How Much Blog -- and How Often? | Page 2
A Full-Time Blog
To pursue an expanded presence, some companies have established either a single "full-time" blog or multiple "part-time" blogs in hopes of achieving a higher level of benefits. Both scenarios require significantly more time and effort than the basic level, but can reap big rewards. For a full-time blog, you might have one dedicated person involved, or a team of people contributing to the site.
The QuickBooks Online Weblog is an example of a single blog with a team of contributors, and IBM's developerWorks blogs typify a group of individual writers contributing to their own individual blogs under a corporate umbrella. In either plan, many more total posts a week will be written, and more planning is required. In this scenario, you'd almost certainly want to graduate from a free blogging service to a paid one with more features, and one that can allow for multiple blogs to be hosted from a single user account.
For a multiple blog scenario, it's most likely best to host the blogs on your own servers (which we'll cover in more depth in Chapter 5, "Tools and Implementation"). Implementation will primarily depend on the availability of technical staff or the money available to fund blog-savvy consultants. It's likely that for this more comprehensive scenario, a formal blogging policy would be put into place. Plan on potentially dozens of hours and several meetings to establish an appropriate policy for your needs. (For more specifics on policies, see the sidebar "Establishing Guidelines and Policies," below.) The primary cost for this level is staff time spent posting, along with reading others' posts and responding to comments, general planning, and establishing policies.
It's conceivable that at this level of commitment an organization that executes well would over time gain a very healthy level of Google juice, and a nontrivial amount of mindshare from other prominent bloggers. Microsoft's Robert Scoble, who we consider to be a "full-time" blogger, gets tens of thousands of influential visitors a day thanks to his efforts, and Google places his posts prominently in search results.
A Sponsored Blog
Instead of launching their own full-time blogs, companies like Connexion by Boeing, Sony, and McDonalds have all tried out the blogosphere by sponsoring blogs. As we discussed in Chapter 1, the inFlightHQ blog has been very successful for Connexion by Boeing. They're reaching the business traveler demographic and relying upon the expertise of the bloggers to do so. This "blog without blogging" effort will require coordination between your company, the blog publishers, and an ad agency. If you sign up to sponsor a blog, you'll want specific metrics and traffic results to measure the success. The companies we know, like Connexion, have found that sponsoring a blog is great way to try out their brand in the blogosphere and see how well blogging works for them.
A Companywide Blog
Some ambitious companies have taken the ultimate plunge and are empowering all employees to blog. Sun Microsystems is one of these organizations and has encouraged their 35,000 employees to share their work with the world without asking permission.
So far, 1000 employees have started blogging, and Sun has built a custom system to manage these employee sites.
Naturally, Sun has spent a great deal of time and effort creating a culture and set of guidelines that minimizes the risks of inappropriately posted information being put out for the world to see.
If you work for a large company like Sun, launching and maintaining this kind of comprehensive blogging campaign will almost certainly mean installing a dedicated hosting system, and requires allocating significant technical staff hours to monitor and manage the hardware and software that enables it. Conceivably, the direct expenses can range into tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Potentially the biggest cost to an employer is the loss of employee productivity as they focus precious time on blogging. Naturally, no company wants their employees to spend all of their time writing about their work; they'd rather just have them doing the work.
Sun has a policy that addresses this. Sun's position is that while they don't limit the amount of time an employee uses to blog, they do expect a blogging employee's workload to remain unchanged.
ESTABLISHING GUIDELINES AND POLICIES
One resource consideration you'll need to factor in is the need to dedicate some time with your team to decide what your company policies will be toward blogging. Some companies that blog don't institute a formal policy and it's certainly easiest not to draft one, but you'll at least want to be clear about what's expected from your bloggers.
Establishing guidelines is a pretty straightforward process. Fortunately, other companies have already done much of the groundwork for you. Many existing policies are available online to review, and experience demonstrates that even a bare bones policy can go a long way toward minimizing problems.
While Microsoft does not have an official policy regarding employee blogging, many of the bloggers agree that the unofficial guideline is simply "don't be stupid." Similarly, for some time Sun's blogging policy was simply "don't make forward-looking statements"—in other words, don't post about how next quarter's financials are shaping up.
You'll want to go online and look up some of the policies that are out there for review. Sun, IBM, Harvard Law School, and many other organizations have posted their rules for anyone to look at. In some cases, they've even documented how they reached those policies.
Some common rules to consider are:
|Identify yourself when posting. Make it clear on the blog who you are and what your role is at the company. Employees should make it known that the views expressed in the blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the employer. Write with respect toward the company, other employees, customers, partners, and competitors. Don't reveal any confidential or proprietary information. Don't let time spent blogging interfere with your work responsibilities. Employees must comply with other company policies, and rules outlined in the company handbook(s). Direct all press inquires to your manager or the corporate communications department. When in doubt, ask your manager.|
To read some of these policies, see the Corporate Blogging Wiki.