Friday, March 31, 2006

Blogs Build Business Trust

The doors swings ever wider for businesses that enter the blogosphere.

This is from an article on It references a survey done by Edelman, the largest PR firm on the planet. It quotes Mike Seymour, International Director of Crisis and Issues Management. Now the article says that CEO's are trusted less than ever. I know, I know, how is that good news, you say. If you and your company set yourselves apart from the pack, the path is clear in front of you.
Trust, Edelman says, is a tangible asset, much like real estate and capital. It begins with quality, but can also be affected by the way a company responds to the financial market, the way it treats its employees, the environment and other issues.

Mistrust, or lost trust, is expensive. If someone doesn’t trust you, the survey reveals, not only are they not going to buy from you, they’re also going to tell their friends, colleagues and neighbors not to buy from you either. And they will tell them in real time, and over the Internet, where millions of other users can access their opinions.The smart thing for companies and institutions to do, Seymour recommended, is to survey their operational landscape, determine who their key stakeholders are, and utilize the new trusted channels of information to talk to them quickly, honestly and constantly.

That last sentence is a great description of what a real corporate blog can and should do.
“Google journalism, citizen journalism, Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards, e-mail correspondence, the blogosphere, the company Web site – these are critical interfaces where perceptions are created and debated,” Seymour said. “All of it needs to be updated and attuned to project the same image.”

Apparantly, most of our mothers were right. It does pay to be honest and worthy of trust.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Business PR Strategies And Blogging

They're coming.

Marketers and PR gurus are gunning for you. Blogs are on the radar. And that's both good and bad.

Here are some bullet points from an article by Heidi Cohen on, an online marketing service for Marketers. It's titled: More Than a Press Release: Extending Your Online PR Efforts.
  • Create a hook consumers, bloggers, and the media will find interesting. Focus your pitch on the story or consumer benefits, not on your company. Survey results are always a favorite for garnering press attention. For example, Unilever's Campaign for Real Beauty research finds only 2 percent of women thought they were beautiful, which generated lots of press and buzz. Also, being the first in your category to do something different or adapt a new technology is a time-proven approach.
  • Use a blog to engage users in a dialogue or a podcast to provide useful or entertaining content.
  • Monitor blogs for company mentions. This can be augmented by using a third-party monitoring service, such as Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony, which track a wide range of consumer-generated media sources. They can be very useful for brand and reputation monitoring.
The good news is that the power of the blogosphere is both recognized and to be reckoned with. The bad news is that it's about to be co-opted (to what degree is yet to be seen) by the 'pitchmeisters'. In some ways the purity of this new media is about to be compromised. That was inevitable. Luckily, because of the nature of this new media, imposters and the insincere will be pretty easy to distinguish and discredit. Actually, they'll end up discrediting themselves.

So, essentially we've now entered our adolescence as a media. Our childish naivete must now give way to young adulthood.

Get ready for the teen years. Minus the acne medication!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Industry-Wide Acceptance Of Blogs?

It looks like even the banking industry is beginning to see the light. And when uber-conservative institutions like that start to "get it", the future looks bright.

This is from an article on written by Edmund Tribue. He is the global practice leader of MasterCard Advisors’ Global Credit Risk Practice. What's interesting to me is that he's a "thought-leader" on credit, financial and operational risk management in the financial-services industry. Hmmm. He's not in marketing, communications or PR. He deals with risk management and the efficacy of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Not your typical blog evangelist.
Technological developments over the last two decades have transformed the consumer into the unquestionable leader in the consumer-company relationship. The tech-savvy consumer increasingly gets and disseminates any information he or she wants about any product or brand, anywhere, anytime. Product and pricing information are being pulled from Internet news groups and chat rooms — realms dominated by consumers but places where companies are increasingly making investments.

In line with the growth in consumer power has been the explosion of blogs. Their capacity to blur the lines between fact and fiction is worrisome for corporations that want to control their own messages. But if companies are entering this space, isn’t that challenge being met?

Too often corporations think about controlling new media as point-challenges that need point-solutions.

