An article in Ragan’s Grapevine discusses the dangers of corporate blogging with four case studies.
According to the article, Ragan Communications, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), V-Fluence Interactive Public Relations and DaimlerChrylser recently came under attack from the blog-osphere for breaking some rules and protocols in their blogs, resulting in damaged reputations.
Ragan launched Deep Background - a blog with an anonymous author because the blogger’s job prohibits him from having his own blog. Although the content generated more traffic than expected, the PR blogging community - including the influential Shel Holtz - questioned the blog’s credibility. As a result, the blogger resigned and Ragan’s effort to launch specialized information and events for government communicators faces a setback.
V-Fluence Interactive Public Relations did not launch a blog. Instead, it decided to acknowledge the importance and influence of bloggers by including them in its media outreach to spread awareness on the launching of the web site of its client, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It sent out an email to a targeted list of bloggers announcing the new web site dedicated to helping small businesses protect their intellectual property.
The article cites V-Fluence president Jay Byrne saying: “We were very clear about who we are and who we represent.” Sun Microsystems’ Tim Bray, however, reportedly reacted saying v-Fluence spammed and insulted him, criticizing the email’s marketing speak, insulting tone and mistake of sending the same message twice - to each of his two blogs with different email addresses. As a result, a Google search for “V-Fluence” shows influential blogger Bray’s sharp criticism.
DaimlerChrysler launched TheFirehouse.biz, a blog intended to interact exclusively with journalists and industry analysts on announcements and media coverage. Users have to register and the editorial director, Ed Garsten, after checking whether the site or publication represented meets the company’s criteria of what constitutes a journalist, approves or denies the request.
The media liked the blog but bloggers immediately criticized its exclusivity, calling the company “clueless.” As a result, a Google search for “Daimler Chrysler blog” shows the blogging police’s complaints and other disparaging remarks.
According to the article, Ragan, DaimlerChrysler and v-Fluence all stand by their positions for blogging or pitching blogs and have responded quickly to the blog attacks to save their reputations.
Ragan asked the Deep Background author to respond to Holtz in the blog itself while Ragan editors and bloggers defended the company’s position in the company web site’s other blogs, resulting in many online conversations on the issues of anonymity, credibility and communications. Ragan group publisher Jim Ylisela is quoted by the article as saying: “From our perch, all that attention was simply fabulous. You just can’t buy advertising like that, we told Deep Background. After all, what’s the point of blogging if no one’s paying attention?”
DaimlerChrysler responded by posting to the media-only blog, defending and explaining it. It also shared the company’s position and rationale with certain influential bloggers who cover blogging and online marketing, resulting in online coverage, increased awareness and understanding. Those posts now also show up on the first page of Google when searching for “Daimler Chrysler blog.”
The article says DaimlerChrysler’s Garsten is not worried about the company’s reputation, saying it is more important to them that the media love the blog. He is quoted saying: “For companies who want to communicate a finely-tuned message, this kind of narrowcasting is a viable way of doing so. Bloggers talk about defining their communications, and we’ve defined ours in our way. The blog suits our purpose.”
V-Fluence, on the other hand, emailed a letter of apology to Bray within three hours, explaining the company’s intent and promising to remove his name from future outreach activities. It also posted a response on the company web site, along with the company’s policies on spam and e-mail, positive responses to the media outreach, and other bloggers’ responses to Bray’s criticism. V-Fluence’s Byrne is, however, quoted by the article saying he would not change much in his original pitch: “Given the situation, I really don’t know what more we could have done. We took all the right steps to be as transparent and honest as possible.”
Corporate blogging is not as simple as it seems to be, after all.