To paraphrase René Magritte, ceci n’est pas un blogue corporate (this is not a corporate blog).
Why do I bring this up? Because today I saw a post by Richard MacManus on ReadWriteWeb entitled “Report: Corporate Blogs Not Trusted” and a similar post by Joe Wilcox about how to “Make Your Corporate Blog Believable“. They cite a report from Forrester that company blogs represent the least trusted information source, down at 16%. Actually, personal blogs don’t fare much better at 18%, but I’d like to use this report as a pretext to talk about what it means to blog as an industry professional.
Frankly, I don’t think corporate blogs, at least as they are conventionally understood, are a good idea. Companies put out press releases that no sane person would trust as an objective information source. A corporate blog is just a repackaging of a press release web page, trying to masquerade as something more hip. I don’t think it fools anyone, and I’m not aware of any corporate blogs other than the Official Google Blog that have significant readership.
Bloggers are people who speak with individual voices. And industry professionals are still people, regardless of their corporate affiliations. I am no more the voice of Endeca’s public relations department than Greg Linden is the voice of Microsoft’s or Matt Cutts the voice of Google’s.
Of course, I have my point of view, which unsurprisingly has some alignment with my employer’s overall vision. When I advocate for HCIR, I don’t make excuses for the fact that HCIR underlies Endeca’s approach to information access. But I speak as an individual and in my own voice. When I blog, I put my own credibility on the line, and I cultivate a reputation that extends beyond my corporate affiliation.
I think the interesting question for companies is not whether they should publish corporate blogs, but rather whether they should encourage their employees to publish personal blogs that relate to the work the company does. As someone who has been involved in the development of Endeca’s core intellectual property, I understand the reservations that companies have about letting their employees publish. But I think that companies are often too conservative, and incur an enormous opportunity cost in the name of protecting trade secrets. Letting employees blog (and, more generally, publish) not only provides the companies with free marketing, but also provides employees with an avenue for personal development.
I’d be curious to hear perspectives from readers here who work for companies. Perhaps I’m lucky to work for an enlightened employer; do most corporate citizens get the memo from Legal saying that blogging is something only the marketing department should do?