Corporate Blogging Survey 2005
 
BACKBONE CORPORATE BLOGGING SURVEY 2005
 
 

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November 30, 2005

Transparency, blogging and corporate blogs

After reading several posts on the subject of synthetic transparency, including my post “Using ‘Synthetic Transparency’ to set Expectations on the level Transparency Found on your Corporate Blog?, David Herron in his post "Transparency, blogging and corporate blogs" continues the discussion started by Dr. Walter Carl, Professor of advanced organizational communication at Northeastern University, when he coined the phrase 'synthetic transparency', David states, “My opinion is that a blog is a web site, and the owner of the web site can conduct that web site however they wish. If they wish to just use it for news releases, then more power to them. It's just a web site, and the functionality of blog software makes it very suitable for press releases. If they wish to just post sales gimmicks, then more power to them. It's their web site and it's up to them how they use it.’

Bloggers control their Blogs and they can do what ever they want with them. However, if you run a corporate blog and want to get most value out of the blog, it’s important to understand that blogging and business is sometimes about having a dialogue with your customers. That means you have to answer their telephone calls, or blog comments when a customer contacts you. If you don't I think your reputation with that customer will suffer, who may then decide to go elsewhere simply because you did not get a response. On a blog its even more important to follow up with comments, as its not just one reader who sees your reaction, it’s the whole reading public. Aiming for transparency is the right thing to do because it makes business sense. Would you recommend to companies that they don't bother to answer their telephones, I think not, the same applies to blog comments.

Transparency is not just about the design of a website, its also about the content of a website, are you revealing everything in a post, from describing the reason you give a link on a blog post to declaring any connections with companies or products you might be endorsing. Such transparency will add credibility to your blog, and improve your writing.


Posted by johncass at 9:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

Web 2.0 & Social Software

Robin Dindayal at iUpload writes about the importance of Web 2.0 and social software. In essence the growing recognition of product developers and business people that using web tools allow collaboration with other members of a group and can help form stronger online communities. Robin details a few examples.

Social software is tremendously powerful, sites like eBay and Craigslist.org really demonstrate the power of setting up a website that allows collaboration between many members of a group. That collaboration provides value in the form of information about events, auction items, housing and much more.

Think about your own company and how it might develop a social software website, Blogs are one example, but there is so much more that can be done with social media software.

Wikipedia is perhaps the best example of a website that uses the power of collaboration to build a unique evolving and dynamic website of knowledge on the web. If your company can harness the power of your industry, you can get over the content generation problems many companies have with their websites. Forums are actually an excellent example of a collaboration websites. However even forums require time and management to build into a successful website.

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November 28, 2005

Is Honeywell’s New HR Blog Synthetically Transparent?

Kevin Dugan uses the term “synthetic transparency? for Honeywell’s new multiple author HR blog, where several Honeywell employees write about their experiences working for the company. Kevin suggests the company’s blogs are not synthetically transparent. And looking at the blogs run by three staffers from Honeywell it appears Kevin is correct. I did notice that the bloggers have received a number of comments on their blog, I don’t know if the bloggers have answered the people who commented directly, but it would be great if they answer in a blog post or in the comments section, otherwise Kevin I think the blogs would be offering synthetic transparency to their readers.

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November 23, 2005

Blog Marketing Produces T-Shirts and Traffic

Shel Israel interviewed Patrice Cassard who runs the blog, La Fraise, for a chapter on non-English blogs in his book Naked conversations. The interview really illustrates the power of blogging if a corporate blogger uses the right content strategy for their blog.

Patrice runs a blog about his T-Shirt business, except his business has become the blog, Patrice gets a lot of feedback from customers on how to design his products. The blog receives 300,000 unique visitors a month. Patrice receives this volume of visitors by letting his customers design the product Loic LeMeur, Six Apart’s EVP and FM for Europe, Africa and the Middle East uses Patrice’s example to explain how companies can get value from blogging, he states the “T-shirt guy realized very quickly through the comments that the customer had more ideas about the products than he did. It's not just about feedback. The customers design the product.?

The process of conducting blog marketing for product design and feedback lets companies design better products for their customers and produces promotional benefits as well. Quoting from the Backbone Media Study on corporate blogging.

“It's our hypothesis that discussing both company and customer thought leadership is the best way to build community.

According to bloggers at Microsoft and Macromedia both companies are crossing a cultural divide, from a closed system in product development to one of openness and transparency. Our Macromedia blogger stated the company has already crossed that cultural chasm. Both Microsoft and Macromedia are getting tremendous benefits in marketing product development and marketing promotion. Literally, individual Macromedia customers believe Macromedia built and developed the product from their suggestion.

If you helped build a product as a customer you are much more likely to buy the product and tell your peers about the product. Here lies the online PR opportunity for corporate bloggers. The best ways to market a product are through customer referrals and good PR. Building a community of bloggers and online customers will increase the likelihood of online PR being generated on your audience's blogs as they will be discussing their ideas about your products. That online conversation about your company's products produces direct traffic and links back to a company blog and site, resulting in higher search engine rankings and more traffic.

