also cautious but open:
I remain a little sceptical, not least because I haven’t seen a corporate blog I’m really “wowed” with yet. But with a bit of luck, that’s what the Blog Council will serve up.
Alec Saunders is a big cynical about it, speculating that this is really about Googlejuice. There are other benefits. He concludes:
Good heavens, people! Get a grip! You don’t need a cozy little exclusive club to figure out what to do with blogs. Just get on the net, start talking to your customers and advocates, and start interacting with people outside the strictures of twentieth century command and control marketing. Council, Shmouncil!
Similar advice here from Scoble.
Dell blogger Lionel Menchaca says:
It’s also not about control. For me at least, that has been decided–companies don’t control the message, customers do. I hope that Dell (and other companies in the council that have made the leap into digital media) can work together to move companies past the false notion that we are still in control. I’ve talked to folks from other large companies and that reality scares the heck out of them. I think that’s the primary reason why less than 10% of Fortune 500 companies have a blog. That fear makes it a non-starter for many companies. . . .
Good corporate blogs force companies to look at things from a customer’s point of view. That’s why I want more large corporations to blog, and I want them to do it the right way. That means letting real people have real conversations just like individual blogs do. But it’s a bit different from a corporate perspective. Transparency is still key, but the reality for large corporations is that there are some things we can’t discuss. It’s a balancing act, and sometimes it’s a difficult one. But worth the risk? You bet it is.
: Disclosures: Last week, I spoke at GM (for pay) and I now know the blog team at Dell (where, of course, I have no commercial relationship).