A visitor recently left a comment here that I'd like to respond to as an entry:
Your idea here about blogs on corporate sites is certainly an interesting one. It would seem that this is something of an area of expertise for you. Would you care to ellaborate a little more about what this might look like? For instance, how might a large company (such as GE, let's say) incorporate and make use of a blog on their corporate site?
I always love these kinds of requests. Overall, I am a believer in the power of weblogs. At the bottom of this article, I've provided some links to other folks whose ideas and thoughts on this subject I respect.
I see two possibilities for businesses to use Weblogs: Internally and Externally
1. Intranet-based Internal Weblogs: I'd like to provide this example in terms of my own experience. I was an online community manager for three years in a corporation and here is how I would have used an internal Weblog...
Every day, I saw every message that was posted to the online community, I was constantly modifying and customizing the site, I was working with various departments, managers and members, I was researching tools, I was making mistakes and needing help.
This whole time- few knew what I actually did. My colleagues saw the community as something that works- but something they knew little about, and had no way to learn or keep up over time. I think this is true for most jobs.
In retrospect- a Weblog could have been extremely valuable to me and the company. Using a Weblog, I could chronicle the daily activities, learnings, experiences and developments of the community. As the community grew and interest spread, the Weblog could have become the best single resource for understanding the internal workings of the community, why it works, what we'd learned, what the manager does, what the members think, etc. I could have reserved 30 minutes a day to post what I'm thinking, doing, learning.
Internally, I think internal Weblogs can work to accumulate knowledge that is often left undiscovered. The key is how easy it has become to update a web site via new Weblog tools- it's been too hard in the past. Thanks to new tools, a person can spread their knowledge via a website very quickly and easily- creating a dynamic and informative resource.
2. External Weblogs: While the tool and concept is the same, I think external Weblogs are a different animal for businesses. The basic reason is how they represent a divergence from traditional Marketing. Traditionally, I think Marketing wants to "control the message" and build loyalty and awareness via branding- which does work.
However, Weblogs offer an opportunity to break away from controlling the message and allow businesses to build relationships via people with real voices on a web site- voices that represent the brand and the message in new ways.
Here's something I believe: Loyalty is what every business needs and loyalty comes from earned trust. Now, I also believe that people will trust other people before they trust a company. So, to help build loyalty via a website, businesses can use resources like Weblogs and online communities to build trust by letting customers build trusting relationships with people inside the business- not just a brand or a carefully crafted message.
Well, we're seeing new examples all the time. If I were running a company- here is how I'd do it... This example might not be as appropriate for something like GE, but I hope it serves as a good example.
1. I would find someone (or mutiple people) in the company who has a great record of connecting with customers. Maybe it's not a VP or Marketing person- but someone with a personality that customers seem to like. It would need to be someone who knows the organization and embodies the culture and attitude of the organization and is comfortable communicating electronically.
2. I would set up some basic guidelines for posting in the Weblog. No trade secrets, competitive information, no secret future plans- Marketing Communications should know what not to talk about...
3. I would set up what is good to talk about- and this will be hard to grasp. I'd encourage personal anecdotes, random stories and pictures from the office, observations about the industry, references to the company in the news, references to upcoming events, random highlights, employee profiles, clean jokes etc.
4. Create a rule: No editing of Weblog posts by Executives. The company has to trust the person enough to let them be themselves and write in their own style. If you edit- you're missing the point. This will be hard.
5. In the beginning, I'd make the Weblog a less obvious part of the site. Let visitors find it, but don't promote it on the front page for a while. Let it develop and let the person find their voice. Once the Weblog develops, there may be an opportunity to make it more obvious and perhaps think of it as a part of the front page.
6. Once (if) it become valuable, make it more accessible, offer email subscriptions, promote it actively, link to other related Weblogs, have fun.
These are just my speculations on how it might work. Below I've provided some examples and links to others...
ReachCustomerOnline.com: What is a Weblog? Are they Useful to Business?
Dave Pollard's Business and Weblog Links
Link to an internal post containing links to resources by John Robb of Userland Software.
The Howard Dean Campaign Blog
SixApart's Six Log- Makers of Movable Type
Up2Speed.com keeps a growing list of business Weblogs.