Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

Blog World Expo 2008: Corporate Blogging Myths and Reality

Just wrapped up my first panel discussion with Paula Berg, Southwest Airlines, moderated by Chris Baggot. What I loved about the panel was the level of Q&A interactivity that permeated the entire session – from start to finish.

Some of the key topics we touched upon were related to the motivation behind corporate blogs – goals, strategy, tactics, implementation and ROI.

Most of the questions we got asked are questions I get asked all the time when I speak at events and have addressed on this blog in the past:

For e.g.

1. Why should my company start a corporate blog?
2. Why should a CEO blog when he has more important things to do?
3. What about privacy laws?
4. What about the argument that corporate bloging is but a trend?

Etc…

Once I’ve access to a laptop and wireles connectivity (moving from the Marriot to Hilton later today since I currently don’t have Internet access there), I’ll probably link to posts from the past that address the above questions.

I’m currently heading to the luncheon keynote with Guy Kawasaki and Steve Rubel. Should be fun.

Feel free to throw in questions you may have on the above topics. I’m currently blogging this from an iPhone – on the WordPress app.


Blogged from my iPhone

Filed under: Business Blogging, Speaking Engagements

HP’s Corporate Blogging Initiatives

If you’re in community marketing or engaged in social media initiatives for your company. Quit reading this post (not really), but at the earliest opportunity go find this book on bookshelves and buy it – Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Forrester).

Buy Groundswell to learn more about how companies leverage social media successfully

Buy Groundswell to learn more about how companies leverage social media successfully

Why buy Groundswell?

To learn more from gold-standard examples of how companies; big, small and everything in between and furiously leveraging social media to engage with their communities. IMO, the unique case studies is the single biggest reason a marketing manager would want to buy this book or maybe share with their peers and/or skeptical CEO.

An example of that would be HP’s core community team, run by Alison Watterson, who found mention in Groundswell. Here are some interesting tidbits about that team that I gleaned from the post. This is an example that’s applicable to any Fortune 500 company that’s wrestling with social media.

What is HP’s core community team?

It is one of very few truly cross organizational groups that is comprised of  people with Web marketing jobs throughout the company.  This means that everyone in the group participates in addition to our regular  job responsibilities .  Each of us is passionate about social media and often (but not always) are engaged in our individual business units online social activity.

What does this team do?

The group is responsible for reviewing and approving new blogs (not individual blog posts just brand new blogs).  The group also tackles new developments in the social media space.

Read the entire post here

If you liked this post, you’ll want to check out the following posts I’ve written in the past

1. My LinkedIn Experience (my panel discussion at SXSW 2008)
2. Sony gets corporate blogging? – (senior exec blogging case study)
3. Apple – their MobileMe blog saga (work in progress)
4. Cisco-Apple blog fight! (where blogging helps)
5. Southwest Airlines is nuts about blogging (oh! yae)

Does your company blog?

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Apple’s foray into Corporate Blogging – Lame!

It pains me to say this, as one of Apple/Steve Jobsbig admirers, but it’s true. I have always been pretty vociferous in my attempt to get Apple blogging in an official capacity. I’ve always felt that blogging should originate from a need to communicate and converse with your legions of users and NOT as a crisis management tool.

However, Apple has chosen the latter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Historically, Apple has shied away from blogging (e.g. the Apple vs. Cisco name trademark issue). More recently, Steve Jobs has blogged on two occasions (here’s the green apple example). In the latest example, Mr. Anonymous blogs after being instructed by his Steveness himself. I quote:

Steve Jobs has asked me to write a posting every other day or so to let everyone know what’s happening with MobileMe, and I’m working directly with the MobileMe group to ensure that we keep you really up to date.

What?! Anyways, first things first…

Where they got it right?

1. They promise regular postings a few times a week

2. Support from the higher echelons of the company, in this case Jobs himself, inspires trust

3. Provide exclusive breaking news

4. Honest transparency

Be assured people here are working 24-7 to improve matters, and we’re going to favor getting you new info hot off the presses even if we have to post corrections or further updates later.

5. Empathy

In the 14 days since we launched, it’s been a rocky road and we know the pain some people have been suffering.

Where they got it wrong?

