Seven years ago, PRWeek identified corporate blogging as a trend that communicators had to embrace. Although some PR pros that steep themselves in social media believe blogs are passé at this point, companies continue to realize the benefits of an active blog. Industries once shy about jumping into new media are now stepping up. In May, GlaxoSmithKline opened a corporate blog in conjunction with a new Twitter feed.
Corporate blogs, of course, have evolved, and in many cases no longer look like regurgitated press releases. Instead, companies are using them to engage various stakeholders, break news, and establish thought-leadership positions. GSK's More Than Medicine blog doesn't talk products; it focuses exclusively on US healthcare issues.
But there's a second, un-productive trend emerging among corporate blogs where the blog appears to serve as the exclusive voice on certain issues, and even media are shut out. For example, Twitter – a much-watched company – used its blog exclusively to explain its latest security breach, referring media to a blog posting when they had questions. Perhaps not surprising for a company that grew up in the Google age, but online security deserves more attention than a simple post. Johnson & Johnson, too, when confronted by questions on Tylenol last month, turned to newspaper ads and its blog to communicate its side, declining comment to media.
In these instances, the blog is nothing more than a surrogate press release, or even an ad. Though there is nothing wrong with using a blog to clearly lay out a company's position, when it is used as a replacement for other communication channels, it ceases to be the two-way dialogue that is so effective at engaging stakeholders. Nor does it get the reach or the fullness that can come from a round of media briefings, for example.
According to one study, 15% of Fortune 500 companies maintain an external corporate blog. That number will likely grow rather than shrink. PR professionals need to realize a blog by itself is not a strategy. However, a blog that supports a communications strategy and works in conjunction with other avenues can be an effective tool.