Just as companies started rolling out investments in new Internet communications, podcasting caught most companies unawares. Podcasting allows individuals to post their own audio messages online — messages that are then available anywhere in the world at any time for downloading to iPods and other MP3 devices.

It’s anybody’s guess as to other ways consumers will find to convey their opinions about banks and brands, but gone is the day when companies could rely on advertising and public relations to control what is said and written about them. Nor can they consider these threats in a piecemeal fashion.

Saatchi and Saatchi advertising chief Kevin Roberts put it best: "Everything we used to do, everything we used to know, will no longer work." ("Crowned at last," The Economist, March 31, 2005.)
Wow. That doesn't sound to me like blogs and the "new media" are being seen as the information equivalent of an annoying mosquito flying near the corporate ear. I think they're beginning to see this 'phenomenon' as serious. Welcome to the party, kids!

Now, some corporate types will see this as simply another channel they have to get involved in, to control their message. Those efforts will most likely be discredited by their own insincerity. Others will see this as a huge opportunity to drive the conversation about their business (as opposed to controlling it), and will see varying measures of success because as a result.

The train hasn't left the station yet, but the boilers are building up steam. Come on aboard!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Danger Of Corporate Blogs?

Sorry for the slight delay. Server problems - I'm sure you can relate.

Saw this article in the Washington Post, about a "renegade" blogger. Now, one of the drawbacks of blogs, people say, is stories like this. No one really knows if this person is for real, or if it's just another one of the corporate "grassy knoll" types. Wannabe stand up comics in my opinion, but too cowardly to face a real audience.
For McLean-based BearingPoint Inc., which is trying to rebuild its business after an accounting scandal and with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation still underway, the musings of a disgruntled blogger might be a small problem. But it's a reminder that in the information age, no viewpoint is private, no slight unavenged and no joke too tasteless.

Like anonymous blogs supposedly written by employees of Microsoft Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the BearingPoint blog is, in many ways, just like happy-hour conversations that employees are apt to hold after work. They gripe about inane training programs, grouse about absurd corporate policies and ruminate about management incompetence.

But transferred to cyberspace, where the audience is global, the management headaches associated with such grumblings become instantly more severe.
That might be true, but my thinking is this: You want to be the one driving the conversation, not being driven around by every crank with broadband and too much time on his hands. My feeling is that it's more dangerous to not have a corporate blog.

Love to talk with you about it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Blogging: It's About Building Your Business

In an article by David Hayes in The Kansas City Star, David Hayes summerizes that companies are coming to realize that all Web talk builds business.

"It’s become an expectation that if you have a business, you have a blog,” said John Jantsch, a Kansas City marketing coach and active blogger for several years. “Consumers are looking to find a community around your service. They’re looking to have conversations with companies about the products they’re using.”

For companies, especially smaller or growing businesses, a blog can level the playing field. “Blogs are wonderful for helping small companies build a national footprint,” said Steve Rubel, New York City-based author of the Micro Persuasion blog and a senior vice president with marketing public relations firm Edelman.
A level playing field. Now wouldn't that be nice. An online presence gives smaller enterprises that chance. Both small and large companies have impressive looking websites. You can't tell the difference just by looking. A professional and innovative blog can give your company a leg up on the competition. You can become a thought leader in your industry.
“Consumers shape brand perception and there is no way to control that,” Rubel said. “The only way to guide that is to be part of the conversation.”
Better than that, how about leading the conversation. It can happen. I'd love to show you how.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Business, Burgers and Blogging

Is it a sign of the times? Hmmmm......

McDonald's is one of the newest entrants into the blogosphere. They've started a "Corporate Social Responsibility" blog called Open For Discussion. It's written by their Senior Director, Bob Langert.

Debbie Weil blogs about it in her blog, BlogWrite For CEO's.
Like many blogs - corporate or not - it got off to a slow start. Too many days between the first few posts in January. And they read more like essays than blog postings. More recently Bob has gotten into the swing of things with shorter, snappier entries. Topics range from his visit to the Winter Olympics in Torino to a link and reference to the blog of a former employee of McDonald's. (She appears to have been in PR.)
The fascinating thing for me, and what should be intriguing for business leaders who are wondering about ths whole blogging thing, is that McDonald's is learning on the fly. They're actually taking criticism and learning from it. In full view of the public. Do you really think the BOD would risk everything they've built on an unsure business gamble? I don't think so.

