I was traveling when the story on corporate blogging aired on public television’s Nightly Business Report (Jan. 14, 2005) so I haven’t seen it yet. I appeared on camera “blogging” — i.e. typing. According to a few friends who happened to catch it live, I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. I’m trying to order a copy of the segment on video cassette. In the meantime, should you care about my 5 seconds of fame, here is the transcript…
01/14/05: Beware of the Blog
PAUL KANGAS: The Pew Internet and American life project says eight million Americans have created blogs. And readership of the online diaries has increased 58 percent in the last year. As you`d expect, growth like that is now attracting the attention of corporate America. Darren Gersh has this posting.
DARREN GERSH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: The power of blogging is all around us. Families are using blogs to search for word of tsunami victims. Fact-checking bloggers are claiming credit for breaking the story on Dan Rather and memo-gate. Now corporations are watching and wondering what blogging might mean for them.
CHRIS CHARRON, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, FORRESTER RESEARCH: The overall reaction from many companies is confusion, fear, misunderstanding. I think blogging represents a loss of control for many companies that they don`t really know how to deal with.
GERSH: Blogs are online postings of musings, rants and raves, with reactions, if there are any, and links to other sites. At best, blogs are fierce and funny. At worst, they`re merely weird or nasty. No surprise, high tech insiders have been banging out blogs for years. Debbie Weil is an online marketing and business blogging consultant. She`s also a blogger.
DEBBIE WEIL, PRESIDENT, WORDBIZ.COM: It brings more traffic to my site. People go to my site and tend to click on Debbie`s blog tab, because there is always something new.
GERSH: Weil says the give and take in a blog can help companies connect with jaded online consumers.
WEIL: Particularly online, people just don`t respond to marketing speak or corporate speak which is what`s on most home pages. So if a business can put a voice, a human voice behind their company, they are going to attract customers.
GERSH: Blogging is a natural for companies selling high-tech and rapidly changing products to younger web-savvy customers. But that hasn`t stopped more mainstream companies from using blogs to sell yogurt or refrigerators or plastic bags, even Barbie blogs. But blog-watchers warn simply dressing up a marketing campaign or TV ad as a blog is a good way to flame out.
CHARRON: Consumers can see through that. And the best blogs are blogs that are run and participated in by individuals with real thoughts about a product or a brand and where it is headed. I think that when companies try to promote their own messages, they are trying to control the blog and that is exactly the wrong step to take.
GERSH: There is another challenge for corporate bloggers: in a format focused on personal expression, anything with a profit motive may be seen as phony or suspect. And the anything-goes style of blogging can cause new headaches for corporate bloggers.
P.K. KANNAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND BUSINESS SCHOOL: Who`s going to stop when employees start discussing about office politics, or if they start washing dirty linen in those blogs or they reveal some trade secrets?
GERSH: While blogging offers an immediate and cheap way to connect with customers, companies shouldn`t expect to make a lot of money at it.
CHARRON: I think it is going to be a tool, a customer retention tool, a tool that provides input to a company, but I don`t think there will be a real strong business model generating billions of dollars just from blogging.
GERSH: Online experts say companies that aren`t ready to start blogging should start reading blogs. With 12,000 new blogs launched everyday, companies need to know what their most vocal critics are saying about them in the blogosphere. Darren Gersh, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Washington.