Wells Fargo is offering a sneak preview* of the blog it launches tomorrow as part of the bank’s commemoration of San Francisco’s Great Fire & Earthquake of 1906. Guided By History, as the blog is called, is a group blog. It’s a great idea for an event-specific (and time-limited) blog. And yes, Wells Fargo appears to be the first Fortune 500 financial services company to launch a public blog.

I counted 10 contributors on the About page, including Wells Fargo’s new president and COO, John Stumpf. He’s made one of the first entries, titled A Ride Through History. It’s a bit too polished to qualify as “bloggy” in style but it’s pretty interesting. The 1906 earthquake and fire left half of San Francisco’s residents homeless and destroyed 490 city blocks, including Wells Fargo’s headquarters.

Stumpf (or possibly, someone writing for him – ?) continues:

Then, just like our great city, Wells Fargo rose—quite literally—from the ashes

and rebuilt itself. Wells Fargo now serves  thousands of communities, and our home base of San

Francisco quickly re-established itself as one of the world’s great cities.

If I could offer a tiny piece of advice to my friends at Wells Fargo (full disclosure: Wells Fargo is a former client), be careful not to sound too promotional when you rope your senior execs into the blog. We know that Wells Fargo is a leading financial institution; you don’t need to tell us. You’re looking classy just by virtue of launching this blog. You need say no more!

The other bloggers (not all of whom appear to be Wells Fargo employees) focus on what we can learn as we look back on this natural disaster… which was every bit as dramatic as Hurricane Katrina. A great approach to take for the content of the blog. I wish the contributors’ names were linked to their respective bio blurbs at the bottom of each entry so we know who is writing and what their perspective or expertise is.

You’ll see lots of photos, reproductions of letters and other museum artifacts. And some nifty features in the side-bar, including a graph and link to Technorati’s earthquake buzz meter. And a long list of useful resource links, from “preparedness” sites and relevant historical sites, to ways to volunteer and “participate.” (The Bay Area’s American Red Cross Chapter, for example.)

Most important, Wells Fargo is following best practices by being fully transparent about the restrictions the company faces as it ventures into the blogosphere. From the About page:

We love blogging

and the blogosphere, which is why we’re disappointed by some of the changes we

had to make on ours.  The banking/finance industry in the US is among the most

heavily regulated in the world, and among the most attacked by hackers.  As a

bank, there are regulations that prevent us from obtaining your personal

information—hence the restrictions in our blog comments that prevent you from

submitting your full name…

Bottom line: bravo! I love this example of how a Fortune 500 can adopt blogging as a low-key but, IMHO, effective marketing strategy. Oh, and head on over to the Fortune 500 Blogging Wiki where I’ve just added Wells Fargo to the list of (as of today) 24 F500s with “public” blogs.

* Ed Terpening, Wells Fargo’s Blogging & RSS Project Manager, kindly sent me the preview link!

Useful Link:

Wells Fargo Makes Blog History on Micro Persuasion