IBM encourages open blogging with employee guidelines

ARMONK, NY: IBM has made public an internal blogging policy it recently created and has encouraged more employees to engage in the exploding practice.

ARMONK, NY: IBM has made public an internal blogging policy it recently created and has encouraged more employees to engage in the exploding practice.

Jim Finn, VP of corporate communications, said encouraging employees to blog was a natural extension of its business practices, not related to recent news.

"We're a company of experts, so the blogosphere is a natural extension of what we've been doing online for years," Finn says.

The tech company has weathered bad news recently, posting lower-than-expected first-quarter earnings in April and recently announcing the layoff of 13,000 employees.

Finn said the purpose of the announcement was to inform bloggers already out there.

"If you're going to out be there blogging, here are the guidelines," Finn said.

The policy stated that employee bloggers should disclose their relationship to IBM, make clear that their words are "individual interactions" and not corporate communications, and not violate any SEC regulations regarding improper disclosure.

The guidelines stated that employees should consult their individual managers should they be unsure if a post violated the company's business conduct code, but Finn said he expected that IBM PR people would be available to provide advice on communications.

"We're not going to tell people what to say," he added. "It's not only good ethical sense, but consistent with protocols of the environment."

The PR department will also pay attention to the comments left by customers at its employees' blogs.

"You want to monitor what's out there; it gives us good feedback about our products and services," Finn said.

Often lost in the clamor over external bloggers representing transparent companies is that blog software also affects internal communications.

Finn said that with 2,800 employees maintaining internal blogs - viewed only by employees - the company could disseminate and discuss internal policy better. He said there was even an IBM employee blogging internally about IBM blogs.

Twenty employee bloggers created the guidelines in ten days, using a collaborative software tool called a wiki. The guidelines were then posted on the weblog of James Snell, a member of IBM's Software Standards Strategy Group.

Jon Iwata, SVP of communications, and Harriet Pearson, chief privacy officer, were among those who presented blogging guideline strategy to management.

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