Here’s an interesting nugget from SNCR‘s Inaugural Research Symposium in Boston today. It’s a great look inside a Fortune 500 and how they’re managing employee blogging.

Four reprimands to IBM bloggers in 18 months

IBM’s Christopher Barger, known as Blogger-in-Chief, just told the audience he’s only had to “drop the hammer” four times on IBM bloggers since Big Blue launched their blogging initiative 18 months ago.

Barger is on the New Media Communications Team at IBM, which is part of the Strategic Communications group (publishes the annual report, etc.). Formerly a speechwriter for IBM, he moved to his current position after his managers discovered an external personal blog he’d been writing for a year. Rather than disciplining him, they said “Hey, we gotta deal with this stuff and you’re the guy to do it.”

Three of the times he had to call IBM bloggers on the carpet were for internal blogs; once it was for an external blog posting by a developer.

One of the internal blogs was religiously-themed, Barger said, but “tasteful.” However, publicly discussing religion is heavily discouraged by HR.

Another of the internal blogs was “slagging on [the blogger’s] manager,” Christopher said. The manager’s name wasn’t included but there were “very specific details.”

The outside blog incident was an inadvertent posting by a developer. He posted something about a product he was working on that IBM was contractually forbidden from revealing. Christoper contacted the guy and he removed the post “within five minutes.”

On the ROI of IBM’s blogging initiative

Says Christopher:

1. Morale is up, as measured by HR, over the past 18 months.

2. Blogging is free; there’s no cost.

3. Blogging adds to the “relationship selling” that IBM espouses. I.e. developing relationships with the community that IBM is part of – as well as selling to.

On why Mark Jen was fired from Google

“Off the record,” Christoper says jokingly… “Are there any bloggers in the audience?” Mark’s offending blog postings were frowned upon by Google’s marketing and communications folks, Chris told us. They were unhappy with ceding control of the message.

In this case, it related to Mark’s disclosure on his Google blog of – yet another – positive earnings report for the company.  Not exactly news BUT I have to take the side of the Marcomm team here. Generally, there should be agreement at a company as to who can say what… and when… about news such as product launches and financial results. Does that make sense? Anyway, that’s what blogging guidelines are for.

Google doesn’t have an official published blogging policy (unless I”ve missed it). But in IBM’s Blogging Policy I think this particular issue (revealing information normally handled by another channel) is discouraged.

Useful Links

Blogging at Big Blue: an Interview (with Chrisopher Barger)

IBM’s blogger in chief – The (UK) Times, May 26, 2006