Big Companies Form Private Blog Council

bcouncil Tomorrow morning AccuQuote, Cisco Systems, The Coca-Cola Company, Dell, Gemstar-TV Guide, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Wells Fargo will announce the formations of “The Blog Council.” These top global brands want to promote best practices in corporate blogging.

Issues the Council says it will address:

  • How do global brands manage blogs in more than one language?
  • What do you do when 2000 employees have personal blogs?
  • What is the role of the corporate brand in a media landscape increasingly geared toward consumer-generated media?
  • What is the correct way to engage and respond to bloggers who write about your company?

Here’s an interesting statement from the release:

The Blog Council exists as a forum for executives to meet one another in a private, vendor-free environment and share tactics, offer advice based on past experience, and develop standards-based best practices as a model for other corporate blogs.

That fascinates me. It tells me companies want a discussion without biased commentary from PR firms, bloggers and consultants (like me) that want their business. And at the same time maybe they want to talk about things like when to get support from consultants and PR firms, how to “manage” disgruntled consumers, astroturfing incidents etc., without catching a bunch of grief about being unethical.

In a separate FAQ document, the council stated, “Big companies have unique issues when blogging. There isn’t really any other forum that focuses on the needs of this group.”

I admit that’s probably true. And it’s probably a great idea to vet best practices. Some companies probably feel safer doing that in private.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that these discussions are taking place behind closed doors? Are we back to Command and Control? One thing is clear. Transparency is not going to be at a premium.

A word of caution to the Council. It would be really unfortunate if this council produced a questionable community management principles document. Please be sure to vet best practices with enough members of the communities you want to manage.

As Shel said this morning, “Don’t pitch the conversational network. Join it. Start your own blog… Be part of the conversation so that we bloggers can see who you are and what yo do and what you have to say.”

17 Replies to “Big Companies Form Private Blog Council”

  1. Hi Geoff —

    You make some very good points.

    The Blog Council members are all very active and involved in the blogging community, and we’re all about openness and input. Take a look at our early list of activities (http://blogcouncil.org/activities.php) — plenty of good minds joining our conversation.

    It’s really not about privacy, it’s about focus.

    What we’re missing is a chance to talk to each other, share ideas, see how other have successfully made blog values work in a jumbo corporation. It’s a very specific set of challenges and we want to learn from others in the same situations. For example … how many bloggers have to figure out how to work with 5,000 employees’ personal blogs?

    Cheers,

    Andy

    P.S. Want to make a presentation?

  2. LOL. I got my start at the EIA family of associations (now disbanded, but included the Consumer Electronic Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association and several smaller IT associations). I understand the need to vet issues specific to an industry (or a specific size of company). But because I’m in DC, I also see some strange things come from special interest groups.

    The fact that Dell is in there and I know those guys really says something positive to me. Thanks for coming by, Andy!

  3. Wow, this is the first I’ve heard about this. At first glance, it’s a nice thought. It almost seems a bit scary as well in that it does lead one to wonder if, as you said, corporate leadership is taking control over something they don’t understand. Seeing that some of the names listed either have blogs that failed initially or now have blogs started by employees (or former employees), I wonder how much confidence this “blog council” will instill. By the way, why isn’t Southwest on this council?

    With that said, I do understand they may feel they have issues that no one understands when it comes to blogging. But really, how do they plan to control an employee blogging outside of work? Search that person out and sue them if anything negative is said? How does that motivate or improve morale?

    Also, I’ll go ahead and share the fact that my CEO and much of my company’s leadership does not understand the value of the blog, much less Web 2.0. So how much value will this bring to the table? Will it bring a set of guidelines that take away from blogging, or will it cause more companies to take another look, but only because their CEO peers have agreed to a company blog? What purpose does that serve? And, the whole “develop standards-based best practices as a model for other corporate blogs” statement? That will be interesting as every company is very different. What works for Dell or Southwest won’t work for other companies. Blogs have to reflect the people doing the blogging. I say this because, again, I believe some companies would apply one of the templates as the standard regardless of whether or not it worked, if they agreed to have a blog.

    I know, I’m being rather negative, but this makes me nervous. We’ve already seen so many examples of companies who try to manipulate blogging and have it backfire. A corporate council isn’t going to make manipulation okay. Customers don’t like to be manipulated. Customers always have the “ace up their sleeve” as they, the customers, can have companies enter bid/price wars.

    I’ll try to end on a positive note. I’ll keep my mind open and cross my fingers that they really intend to pursue this in the right way. For many communicators in corporations, it may be the only way to bring Web 2.0 tools into the company. I’ll keep a close eye on this one. Thanks for bringing it out!

  4. Sorry about the double-post, not sure why that happened. Now being able to see Andy’s comment, I understand a bit more about where they are coming from, however, I think many people will take a “wait and see” approach. Again, I’ll keep an open mind, and hey, if they are going to invite you, Geoff, to present, then that will bode well. :)

  5. “What do you do when 2000 employees have personal blogs?”

    That one worries me. Why do anything if it is a personal blog? It is important not to confuse economic power with political power.

  6. Fabulous! The meeting sounds promising. I have no issues with the Council meeting privately, but I would like to see what comes of these meetings. What happens during these meetings? What content is being reviewed and in what context? Whose fingernails are dirty? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that room!

    Obviously not all bloggers can participate in the council conversation, buy-in from the blogger community is necessary to carry out the messages.

  7. The goals of the group may be laudable, but using the word ‘Council’ connotes decision making and administration. Small semantic issues like this may demonstrate that the group could use some additional input.

  8. Geoff,

    It is natural, I think, for anyone discussing important issues to at first want to do so in private. We all know that creative meetings where ideas are being bounced around can result in someone reporting an “idea” as fact, when it isn’t. I never concern myself with businesses discussing ideas behind closed doors. I’m more interested in the decisions that come out of these kinds of meetings.

  9. Hey Geoff,

    I had commented on Shel Holtz’s blog about the tone of exclusivity as well. I don’t really think it’s a big deal compared to the good it might produce. It sets a great example that businesses are moving toward social media. Still, I think we can appreciate the tony irony in meeting privately to discuss how to speak publicly or billing aggressive exclusivity: no vendors, no small businesses, no critics, no judging.

    Best,
    Rich

  10. I’m guessing there is not an intent to insult vendors, small businesses or critics (who are they? is that code for “bloggers”?), but there is a smugness about the release that makes me wonder if this was all thought through, discussed by the participants, perhaps? What is the point of issuing a press release to tell the world you are having a meeting and no one else can come, so there? What’s the word of mouth marketing objective here?

  11. Susan, Alice, Lauren, Shannon, Lewis, Rich and Des: Thank you for commenting! It’s certainly an interesting conversation throughout the comments and in the larger blogosphere!

  12. Lots of big businesses participate in “private” councils. It’s one way they choose to learn. Is it the best way? That’s debatable. Had Dell participated in a Blog Council before launching their blog, maybe they wouldn’t have stumbled out of the gates.

    This is a great sign to me. It tells us big businesses are interested in learning what a lot of us already know.

    And as Andy Sernovitz said earlier, this is an issue of focus for Blog Council members. Big businesses have loads of challenges they face which smaller businesses don’t have to deal with. By learning from a select group of like-minded peers, these big business will be able to gain the knowledge, experience, and confidence to one day, be more inclusive than exclusive.

  13. Wonderful post, in the end there a lot of different between these two types of blogs. Companies use blog for some reasons, like one of them is to publish the latest news about their work, firm, niche, where they operate and so on.

    Web 2.0 is one great way to promote your business as well as to use it to grow it fast and brand it.

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