Tuesday, May 09, 2006

corporate blogging: snowball in hell

A recent Harris/Makovsky survey reveals that corporate blogging is a snowball in hell. In other words, it's not catching on very well. There is tremendous resistance to, and ignorance of, blogs in the corporate world.

[Photo above: early RAND Corporation quasi-prototype of a "home computer" for futuristic 2004.

"However, the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 30 (?) years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use".]

I've proclaimed for a long time now that most corporations will NOT blog.


I believe it's because corporate culture has been Command & Control, full of secrecy and territorial paranoia, and a reluctance to really listen, and adjust, to customer feedback and demands.

Businesses generally have only one thing to say: "Buy my product."

Businesses generally have only one thing they want to hear: "Love your product, help me buy more."

Thus, a blog, a candid two-way conversation with customers, is unappealing to most companies.

This news release summarizing the survey, "Full Report: Makovsky 2006 State of Corporate Blogging Survey", exhibited low to medium findability.

A web article mentioning the survey linked to the Makovsky home page, rather than the page containing links to the survey and news release (which are PDF files, but Firefox enabled me to view them in HTML).

Here's the navigation path to the desired page:

Makovsky.com > HTML > Site Map (nav bar atop rectangular logo graphic) > Insights > left column menu > Surveys

I first guessed News, instead of Insights. This is a widespread problem with informational sites representing research firms. They have free reports that could benefit a large percentage of users, journalists, and bloggers...but they're hidden on pages that are not readily evident or obvious, even to trained web analysts.

Why can't these corporate web sites use an instantly intuitive label for this category of data, a label like "Reports & Surveys"? "Insights" is a corporate neologism, a clever expression for, a second level abstraction from, the raw and simple reality of "Reports & Surveys".

Here's the Makovsky news release, with my running commentary
[in brackets and red bold type.]

"Fortune 1000 Senior Executives Slow to React to the Growing Credibility of Corporate Blogs, New Survey Concludes"


NEW YORK, NY ­ May 3, 2006 ­

While Fortune 1000 senior executives at top companies have blogs on their radar, the Makovsky 2006 State of Corporate Blogging Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive®, concludes that they are slow to react to the growing credibility of corporate blogs as a communications medium.

[VASPERS: Senior Executives are "slow to react"?

How did they get to be elevated to their corporate position? By being timid, frightened, scared to act , indecisive, passive, slothlike, dispassionate, super cautious, adverse to risk and innovation for competitive advantage?]

The study, released today, found that only minorities of top executives surveyed are convinced to "a great extent" that corporate blogging is growing in credibility either as a communications medium (5%), brand-building technique (3%), or a sales or lead generation tool (less than 1%).

[VASPERS: This attitude is ridiculous. Luddites in the top executive suite. No wonder China, South Korea, and India are starting to seriously kick America's corporate butt.]

In contrast, most executives are somewhat or not at all convinced of blogs' growing credibility in these areas, (62%, 74%, and 70% respectively).

[VASPERS: Corporate executives, discredited and distrusted as a class, are looking down on blogs as a credible resource? This is extremely absurd and comical.]

Moreover, the Makovsky survey revealed that nearly half of senior executives polled do not have corporate policies pertaining to blogging, although 77% believe that their organizations should address such policies.

[VASPERS: Saying "we should do that" is not actually doing it. It's a mere pretense, to save face. The corporate fellows lose credibility when they say they should address blogging policies, but fail to do it.]

"This reflects that the credibility of corporate blogs, whether sanctioned by the company or written by others, is growing, but that executives at top companies are slow to come to grips
with recognizing their importance in building a dialogue with customers and other stakeholders ­ including critics," noted Robbin S. Goodman, Executive Vice President of Makovsky + Company, a leading independent global public relations and investor relations consultancy.

[VASPERS: I wonder why they are so "slow".

Does it seem like they're dragging their feet about establishing a "dialogue with customers and other stakeholders including critics"?

Do you sense a fear of criticism? A fear of being revealed to be dishonorable, incompetent, or irrelevant?

A fear of change, accommodating user suggestions and customer input?]

The national telephone survey of 150 senior executives (directors and above) of a cross- section of Fortune 1000 companies was commissioned by Makovsky + Company, and conducted by Harris Interactive ® in February 2006 .

Among other highlights of the survey:

· Even though 12% of senior executives say their companies have taken legal or other
action in response to a blog, only 20% report having a formal process in place for
monitoring blogs written about the company.

[VASPERS: Yet they've surely heard Napolean's warning: "he who hesitates is lost" and "strike while the iron's hot". Losers.]

· A minority (15%) say that someone in their organization is currently writing a blog
related to the company or its activities.

· Only one in five (21%) report reading business-related blogs once a week or more
frequently. · Only 30% of senior executives report that they have a thorough understanding of the term "Internet blog."

