Today, the New York Times published the article “MIT Taking Student Blogs to the Nth Degree,” an overview of student blogging at universities and colleges in America. It is astounding that MIT is willing to publish completely uncensored student blogging on its website. And inspiring. This represents, for me, the beginning of the uncensored corporate blog. Which is exactly what corporate and nonprofit blogging needs to be: open, honest, transparent and true.
I am a big advocate of uncensored corporate blogs. Most consumers don’t trust the traditional corporate blog. In fact, according to Forrester Research, only 16% of consumers trust corporate blogs. Why? Because we’re smarter than that. We know the bloggers are hand-picked to show the “sunny side” of the company – and not reveal the “real” experience of working at a company and producing a service or a product. Traditional corporate blogs are no better than website content written by a marketing communications team.
In the New York Time article both an MIT admissions officer and a dean of students admit that uncensored blogging is risky; students have written blog posts censuring housing policy, complaining that classes are boring and talking about the down side of student life. On the other hand, student blogs are overwhelmingly positive about the MIT experience and each of the blogs has created a community of followers interested in MIT. The payback for MIT is, I suspect, tremendous: a more informed incoming student body, a more informed admissions process, ability to reach and recruit high quality applicants, higher rate of current student satisfaction, and of course knowledge about MIT from the student’s perspective.
Open, uncensored blogging encourages customer and client loyalty in ways that corporate blogging will never achieve.
Sun Microsystems encourages all of its employees to blog, uncensored, without asking permission first. Opera (the web browser and internet suite company) also encourages uncensored blogging in its policies. Their policy of openness starts at the top, too. I follow the blog of Sun Microsystem’s CEO Jonathan Schwartz. I’ve written before about why his blog is inspiring in its transparency and willingness to discuss corporate direction, pitfalls and challenges.
I have heard the objections to uncensored stakeholder blogging and I think they’re just that – objections. At MIT, one student blogger expressed continual dissatisfaction with the resident housing system. It’s easy to take down a blog that makes the university look bad. It’s harder to admit that there might be a problem. MIT maintained the student’s right to blog unfettered and allowed the housing system to offer an open rebuttal to her complaints on her blog. If MIT had shut down the blog, it would not have closed down her voice. That’s a fact about social media: she would have moved her complaints onto Twitter, others’ blogs, and possibly the sidewiki of MIT’s Housing web page, until she felt that her complaint was heard and addressed.
So here’s to open, uncensored blogging. Take a chance. Invite all employees, volunteers, and other relevant stakeholders to blog.
- Increased trust in your blog and company by the people you care most about – potential clients, stakeholders and customers
- More links pointing to your website, which help more people to find you
- Better understanding of the needs of your staff, company, clients and stakeholders.
- Improved staff performance – employees that blog are happier at work
- Engagement that leads to long-term loyalty
One last note- this isn’t just about blogging. It’s an important trend in corporate web communications. Companies like Best Buy and Zappos allow any verified employee to tweet – uncensored – as the employee. Zappos, in particular, is a customer-service oriented company that views corporate tweeting as an extension of customer service.
Is this the future of corporate blogging? Does your company have an open blogging policy? What do you think about uncensored employee – or even stakeholder – blogging? I would love to also know about nonprofit organizations that encourage open employee, or stakeholder blogging.
Please share your points of view here – I promise not to censor!
Update: another aspect to this blog post is using employees, and their personal brands, to extend your organization’s reach. For insight into how one company is doing this, read “Employee Personal Brands – Who Is Your Human?”