Saturday, 28 March 2009

The corporate blogging conundrum

Most of my pals will know that I've just got a jolly nice new job at a jolly nice PR agency. They'll primarily know this because I've been telling them how busy it is being the new girl. They'll also have clocked that I've been spending rather less time with them in my favourite Camden pubs.

It's been a productive few months, though, really - and the new job is coming along pretty nicely.

The one ongoing debate, though, is about corporate blogs. The question isn't just about ours (we have a really good news aggregation tool for our clients - but not a corporate blog), but actually a wider debate about whether companies really need them. Sure, they all think they do (it's social media, baby) but are they really just jumping on an already-stomped-all-over bandwagon?

There are a lot of PR blogs out there. Many of them are dull at best, and smarmily self serving (of course) at worst. Good ones are Hatch's Re:Medial and Stephen Waddington's take on the industry . I also loved Custard's, but can't find a link since it got rolled into umbrella brand, Speed. What makes these blogs a bit special is that they've got some personality behind them - something which most 'corporate' blogs fail to do.

The first failing of some companies is to try to have a corporate 'voice'. By their very nature blogs (or weblogs, for the un-initiated) are personal diaries - so making them corporate seems a bit mad. The good ones shun the 'company x' sign off, and give ownership over to one employee - or several; posting under their own names or individual monikers.

But even if companies get that right, many are very vanilla. They're frightened of pissing off their clients, or the journalists they work with. Which is fair enough - but stories about the industry, or the blogger's own experiences, often rely on this sort of fodder. Anonymous blogs work, of course, but then they don't promote the company you're working for. This, self-serving or not, is the real aim of blogging.

There's no simple answer, of course. But there's an age old whinge in our industry, that junior staff are often tasked with the most important jobs (selling a story to the press, for example) because it's the thankless task that senior staff can't be bothered with. Those in the know say that this is crazy, as the junior bods aren't experienced enough to make the best job of it. It reflects badly on the company, and the wider industry, they say. Well, I think the same goes for blogging. It's the MDs or senior execs (who probably can afford to be a little bit more edgy with their comments) who should take the personal reigns. They can use their years of experience to say something interesting, that the industry will engage with.

But then, they've got other things to do, haven't they? Like running a company in the wake of a global recession. So I think the answer is this - if you can't devote time to blogging - and don't want to do it well - don't bother*

* Perhaps also applicable to this blog, which is sporadic and haphazard at best. I should give up now.


Stephen Waddington said...

Hi Cathy,

Thanks for calling us out as decent bloggers. Its much appreciated. The Custard team is now blogging as part of Speed's consumer team. See:


Cathy said...

Superb - thanks. Always liked the Custard blog, happy I'll be able to keep reading.