Today's Financial Times has a report on corporate blogging that includes an excellent example of a European company using blogs for internal communication:
Some companies, uncomfortable with the openness of public blogs, use them as an internal communications tool. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the German investment bank, has set up about 120 internal blogs to promote discussion and distribute information, including some that encourage users to share ideas, requests and criticisms of in-house information technology systems. Traders use the medium to share information and research. "We think of it as the open-source marketplace for ideas," says JP Rangaswami, chief information officer. "It lets us expose concepts or issues to a wide audience and discuss them dispassionately."
All employees are free to contribute to the blogs, and Mr Rangaswami estimates that there are several thousand active users in the company. According to Sean Park, global head of debt syndicate and credit trading at Dresdner, the company plans to give all employees the opportunity to set up their own blog. "It's potentially a very interesting tool to tap into the social fabric of the company and better understand where knowledge lies," he says.
While the reach of blogging is one of its attractions, it can mean that quality and accuracy vary. "We have to do this with care", says Mr Rangaswami, "and we need to ensure that it is not perceived as an oracle of truth but as a series of people venturing their valuable, but vulnerable, professional opinions."
I find Sean Park's comments most interesting re giving all employees the opportunity to set up their own blog. I see that as one small but very clear step on the visionary road for internal blogging.
The FT's article also discusses examples of companies who have public-facing employee blogs, mentioning some of the usual suspects - Sun Microsystems (Jonathan Schwartz), Microsoft (Robert Scoble) and Macromedia.
The article also includes some general advice for employees who blog.
The advice isn't new - it's similar to what has already been published on many blogs and by other media, perhaps in different phrasing and wording - but the fact that the Financial Time is reporting on it means that this key message continues to get out to the wider and influential business audience:
- Keep it personal: a distinctive human voice is essential - readers will instantly switch off if they sense that postings are the work of the corporate communications department. Remember that blogs are typically personal opinion: this should be made clear via a disclaimer.
- Ensure quality and accuracy: bloggers should be experts in their field and encouraged to write only about what they know.
- Update regularly: blogging is a fast-paced medium and readers expect regular postings - often up to several times a day. A blog will rapidly lose its influence if it is not kept fresh with new content.
- Set appropriate levels of editorial control: companies must make it clear to bloggers that certain topics are taboo - for example, discussing stock prices or company strategy. However, blogs thrive on irreverence and spontaneity, so a cumbersome set of guidelines is unlikely to be helpful.
A little black and white, but some good advice nevertheless. The first part of that last one will raise some eyebrows in some parts of the blogging community, I'm sure. But remember, this is the FT's advice to corporate bloggers, which I'd interpret as the kind of corporates who read the FT. (Wait - I read the FT!)
The FT has done a good service with this reporting in helping bring closer focus on a topic which I predict will be the hot one for organizations in 2005.
Financial Times | The new companies on the blog (paid subscription required)