If your only goal is instant gratification for the company, stay off the blog bandwagon

If some corporations are not careful, their blogging efforts risk being branded with a new name - not blogs, but clogs, defined as poorly conceived attempts to harness the blogging fad, thwarting rather than amplifying the company's effort to create a mea

If some corporations are not careful, their blogging efforts risk being branded with a new name - not blogs, but clogs, defined as poorly conceived attempts to harness the blogging fad, thwarting rather than amplifying the company's effort to create a mea

Left unchecked, this trend will result in corporations abandoning these attempts and leaving blogging to the amateurs. Given the medium's potential benefits, for both the company and the consumer, that would be a shame.

Corporate blogs are a trend gaining momentum by the day, which is pretty amazing considering that the real commercial impact of them is still largely unknown. Like many forms of communications strategy, it is a long-haul investment, not designed for instant gratification.

"Once you have a blog, it's a big responsibility," says Richard Cline, CEO of Voce Communications, which recently helped Yahoo launch its first effort. "It's not like putting up a website. You are creating a transparent medium to customers."

Personality is an important element to the blog, and the right messenger might not be immediately obvious. Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, is his firm's blogger, but he cites his client Microsoft's own Robert Scoble as a great example of a blogger with geek cred. "Scoble is effective because he's somewhat transformed the image of the place," Edelman says. "He's even critical of the company. If it's too much corporate-speak, you'll never get anywhere."

Companies are feeling pressure to launch blogs now, but must resist doing the rash thing before they are ready to accept the consequences of embracing transparency. In the era of Sarbanes-Oxley, messaging via blog must be as air tight as it is by press release and conference call. The rules of engagement with the public must be clearly outlined - including guidelines for the company to screen comments from readers - or the blog's credibility will erode. And once a topic is invited into the blog community, it will not necessarily go away. Outlining the rules from the beginning is critical, as IBM did when it launched its blog initiative along with a six-page document of its policy and guidelines.

Potential pitfalls are evident with even the most sophisticated corporate adopter. GM last week announced it was cutting 25,000 jobs in North America, but there was no mention of that fact on its corporate blog, GM Fast Lane, penned by vice chairman Bob Lutz. Of course, the goal of the blog is not to focus on corporate news, as Lutz himself points out. "We will not turn this into a debate about healthcare costs or public policy or anything related," he states on a May 12 post. "Our cars and trucks are our lifeblood; we have a lot of great ones coming, and as they arrive, we'll talk about them here."

But Lutz invites criticism in that same entry with generalities about GM's "game plan" for turning the company around. "Believe me, GM has a crystal clear strategy in place to turn around our fortunes, particularly in the US. Now we are working hard and smart to execute it."

No doubt many readers of the blog would like an update that carries the same authenticity as Lutz's enthusiastic endorsement of the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - "A terrific vehicle to drive."

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