Following Macromedia and Microsoft's examples and considering the survey overall, we recommend that companies when developing a blogging content strategy should encourage their product builders to blog and that they write about their products. Any thought leadership presented on the blog, should focus on the development of a company's product, and new ideas should come from both the blogger and from customers.“

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November 22, 2005

Blog Marketing Requires Outreach

When an author writes a book often the writing process is very much alone, yet once published, a writer has to reach out to the world to promote their book. Book readings and constant optimism are the keys to success.

Blog marketing or blogger relations requires that same approach to build a successful blog, once your articles are written you have to promote them, chat with colleagues in the industry and start a dialogue. Who to connect with in your efforts, basically people who are thoughtful readers, who have authority in your industry and who will reciprocate.

Robin Good wrote an article about, “How To Measure A Blogger's Popularity And Reach: The Big Jump,? and for the quick reader Christian Crumlish summarized the article.

1. Check her Technorati standing.
2. [F]ind out (not always possible, but you can also ask directly) how many subscribers the online publication has.
3. Check whether the person makes her traffic statistics publicly viewable.
4. Do some basic Google searches and see whether an official bio/profie exist for this person.
5. Check the number of search results found for the name of that person when searched for within quotes.
6. If the person has a web site check the site popularity by using the excellent toolkit from Marketleap.
7. Check how popular are the issues and topics discussions she gets involved in.
8. Check whether the person has been covered by local news media in her country.
9. Check whether the person has been covered by international news media outside of his native country and identify specific sources and mentions received over time.

Posted by johncass at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

Using ‘Synthetic Transparency’ to set Expectations on the level Of Transparency Found On Your Corporate Blog

Dr. Walter Carl, a professor of advanced organizational communication at Northeastern University, recently defined the term synthetic transparency on his blog by stating, “Synthetic transparency involves using blogs to give the impression of openness, honesty, and transparency but without really doing so.? The term will prove really helpful to companies developing corporate blogs as it will provide some yardstick to measure their own blog’s level of transparency. A number of bloggers have commented on the term, read on to find out more about the current discussion and my thoughts on why the term is going to be so useful to corporate bloggers.

Josh Hallett had previously discussed the issue of transparency on his blog, and thought that, “Making a big deal out of the fact that you are "transparent" only makes me suspicious that you are hiding something.?

While Dag Hammarskjold, Swedish diplomat; secy-general of UN 1953-1961; posthumous Nobel Prize in Peace 1961; died in airplane crash said,

“You are the lens in the beam. You can only receive, give, and possess the light as the lens does. If you seek yourself, you rob the lens of its transparency. You will know life and be acknowledged by it according to your degree of transparency, your capacity, that is, to vanish as an end, and remain purely as a means.?

Both Dag and Josh hold the position that the more you try to appear transparent, the less likelihood of you been perceived as being transparent. Corporate bloggers can give the appearance of transparency by giving their audience the ability to interact with them easily, by setting up comments, and allowing trackbacks. Yet, if a corporate blogger does not really engage their audience when they pose a question through a comment or trackback, the company will not really be very transparent. Having the elements available within a blog design for interaction with an audience only gives the appearance of transparency; actual transparency exists when those online tools like commenting and trackbacks are used.

Fredrik Wackå states that, “A blog that's just the old press releases is no blog and it will never have the positive effect a blog can have. I think we all agree to that.? Fredik is right a blog that just rehashes the same old press releases without any interaction with their audience is not a blog. Corporate blogs are different from corporate websites, there are different expectations as to the level of transparency on a corporate website compared to a corporate blog. People will expect the content on a corporate website will solidly reflect the marketing messages of a company in a very positive way. Visitors would not expect to find criticism or negative feedback on a corporate website. While on a blog there is the expectation that there is the possibility of finding some thoughtful critiques of ideas and even products from the audience. Blogging is after all about the ability of an audience to join in a conversation with the blogger and their community, and sometimes conversations involve disagreements between participants.
Fredik further states,

“But I also think that many would agree that we can't talk about everything in a blog. There is information that would hurt us if it became publicly known (deals being negotiated, for example).

Does that mean that blogging by definition is synthetic transparency? In that case, could it be any other way? Or how can we achieve authentic transparency and still have a job??

Essentially its up to a company and blogger to set the guidelines of what they will be willing to discuss on a blog. A corporate blogger should set their own conventions as to the level of transparency on a blog, and reveal those guidelines both formally from a link on the blog, and within a post or on a comment. A corporate blogger should not assume that blog readers will be able to find your guidelines, reveal all in the post, or send people who comment on your blog an email with your guidelines.

The General Motors Fastlane blog has generated a lot of press, rightly so as one of the largest companies in the US. Earlier this summer two GM blog readers described their experience with commenting on the GM blog. Both customers were surprised that their comments did not receive a response on either the blog or through an email from the company. Authors on the Fastlane blog have posted regularly that while all comments are read that they cannot answer every comment. It seems from conversations with blog readers of the GM blog, there is an expectation amongst some blog readers who make comments that their comments will receive a response.