[VASPERS: Are these "top executives" lazy late-adaptors, cowardly chumps and sitting ducks for more aggressive competitors, "wait and see" slugs dragging their mediocre butts around as the technology surrounding them surges forward with ferocious velocity?]

· Forty percent believe that their companies should have corporate policies to address
the writing of blogs unrelated to the company or its activities. This compares with
the 77% who believe their companies should have such policies concerning the
authoring of blogs sanctioned by the company.

· Further, 8% report organizing a team of dedicated people to write sanctioned blogs
about the company and its activities.

· 3% said their company changed its product, service, or policies because of
publicity generated by a blog written about it.

[VASPERS: This resistance to change, and customer input, has been duly noted by the blogosphere, and now these mediocre, customer-ignoring companies are doomed.]

"We have a snapshot of the beginning of a corporate activity and a medium which is set grow rapidly and to become very important to corporations around the world," said Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll®, Harris Interactive.

"Companies that do not recognize this trend, and take action to capitalize on it, will miss out on valuable opportunities and run the risk of being blindsided by unfavorable publicity."

Defining a new medium

A blog, short for "weblog," is a website that typically combines text, images and links in a kind of personal journal. Easy-to-use publishing tools enable the blogger to share news and opinion instantly and worldwide.

[VASPERS: This is the incomplete, typical, bandied about definition that doesn't say enough, and misses much.

Blogs are the rise of individual voice, via simple, easy and fast web publishing, against the information hegemony of mass media, government, religion, corporations, and other institutions.

Blogs represent the universalization of human knowledge and a level communications playing field, enabling average, non-technical people, from CEOs to local musicians, to build an online community of readers who interact with the blog author via comments appended to specific blog posts.

Blogs are the new business cards, the new cave paintings, the emergence of electro-compu-telepathy, the text telephone of two-way typed communication.]

According to blog search engine Technorati, there are more than 37 million blogs on the Internet today and new ones are being created at the rate of 75,000 a day (or, one per second).

[VASPERS: And nearly half, around 45%, of all blogs are abandoned within as short a period as 3 months.]

"Blogging can help to make or break a corporation's reputation," says Makovsky's Goodman.

"As blogger Jeff Jarvis has said, `Today, when you lose a customer, you don't lose just that customer, you risk losing that customer's friends. And thanks to the Internet and blogs and consumer rate-and-review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world.'"

Last summer, when Jarvis's calls and emails to Dell about a defective computer brought no satisfaction, he launched a series of critiques of the company in his blog, BuzzMachine. Daily visits to the blog doubled and hundreds of readers posted their own complaints. Ultimately, the story was picked up by BusinessWeek in an article titled "Dell in the Bloghouse."

"The same characteristics that make the Web an ideal medium for positive communications ­ namely immediacy, speed, ease of use, and the pass-along effect ­ are also ideally suited to the spread of negative publicity," says Goodman.

Minimizing risk

In commenting on senior executives' belief that their companies should have blogging policies for sanctioned and unsanctioned blogs, and even blogs unrelated to the company or its activities.

Goodman says, "Most of the companies are probably relying on preexisting corporate policies on related issues, such as confidentiality, protecting corporate reputation and Internet use at work. But a proactive approach to blogging is in the best interest of the corporation, as our survey respondents clearly acknowledge. The reactive approach -- litigation or firing an employee for an offending blog -- affects the reputations of everyone involved."

While blog-related firings are still relatively rare, employees and contractors have reportedly been terminated for indiscreet blogging by a number of major companies, including Starbucks, Delta Air Lines, Wells Fargo and Kmart, according to news reports. "The protection of the First Amendment doesn't apply to Americans in the environment of a private employer," says Makovsky's Goodman. "Smart companies take the initiative to develop the policies necessary to preempt potential problems, without stifling blogs that create valuable dialogue for the organization."

The burgeoning blogosphere

According to the Fortune 500 Blogging Wiki ( http://www.socialtext.net/bizblogs/index.cgi ), as of April 18, 2006, only 29 (5.8%) of the Fortune 500 reported active public blogs written by their employees about the company or its products.

"The vast majority (77%) of executives in our survey report that no one in their organization is writing a corporate blog," says Goodman, who attributes the comparatively slow adoption
of corporate blogging as a communications strategy to the relative lack of awareness among senior corporate executives of the potential benefits of the new medium.

"This is a lag that needs to be rectified," she adds. "Whether they are used to demonstrate expertise, share knowledge, improve customer satisfaction levels, support a product brand or burnish a company's reputation, blogs should be an essential element of every corporation's communications strategy."

[VASPERS: Yes, but we blog consultants have been presenting books, PDFs, white papers, case histories, anecdotal evidence, and analysis of effective blogging practices...to little avail.

The non-blog companies will be left behind and forgotten soon enough, like those organizations that did not catch onto the telephone, email, intranets, project collaboration wikis, wifi, VPNs, or text messaging.]


