Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Corporate Bloggers

This post is syndicated from the column I write in MarketingProfs and contains a summary of the panel I recently moderated at Blog World Expo with corporate bloggers from Dell, Yahoo!, Facebook and Kodak.

Since my last post on corporate blogging here, a lot has changed. I’ve had a chance to practice many of the concepts I preached, as LinkedIn’s corporate blog editor. I’ve also had the acquaintance of other corporate bloggers whom I greatly respect. So, it was a thrill to be able to bring together four of my peers for a dream panel at Blog World Expo, which I moderated. The topic: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Business Bloggers.

The panel included my friends Lionel Menchaca from Dell, Nicki Dugan from Yahoo!, Carolyn Abram from Facebook and Thomas Hoehn from Kodak. We had great participation from our audience but I’d be remiss not to share our learnings and presentation with you.

Given below are the key lessons that we shared with the audience members. See presentation here.

The 7 Habits of highly effective business bloggers

1. Status: It’s a relationship and it’s complicated

Start a corporate blog only if you’re in it for the long haul. Every panelist described the genesis of their respective blog, it’s origins, and most importantly how the blog impacted the company’s relationship with the users. I also got them talking about some of the challenges and pitfalls associated with it.

2. Tell Honest, Current Stories

As Jack Welch described the one rule of corporate blogging: “Just be Authentic“. The only way to build credibility with your users is by toning down the PR speak and amping up the straight talk. We also went over some of the privacy issues that one has to deal with while running a company blog.

3. Know your limits

Another area that you must keep in mind (this is relevant more for Fortune 500 than Inc 500 companies) are the legal landmines you have to navigate. But remember, your legal team is there to help you. So, having them support you a 100% right from the start and drafting best practices is key to ensure success.

4. Make lemonade

Social Media jujitsu is what we called it (thanks to Groundswell for the inspiration). How do you take a seemingly negative situation – irate users; and turn that over to a positive. Nicki, Carolyn and Lionel shared some pretty inspirational stories that ranged from the Facebook News feed to Yahoo! TV. Key here is putting your users first and listening to them.

5. One size doesn’t fit all

As I’ve often said before; do not start a corporate blog unless you have a goal in mind. Given that different companies start a corporate blog for different purposes – some may use it to educate their users while some others for recruitment. Thus best practices are also going to vary from one example to the other.

The panelists got into a spirited discussion of whether comments are necessary for a blog and under what conditions. Does your company have a corporate blog? And, if so, do you allow comments? Feel free to share.

6. Learn as you go

On short notice, I threw out a question to the panel on the biggest lesson learned during their stewardship of their respective company blogs. Of course, they were all able to effortlessly answer the questions with many of their answers highlighting the improvisational nature of the job.

7. It’s not just words

And, finally a glimpse into the future. Ideas shared focused on the multimedia nature of the future. As you may notice many corporate blogs are increasingly stepping into social media (which by definition includes pictures – Flickr, video – YouTube, and the likes). What do you think does the future of corporate blogging hold?

The genesis for this theme arose from the fact that corporate blogging may be close to mainstream status within corporate America, but the adopters lack a sense of how to make it work effectively. Stats in point: Between 2007 and 2008, adoption of corporate blogging among the fastest growing companies in the world (Inc 500) has doubled, while their appreciation of it’s effectiveness is at less than 50%.

The above habits were culled from a brainstorming session that I had with Lionel, Nicki, Carolyn and Tom and borrowed extensively from our experiences at our respective companies. I’d like to take this opportunity to continue the discussion we started at Blog World Expo with you. If you’re a corporate blogger, feel free to share a best practice you’ve gathered along the way. If you’d like to become one or if you’d like to start a blog for your company, feel free to ask us a question you have on the topic.

Comments, Thoughts?

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Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging

When Harvard Business taught corporate blogging!

A trip down memory lane. In November 2005, Harvard Business School outlined the benefits of corporate blogging in a Harvard Management Communication Letter:

…the school said blogs enable the brave few “to connect with customers online and advance corporate communications and marketing goals” and added that a well-written blog can boost a company’s credibility.

The letter is also said to have highlighted three tips on corporate blogging, which echoes many of our posts on corporate blogging best practices since then. These were HBS’ suggestions:

1. Blogs as crisis management tools

In the case of crisis – far from being a PR disaster – a blog can enable companies “to shape the conversation about it”, the article states.

2. Allow comments – positive and negative

Permit both positive and negative posts on your blog and reply to comments made on other blogs pertinent to your area of focus. Respond in a professional and businesslike way. If you don’t want to hear from your customers and critics in a public environment, don’t blog.

3. Blog often

And most importantly, the article tells companies to make a commitment to update the blog regularly once they have told the world they are doing a blog.

It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come since then but it’s still many months; maybe years, before corporate blogging becomes standard practice. How long before that happens?

Only time will tell. But rest assured; you’ll learn it first here!

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Filed under: Business Blogging

iPhone vs. Kindle: Who Won?

Quick Update: Perfect timing. The Boy Genius Report just outed some pics of the second version of the Kindle. The form factor is definitely an improvement over the original, so those wanting to buy a Kindle may want to wait for a bit. Check out the post. (pics here)

Boy Genius Report)

Kindle vs. Kindle 2 (Source: Boy Genius Report)

Back to my original post.