General Motors has limited its level of transparency, in that they have given the appearance of being willing and able to answer comments, yet they have a formal policy of not replying to every comment. This policy has been stated a number of times in blog posts. A company should understand that customers who are new to a blog, will not read every post, and it is up to the company to ensure the reader sees their blogging policy, otherwise misunderstandings will arise that cause frustration for readers about the level of transparency on a blog. The GM blog is unintentionally synthetically transparent. GM can remedy the situation by placing statements about their policy just underneath every post and before the comments section on a post, 1) to inform potential blog readers who might comment that their comment will probably not receive a reply, and 2) to inform the audience that blog readers will most likely not receive a reply. You can read more about the interviews with the GM customers and suggestions on how General Motors can avoid synthetic transparency on an earlier post about the GM Fastlane Blog, ? The GM Blog: Lessons For Customer Blogging Relations.?

One blog that is open about restricting their level of transparency is the American lung association of Minnesota blog (ALAMN). Robert Moffit of the American lung association explained how his association decided not to allow comments on their blog, as there is an active blogger pro-smoking community in Minnesota. The ALAMN was concerned that if they allowed comments, pro-smoking bloggers might comment on their blog that disagree with the ALAMN’s position on their blog. Robert was concerned that the board of directors for the association would require the blog to remove the comments or shut the blog down. Rather than face those possibilities, the ALAMN went ahead with a blog that does not allow commenting. In effective the organization set the expectation that a reader could not interact in a public way on the blog. The ALAMN has received some criticism through direct emails for not allowing comments on the blog. But at this stage in the development of the ALAMN’s blog such a design makes sense for that organization.

Is the ALAMN being intentionally synthetically transparent, or because they are upfront about their level of transparency by not allowing comments is the ALAMN just defining what level of transparency the organization is willing to accept. I’d suggest it’s the latter, by establishing the design of the blog without comments, the ALAMN makes a clear statement about their level of transparency, and there can be no misunderstandings here. The ALAMN is not being synthetically transparent.

Jeremy Pepper comments on synthetic transparency within the context of PR professionals,

“As communicators who blog and are counseling clients to blog, we need to lead by example. That does not mean by just having an About page that says who your clients are, instead of disclosing in the post, that you are excused.

That does not mean posting about clients and projects without noting they are clients and projects.

That does not mean you can take the line that "well, if they click through, the reader will see I'm quoted in the article."

That does not mean you even need to link to articles, because that is just whoredom.

That isn't real transparency; it is a 'polyester' ... tacky and out-dated.?

Giving the appearance of transparency is easy to achieve, but hard to maintain, as the General Motors Blog example illustrates. A corporate blogger really has to measure their level of synthetic transparency on their blog in general and on every post as Jeremy suggests. Measuring requires a yardstick, and the term ‘synthetic transparency’ provides a tool for corporate bloggers to determing a blog’s level of transparency.

Managing transparency as new issues arise within blog posts is difficult, just as a blogger checks for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors a corporate blogger should check for the transparency of every post and if it meets their stated blog policy guidelines. Charlene Li provides some advice on setting a blogging policy for a corporate blog. While Blog design is really the easy part of measuring the transparency of a blog, a blogger can design their blog in such a way to clearly set expectations with their readers.

The phrase ‘synthetic transparency’ will help companies to set expectations of what blog readers can expect from corporate blogs, by setting a yardstick, corporate bloggers will use the term to determine if the design of their blog is un-intentionally synthetically transparent, and if a post meets their own blog's guidelines.

Posted by johncass at 4:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Public Prefers Traditional Advertising Over Stealth Marketing

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A new survey produced by Harris Interactive and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), found that general consumers, business executives and congressional staffers are more likely to trust traditional marketing methods over non-traditional or newer techniques.

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November 17, 2005

LiveVault Viral Marketing Interview with Bob Cramer

LiveVault is a Marlborough based security backup and recovery solutions company. Bob Cramer the CEO of LiveVault explains how he developed a highly successful viral video campaign for his company by employing John Cleese to make a funny video about the problems of backup recovery in his industry.

The LiveVault video has received over one million downloads in the last ten months. The video is similar to jib jab or subservient chicken projects, however I think LiveVault’s is one of the best existing examples of a business-to-business video viral marketing campaign.

LiveVault recently launched a second promotional webinar called “John Cleese’s completely unbiased and thoroughly un-roman online backup webinar?

I wanted to understand how LiveVault seeded the original viral marketing campaign and managed the video’s success; I contacted Bob Cramer to find out how his company planned and launched “The Institute for Backup Trauma? video with John Cleese.

John: Tell me how the video viral marketing campaign project was developed?

Bob: LiveVault had a major product launch, we play in a niche area of a $3 billion market, we wondered how does a little company get noticed, and let people know it exists. We thought we had to do something crazy and viral. But how do you make viral happen, what might you do, you have to make the campaign interesting and funny enough, but not overly commercial.

If our campaign was to have the possibility of being viral, we had to make fun of the problem, and then add some star caliber to add validity. We even had one of the systems engineers make a home movie, and launched the movie on the Internet, but the video did not get the coverage we wanted. It was then we decided to hire John Cleese.