Alright, that’s a good first step, but good next steps would be

1. Revealing who this new Fake Steve Jobs’ blogger is?

2. Have a consistent face/person associated with the blog.

3. Allow comments, which are obviously passed on to the teams involved.

Why is this a big deal?

1. Because they are Apple? And as the company that invented and made “product evangelism” a by-word in marketing, they can do way better.

2. I’ve always lamented the fact that my favorite tech company hasn’t stepped into corporate blogging yet, especially since they have such a passionate following. This is a tiny but important step towards a fuller embrace of corporate blogging at Apple. Or, so I hope.

As is expected, the whole blogosphere has gotten itself into a tizzy about Apple’s attempted entry into corporate blogging, with some like MobileCrunch pointing out its deficiencies and rightfully praising the effort. Here’s an example of a blog done right – Sony.

What do you think Apple could have done better? Or worse?

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Corporate Blogging in India

I’ve always wondered how corporate blogging continues to evolve in other regions of the globe, outside of the US. Two countries we constantly hear about these days are India and China. Yesterday’s discussion on the evolution of the corporate website yielded a few interesting comments, one from an Indian company entering the world of corporate blogs.

Jeremiah, whom I quoted in the post, clarified his take on the future of corporate websites:

To clarify, a corporate website is in it’s last throes in it’s current form. It’s about to soon evolve into something greater, where the focus is on customers and community –rather solely on products

And, soon Priyanka from Mahindra,  a $6.7 billion Indian automotive company mentioned the addition of a corporate blog with four distinct themes to their corporate communication efforts:

We at Mahindra & Mahindra have recently started a corporate blog, http://www.mahindrauniverse.com around 4 themes innovation, sustainability, globalization and customer centricity. Mainly we want to create a 2-way communication portal between our customers and us. Definitely corporate blogging seems to be a very interesting extension to a corporate website.

Feel free to share corporate blogging examples from other countries

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Filed under: Business Blogging

3 steps to International Corporate Blogging

One of the commenters on my previous post on Yoplait’s french corporate blog, Andy Blanco, notes:

You bring up an interesting point with yesterday’s Yoplait example.  Your post spurred me to learn more and I discovered that Yoplait has a franchise system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoplait#Organization).  It looks like General Mills could conceivably blog for the US market, Ultima Foods for Canada, National Foods for Australia, etc.

I think this raises an interesting question.  If you have a global brand, but marketing is controlled by other corporations in different countries, what changes when just one party decides to blog using the brand while customers from all markets can watch?

Well, this got me thinking. As much as we are focused on corporate blogging in English, the fact is we’re seeing a flatter world with more companies from an international diaspora of companies moving into the Forbes’ 2000 list of multinationals. (For e.g. this year the Forbes 2000 was of companies from 60 countries, up 9 countries from last year).

But do we see the same representation in corporate blogging. For e.g. on the New PR Wiki that tracks corporate blogs, the majority seem to come from US Companies. So, if you’re a multinational wondering how to get into corporate blogging. Here are 3 simple steps to get started:

1. Start at the heart: This is a no-brainer. All companies will start blogging in the language of the country they’re originally based in. As I mentioned, I recently mentioned Yoplait started a blog in French.

2. Follow growth markets: Once you’ve established your blog in your primary language, it is but natural to start creating blogs in other emerging markets for your industry or company. Here’s what Herve from Yoplait’s corporate blog emails me when I asked him about plans for a secondary blog in English:

This was one of the first questions raised by a Yoplait employee in the comment area. So far, Yoplait‘s president has not answererd, but I guess he will. There is no clear plan so far, but I guess that if the french version is a success, the english version will quickly floow.

3. Blog Local:

If you’re starting corporate blogs in different languages your best bet is to get employees from those different markets blogging. At LinkedIn, almost 18% of our workforce currently blogs. Kodak earned a name for themselves with their employee focused blog:

A Thousand Words is, as written in a blog user guide a ‘place for stories for from the people of Kodak’. The stories written by employees are about photography, they provide readers with useful tips, engage them in contests. The blog is not focused on Kodak’s products. It is very honest and open, has particular audience and updated regularly.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on blogging policy that companies can follow when you start corporate blogs in different languages.


What do you think would be a good corporate strategy for a multinational on corporate blogging? More to come.