Harris Interactive® conducted this survey on behalf of Makovsky + Company using its
Executive OmnibusTM, a nationwide telephone survey of 150 leading executives in Fortune
1000 companies of whom 144 had at least heard of the term `corporate blogging'.

The survey was conducted between February 8 to 28, 2006, and the executives interviewed were from a broad range of industries, services, locales, and sizes of companies. Data from this sample are not weighted and are representative only of the body of individuals surveyed. In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a sampling error of plus or minus 8 percentage points.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public

About Makovsky + Company

Founded in 1979, Makovsky + Company ( www.makovsky.com ) is one of the nation's leading independent global public relations and investor relations consultancies. The firm
attributes its success to its original vision: that the Power of Specialized ThinkingTM is the
best way to build reputation, sales and fair valuation for a client.

Based in New York City,the firm has agency partners in more than 20 countries and in 35 U.S. cities through IPREX, the third largest worldwide public relations agency partnership, of which Makovsky is a founder.

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive Inc. ( www.harrisinteractive.com ), based in Rochester, New York, is the 13th largest and the fastest-growing market research firm in the world, most widely known
for The Harris Poll® and for its pioneering leadership in the online market research

Long recognized by its clients for delivering insights that enable confident business decisions, the Company blends the science of innovative research with the art of strategic consulting to deliver knowledge that leads to measurable and enduring value.

For more information about the Makovsky 2006 State of Corporate Blogging
Survey, contact:

Kona Luseni
Makovsky + Company
kluseni [at] makovsky [dot] com

Nancy Wong
Harris Interactive

nwong [at] harrisinteractive [dot] com # # #



carrie said...

OMG could your blog posts BE any longer? ;-)

G. Randy Primm said...

i hardly know where to begin.

well, first of all, that control board is a mockup of the engine/reactor control board of a nuclear submarine, circa 1965. the tv is obviously an rca console, so that's ok, other than the fact that they don't make tv's any more.

and thank god nobody in the computer biz dresses like that anymore. even ibm wouldn't have him. other than that, i have no idea what this post is about.


steven edward streight said...

This one's too long. I hate it. Tha't s not a nuclear sub, it's a home computer that could not be invented then or yet.

ME Strauss said...

I read it. Okay not all of it, only your remarks and those of Jeff Jarvis. You've got some good points here. I'm going to be coming back to read it again in the morning when my brain works at full speed.

Liz Strauss
Successful Blog

steven edward streight said...

Liz: come here via Chartreuse?

Or Doc Searls?

Anyway, you got my attention on your cool looking blog (really nice header), with your assertion that originality just flows from a relaxed and passive state...whereas, I see originality as creative hard work.

So I posted a Reciprocal Comment on your blog, to stir up debate and get the lurkers to bug out of the shadows and comment on my insane viewpoints.

ME Strauss said...

I'm sure how I got here this last time, but I've read you on and off for a while.

You oversimplify my definition of originality. I only have said so far that I got an idea of how to define it that way -- by relaxing. Stay with the thread for a while. . . . That's why it takes time between posts.

Thanks for the compliment about the header. I thought that up because I want the blog to be about community and conversation more than anything else. Besides Successful Blog is so so ugh. I didn't name it that . . . I inherited the name . . . it was my way of marking the territory I think. :)

holden said...

Hey Stephen, interesting posting. Last year it was hip to be "transparent"--apparently that was just lip service. I'm at a lose. I just don't understand why companies are hiding from this tech. the benefits clearly out weigh the perceived faults. Externally, for CRM and product development and internally to increase collaboration and dialogue. I'm actually researching corp.blogging for my thesis and I'm shocked that even academia doesn't get it. I'm studying corp and org communications and it seems so few are aware of social media, or they think it's just a fad.

holden said...

Hey Stephen, interesting posting. Last year it was hip to be "transparent"--apparently that was just lip service. I'm at a lose. I just don't understand why companies are hiding from this tech. the benefits clearly out weigh the perceived faults. Externally, for CRM and product development and internally to increase collaboration and
dialogue. I'm actually researching corp.blogging for my thesis and I'm shocked that even academia doesn't get it. I'm studying corp and org communications and it seems so few are aware of social media, or they think it's just a fad.

Another fact people seem to be ignoring, the next generation is growing up on myspace and the like--they'll be used to interacting that way, so wouldn't it makes sense that blogging would eventually become a norm in the workplace?


Paul Woodhouse said...

May I attempt to paraphrase:

97% of all CEO's are knobs and the other 3% are too busy shagging their secretaries to care.

If only there was research how to best fleece a pension fund for personal gain.

steven edward streight said...

Humor will win the day.

When you're beta testing some new software or site, and you encounter self-effacing attitudes and savvy satire, you know it's not business as usual, as least in the text used for presentation.