Our goal with the video was to achieve awareness, but it had to be a soft sell, we thought a lot about the balance between promoting our brand, and making a funny video that would be successful. That’s why we went for pure awareness, we thought we’d get more impact, while we had great results in terms of downloads. We thought for our second effort we’d stress the brand more. The second video is a webinar, we’ve discovered that a webinar is our most effective tool for sales. We bring back John Cleese as the same character, but this time in an animated yet technical but not boring webinar. It has great depth, its fairly funny and keeps you entertained. We went for a very hard sell with this second project, but made a lot of jokes around the subject paying off John Cleese. We don’t know if we will achieve the same level of downloads as the first video. Our goal this time is really to target those people who are interested in buying the service, 20,000 downloads from the right people, who are much further down the sale process is what we are aiming for this time.

John: How did you seed the original video?

Bob: Once we had developed the concept, to get the video off the ground, the initial media buy went towards standard marketing dollars for the first one or two weeks. We picked trades magazines that targeted mid to high-level executives in the industries we wanted to reach, for example, computer world. We paid for email lists, and banner ads; the total budget for the launch was under $100k over a 3-month period.

When the campaign was initially launched we’d get picked up by business week, and receive a boost of hits. We received 100,000 hits from a link on Slashdot. At our peak we had 30,000 downloads in a week. Since then it’s trickled down to between 2,000 and 10,000 visitors a week, and that’s 10 months later.

John: Who managed the selection and implementation of the seeding of the campaign?

Bob: We have a in-house marketing communication team, however we have a full time consultant, Jeff Winer who has been with us for about a year, he came on board to help develop a world class marketing launch. I estimate the total production costs were between $0.25 million to $0.5 million.

John: Have you found your blog useful in communicating information about the campaign?

Bob: Absolutely, its limited but the blog absolutely helps with supporting the program. We receive a constant readership, many thousands per week.

John: Do you monitor the blogosphere for mentions of your company and keywords? And will you use blogs to spread the word about the new webinar?

Bob: We do monitor keywords. And we will contact bloggers directly by email to let them know about the new webinar, we just started that process of contacting those people who have written about the original video and we are going to send them a private email letting them know about the new webinar.

John: What was the ROI for the campaign?

Bob: No question we had a great return, its hard to measure but it definitely paid for itself, the awareness campaign really helped to fill our sales funnel, when a prospect has a problem they come back and buy.

John’s afterward: Bob and I took some time to discuss the results of the original campaign in terms of URLs found on Google; Bob suggested I conduct a quick search on Google for the following keyword phrase combinations; “john cleese backup,? “john cleese livevault,? and “Backup trauma?. I did here are the numbers:

“John Cleese backup? 372,000
Backup trauma? 217,000

For the phrase “John Cleese livevault? Bob found 423 links in the interview earlier this week, now that number is up to 509 after a few days, of the new webinar being launched. That’s a great demonstration of the importance of emphasizing the brand of a company within a viral marketing campaign. However, both Bob and I agreed it was important to first build awareness around the issue, and links with many people who would enjoy seeing the original funny video. The second webinar would build on top of the success of the first video

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November 16, 2005

Corporate Wiki Research

Moritz Ostwald writes about the Backbone Media Corporate blogging survey and asks the question does a similar study exist on corporate wikis?

Not that I know, however, I do know that Wikimania is coming to Boston, MA in 2006. I think there may be some presentations on that subject at that conference. As a prediction social networking software will provide more ways for the public, customers and companies to solve their data analysis issues. I think the challenge for any company is how do you build a wiki community that is open to the whole web without involving your competitors. I don't think you can, really it’s the leaders who gain the most respect and credibility who will win in this new age of web 2.0. Those companies and people who do have the foresight to engage everyone to provide a better resource for the commons will succeed. These are not wiki examples, but look at eBay and craigslist.org.

Posted by johncass at 5:50 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Short-Term Blogging

Another answer to a question from the non-profit blogging workshop last week, “can you have a short-term blog? If so, how long do you keep it for?? The answer is yes, you can have a short term blog, I recently wrote about General Motors Small Block engine blog that closed down recently, the blog was set up to celebrate the anniversary of the engine, plus the blogger retired. Conference blogs are another great example, I think anytime you have a short-term project, its okay to run a blog for a short period of time. However, I’d advise keeping the content around forever. Last year in 2004 several people got together to run the first Global PR Blog week, and the blog remains for the effort. Not only does the blog continue to provide a valuable resource on blogging, but also it provides a great history of this form of online marketing.

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November 14, 2005

How much time do you need to conduct blogger relations?

Last week I moderated a panel at the Arts and Business council of greater Boston on, “Demystifying blogging: What is it and what does it mean for smarts arts marketers?? We had a great session with a lot of questions from the audience.

Here are some of the questions asked by the audience:

1. What service did you use when you first started a blog?
2. What are the measurements of the effect of blogs?
3. How do you get an online community to act (e.g. for arts organizations)
4. Are there any useful strategies for artists? (e.g. blogs as marketing tools)
5. How much time is needed to blog?
6. Is posting comments and rating also considered a blog (Re: Salsa Boston’s website, www.salsaboston.com)
7. Can you have a short-term blog? If so, how long do you keep it for?
8. Can you build an email marketing/patron list through blogs?