Filed under: Business Blogging

More Corporate Blogging Ideas and examples

Here’s a smattering of thoughts I encountered these past couple of days on corporate blogging. Let’s start off with a controversial question:

1. Should the military blog?

If a corporate blog can be considered a liability by some corporations why won’t it be viewed with extreme skepticism by the military! Exactly. But according to a Wired report, the commanding general at “one of the Army’s leading intellectual hubs” has directed his troops to start blogging. Why?

Hopefully we’ll hear much more from the Army iron majors with the recent decision by Lieutenant General William Caldwell, IV, Commanding General of the US Army Combined Arms Center, as excerpted from a recent CAC memorandum below:

Command and General Staff College faculty and students will begin blogging as part of their curriculum and writing requirements both within the .mil and public environments. In addition CAC subordinate organizations will begin to engage in the blogosphere in an effort to communicate the myriad of activities that CAC is accomplishing and help assist telling the Army’s story to a wide and diverse audience.

Pretty much one of the reasons any corporation would get into corporate blogging. What do you think?

Should the military blog?

2. Jackie asks Josh some questions

My good friend Jackie Huba from Church of the Customer, asks Josh Bernoff (Author of Groundswell, and Analyst at Forrester) questions about his new book “Groundswell” which he co-authored with Charlene Li.

Some of the Q&A that resonated with me.

The number one mistake companies make in planning their social media strategies is:

Concentrating on the technology first. If you decide on the objectives you want to accomplish, you may get where you’re going. If you say “let’s start a blog” or “let’s start a community” you may be calling me 6 months from now saying “I got this off the ground, now how is this supposed to be helping me?” This is actually a lot more common problem than technology problems or authenticity issues, which get all the discussion.

There’s more:

Awhile back, a well-known blogger considered calling his book “Blog or Die.” (Calmer heads prevailed.) Have any companies died from lack of, or improper use of blogging?

Deaths are rare. Much more common are boring, laundered corporate blogs that nobody wants to read. They just reinforce the idea you are that faceless corporation that we always suspected. What ends up dying is the blog, not the company.

Go ahead and read the rest of the article here. If you’re still not satisfied, check out Josh and Charlene’s Groundswell. I should get a copy myself.

3. Yoplait’s got a corporate blog – and it’s in French!

Got an email from the folks behind the Yoplait blog. Apparently, it’s a french marketing consultant. Yoplait has started a corporate blog and it’s all french. hmm… wonder why they don’t have one in English. Maybe it’s not a big market. Why are they blogging? (After the jump)

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Anyways, here’s why, according to the email:

The second best selling brand in dairy products objectives are clear. Using its blog, the company  will benefit from a direct link to millions of customers in a friendly bilateral communication environment. Intended to be a reference on its market, this new communication channel will gather key information about dairy products related issues, and allow Yoplait to express itself freely, independently of traditional media, on general and sensible topics.

I guess it could be said better in French. Anyone who gets French, tell me how the first two posts shaped up. Check it out here.

Filed under: Business Blogging

3 Corporate Blogging Ideas

Starting this week, I’ll be publishing a post each week on links I didn’t cover on corporate blogging. (Yes! there’s so much to talk about). If any of these links actually turns into a longer than imagined thought process, I’ll spin it off into a separate post. Alright, let’s get started. This week we have tips and tricks on everything from writing styles to blogging policy.

1. Corporate Blog writing style

Debbie Weil, author of the Corporate Blogging Book quotes Seth Godin’s Tips on Blogging to make her case on why corporate blogging beats traditional press. In Debbie’s own words:

Because good blog writing is more engaging and more persuasive than any press release or home page ridden with corporate-speak.

In my opinion, corporate blogs also add value by allowing a back-and-forth between the company and its users. The Social Media Release efforts (contributed to by my good friend Chris Heuer) is one of the many efforts that attempts to evolve the traditional press release. Does your company issue a social media release?

2. Seven Tips to help Corporate Blogging

The blog coding experiments outlines 7 tips to “corporate blog” well in much the same way as Godin identified in the post mentioned above. Here are a couple more resources to shore up your corporate blogging style here and here.

3. Corporate Blogging Policy

If you belong to a large company with tons of your employees blogging on their own (and if any of that content) even remotely touches upon your company, you may want to start thinking about a corporate blogging policy.

