I almost always include the following in my email signature:
This e-mail is [ ] bloggable [x] ask first [ ] private
Full disclosure: I got the idea from Seth Godin.
I almost always include the following in my email signature:
This e-mail is [ ] bloggable [x] ask first [ ] private
Full disclosure: I got the idea from Seth Godin.
This entry has been updated. Plus... does anyone know who created the graphic below? I'd be happy to give credit.
My post (and a corresponding email to a group of colleagues) inviting folks to visit GSK's new alli blog and -- if inspired or provoked -- leave a comment, has been unfortunately misconstrued by some as inappropriately "asking" for comments on a corporate blog.
The unfortunate part is not that I did something wrong or unethical in asking for comments (I didn't), but that a mini blogstorm, replete with misconceptions, inaccuracies and nastiness, can propagate so quickly. It's painful if you're the one being attacked.
Addendum: I made the same request for comments on the alli blog, for which I write as well as consult. There is no way I could have been more transparent.
My one mistake
To back up a bit for those not familiar with this incident, it was my use of an off-hand phrase ("no need to say you know me") in a private email that precipitated this blogstorm. In the email I asked a group of colleague-friends to visit GSK's new blog and, if inspired, to leave a comment. The phrase "no need to say you know me" was a throwaway and a bit of a joke. It was an unfortunate choice of words on my part.
The phrase didn't look so innocent when one of my email recipients, David Murray, published the message on his blog without alerting me first or asking my permission. Frankly, I found this to be an odd breach of email etiquette - and my privacy - by David, who is an editor for Ragan.
It looked as if I was asking colleagues to conceal that they know me. Those who know me - and know my tone of voice in an email - understand that I didn't really mean it. I regret using the phrase. It was a mistake. Now let's move on to the topic of this entry...
Using the backchannel of email is not underhanded
What I really want to do today is crawl under a rock and pretend I've never heard of blogging (and in particular, nasty PR bloggers). Instead I'll take this opportunity to clarify what some call the "backchannel" of the blogosphere -- namely, email.
Many bloggers send emails to friends and colleagues asking them to "take a look" and "leave a comment" on a recent post. This is a common, if not commented upon (sorry, couldn't resist), practice.
HP's very own esteemed blogger Eric Kintz sent me just such an email this week. He's been promoted to VP of Marketing for Digital Photography and Entertainment and wanted to let a bunch of his friends & colleagues know about it. He also asked if we'd leave suggestions for any new directions he should take on his blog.
Is this "comment seeding"? I don't think so. This is Eric being Eric and asking colleagues to leave a Comment on his blog. A bunch of people did, BTW. Myself included.
I expect the backchannel of email is used in the blogosphere far more than anyone admits: to stroke egos, to ask for advice, to admonish, etc.
So is it OK to solicit or ask for comments on a corporate blog?
My answer remains the same: yes, it's OK if you do it only occasionally and are transparent about your request. The fact is, many people still are not familiar with blogging etiquette. If you stopped a random person on the street or in an office elevator and asked if he or she planned to "leave a comment" on a blog today, you would likely get a confused stare.
A blog? A what? A comment??
My intent was to get a few coherent comments onto GSK's alliConnect blog in order to demonstrate to other visitors what a Comment is and how it should be written. My circle of colleague-friends tend to be smart, savvy about social media and good writers and that's why I called on them.
The other mistake I made was to include a few too many colleague-friends in the small group I sent my email to. There's a whole other lesson in that. Which I'll take up another time. Suffice it to say that "social media" can create a false sense of intimacy and friendship with people.
As to whether my smart colleague-friends (a mix of entrepreneurs, marketing experts and others) are the right kind of readers to be leaving comments on the alli blog, who cares? It was a one-time request. As with much of blogging etiquette, you can parse these things to death. I don't believe in that. A waste of time.
There's no shame in soliciting comments on a blog by Steven Lewis (July 12, 2007)
Blogging: Who Makes Up the Rules? by Jeffrey Eisenberg (July 13, 2007)
Bloggers v Bloggers by Joseph Jaffe (July 13, 2007)
Blog Ethics and Why I'm Ashamed of the PR Bigwigs by Jennifer Mattern on Naked PR (July 23, 2007)
Astroturfing on the Dark Side of the Moon by Geoff Livingston (Aug. 6, 2007)
Netiquette and Debbie Weil's Email on Hoi Polloi (who is this??) Aug. 9, 2007
I think so. As long as you don't ask too often. Here's why: many folks are shy about leaving a Comment, particularly if they're not familiar with blogging etiquette. If they see other Comments, it can make it easier to jump in.