Thinking about the question how much time is needed to blog, is really a question about developing content for the blog, in addition to the amount of time it takes to interact with other bloggers.

A successful blogger relations effort can take a lot of effort and time. Blogging is not really just about writing articles, its really all about starting a conversation with your audience about the issues that are most important in your industry. Those conversations can be with your entire audience, but they are put within the context of a one-on-one conversation with another blogger or reader.

Blogger relations parallels the activity of journalists when they research and write articles for mass media publications, they have the reader in mind, when journalists are thinking about writing a story. Well it’s the same for bloggers, accept for blogging to be effective you really should interact with individual people through blogs, a corporate blog will then gain links and direct traffic from other bloggers through the process of the conversation about the industry issue.

Therefore the time that’s needed to blog is greater than just writing and publishing an article, you have to spend time reading other blogs, and researching the industry to understand the current conversations in your industry, so that you can write about that issue if you have something relevant to say. This research and thoughtful consideration of issues in the industry all takes time, but the results in terms of developing relevant content that will get links and traffic is really worth the effort.

Posted by johncass at 4:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IBM Ramps Up Its Blogging Efforts

IBM is ramping up its blogging efforts, from 3,600 blogs earlier this year to 15,000 internal blogs and 2,000 external blogs according to CNN. I am still wondering how often IBM external bloggers are encouraging customer comments on products however?

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November 10, 2005

Forbes Article Claims Microsoft, IBM, SUN & Oracle Bloggers are part of an Online Lynch Mob

Daniel Lyons used his Forbes article "attack of the blogs," to give the impression bloggers are only interested in attacking corporations. After reading his article, I thought Lyons managed to characterize all bloggers as vitriolic towards companies, when in my experience that is not the case.

Daniel I think you have to realize that the term blogger has a broad definition, the term applies to someone who runs a blog, and that's all. That means the type of people who run the 20 million or so blogs, (as calculated by Technorati.com), are varied and numerous.

You gave the example of Gregory Halpern and his company Circle Group Holdings, and how his company was unfairly attacked by the blog our-street.com. To my mind, the blog does not make the person, the person makes the blog, therefore to label all bloggers as an online lynch mob seems not only unfair but rather preposterous. I think your article would have been much more interesting if you provided some balance and also illustrated that some of the very companies what you detailed have been attacked by blogs actually run blogs themselves. See some of my case studies on corporate blogging at Microsoft, Macromedia and IBM. However, your article might leave the reader with the impression that all bloggers are attack dogs.

You do bring up the example of Ed Brill at IBM and his interactions with Sara Radicati of the Radicati Group. Although Ed is an IBM employee, IBM does not run his blog. Are you then also suggesting that all corporate bloggers at Microsoft, Macromedia, SUN Microsystems, IBM and Oracle are part of the online lynch mob? Hence the reason for the title of my post, as that was the impression I was left with after reading your article.

I think you missed out on an opportunity to discuss the newly recognized power of consumers to publish content on the web, on websites, forums, and now blogs. When a consumer does express an opinion online, today that opinion can be easily found by millions of fellow customers, either through word of mouth or through search engines. Consumers can use that information to make up their own minds about companies and products. Hence the reason why its so important for any company to be involved in those online conversations by monitoring consumer generated online media, and responding if necessary. I do think you analysis of some of the problems with blogging, in that a few bloggers don't use the same standards as journalists or the journalistic approach is correct. I think that blogger critics should also be careful and transparent about their writing. Otherwise they open themselves for the same criticism, they give to other organizations and people. But isn't that what a free society is all about?

Now you did raise the issue of many of the attacks on companies coming from competitors and even cited Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami as saying "I'd say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors." What's the basis for his claim? I'd like to hear more about this issue.

Overall all I don't think you gave bloggers a fair shake, do you recall the Intel mathematics bug issue in the last century, that issue was sparked by a message board posting, I think that story illustrates that product feedback and criticism has been around for a long time before blogging, and it will continue in many formats through television, newspapers, magazines and yes blogs. I think your article lacks some of the same balance you describe in several blog examples you gave by not describing other uses of blogs.

Posted by johncass at 1:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Number of Corporate Blogs

I’d like to know the total number of corporate blogs in the US at the moment, Tehnorati.com estimated the number of blogs at 5000 last October 2004, but what is the number today, and is the number of corporate blogs growing at the same rate as blogs in general? Any articles or suggestions would be helpful.

Posted by stephenbackbone at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Arts Blogging Workshop Recap

Yesterday I attended the Arts and business council of greater Boston’s national workshop on blogging. I gave a presentation on blogging 101 to the group, and three other panelists joined me in a discussion about blogging for Art’s non-profits. I had a really great time, the audience was great, and a lot of thoughtful questions, and the contributions of the panelists were excellent.

