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September 30, 2008

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M. Young

You highlight a major concern that typically comes from within the Marketing/Communications department of any organization. Does a certain activity, in this case a blog, go too far outside the branding of the company? What is the level of transparency? How threatening might this be to key personalities within the company that have a vested interest in the branding? Truth is, a blog should be slightly outside the branding, covert and almost rogue, but always cooperative and with the same mission as the company. It should be the inside opinion; the information others don’t have.

This is a difficult balance to achieve and shifts from organization to organization, but having an authentic voice to do your bloging is key to success. We all develop internet sensors and we are more than capable of detecting the organization/corporate influence. At times NPO’s believe they are above this possible downfall by their nature, but they are wrong. If we’re being fed the words of marcom, regardless of company purpose, we will know it and we will resent it.

The only way to create a successful blog within an organization is to have it authored primarily by a voice not in a position of power, and instead a position of knowledge (There are good exceptions to this principal though). They should know the organization in and out and should offer the fundamentals and creativity in their constructive criticism or support when warranted. It is not unbiased reporting, it is rather an interesting point of view that must be carefully developed. It must be genuine. It must be an authentic voice, and that almost never comes from within marcom.

A good story comes from one of the larges medical device companies in the world, which also happens to be based here in Boston. The board of directors became aware of many lower level employees authoring blogs often pertaining to work. The boards first instinct was to create policy blocks against the employees and stop the blogs. However, the director knew this would be a catastrophic mistake and instead encouraged the blogs, while remaining hands off. To this day they have no problems from the blogs, while also creating trust inside and outside the company.

Finally, all this is not to say high-level directors and CEO’s cannot be that authentic voice. Commonly they are the best and that is also one of the reasons they are in the position they are. The CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess has a very popular blog on running a major hospital. He succeed because of his personality, understanding of people and because it is not marcom’s voice, it is his own. Pay attention to which voice you are using. It is your real voice? Is it authentic?

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