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Will PR Be the Death of Blogging?

What's the greatest danger to the future of business blogging?

In a posting entitled "The business blog backlash is nigh," Business Week writer Stephen Baker argues that:

CEOs and other top execs [may soon] turn their backs on blogging with a dismissive 'Been There, Done That?' Most CEOs simply don't have the time. The danger for them, as they take stock of their experiments, is to conclude that other blogging efforts within their companies will be as tepid as their own.

Chris Anderson of The Long Tail blog countered that executive blogging is not the same thing as business blogging:

The best business blogs come from the employees, not the bosses. They have more time, and are less prone to marketing gobbledygook and gnomic platitudes. And those kind of blogs are on the rise, not the decline.

Other business bloggers such as Robert Scoble quickly joined in, dismissing fears of a CEO-inspired backlash and pointing out that ordinary employees usually have far more credibility than CEOs anyway. One blogger, Jane Genova, even posted on this subject a day before Business Week's Baker did, noting that the real issue is not who within the firm blogs but whether or not they do so with the "open, candid, concerned spirit of the blogosphere."

All these comments are true enough, of course, but they still beg the question: Why is Corporate America still so reluctant to embrace blogging? Where does the biggest roadblock to business blogging lie?

I believe it lies not in the executive suite, but in the corporate PR department and the marketing communications office.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm an old PR hand myself. Back in the 1980s, I co-founded and managed a public relations firm that represented Sun Microsystems and MIPS, among other high tech firms, in their early growth years. So I've got nothing against public relations per se.

But let's be honest about the PR function in the modern American corporation. Except in very rare cases, it's mostly concerned with message control -- about getting consumers (or investors) to see the company in a positive light. And that is the very antithesis of good business blogging, which is about listening to, learning from, and engaging honestly with customers, partners, shareholders and investors.

I can't tell you the number of times I've had company PR executives ask me to help "get press about how great the company is" without realizing that, even if it were true that the company was really so "great," there's absolutely no story in that idea at all.

I mean, think about it: When was the last time you read a book or a magazine article, or saw a movie or TV show, about a happily married couple who lived happily ever after? Never, that's when. Because there's no drama there -- no challenge to meet, no problem to overcome, no struggle endured or wisdom gained. And if there's no real drama, there's no story. And no press.

It's the same in business. Unless you can tell a story about a business challenge your company is struggling to meet, or a competitive battle it's trying to win -- in other words, a story with some drama in it and maybe even some business lessons that readers can learn from -- then forget it. You won't get much, if any, press.

The truly exciting thing about blogging -- or at least it should be exciting to any savvy corporate PR executive -- is that it's really all about stories. Customer complaints listened to and resolved, ideas for new and improved products bubbling up from the grass roots and being acted upon, employees struggling to meet seemingly-impossible technical or other challenges in order to better serve their customers.

In fact, it's a never-ending story, constantly written and rewritten by company employees, partners, shareholders and customers in collaboration.

And it's from blogging's unscripted, uncensored, uncontrolled stories that the best press and media attention will emerge. Not to mention the respect and loyalty of your customers.


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The emphasis for business use of blogs seems to continually be at the corporate level. That's where the focus is at least.

I contend that SMBs are the ones able to make the best use of blogs, particularly for marketing purposes.

Corporate bloggers like Scoble may be business blogging's "pop stars," but the singular soul that continues to inspire me is a man by the name of J.D. Iles, owner of a small sign shop in New Hampshire. His signsneversleep.com blog is a model all aspiring small business bloggers can learn from. Maybe even corporate types as well.

I'm waiting for some deep throat type blogger to come along and blog about corporate employee abuse at some of the fortune 100's. LOL

Now THAT would be interesting, wouldn't it?

It's still early, David, but I think the PR world will slowly get there. A good start has been Richard Edelman's blog. SMBs like Idea Grove are working it pretty hard, too. :)

I suspect you're right. Long term, there's just too much momentum in blogging for traditional PR to block it. Adaptation is key.

you are correct...it's not the executives that are afraid to blog; it's the corp comm and IT people. for 18 months, i have unsucessfully attempted to implement a blog system within my company. everyone likes the promise of blogs (enhanced communications), but the barrier to entry by corp comm (don't understand how to use) and IT (don't want to provide a server/afraid of maintenance issues) are too high to overcome.

at some point, blogs will be allowed within, but it will likely be too late for anything other than a "me too" stance.

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