Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

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

Yet another roundtable on Business Blogging

I know, I’ve been remiss in my regular blogging duties here lately but Gavin Heaton recently blogged about a recent panel on corporate blogging that I participated in at the German American Business Association. The entire video can be found online (embedded below). It is a tad long and if you’re already well versed in social media, then this is probably not for you.

But if you’re a small business and would like to learn more of the basics of corporate blogging and how companies need to adapt to the rapidly evolving media then do check it out sometime over the weekend. It featured a few of my peers in the social media biz I’ve been meaning to meet:

1. Mark Simmons – VP, Marketing at Six Apart

2. Mark Finnern – Chief Community Evangelist at SAP

3. Jennifer McClure – founder and board president of the Society for New Communications Research

4. Christopher Carfi – CEO, Cerado

5. Vassil Mladjov – CEO, Blogtronix

Look forward to many more conversations with my fellow panelists. In the meanwhile, check out the panel discussion below.

Once again, thanks to Pamela and GABA for the invite.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Will Apple or Steve Jobs ever blog?

Chuq von Rospach, a former Apple employee, writes of the inner workings of one of my favorite tech companies on the planet and it’s most famous employee – Steve Jobs. What drew my attention however, was his reference to the possibility of Apple entering the corporate blogging arena.

Many readers of this blog will remember the posts I’ve written over the past years on such a feasibility (What would Steve Jobs blog?), as I explained the benefits of such an action, the good and bad of Apple’s earlier attempts, etc.  (see scorecard here). Chuq’s post reaffirmed my belief that Apple has a blogger ethos but also confirmed my suspicion on why Jobs may never blog.

I always lobbied for more discussion, more disclosure, more transparency. That’s not always compatible with Steve’s focus on controlling the message. When Steve was fighting to restructure the company and keep it relevant, that control really was necessary. Today, I believe it hurts more than it helps, but there are signs that Apple is slowly opening up and starting to move in these directions. Don’t expect Steve ever to blog, though. But maybe his successor will.

That said, I believe Jobs “blogs” when he comes up with his famous web memos that are eagerly dissected by the insatiable “media”. By reaching out to his target audience (users, press, etc…) only when necessary (4 times thus far) vs. starting a blog (which would require a minimum weekly post), Jobs has yet again avoided the pitfalls that many CEO blogs fall into – setting high expectations and failing miserably owing to the nature of their CEO position.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Does your business blog meet these criteria?

My good friend, Mack, writes a great piece in MarketingProfs’ blog on the 10 elements every corporate blog should satisfy. Here’s my take on five of them, culled from my experience managing LinkedIn’s corporate blog.

#1. Actionable goals

Absolutely! Before you start your corporate blog, you want to ask yourself what the top 3 goals for your blog are and what the metrics for measuring its success are. I’ve said this earlier on our SXSW panel with Mack that you want to start off by defining your goals right from the outset and measure its effectiveness at every stage.

#2. A dedicated blog editor

IMO, a key goal of a corporate blog is to get the creators of a product or service face to face with its users, having a genuine conversation. In LinkedIn’s case that has meant conversations initiated by over 50 of my colleagues within the organization. And, I’m the sole blog editor who coordinates and makes these conversations/blog posts happen in addition to my other responsibilities. So, I think even having one employee  manage the schedule of your blog posts would work – no matter how large the organization.

#3. Schedule

Absolutely. The biggest challenge in any corporate blog is continual content creation. At LinkedIn, we’ve currently ramped up to almost 6 posts a week – from around 3 a week when we started. Have a schedule and stick to it. This again, would fall under the responsibility of the blog editor.

#4. Comment Policy

Most corporate blogs have one and it’s pretty much standard fare. I’d recommend that all corporate blogs moderate comments because you don’t want spam or profanity on your blog. Here’s the comment policy on the LinkedIn blog.

We love to hear from you. So feel free to comment, but keep in mind the basics of blog etiquette — no spam, no profanity, no slander, etc. All comments are moderated.

#5. The human element – social media

Associating a face to a post is IMO an important element of corporate blogs. We link each post to it’s authors’ LinkedIn profile with the profile picture from their public LinkedIn profile, which provides context to the blog posts.

Also, try to include as much social media as possible – pictures on Flickr and videos on YouTube are pretty easy to have. We currently have nearly 70 videos on YouTube detailing every major product release and many of these videos can also be found on the LinkedIn Learning Center.

Check out the other 5 elements in Mack’s post here. And, if you’ve a question on starting or managing a corporate blog, leave a comment.

Filed under: Business Blogging

What is Corporate Blogging?

CIO: Insight had a recent interview with Scoble where he talks about corporate blogging. Thought you’d find his take on corporate blogging interesting:

Here’s how Wikipedia defines corporate blogging (and I agree).

A corporate weblog is published and used by an organization to reach its organizational goals. An external blog is a publicly available weblog where company employees, teams, or spokespersons share their views. It also allows a window to the company culture and is often treated more informally than traditional press releases.

I think the key goal for a corporate blog as stated above is “to reach a company’s organizational goals”. I’ve always looked at corporate blogs as a window into a company, a window that allows back-and-forth conversation between a company/those who create its products and its users. As Hugh Macleod, beautifully describes it – it could be that Porous Membrane that facilitates “the conversation”.

But in the poetry of such a “conversation”, should be embedded the nitty gritty of a company’s organizational goals.

How do you define a corporate blog?

Check out my other posts on corporate blogging.

Filed under: Business Blogging

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

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

Blog World Expo 2008: Wrap-up

At the Vegas airport after wrapping up the most instructive, anecdote filled corporate blogging panel I’ve been a part of. One that I moderated with my favorite corporate blogging peeps.

Lionel Menchaca, Dell
Nicki Dugan, Yahoo!
Carolyn Abram, Facebook
Thomas Hoehn, Kodak

First off, thanks to all four of them for being able to make it to Blog World. It’s definitely something I’d planned for a long time and the panel conversation was as educative to the audience as I’d envisioned it’d be. They shared with other corporate bloggers, best practices and anecdotes that I’ve heard during my conversations with them in the past. And, that is good for the industry in general. I’ll soon share the presentation on slideshare with my notes.

Presentation pet peeves: I craft my slides on Apple Keynote (and in this case “powerpoint on a mac”) but was bummed that the fonts were all messed up when I was forced to run it on a PC. And, I misspelled Tom’s name. Sorry, Tom! Keep these in mind when you dream up your next presentation as a moderator.

Content-wise, the panel was a gold-mine for any corporate blogger or company wanting to start a blog. More on this later. Stay tuned.

Now I’ve got a flight to catch!

Blogged from my iPhone

Filed under: Business Blogging, Speaking Engagements

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?


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