And who says failing in public is life-threatening. Dealing with it professionally and honestly is building their corporate credibility. They've become a little less "corporate" and a little more human. Is that such a bad thing?

Will it revolutionize their business, or placate corporate, grassy knoll conspiracists? I doubt it. But wanna guess as to how much it's costing them to roll out this blog. Even if you include Mr. Langert's entire "Senior Director" salary (if all his time is put towards maintaining the blog - which it obviously isn't), add the hosting and software costs and Ray Kroc's offspring is showing an ROI that would make any Fortune 100 company's CFO break out in a rash.

One down and how many left to go? A blog evangelist's work is never done....

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blogs And Exceptional Customer Service

I mean, it really is about your customers....isn't it?

We all know how easy it is to give a "canned" reply. To customers, stakeholders and other business partners. We also all know what it's like to be on the receiving end of one of those. It's really not very pleasant. And we all gripe about it when it happens. Here are some thoughts by Wayne Hurlbert on
As a means of starting and maintaining conversations between all interested parties, blogs are almost without equal. Business, public relations, and customer service blogs are even more valuable when problems arise.

When something goes wrong, as it always does in the real world, there is a natural tendency for many business people to keep quiet. By clamping down on suspected media leaks, dissidents, or those employees simply acknowledging an everyday problem, the company is taking exactly the wrong approach.

Instead of tightening down the lines of discussion, customer service blogs enable the flow of conversation to travel in both directions. As a result, small problems and misunderstandings can be fixed to everyone's satisfaction, with little fuss. The danger of the customer related problem exploding to major crisis stage is reduced dramatically, or even eliminated entirely. The lowered stress level on employees, resulting from fewer confrontations, boosts morale and productivity. It is also crucial to lowering staff turnover and replacement hiring and training costs.

The best blogs are the furthest away from canned answers, scripted replies, and "indemnifaction" statements.

Let's help you start a conversation with the most important part of your enterprise. The ones who keep it afloat - your customers.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What Business Bloggers Are Saying

The folks at have put together a great white paper based on a survey they did with corporate bloggers. You can find the white paper here.

They also did some interviews with some leading corporate bloggers. Here's one about Maytag. Can you believe Maytag has a blog? Apparently they finally found something for that bored repairman to do.

Maytag has a reputation for customer service; surprisingly contra to their advertising campaigns they do get calls from customers. The new blog has helped answer customer questions and provide information quickly to individual customers. However the Maytag service organization is not part of the blog. It is not possible to schedule a service call through the blog. The main benefit of the blog was to provide another method of communication for customers to ask questions and for Maytag to respond and leave a permanent record of the response.

It seems that the blog is making it easier for Maytag customers to connect with Magtag over the Internet for those customers who prefer using the web. But maybe the biggest benefit to Maytag and their customers is that by responding to customer questions on the blog it is very evident that Maytag is very approachable. Petersen went on to say, "I am sure that we're getting more feedback than before the weblog, though. We did and do get some feedback through our normal customer service system, but not as much as we get through the weblog."

Product Development
The Maytag Skybox site did receive customer feedback on products. Specifically, Petersen asked for feedback on the display panel kit designs for their Skybox product. Customers gave feedback about the existing displays and made suggestions for other displays. Petersen said,"In some cases, folks just suggested what they thought would be cool for us to provide. I can't say that the assistance we received from consumers was revolutionary, but I do believe we created an easier way for consumers to reach us, so we heard from more of them than we would have before. And their input came directly to the design team - it wasn't filtered through anyone else. When I was there, I was the lead designer and project manager. Hearing from folks in that way was great."
It does appear that even with consumer product companies' product development
and research is possible through blogging. It was also interesting to hear that
customers were asking customer service questions.
I just think it's amazing how businesses with incredibly diverse business models, are utilizing blogs in very strategic ways. Put your thinking cap on, and imagine the possibilities for your business.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blogs, Non-Profits, And Transparency

