Naked Conversations is a book in praise of blogging by the uber-blogger Robert Scoble and sidekick Shel Israel. It gives a lot of anecdotal evidence that blogs can open up communications between companies and their customers, employees and partners by forging two-way links between individual employees (he’s not a big fan of ‘corporate blogs’) and these stakeholders.
I’m a big fan of blogs too. I run two: this one and Golf Hotel Whiskey. I run Bad Language to get some attention for me and my company, Articulate Marketing. It’s also therapeutic, educational and, occasionally, a chance for me to write something important free from the constraints.
However, I think there’s a question mark in my mind about this book’s central premise: that blogging can have a magical effect on business success and openess. It may work for Sun and Microsoft (Scoble’s employer) because they are technical companies with a largely technical audience. It may work if you’re the first tailor or butcher with a blog. It may work if you’re the CEO of General Motors. But will it work for every company? Will it get to the point that companies without blogs will look as lame as companies without websites? Perhaps, and Scoble thinks so. I agree but I think companies need to find a way to embrace blogging while addressing their concerns about it.
One constraint is that companies don’t have the technical or writing resources to run effective blogs and may, rightly, be nervous of uncontrolled staff blogging. Giving it to your PR firm is a recipe for disaster too.
I’m looking at running an outsourced blogging service through Articulate. We’d deal with the techie stuff, promoting the blog and work with staff to create by-lined, attributable HUMAN posts. Not everyone is a writer but most people can give an interesting phone interview or a list of their favourite websites or answers to technical problems. I think the crucial input Articulate can give is turning that into readable prose while retaining the personality behind it. I think it is possible to have a corporate blog without turning it into a PR mashup or marketing bland-fest. We’ll see.