This topic possibly deserves a separate post/s in itself, but I thought you’ll find this post with links to other useful posts quite helpful if you want to do a little research on this topic.

Filed under: Business Blogging

The Future of Corporate Blogging is the social media portal

I’d just intended for this post to be about SouthWest Airlines stepped up its efforts to incorporate social media into its corporate blog and I thought this is a great time to go over what I think is the future of product-user, 2-way communication of the future.


Click on above image to take you to the blog

Before I continue, let’s step back a bit and understand that corporate blogging per se is NOT the end game in itself. It’s a tool to help users communicate effectively with the various elements of an organization. In a software company like LinkedIn, that means ease-of-chat with our engineers, product managers, etc… and in the airline industry that may mean communication with “Mechanics, Customer Service Agents, Schedule Planners, Executives, Marketing Representatives, Flight Attendants, Pilots, and more.”

I think moving forward every corporate social media portal is gonna have a mix of the following three components with future implementations trending towards multimedia strongly

Core Communication

1. Corporate Blog
2. Twitter

Multimedia

1. Flickr
2. YouTube

Social Networking

1. LinkedIn
2. Facebook

SouthWest Airlines’ social media portal takes off

Here are some salient points culled from their old-school press release:

* Over the last two years, the blog’s function has evolved to also serve as a virtual focus group, assisting the Company through crisis and new product launches.

* The blog’s readership continues to grow steadily month-over-month and has more than doubled year-over-year since its inception in April 2006.

* “From the debate over assigned seating to the timeframe in which we release our flight schedules, the passionate comments and opinions shared on our blog have unquestionably influenced several business decisions” says Linda Rutherford, VP of Corp. Communications at Southwest.

* Nuts About Southwest features more than 30 Employee bloggers that represent a mix of Frontline and behind-the-scenes Employees


My favorite part is that they have even included their CEOs LinkedIn Profile – Gary Kelly, although I wish the URL would have his name in it, instead of http://www.linkedin.com/in/southwestairlines. I’d just recommend their starting a group on LinkedIn as well (if they haven’t already). I even InMail’ed Linda about it.

Given that they recently started, I wonder how long they would take to beat Delta in Marketing Nirvana’s Corporate Blog rankings, which I restarted recently.

Filed under: Business Blogging

5 Best Practices on Corporate Blogging – Tried & Tested

So, it’s been a year since we started the LinkedIn blog! To commemorate the occasion I actually just posted the Top 10 blog posts, Top 10 videos and Top 10 photos we published this past year. In addition to it being quite an essential tool in helping us educate as well as engage with users, it did teach us a few lessons on best practices on business blogging.


That’s Kay and I. Kay runs corp. communications at LinkedIn.

Given below are 5 tips on business blogging (via Planet Domain Blog) and I used that as a launchpad to outline some of the corporate blogging practices we’ve followed at LinkedIn.

1. Plan ahead and post regularly

So, when you start a blog it’s all about topics you’re passionate about but for a corporate blog, the best way to get some traction is to chart out a calendar schedule asap and adhere to it. When we started the blog we had roughly 3 posts a week and when there were no product releases (maybe 2), but then the frequency has considerably ramped up since then bringing our average posts/week to 4.

Total # of posts: 170

Average posts/week: 4

2. Be original and fresh

One of the best sources of content for a corporate blog (as hard as it may seem) is the cool stuff that’s happening internally in a company that the external world is not privy to. There are two broad streams of content that’ll make any corporate blog unique.

* Breaking News on product announcements

* Internal workings of your company (photos, videos, etc…)

My favorite original content on the blog is this blooper reel I shot w/ Elliot (Hilarious!)

3. Personality counts

And, for a corporate blog – personalities count. In LinkedIn’s case, thus far 40 personalities (my colleagues) count themselves as contributors to the blog. From the management team to a broad slew of product managers, engineers and designers. Make sure everyone is counted and continue courting different groups within your company to be a part of the blog. The blog is NOT about a single individual, but rather everyone who makes up the company.