In the world of Non-Profit organizations, building trust through understanding and communication is critical. In an article today on, Tom Watson, Chief Strategy Officer at Changing Our World, Inc., hits the nail on the the head.
Strange then in the most open medium yet invented by human hands and minds, we are all too often closed in our thinking, closed in our asking, and closed in our giving - at least in terms of fundraising and philanthropy. One small but incredibly symbolic notion that is currently sweeping the corporate world - executive blogging - would, I think, add a layer of conversation, of real give and take to the non-profit sector.
To be candid, many in this industry are skeptical that the corporate world would ever be remotely interested in honest dialogue. It's a valid argument. Non-Profits however, seem to fit into the blogging universe like a hand in a glove. But, don't blindly jump into it.
Over at his blog Nonprofit Stuff (, consultant Sheldon Mains has some very earthy advice for nonprofit bloggers, particularly executives: - If you are really serious about using a blog to improve communications with your community/clients, you have to set aside time to write the fricking thing. It’s best that you set aside time every day! Depending on how much you want to say and how fast a writer you are, this could just be 15 minutes.
15 minutes, eh? I'd be a bit more liberal in my time allocation if I were you. Trust me. That's why having a skilled writer on hand to help craft your message while remaining true to your organizational goals, is money well-spent.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

IT Trends, Research and Blogs

I was intrigued by an article I found on It was written by their Research Director, Jim Murphy, and the reason I like it is that it comes from the perspective of a researcher. I think if you read his research you'll understand why I'm such a blog evangelist.
Innovation and typical enterprise systems are at odds. Innovation requires thinking out of the box, and nothing seems quite as boxy as today's structured, codified IT systems. Enterprise applications like ERP and CRM tend to impose structure on information to automate processes. But innovation requires that actual human beings work together to share and develop new ideas.
And "actual human beings" are the linchpins of the blogosphere. Real people interacting in an online environment.

To survive and thrive in a drastically changing world, businesses must build environments that foster innovation. With pressure to globalize, they must collaborate more actively with partners and employ more distributed and diverse workforces all while ensuring compliance - and now more comprehensively than ever before. This requires breaking down the organizational and information silos that companies have erected between systems, processes, people, and - with companies now looking externally for sources of innovation - entire organizations.

Information and collaboration. That's a pretty good definition of the blogosphere. Businesses that begin to harness the power found outside the "typical enterprise systems" will soon find themselves as leaders in the knowledge economy.

Like to take the lead position?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Business That Gets Business Blogging!


This is exactly how a blog can be used by a business. They're not a Fortune 500 company, or a technology giant. They're just a group of entrepreneurs utilizing a technology to build their business. What a novel concept.

Take a look at this blog and learn something.

Great job Ventura County Realtors!

Blog Writing By Bosses?

In an article today by Rachel Rosmarin on, she quotes from an interview with Anil Dash, VP of Professional Products at software firm Six Apart: Critics say all blogging will do for a company is increase its Google hits. Is that the only upside to maintaining one?

Dash: If you're an online retailer, there's truth to the fact that blogging drives traffic. But if you're another kind of company, the real return on investment comes from simple scenarios: You can collect community feedback, but surveys can be expensive and time-wasting; the expense associated with getting 100 comments back can be
great. But with a blog, you can do it in 24 hours. You can also measure the success of delivering information. There's an expense associated with e-mail that gets lost via spam filters or bounced-back. With a blog, you can insure delivery and then track metrics to see who read the information and clicked through. That's a quantifiable improvement over the communication tools most companies are using today.

Is it important to have a C-level executive contribute to a corporate blog?

If, as company, [you're] saying you want to be thought leaders, then it makes sense to have those C-levels blogging because that goes directly to your credibility. But if your aim is interaction with the public, then anyone can do it.

Now, I'm not pushing Six Apart's products, (I do this the free way just to prove a point) but you would think they understand a little bit about blogging. But as those of you who are regular readers know, I don't agree with anyone 100 percent on general principle. The last line in that quote, "anyone can do it" is a little misleading. It may be simple enough for anyone to do it, but realistically not everyone can do this properly. Just take a walk through the blogosphere. It takes a special kind of professional with a fairly specific set of skills to do it right. Oh, and that other little thing: Time! Here's one last quote from Ms. Rosmarin's article that's right on point.
Blogging isn't a huge financial commitment--Six Apart's business software costs as little as $90 per month--but it still requires other resources--primarily time, as an executive or a team of employees must be tapped to make regular contributions.