So here's my request: head on over to GlaxoSmithKline's official corporate blog for alli, the first FDA approved, OTC (over the counter) weight loss product. Take a peek and, if you're inspired, leave a Comment.
Doesn't matter whether you're overweight or not, or whether you're considering taking alli yourself. You may have seen the TV ads. GSK has launched a massive educational marketing campaign to support the product launch.
Traffic to the blog is steadily growing but readers seem a bit skittish about leaving Comments. Maybe you can help jumpstart the two-way conversation.
Full disclosure: I'm working with GSK on the blog. And this was my idea to ask for Comments.
Stephen Dubner (co-author with Steven Levitt of Freakonomics) ponders the question of who Comments on blog posts and why. Most readers don't leave comments. In fact, "the ratio of readers to commenters is gigantic," he notes. Then he riffs about this statistical conundrum:
"I realize there is a selection problem here: anyone who responds to my question about why commenters comment is, alas, a commenter. Which means that regular commenters will be overrepresented in the comments — unless, of course, a whole bunch of you who never comment decide to go ahead and log in and, in the comments section, tell us why you never comment. Or why other people do." - Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics
And of course there's the follow-up post that summarizes the 113 comments he got: Why you comment on blogs.
I love this point that Dubner makes:
"Some of you said that you tend to comment on blogs where the blogger writes back in the comments section — which we typically don’t. This is simply a function of time; I love blogging but I do not want it take over my life. I do read all the comments, and sometimes respond privately. Very often, I believe the comments on this blog are better than the blog postings themselves. This makes sense: there are only two of us, and a lot of you. If you believe even a tiny bit in the wisdom of crowds, you have to love this dynamic." - SD
[via Judy Gombita]
I spoke recently at Melcrum's 2006 Strategic Management Communication Summit in London. It was a thrill, of course, to be asked to fly across the pond and dispense a bit of wisdom (or practicality, as that's more my style) about corporate blogging.
In the UK, conference goers listen politely and take notes
I was fascinated by the difference between conference attendees in the UK and the US. In a word, conference goers in the UK are *polite.* Not a single laptop (with one exception) was open in the crowd of several hundred at the Millenium Gloucester (I loved this hotel) on Wednesday Oct. 18th. And this despite easy access to wireless Internet.
No one was tapping away on a keyboard (ostensibly taking notes but in reality checking email). In fact, no one even seemed to be looking at their Blackberry or Treo. Heavens!
Later, I met with Victoria Mellor, at left, and Robin Crumby, founders of Melcrum Publishing, in their London offices. Thanks guys for the great Japanese lunch around the corner.
Instead, the attendees, who were mainly senior-level corporate and internal communications managers at brands like HP, IKEA, Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, Cadbury Schweppes, PricewaterHouse Coopers, etc., were taking notes, listening carefully and otherwise paying attention!
OK, I admit I was itching to live blog the event
But I have to come clean. The whole thing felt very weird to me. I was itching to live blog some of the speakers. (Those tidbits later... if I can dig out my notes. Alas, my moment of inspiration may have passed.)
Nielsen BuzzMetrics bans conference blogging
Contrast this with the hue and cry over Nielsen BuzzMetrics' ban on live blogging during their recent clients-only CGM (consumer generated media) summit. A CGM extravaganza and no blogging allowed? Apparently it drove some attendees wild. Update: see clarification from Nielsen BuzzMetrics' Pete Blackshaw.
My take on it is that there should be some in-between space. Perhaps some sessions where no laptops are allowed and others where attendees are encouraged to record, comment and blog during the event. I know that as much as I'd like to think I can multi-task, I really can't listen, absorb, type, surf, edit and post simultaneously.
Forrester sets up an official conference blog
Another approach is to
hire offer gratis admission to conference bloggers as Forrester Research did for their recent Consumer Forum. As I point out in chapter 4 of The Corporate Blogging Book, this is a highly effective way to promote your event. Your conference blog lives on and serves to promote your next event.
