There’s an interesting piece on the subject from Scott Rosenberg, who’s generally pessimistic about the uptake. Scott’s arguments are sound; I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and it’s probably even worse than he says. But there are grounds for hope.

First of all, I generally prefer “enterprise blogging” to “corporate blogging”, because the discussion is about the same whether you’re a company or a government department or a university.

Partly as a result of my recent posting on the subject, I’m getting involved in quite a few “shall we blog?” discussions in enterprises of one sort or another out there. I’m seeing two anti-patterns emerge, which is to say approaches that sound plausible but probably aren’t going to work.

Internal Trial · A few of the organizations I’m talking to plan to start with trials of internal blogs, and go external depending on how that works out.

I don’t think it’s going to work. Outward- and inward-facing blogs are such different animals that I don’t think lessons from the one are going to be much help in understanding the other. Obviously, the risks are higher in going external; if experience to date is any guide, the benefits are higher too; a lot higher.

I don’t want to diss internal blogs, but in the big picture, it seems that their impact level is not even close to the outward-facing kind. So I think the only way to find out what having external blogs is like is to have external blogs.

Asking Permission · I was on the phone with the top PR guy at a big, well-known, high tech company, who wanted to talk about the our experience; he thought that his employer could would benefit from some of the same kind of exposure that the Sun blogs have brought us.

He started thinking out loud about what he’d have to do to make it happen; he’d need sign-off from this steering committee, that EVP, and a couple of different legal groups. He realized that, practically, speaking, it would take an awfully long time and quite probably never happen.

My take, at this point, is that the only way an enterprise is going to step into the blog-light is top down. It’s going to have to happen much the same way it did here at Sun; your CEO or COO or whatever is going to have to say Make it happen! and then you work work out the details while you’re doing it.

At Sun, we also had a wild-card advantage in that Jonathan turned out to be a natural, fast writer and could thus lead by example; I’ve known lots of excellent executives who could hardly string two coherent sentences together in writing.

Grounds For Hope · Despite all that, I think this is going to start happening, and the reasons are obvious. Today, in late 2004, there are exactly two companies in the world where blogging has gone wide-open: Sun and Microsoft. At both places, the impact has been overwhelmingly positive. Neither of us would consider going back for a second.

The existence of the Sun and Microsoft blogs is, every day, making our competitors’ lives a little harder. This kind of competitive advantage generally just doesn’t go unanswered; we are after all living in a free-enterprise system.

Most CEOs, and all good CEOs, are very outward-facing. They see what’s going on, and they don’t sit tight and let competitors maintain a competitive advantage. Especially when setting up enterprise blogging is easy and cheap.

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November 28, 2004
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