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been pretty outspoken in my feelings about the Kindle vs. iPhone debate in the past, going so far as saying: the future of reading is the iPhone, NOT the Kindle. My 2nd post on this topic written more than half a year later, gathered an evolved consensus on where that comparison between the iPhone and Kindle stood.

iPhone vs. Kindle

Original iPhone vs. Kindle comparison

And, it’s official now – the iPhone (despite being a music/browser/phone/app platform) has bested the Amazon’s Kindle at it’s own game – in sheer # of readers!

Stanza, a book reading app on the iPhone, is close to ~400K downloads at a current rate of ~5K downloads per day, while the Kindle is estimated to sell ~380K devices this year. And, let’s not get started on the # of iPhones sold as of date and the passionate following they have acquired.

But, since this is an apples and oranges comparison, let’s look at the major differences between the devices:

1. Price: While the Stanza is free if you already own the iPhone, the Kindle is twice as expensive (~$399) than the iPhone (~199)

2. Book Selection: Definitely the Kindle. It’s Amazon and they have the greatest selection of books on the planet.

3. Reading experience: I love reading on my iPhone. I’ve spent hours reading my Google Reader feeds, but Kindle is rumored to be easier on the eyes, thanks to E-Ink.

4. Battery Life: My biggest pet peeve with the iPhone is the battery life (particularly since it’s an essential utility in my life). It lasts for a day. The Kindle’s battery lasts for four days.

5. Connectivity: Again, the iPhone works flawlessly with Wi-Fi (spotty 3G networks hamper the 3G experience), and I’ve just the right apps to make even my Edge experience bearable. The Kindle: EV-DO.

As you can see, if you’re a voracious reader, the Kindle is your best bet – looks notwithstanding (although I think it’s a really expensive purchase). But, as the Forbes article pointed out:

Stanza users are a different type of reader from Kindle buyers, says Feedbooks Chief Executive Hadrien Gardeur. “Kindle appeals to heavy readers who spend far more time reading than anyone who uses an iPhone,” he says. “But I don’t think the mass market is ready to spend that kind of money. So they really don’t compete with one another at this point.”

But the iPhone definitely has the potential to become a huge hit among average book readers (going by the numbers) and I presume there are many like me – “1 book a month” readers. So, if Jobs can recreate the iTunes ecosystem for books, I’ll pay for the books. And, so will millions of other satisfied iPhone users.

Are you an iPhone or a Kindle? Or do you prefer reading books the old-fashioned way?

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

Should CEOs blog? And, if so, when?

The eternal question: Should CEOs blog? I thought I’d already covered this in earlier posts of mine (see lists below) when I concluded that it may be a great way to humanize a company esp. in moments of crisis when communication ought to be timely but wondered if it was worth a CEOs time.

Debbie Weil and Rohit Bhargava recently blogged about examples of two more CEOs, their blogging styles and their rationale for doing so:

1.Ted Leonis, Vice Chairman Emeritus – AOL (his blog):

Rohit shares Ted’s motivation to start his blog:

He was already successful, yet when he Googled his name, the first thing that came up was a relatively negative story from the Washington Post. His main first motivation to start his blog was to push that negative result down off the top ten results pages.

2. George Colony, Forrester CEO (his blog)

Debbie shares George’s take on the amount of time spent blogging. This is one of the main reasons I don’t advocate CEOs to not jump into full-time blogging.

“It only takes an hour a week,” he said but he finds himself thinking about writing the blog all week. “So it’s taking some of my mindshare.” So true. It’s one of the upsides as well as the downsides of maintaining a blog. You have to think. That’s hard.

My other posts on CEO blogging:

1. CEO blog apologies [Top 5]

2. When should CEOs blog? Ask Jeff Immelt.

3. Sun CEO sees ubiquity of corporate blogging

4. When and where should CEOs blog?

And, of course the legendary Top 10 CEO blogs/Top 10 CEO blogs ranked by Technorati. And, if you love numbers, here’s a bonus list – Top 10 CMO blogs.

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Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging

Apple’s anonymous blogger tells all?

Oh, Apple! As a complete lover of all things Apple and a (once) frustrated MobileMe user, I’ve agonized over the MobileMe saga which started with their lame attempt at corporate blogging, continued with the MobileMe’s terrible performance, my personal experience using MobileMe and ended when they prematurely closed the “corporate blog” and redirected all questions to their forum – not a bad idea.

A couple of days ago, Dan Lyons (a.k.a FSJ) penned this post on a more recent post (ostensibly from an Apple employee) titled “Why we fail and (will continue to fail)“. Dan writes:

A deep source at Apple assures me that this blogger is indeed a MobileMe person, and the big failure she’s talking about is the MobileMe launch, though she never actually says so in her blog. It’s worth noting that she’s not really apologizing for MobileMe’s suckage. Instead, she’s saying that fuck-ups are the nature of corporate America. Also worth noting is the headline: “Why we fail (and will continue to fail).” That’s not exactly confidence-inspiring. Money quote: “The predictable fallout ensued, with a dressing down by our CEO, followed by the usual finger pointing and finally ending in removal/demotion of some members of the senior management team. ”

hmm… interesting…

Filed under: Business Blogging