Should conferences ban blogging? - Steve Rubel on Micro Persuasion
Getting It Right: Forrester Consumer Forum and Conference Blogging - Marianne Richmond
I'm a huge fan of the folks at Edelman, particularly Steve Rubel and Phil Gomes and Guillaume du Gardier in Paris. So I have no idea what's up with Edelman's non-response to the outing of the Wal-Marting Across America blog as a paid-for publicity stunt.
Definition of flogging
Flogging refers to a new blog-ism: fake blogging -
as coined used by MediaPost reporter Tom Siebert in his article: Pro-Wal-Mart Travel Blog Screeches to a Halt. Full disclosure: Tom interviewed me and quotes me in the article. He also quoted me in his follow-up article (see below).
[Correction: flog was coined by Matthew Oliphant.]
I'm inclined to think that a lot of wires got crossed on this one.
About ten months ago Wal-Mart retained Edelman to work on blogger relations with them to counter the stream of negative press the company is getting. One of the things Edelman did was suggest that Wal-Mart create Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFFWM). Hard to believe that the Edelman team would then give Wal-Mart such bad advice, as in:
Here's how to behave in the corporate blogosphere: fake it
I.e. get WFFWM to pay a photographer (Jim) and a freelance writer (Laura) to pretend they just happen to be driving across America in an RV. Oh and they just happen to park each night in the RV-friendly Wal-Mart parking lots. Oh and they just happen to photograph and interview lots of happy Wal-Mart employees. Oh and then they post this happy chronicle to the Wal-Marting Across America blog.
(All the entries have now been removed except the final semi-explanatory one by Laura.)
Oops - that didn't work
Turns out "Jim" is Washington Post photographer James Thresher (who's now in deep sushi with Wash Post executive editor Len Downie). His girlfriend "Laura" is Laura St. Claire (whose brother happens to be an Edelman employee).
Steve Rubel, are you listening?
Another way Edelman could have handled this
As I told the MediaPost's Tom Siebert:
"What would they lose to have said, 'we're sending two people around the country to talk to people at Wal-Mart,'" says corporate blogging consultant Debbie Weil, author of "The Corporate Blogging Book." "It could have even been funny--they could have made it self-deprecating, really loosened up and it would have been so much more effective as a PR strategy. Instead, they went with that whole Madison Avenue lie that everything is perfect, which people can't stand."
- MediaPost (Oct. 13, 2006)
Wal-Mart's Jim and Laura: The Real Story (Business Week - Oct. 8, 2006)
WashPost Photog's Wal-Mart Trip Violates Paper's Policy (Editor & Publisher - Oct. 11, 2006)
WaPo Photog To Repay Wal-Mart Group for Blog Expenses (MediaPost - Oct. 13, 2006)
Blogs, splogs & flogs: edelman and the wal-mart fiasco (bizhack - Oct. 12, 2006)
PR bloggers respond to Wal-Mart / Edelman controversy (from Wal-Mart Watch)
Defending and Defining the Blog Culture (Toby Bloomberg - Oct. 13, 2006)
Wal-Mart: On the Importance of Being Ernest (Kami Huyse - Oct. 13, 2006)
Q. Mike Goldstein of Rockcoastmedia asked me recently:
"I have been debating whether or not to suggest [that] my SEO clients add a blog to their corporate site. I am afraid that corporate blogs come off as too self serving and tend to talk too much about the company. Have you seen much in corporate blogs getting the attention that personal blogs get on similar topics?"
A. And my response:
Interesting question. I suspect that Dell's new Direct2Dell blog is getting way more traffic than most personal blogs. Just checked on Technorati, and Dell's blog is ranked 17,976 out of 50 million blogs after being up for about two months.
And certainly GM's Fastlane blog (ranked 2,496 on Technorati after 20 months) gets lots of traffic (several hundred thousand page views a month last I checked).
For smaller companies, it helps to think of a blog as the interactive, fresh section of the Web site. In other words, a blog is simply an adjunct to your main site.
If the content of the blog is interesting and non-salesy (and includes appropriate keyword phrases) it should appear high in search engine results (on those keywords) and prompt clickthroughs to your home page or whatever pages you choose to highlight on your blog layout.