Did you know: 18% of our workforce have contributed to the LinkedIn Blog

4. Social media means “social”

To comment or not to. Believe it or not, that was one of the first questions we had to wrestle with, although the answer was an overwhelming “Yes”. But if you’re debating within your organization whether to activate comments for a blog, think about this – it’s NOT a blog if you don’t foster two-way communication. If you don’t allow comments (as many corporate blogs do these days) reduces a blog’s value to being a press release machine! And, don’t forget to make sure that all the feedback provided on your blog is re-routed to the right product/design/engineering teams to enable that infinite feedback loop.

Total # of comments received: 1500

Average comments/post: 9

Maximum comments received for any post: 82

5. Write well, or find someone you can

Well, hire a blogger (like Kay did when she brought me into LinkedIn) or find someone within the company who has the necessary traits (if you don’t, the users will find their blogger as was the case with Scoble when he was at Microsoft). More importantly, I think being a blogger is an essential prerequisite to be a community manager (check out Chris Brogan’s recent post on finding the right community manager).

These are just a few. Feel free to leave a comment on other best practices on corporate blogging.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Sony gets corporate blogging… right…

Summary: Sony Electronics (SEL) launches company blog with the voice of PR lead Rick Clancy (via Charlene Li) — 5 Step evaluation of said SEL blog — eliciting response from fellow bloggers

As a matter of fact, they’ve gotten in right, twice by launching two not one company blogs (Sony Electronics and Sony Playstation). Those are the two new Sony corporate blogs that I discovered today, via Charlene Li at Forrester Research, who writes:

Sony’s blog is written by Rick Clancy, head of corporate communications for Sony Electronics. I know Rick pretty well, having worked with him when I was a TV analyst and he is the ideal choice to blog for Sony.

First of all, he’s a straight shooter — not something you take for granted with PR people. Look at the first post: Sony No Baloney.

Second, he has something to say. Rick has been at Sony a long time. He understand the company and all its parts. This should make for interesting posts.

Third, he has authority. Everything important Sony Electronics says goes through him. If Rick wasn’t Sony’s top blogger, whoever was would have to go through him anyway.

What I think? (These are my 5 simple rules to evaluate any company blog)

1. Engagement: Yes, it allows comments (I’m not sure if they’re moderated, well they are) and they do have a slew of comments for the first two posts (30 – 50). The goal is to maintain that level of comments. As we saw at LinkedIn’s blog, we started off with over 70 comments and then the comments ranged between 5 and 30, depending on the interest level of the post itself.

2. Style: The blog is written in an informal and entertaining style and given who Rick Clancy is it’d be great to find out more about the internal workings of a premier electronics company. More interestingly, I admire the candor with which Rick writes:

Like many people, I like to be No. 1. I think it stems from those earliest of Shrub Oak, N.Y. Little League days at age eight when I got a kick out of leading the expansion Cubs with six base hits. (Doesn’t sound very impressive looking back on it, but I still remember.) In any event, while we did not come in on top, there are a couple of recent surveys where Sony ranked No. 2 that I feel pretty good about as well

3. Comment Policy/Privacy Policy: Yes. I’d definitely recommend a comment policy for any blog. Sony nails it with both a comment policy as well as a privacy policy.

4. Search: Yes, it does have a search box on the top right hand corner

5. Categories and tags: No, it doesn’t have these set up. This is something I’m working on for the LinkedIn blog (which I edit and author at times) and I realize the importance this feature assumes as you grow and populate your blog with content. It also is a great way to define your blog calendar itself. At this point, the Sony Electronics blog doesn’t seem to need these but as they start adding newer posts and maybe adding fellow guest contributors this may become a necessity.

Check out:

Sony Electronics blog
Sony Playstation blog

It’ll also be interesting to see if Katie Cotton (from Apple) or other electronics companies follow up with blogs in the future. The question is, what purpose do these blogs serve? And, how do you go about creating a corporate blog for your company? For a primer on corporate blogging, check out my 10 easy steps to start a company blog that I wrote for MarketingProfs where I share my experiences doing the same for LinkedIn (I’m the Community Evangelist at LinkedIn).

I’d also love to find out what Mack Collier thinks of Sony’s corporate blogs. This would be a great company blog for Mack to dissect, on his weekly (i think) Company Blog Checkup series. Mack, what do you think?

I’m hoping my recent spate of blog posts in topics I’d promised I would focus on, is helpful. Please feel free to leave any comments or let me know if there are other topics you’d like me to cover.

Filed under: Business Blogging