I thought I’d list out some of the questions I prepared for the panel discussion. If anyone has any thoughts on these questions, or would like to ask more please comment.


-How should an arts organizations approach other bloggers if they want to connect with them? What should be the strategy of interaction?

-Jack Wright mentioned that there is less coverage of the arts, and where it does exist less deep in the mass media today, how can blogs help arts organizations to get better coverage?

-With sites like Channel9, Bayosphere and Slashdot providing different models of blogs and social networking. What is a blog? (Bill Marx's question)

-H2Otown http://h2otown.info/ is a local blog set up by Lisa Williams to encourage local citizen journalists to blog about their hometown of Watertown. How does the appearance of such community citizen journalism blogs affect arts organizations? How can an arts organization benefit from such sites?

-Apple recently launched its video Ipod, how will this new technology affect arts organizations?

-How should an arts organization develop its blogging online policy? What elements should be included?

-The Howard Dean campaign is probably one of the best examples of blogging being used for volunteer activism in action. Why do you think the campaign was a success when successful? And how can arts organizations use those lessons learned to help with their fundraising and volunteer campaigns.

-Why is personality important in developing a voice for your blog?

-Robert Moffitt, the Communications Director for the American Lung Association of Minnesota wrote the following about his decision not to allow comments on his non-profits blog.

We will not allow (as many blogs do) unedited comments to be posted on our blog. While this decision may seem to run counter to what a blog is supposed to be, I felt it was important not to allow our new site to be high jacked by critics of Minnesota smoking bans.

Did Bob do the right thing, what does he gain from not allowing commenting and what does he lose?

-Following on -- Many arts marketing and PR people are scared of blogs from the perspective of criticism of their art? Are they right?


-A recent report by Advertising Age Editor at Large Bradley Johnson noted that about 35 million workers -- or one in four people in the U.S. labor force -- spend an average of 3.5 hours, or 9%, of each work day reading blogs.

At what point, or at what length of time, does the use of company assets for personal activities become unreasonable?

Posted by johncass at 10:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 8, 2005

Arts Blogging Tomorrow at the Barr Foundation In Boston

Tomorrow is the Arts and Business Council event on blogging at the Barr Foundation in Boston. I am giving a presentation on Blogging 101, plus taking part in the panel discussion about arts related blogging. We should have an interesting discussion.

Posted by johncass at 4:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Growing The Medical Peer Review Process With Blogs

George D. Lundberg, MD, is the Editor in Chief of Medscape from WebMD and Medscape General Medicine; Adjunct Professor of Health Policy, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts. George recently video logged and wrote an article about his opinion on blogging, "Is There a Place for Medical Blogs in a Medical Media Company?" I was curious and so interviewed George about his thoughts on publishing a medical journal and how blogging will affect such journals.

John: How can you take the concept of peer review and use it in the world of blogging?

George: I think this awaits creative minds to figure out how to do it best, I’ve found that the most important peer review always happens after publication. Peer reviewers may number as many as ten, they are chosen for their expertise, and reviewers advise editors if something should be published. The peer review process has been going on for 300 years, sometimes the peer review process is imperfect, and the real reviews happen in the letters column, the readers tell you about anything they are concerned about very rapidly.

Yes, the letters are as least as important as the review process. I think one area where you can criticize the peer review process, is that it tends to follow a safe route, only publishing the non-controversial articles, while blogging is marvelous in that bloggers are free to publish, as a blogger can get out their piece without the editorial control.

John: Do you see and examples of authors publishing on their blogs, and articles in journals?

George: Many traditional authors, will not duplicate their articles as editors will not publish something published somewhere else. However we are just about to publish a piece from an author who has already published on their blog. I am publishing this because I think the issue will be of reader interest, and useful to republish, I will publish the article with a reference to the blog.

Blogs are about dialogue, sometimes if there is no audience to respond, they are only about uni-log, WebMD is about dialogue, and we provide responses through the letters column. The old Lancet used to publish almost every letter, I don't do that, I use my editorial judgment, a letter has to make some sense and the ideas has to be fresh.
Many people moderate your blog.

John: There is a declining readership amongst paper issues of newspapers, while the number of citizen journalist are increasing, is blogging an opportunity or threat to medical media companies?

They are both, medical media that ignores blogging is at risk, and blogging is something that obviously has to be thought about very seriously. Our journal bases our existence on trust, the downside to blogging is that you neither know, or can vouch for a blogger or comment.

Blogging challenges the whole channel of the publishing industry, with blogging publishing is no longer a hurdle, and every medical media company is threaten by the ability of people to published.

John: What’s the state of publishing and submissions for your journal?

We have more submissions than ever before, especially on surgical issues. In the industry there are more submissions, significant articles, more journals, than ever before, blogging is not threatening in that sense at all. Authors and readers want to know that some publisher stands behind the author, the way it works now, there is parallel existences between journals and blogging, regular medial literature, continues to thrives, blogging also thrives.

John’s afterward: Thinking about the interview and reviewing my notes, I asked myself the question is there really a threat to medical journals? Dr. Lundberg suggests in his article that blogging’s openness is contra to the peer review process and the trust garnered by a journal’s audience because a medical media company will put their reputation and editorial research process behind every article published, while a blogger may not be so diligent in their efforts to publish content with solid facts.

