Communication Issues and Corporate Blogs

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Why Your Company Should Have a Blog. In the comments of that post, we had an interesting discussion about some of the communication issues that can result when you have employees blogging. I decided to elaborate a bit and turn it into a full post about how to minimize communication issues on corporate blogs.

Jason Mauer, Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, made this point in the comments:

One issue Microsoft has run into: as blogs turn into more of an official voice with announcements coming through blogs instead of customary PR channels (press releases, etc), people can’t tell the difference between when someone is talking as an official mouthpiece of the company, or when they’re just stating their own opinion. One recent example is the release of an open source CMS app called Oxite. The team that built it had good intentions, but when they released it the community interpreted it as some sort of best practices guidance from MS about how to do a MVC-style web app on .NET, which it definitely is not (at least at this point). (Quoted from Fast Wonder Blog Comments)

Managing communications can be easier when you have a single company blog with fewer authors. It can get very tricky when managing corporate communications for a company the size of Microsoft or Intel with many blogs and many people communicating with the outside world.

Many companies use their blogs as a way to make announcements and other official communications for the outside world. For your readers, it can be difficult to know whether a blog post is an official announcement or something less formal. In companies, like Microsoft, with bloggers spanning across many blogs, it can help to educate people to clearly state whether something is opinion or official statement. When I worked at Intel, my blog and this blog had disclaimers at the top of the sidebar making it clear that the posts were my opinions and not official statements. It can also help to educate bloggers about including clarification within the text of certain types of posts. For example, a short paragraph about why the team released the open source CMS app along with a note about how it wasn’t the best example of how to do a MVC-style web app on .NET might have diffused your issue. We get so wrapped up in our work that we don’t always take the time to think about how what we do will be perceived by people outside of the company, but it can help to give bloggers a little training with things to think about. Lightweight social media guidelines might also help in some situations.

I suspect that this is mainly an issue for larger companies or ones that tightly control communications. I’ve worked at several smaller companies where this issue never really came up at all. In other words, don’t sweat the communications issues unless you really think that it might be an issue at your company.

Summary: A few tips for managing communications

  • Include disclaimers in the sidebars for blogs that contain opinions and not official statements.
  • Clarify whether a blog post is an announcement or something less official if readers might be confused.
  • Train bloggers to think about how their posts might be perceived by those outside the company.
  • Put a very lightweight set of social media guidelines in place.
I’d love to hear more examples of communication issues that you have encountered or steps that have worked for you to avoid misunderstandings in blogs.

5 thoughts on “Communication Issues and Corporate Blogs”

  1. An alternative is to have the blog hosted on a non-company associated site. Perhaps a site associated with the industry or vocation.

    One would still need to make sure (using the ideas you noted) that the everyone knows the author is speaking for themselves only.

  2. Good point about the hosting, John. Microsoft has a couple sites (like ) for employee blogs, but I decided to host on my own domain in large part because of the perception of it. I wanted to make clear that the words were my own. (And if things get ugly, I know I have control over my own site.)

    Along with that was the decision around how much personal stuff to mix in with work-related posts. In thinking about it, I found that the blogs I enjoyed reading the most were the ones that weren’t just about the latest service pack or techie tip, but covered the gamut of that person’s interests. Scott Hanselman ( )is a good example; he has had some great posts about his time in Africa, his family, or his dealings with diabetes that I’ve found very interesting. Besides getting to know the person better and learning something new every once in a while, I think this also helps to clarify that these are your words, not your company’s.

  3. Dawn:

    Thought I’d share the social media guidelines I created for LiveWorld employees.

    I think they’re pretty straightforward, and that they help guide employees in their online content creation on blogs and social networks.

    Essentially, when employees are writing/commenting about company-related matters or industry issues, they need to identify themselves and their company affiliation.
    And if they’re blogging on their own sites, they need to put a disclaimer that their opinions are their own, and don’t necessarily reflect the official views of the company.

    However, as we point out in the guidelines, employees should always be mindful that their writing/comments/etc. can be considered a reflection of their company. After all, remember the Robert Scoble example. As much as he would say that he wasn’t an official spokesperson for Microsoft, he was certainly a de-facto one. He helped give Microsoft an online personality and voice that it had lacked.

    So, the “official” vs. “opinion” content can’t always be so neatly separated. Many people naturally lump these two categories into one, and it’s a reality companies need to consider when drafting social media guidelines for their employees.

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

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