Corporate blogging: value versus risks


[email protected] School of Business recently published an interesting article on corporate blogging, which drew on an interview with me. Here are the quotes it took from my interview, along with a few comments.

One of the greatest dangers is not getting involved in blogging at all, claims Ross Dawson – futurist, blogger and chairman of Advanced Human Technologies, a company that consults on “the network economy”.

It’s certainly not that every company needs to be blogging, far from it. But many companies that would get great value from blogging, in particular for defending their reputation online, are being held back by overwrought fears of the potential dangers.

In a recent address to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Dawson’s key point was about “governance for transformation”.

Here is my keynote presentation to the AICD in Beijing and the response of the corporate directors present, who seem to strongly support the idea.

At stake are the inherent risks in blogging and other forms of social media engagement. “There are very clear benefits of blogging, such as customer engagement and attracting staff, but sometimes the perceived risks of blogging are seen as too great,” Dawson notes. “Rarely considered though are the risks of not engaging. There needs to be an understanding that trying to control risks that are sometimes not clearly understood by executives can be a constraint on value creation for the organisation. There are often directors or senior executives who focus on the risks of blogging, but these perceived risks need to be weighed up against the potential benefits and also against the major risks of not engaging,” he argues.

These ideas are developed in more detail in the chapter on Governance in my book Implementing Enterprise 2.0. In managing risk, it is absolutely critical to understand the risks of not acting, which can sometimes be greater than the risks of acting. Doing nothing is not necessarily the safest path, let alone the one with greatest value creation.

Blogging for businesses can be performed primarily in two spaces: internal and external. For both, an overarching rule is to avoid putting a blogging platform in place without first working out a clear list of objectives and outcomes, Dawson warns. A blog without purpose very quickly loses its way.

Too often companies feel they should be blogging, and want to know how to do it. The first step always needs to be to work out what results you want. The result may be choosing not to blog, or dramatically shifting the actual approach you take.

Internally, the two main areas for blogging are senior executive communication to staff and information sharing. “Blogging can often be around specific projects,” Dawson says. “People who are active in the project can write blog posts to keep the organisation updated. Blogs can be valuable for competitive intelligence as anybody across the organisation can learn about important developments. This means they can go to see their clients, confident in their knowledge about products that are in development, for instance. A blog is a very easy way of being able to capture that. It also works the other way around. In (financial services firm) Morgan Stanley, for instance, blogs have been found to be particularly useful in expertise location, in finding those people that have the greatest expertise in a particular area.”

Today there are quite often more appropriate platforms and tools than simple blogs in bringing social media inside organizations. Whatever the approach taken, project management usually proves to provide fertile ground for tools that facilitate communication among extended teams.

The areas of potential value from the internal use of blogs and other social media are extensive, and usually far beyond those initially envisaged. My chapter on Key Benefits and Risks in Implementing Enterprise 2.0 expands on some of the potential benefits, including productivity, team performance, improved learning, access to expertise, and far more.