A great new how-not-to resource for business bloggers

When a new innovation comes along, corporations typically follow a predictable arc. First there’s the “Ignore It” phase. Then, once it becomes clear that it’s actually important, they dive into the “Getting It All Wrong” phase. The first step in Getting It All Wrong is “pretend that the new thing works like all the old things.”

Eventually they get past these early “ballistic podiatry*” activities and begin to figure things out, although there’s often a step, which falls late in Getting It All Wrong, called “Hire a Consultant Who Was Successful at Other Things But Barely Knows More Than You Do About The New One.” Sometimes these outside hitters have read a book, but mainly they rely on the tendency of executives to overgeneralize about prior successes.

Which brings us to The Blog Council, “where the people who run large companies’ blogs share best practices and new ideas.” As the About page tells us:

Personal blogs, small-business bloggers, and blog experts don’t face the same business issues that we do.

  • We need to speak for our corporations while being a responsible member of the blog community.
  • We have to speak for a corporation, but never sound corporate.
  • We have to reconcile the often contrasting rules of corporate communications and blog etiquette.
  • There are few resources specific to the unique needs of this community.

And we have to learn how to do it live, real-time, in the public eye.

The good news for all corporate bloggers: You are not alone. Every major corporation is struggling with similar challenges and opportunities. There is no reason why you need to invest the time and resources exploring this on your own. The Blog Council brings together precisely the people who need to explore these issues together, in a productive networking environment.

That last graf is right – these companies are struggling, and damned near none that I’ve run across are anywhere close to getting it right. But lest I let my snark run away with me, let me acknowledge that this is conceptually a very good idea.

The execution of the concept, though, promises to be an underwhelming failure. For starters, I always try and explain to my clients that a blog comes with some expectations. You can’t tell, in a traditional top-down, one-to-many fashion. You have to engage in a conversation, and that means your readers get to talk back. If they disagree, they get to say so, and they may beat you up a little in the process. That’s how the game works these days. If people can’t participate in the conversation, they go away. And they don’t come back.

So let’s look at how launches.

1: Exclusivity. At the top of the page they tell you that “Most of what we do is in our private community.” So they’re clinging to the top-down world right off the bat.

2: Beacuse that’s how we’ve always done it. Top post – a press release. How very edgy. Second post – an FAQ. Helpful, but I’ve looked at two posts and so far it’s all about you, all old-world, and meat-free. Because those of us in the blogosphere just loves us some mission statements.

3: One-to-many. See if you can find the comment link. I’m pretty experienced with blogs and I couldn’t. The message to the reader is clear: you’re here to listen, because customers should be seen and not heard.

4: Relationship building? What relationship building? Note the poster – anonymous, faceless, corporate borg drone “Blog Council.” Sure, it’s good to have that collective account for team posts – we have one at Scholars & Rogues. But that’s what you lead with?

Dave Taylor has a great analysis here, and I encourage you to read it. As he notes, “[t]hese are worst practices, not best practices.”

Like I say, this is a good idea, but it’s a good idea gone wrong. Right off the bat. Before they get anything right they’ve hutzed a number of things, and we ought to be able to expect better from a coalition driven by the likes of AccuQuote, Cisco Systems, The Coca-Cola Company, Dell, Gemstar-TV Guide, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, and Wells Fargo.

The site says that it’s maintained by a company called GasPedal. Their splash page makes clear that they’re pretty darned proud of their role in this project. Good for them, I guess – there’s probably some good money in the Hire a Consultant Who Was Successful at Other Things But Barely Knows More Than You Do About The New One business.

* I borrow this wonderful term from Karl Albrecht – it means “shooting yourself in the foot.”

13 replies »

  1. Ha hah! I knew I made the right choice by passing this to you, Sam. Nicely done.

    I can just picture one of the CEOs involved in this effort saying something like “Wow, this Internet thing is really taking off!”

  2. Ideally these things don’t live with the CEO. This is more of a Chief Marketing or Chief Communications Officer initiative. The problem is that in many companies the people who use and get social media are too far down the food chain to have any stroke, so it takes a few years for the meme to climb the ladder. Structurally, it’s as thought most big companies are designed to prevent this from happening.

  3. The certain way to ruin something is for corporations to get involved. And if I hear “best practices” (not to be confused with “breast practices” which I like/lick), it reminds me of the corporate-speak for wasting big money.

    Btw, SAP was Germany’s revenge for its loss in WWII.

  4. Hey, I’m with you. If a large corporation were a human being (and the courts think they are), they would be actively finding ways to ensure that the brain gets no feedback from nerve endings. They’d be unable to grasp anything, would be unable to tell when they have their hands on a hot stove until they smell it, and would eventually lose motor function.

    And, well, it’s the rare executive I’ve ever met who could tolerate even the gentlest criticism.

  5. Heh – take some heart in the fact that the Blog Council is getting poleaxed all over the Web. Yeah, there are a lot of idiots in charge, but there are a lot of us out here who get it, too.

    Now if I can just get some of those folks with budgets to hire me… 🙂