So, unless you're willing to devote the time necessary to do it right, your business blog will suffer. My thinking is: "Why start something that has a good chance of failing in the end because due diligence was not applied?"

That's where a professional ghostwriter/editor/blog manager comes in. The proof will be right in front of your nose. And a lot of noses for that matter!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Business Blogs Catch Consumer Trends

In an article yesterday in the Detroit News, Steven Levingston from The Washington Post writes about one side of the blog equation: Feedback from customers and stakeholders.
For companies like ConAgra, the individual opinions blasted out in cyberspace are becoming an increasingly powerful force. Together, they form the fabric of online word of mouth that can determine the hottest new product, make or break a TV show, or set off a customer revolt. Eager to tap into the buzz, a growing number of companies are turning to sophisticated new technologies that track what's said on Internet social networks, blogs, message boards, product review sites, "listservs" -- wherever people congregate publicly online.

The comments are particularly valuable for measuring customer sentiment because they're gut-level and spontaneous. "Internet word of mouth is extremely important," said Steve Rubel, a marketing expert and senior vice president at Edelman public relations. "You see what the most vocal consumers have to say about you and about your competitors -- and they're saying it without necessarily knowing you're watching them."

I say it's one side of the conversation because this is the listening side. The blogosphere is a double-edged sword. We'll look at the other side tomorrow.

In the meantime, we're still here ready to listen.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Some More Do's And Don'ts Of Corporate Blogging

Just to make sure that readers of this blog don't think I'm a one note samba, here's some reinforcement for some of my views. In an article written by Matthew Boyle, staff writer at FORTUNE magazine, reported on, he says:
If you cannot find something to blog passionately about, your blog will be no more than a corporate PR organ. For technology companies, that's easy -- software makers like Microsoft and Intuit (makers of Turbo Tax) both have legions of knowledgeable users eager to talk about their products. But what if you make, say, cooking oil, or dust mops?

In that case, learn what your customers care about (it could be nutrition, or home improvement) and figure out a way to participate in that conversation credibly. Stonyfield Farm, for example, talks about personal health and parenting -- hot topics for the customers of its natural yogurts.

Finding out what interests your customers is a normal part of a company's due diligence. Getting their views on you, your products, and your company is crucial.
The best part about blogging is that it's a conversation. Absorb what people have to say, and reply to their comments. "It's the ultimate zero cost focus group," says Debbie Weil, author of "The Corporate Blogging Book." "My policy is never to delete comments, even ones I disagree with," says Microsoft's Scoble. "I want our customers to feel free to tell us what they think."

What they say is what you need to hear, even if you don't want to hear it! Let us help you listen.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Business Blogs Can Protect Your Brand

Stories like these are more and more frequently in the news. This piece was written by Chantal Todé on
Blogs, in particular, can affect a brand's reputation. On Nov. 29, a blogger had a bad experience with the brand PriceRitePhoto and noticed online similar experiences by other consumers. The blogger posted a negative blog, and by Dec. 4 there was a "blog swarm" that caused four of the top 10 search results for PriceRitePhoto on Google to be negative.

Dell had a similar experience last year that resulted in the phrase "Dell Hell," which was coined by a blogger, being picked up by the mainstream media.

To prevent something like this from happening to your brand, Key [Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, and speaker at the Search Engine Strategies Conference and Expo, being held this week in New York] and others said it is important to know what is being said about your brand on the Web. If possible, you want to lead the conversation by becoming a content producer and creating authentic content that engages your audience, Key said.
Two points. First, you want to LEAD the conversation. Not control, not stifle, not ignore, LEAD. Second, create AUTHENTIC CONTENT. Not spin, not press releases, not ad slicks, CONTENT.

I'll put my timpani away and let up on the drumbeat for a moment. Let it sink in and then let me know your thoughts.