Dr. Lundberg does suggest that even in his own publication, reader response is an important and valuable part of the medical media publication process that’s been happening for 300 years. Here then is the similarity between the culture of blogging and peer reviewed journals, the ability of journals to accept reader response through letters.

According to what Dr. Lundberg suggests in this interview, I don’t really see a threat to medical media companies from blogging. The self-publishing of reader thoughts and ideas is a big change in our culture, for both commerce and for medical media companies. I can foresee that blogging will complement such medical publications and increase the number of reader letters, one, because more people are now comfortable with responding, and two, reader bloggers need a foil and it will be helpful to bloggers if they interact with other publications if they are going to be successful in attracting an audience.

As more readers see the value in publishing their own content, and have the ability to easily publish, I think in the future more articles and responses will be republished from such reader self-published media. In the new blogging society where the speed of publication is merely dependent upon writing an article and pressing the blogging publishing platform submit button, readers will increasingly want more control over such content and prefer to quickly publish thoughts and ideas. Yet readers will continue to want to be published and republished in peer reviewed publications as such publications provide added credibility when reader letters are put through the filter of editorial review.

I think the example of Macromedia’s blog aggregator, where the aggregator has been very successful in providing a valuable tool for Macromedia and customers to highlight community conversations within Macromedia, and amongst Macromedia customers, provides a model for media companies. If a similar system can be developed for medical media publications, that also combine peer review into the aggregator, such publications will have more weight and authority in their community overall. If such an event happens, maybe the issue for editor’s like Dr. Lundberg will be hiring more editors to handle the volume of content.

Posted by johncass at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 7, 2005

Expertise Needed To Be A Corporate Blogger

Lee Hopkins follows up my discussion with Doug Haslam and discusses the issue of blogger relations, and the backlash against blogging, probably a reference to Forbes (Business Week’s note) and maybe Advertising Age articles, plus the skills sets needed to run a corporate blog.

I was thinking about the issue of what skills you need to conduct blogger relations over the weekend and I think you really need to be a PR professional to develop a PR strategy, an SEO expert to develop a search engine optimization strategy, and a journalist, or maybe rather a columnist when it comes to implementing your blogging relations strategy.

Now here’s an issue for many PR and marketing communications professionals, their skills and training have been all about convincing journalists to write stories about their clients, PR professionals will now have to become the journalists or train their clients to become columnists.

Lowrey and Anderson describe the role of journalists in their article, “The Journalist Behind the Curtain:
Participatory Functions on the Internet and their Impact on Perceptions of the Work of Journalism."

“Journalistic work involves (1) diagnosis, which is the task of deciding what information society and audiences need, (2) inference, or the task of investigating current events in light of the diagnosis, and (3) treatment, or the production (writing, layout, etc.) of this information for social consumption.?

The focus of any journalist is to develop relevant content based upon society’s and audience needs, while the focus of any corporate blogger is to develop relevant content that places their product, company or services within the context of an audience conversation. A corporate blogger would still go through the process of diagnosis and inference and treatment but their strategy starts with the marketing concept, identifying customer needs and wants, in order to satisfy such customer needs and wants efficiently and profitably.

What are the consequences of PR professionals and business people taking over more of the role of journalists, it could be the weakening of the occupation of journalism. Lowrey and Anderson highlight the possible consequences of blogging for journalism.

"If an occupation's grip over a work area is loosened, then the result is not necessarily a more open and egalitarian society-there may simply be a shift in the power structure of occupations. For example, journalists presently have a measure of control over the work of informing the public. If this control weakens, then rival occupations such as public relations practitioners or politicians may benefit (Dooley, 1999).?

Posted by johncass at 9:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 4, 2005

General Motors Blog Shuts Down

General Motors Smallblock Engine blog shuts down today after only a year. The blogger, Dave Hill is retiring, so the retirement of the blog makes sense. Especially as blogging is about a human voice, and Dave represented that voice for the blog.

I hope this means that GM can put more resources into its Fastlane blog, readers may remember my earlier critique of that GM Blog.

Interestingly its not the only high profile blog to become dormant, Maytag's SkyBox blog when Ka-Thunk in June when its principal blogger left for greener pastures. Another blogger attempted to fill Gary Pertersen's shoes but I have not seen a new post since June 14th.

Posted by johncass at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 3, 2005

Validating Customer Generated Comments on Blogs and the Web

Mary Beth Weber is Executive Vice President for SigmaValidation. I recently saw her presentation on marketing research validation at the American Marketing Association Marketing Research conference in Boston in September. I wanted to interview Mary Beth about her thoughts on the validity of customer feedback data on forums and blogs.

I have come to understand that several companies have gained product development knowledge from the use of blogs, Macromedia, Microsoft and Intuit are several companies who are really using blogs to get feedback from their customers. Since gaining that understanding I’ve posed a question for myself about such customer generated data online, I'd like to understand how a traditional market researcher views such data and its validity. After seeing Mary Beth's presentation I thought she would be the perfect person to answer this question.