As a point of comparison, this blog ranks (as of today) 5,570 on Technorati. I like to say it's a Top 5,000 Blog which ain't too bad, considering there are (as of today) 52.6 million blogs, according to Technorati.
I've been writing this blog for almost two years. So longevity counts. Ya gotta stick with it and keep writing. And yes of course I wish it were a Top 1,000 blog or in the Top 100. Probably not gonna happen because I do other stuff besides blog.
Have you got a question about corporate blogging?
Ask me in a live teleconference I'm hosting on
Friday Sept. 15thWednesday Sept. 20th from 12 noon to 2 PM Eastern. Ticket to entry? The session is free if you buy 5 copies of my book from 800-CEO-Read. Email your receipt to me at wordbiz(at)gmail.com and I'll send you the dial-in info. Details here.
Hope you'll join us!
This is absolutely a waste of time. But I just couldn't resist. Technorati has rolled out a new "look" as of today (or at least as of this past weekend) so I was checking it out.
And noticed that my blog has 284 inbound links from other bloggers, whereas Strumpette's has 170. I'm not sure what this means. But it seems kinda cool. And I've still got my clothes on, as befits a corporate blogging expert. Whatever...
Because it's bogus.
What I mean is that, as amusing or clever as anonymous blogging can be (of course sometimes it's nasty), it's still slippery. Only half credible. And therefore ultimately an artifice. It's not real. It's not *authentic.* It doesn't carry the weight of legitimate commentary.
Even when an anonymous blogger makes a good point, we find ourselves saying hmmm...
The obvious, of course, is that an anonymous blogger is cloaked by er, anonymity, and can toss grenades at anyone or any company without fear of being personally attacked in return.
By contrast, the essence of effective business or corporate blogging is that it *reveals* something about the individual blogger... his or her smarts about a particular issue or discipline, whether it's PR or PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Or lack of smarts. Or willingness to take a hit from readers. We are usually as interested in the "who" of a good corporate blog, as in the "what." Of course if you're the blogger, it can be a bit scary to reveal who you are and how you think.
A company that has a corporate blog - or officially sanctions employee blogs - usually reveals something about itself by virtue of having the blog. The company is willing to let a senior exec - or a lower-level employee - speak candidly and risk being criticized. Unless of course the blog is written anonymously in which case there isn't much point in readers taking the trouble to converse with the blogger.
God, am I getting tangled up here... see my comment below.
So my take on Strumpette (A Naked Journal of the PR Business) is... baloney. Heck I could be just as outrageous and clever and nasty [did I mention sexy and catty??] if I didn't sign this blog. Dontcha think?
Apparently it's four people. Principally Amanda Chapel but also two other women and a man. All are PR professionals; none wants to reveal her or himself. Oh so much easier to act like you're in seventh grade that way. Although she/he/they are wickedly funny sometimes.
*Of course, you can use the blogging platform anyway you like. I make that point repeatedly in The Corporate Blogging Book. As long as you're comfortable with the fact that you (as a corporate blogger) may not be publishing a blog, per se. What you may be doing is using blogging software as an instant publishing platform.
** I make exception for anonymous blogging for those writing from war-torn countries or who live under repressive governments. See Global Voices Online.
Eegads...almost everyone bit when I posted on April Fool's Day that Bill Gates hired me to be his executive blog coach. Here's an email I got from a friend and colleague who happens to be a senior executive. Yes, he's the enthusiastic type:
"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YOU JUST SCORED THE BIGGEST EXEC CEO WHALE OUT THERE!!!!!!!!!! This is just so unbelievable for you, I am sooooooooooooo thrilled!"
Frankly I'm a bit embarrassed. My little joke was the product of about five minutes thought. It was inspired by several others. See here (Robert Scoble) and here (Steve Rubel). I'll admit to being pleased at being a successful prankster. But the real takaway is more serious.
The ability for anyone to publish instantly - and globally - can so easily be abused. It reveals the dark side of the blogosphere. Namely, that not everything you read in blogs (or anywhere online) is true. Indeed how do you know what IS true? Memes (topics du jour) can race around the blogosphere, morphing into urban legends, in a matter of hours or days.
More on "credibility" and the blogosophere and the problem with "citizen journalism"...
"Go read Debbie's book. Along with Scoble it's the other bible. Buy it." - Steve Clayton, CTO Microsoft UK Partner Group