Marketing|Demand Creation Blog: Thoughts on strategy, lead optimization, social media and the digital space

Monday, March 28, 2005

Blogs for Business: Walking the Thin Line of Credibility

For a while now the topic of blogs and bloggers has been a mainstream media favorite. Perhaps its attraction is the freedom of speech it seems to have unleashed. Or maybe its the way this “disruptive technology” has overturned the traditional ways we used to get the news: bloggers are scooping traditional reporters and bringing a special uncensored perspective from the frontlines of world trouble spots — from first hand Southeast Asia Tsunami blog reporting to the Iraq “warblogging” of Kevin Sites. Or maybe its allure is simply that it has enabled our “inner-publisher” to emerge. This is all great stuff, but what’s really exciting to me as a marketer are the untapped possibilities to use blogs in business.

Some forward-thinking companies are beginning to realize the business potential of blogs. In these early days, while there are legal, compliance and intellectual property challenges only just coming to light regarding the use of blogs, industry heavyweights from Bob Lutz (Vice Chairman) at GM to Randy Baseler (VP Marketing) at Boeing, to Werner Vogels (CTO) at Amazon are nevertheless launching their own business blogs. Of course, the true value of blogs in business is as another tool in the marketer’s kit to form stronger relationships with customers and other company stakeholders. But there’s a thin line to walk, as the now infamous Dr. Pepper “Raging CowGate” story tells. Efforts to subvert the medium to simply hawk a new product will eventually be exposed. At best these missteps will be viewed as the actions of clueless corporate suits and at worst they could be seen as deliberate attempts to deceive the consumer — either way causing more harm than good to the brand.

To add value, any medium from print, to broadcast, to a webblog, must have its unique properties fully leveraged. In the case of blogs, it’s the immediacy and 1-on-1 candor that make it such a powerful tool for talking to customers like regular people rather than company to customer. A well-executed business blog has the potential, as part of a multi-channel marketing and communications plan, to position the company as a thought-leader in its space, to set it apart from the competition, and in times of crisis put a human face on communications. Nevertheless, an online poll by BtoB Magazine says that 56% of companies have not launched a weblog and only 24% plan to do so in 2005. It seems the landscape is ripe for companies to distinguish themselves in this area by taking a calculated risk to walk the thin line of credibility and launch a business blog. I look forward to watching what develops.

Nash, Jim. “Look Who’s Blogging.” Information Week. March 7, 2005. pg. 47-52
Foley, John. “The Weblog Question: BL©GS” Information Week. January 31, 2005. pg.39-42
“Has Your Organization Launched a Weblog?” BtoB Magazine. January 17, 2005. pg 10
Joseph Mann Monday, March 28, 2005


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