John: Tell me what you think about customer data generated through blogging or consumer generated online media?

Mary Beth: I think if someone is going to blog about a company or product, they will have had either an exceptionally good experience or an exceptionally bad experience. So if you are listening to customer bloggers you may think you have more problems than good, as typically people are more motivated to express their bad experiences.

For example, my sister recently had a problem with her car, she went to Google and found a website where people put down their complaints, and found other people who had similar problems with their cars. Today when I am thinking about a product, I go online and find other consumers who have used the product. I recently pre-ordered an outdoor toy at a Toys r Us store that was not in stock. After placing the order, I looked the toy up online and found a lot of complaints about the product, so I went back to the store and cancelled my order. With the easy access to the web, I am getting to the point where I base my purchases on how people rate things. I'd advise any company to give people the ability to rate products online -- after a customer purchases a product, the company should send a follow-up email shortly after delivery, and ask for a rating.

John: You sound really passionate about shopping and being a consumer, how do you think a company should handle complaints and getting feedback from customers?

Mary Beth: I'd recommend a company send a survey to a customer after they make a purchase. If you ask everyone who purchases a product about their experience, a company will be more likely to receive a balanced overview from customers -- otherwise; the company might receive more bad ratings than good, since consumers are more likely to take action about a bad experience. If someone prompted me, I would definitely respond. That recently happened for me at overstock.com -- the company asked me to rate a feather bed I had purchased -- I would have never thought to rate this product, but I gave my opinion just because they asked. Overstock.com has not asked me to rate other products I have purchased at the site, so I have not rated them. The point should be for companies to proactively ask customers their opinion.

As a customer you have to read all the comments on a forum or blog -- sometimes other customers will comment on what another customer stated and will provide a balanced opinion about a product. If customers see what other people are saying about products, and how a company addresses any problems, it will make the customer much more loyal to a company.

John: I think of blogs as the very loud bell that has notified most companies of the amount of consumer generated media on the web and how consumers are using blogs, forums, and other websites to compare opinions. How should companies respond to customer feedback on such sites?

Mary Beth: When a company receives a lot of complaints about a product through blogs or other mediums, I'd recommend they conduct a quick survey of a representative sample of their overall customer base to see if there's truly an issue. If a company takes note of an issue early enough, they may be able to solve a problem for customers quickly.

John: There are many, many sites out there that allow people to give their opinions on consumer products and services; Epinions, eBay etc. I was thinking that it would be great to have a site for business to business vendors, one where you can rate market research companies on their products and services in a business setting, what do you think?

Mary Beth: I think many customers would be afraid of lawsuits from vendors, but if you just reported the facts, and provided a rating system it may work. For market researchers you might rate such attributes as delivery times and quality of the data -- does the data make sense. You could also have a moderator that would help ensure people reported only facts and did not just express opinions.

John: Lastly, why is the data a company collects on blogs not valid?

Mary Beth: Well as I said earlier, people who have had a negative experience will tend to post feedback, and such people would not be a good representative sample of your audience. However, they do provide a good warning or cue to companies that they may need to talk to consumers about a particular issue. Most customers that have a problem will not say anything, and will just not use the product anymore. It's important for a company to take the cues as early as possible. I recommend a company conduct online surveys to their customer base and, when preparing a survey, ask indirect questions without leading the respondent. If the complaint is not an issue amongst the majority of your customers, a company will not waste valuable resources resolving an issue that does not exist. If it turns out there is an issue, a company has to take action, before they start losing customers. If a company finds an issue, resolves the issue, and it was a significant a problem, I’d recommend the company include the resolution of the issue in their advertising to let customers know they have improved the product.

Posted by johncass at 4:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 2, 2005

Dallas Citizen Journalism

Here’s an example of a new blog media company launched in the Dallas area, most of the content will be written by contributors for free.

“Eight other bloggers currently listed on the site write for free. That group includes four Morning News alums -- one of whom, Tom Stephenson, now runs Little Havana Restaurant and a photography-safari business. The bloggers also include a venture capitalist, a cardiologist and two executives of a lifestyle-magazine publishing concern.?

I think we are going to see a lot more of these types of blogs, every town will probably have one in a few years. What will that mean for the major newspapers when they have even more competition from other sites for their editorial pages and not just in the classified ads from craigslist.org?

Posted by johncass at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 1, 2005

Blogger Relations Is Not Public Relations

Shel Israel at Naked Conversations discusses the differences between public relations and blogger relations. I think blogger relations is different from public relations because of the nature of the medium.

With mass media a company could buy advertising or conduct public relations, consumer generated media is very different, over the last ten years; the number of media channels has increased. Those channels include blogs published by consumers. To succeed in getting your message out through consumer generated media channels, a company has to engage the channels by discussing ideas that bloggers wish to discuss, rather than buying advertising or pitching journalists.

I do think that PR strategy comes into play in thinking about the development of ideas, and thought leadership for a company, however with blogger relations the way in which a company connects with other bloggers can be very different than PR methods.

Posted by johncass at 11:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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