WILL YOU HAVE LEGAL PROBLEMS? • Libel • Revealing trade secrets • Revealing information before you are legally able to do so
THE MYTH OF TRANSPARENCY Many bloggers believe that blogs are a tool of truth-tellers and whistle blowers. The political bloggers have capitalized on this theory, but businesses are often cut by the other side of the sword.
TWO KINDS OF POLICIES • First, a code of ethics for the corporate blog • Second, a policy that employees can use to guide their use of blogs and work issues
BLOG POLICY ISSUES • Will your blog be edited prior to publication? • How will you handle mistakes and corrections? • How will you handle updates and late-breaking news on a topic you blogged about earlier?
BLOG POLICY ISSUES • When will you link to other sites, and why? • Will you mention competitors? Will you criticize them? • How will you handle criticism from bloggers, readers, or competitors?
SAMPLE POLICY STATEMENTS • I will tell the truth. • I will write deliberately and with accuracy. • I will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly. • I will preserve the original post, using notations to show where I have made changes so as to maintain the integrity of my publishing. • I will never delete a post. • I will not delete comments unless they are spam or off-topic.
SAMPLE POLICY STATEMENTS • I will reply to emails and comments when appropriate, and do so promptly. • I will strive for high quality with every post – including basic spellchecking. • I will stay on topic. • I will disagree with other opinions respectfully. • I will link to online references and original source materials directly. • I will disclose conflicts of interest. • I will keep private issues and topics private, since discussing private issues would jeopardize my personal and work relationships.
IF YOU WANT YOUR BLOG TO... • Open up your company to the public • Make the company and its goals more transparent and accessible to its customers • Build relationships between people
BLOG PARTICIPATION • Should you pay your employees to blog? • Should you give them blog software? • Should you make blogging part of their job description?
COMPENSATION OPTIONS • Pay for each post, thus rewarding those who post more often with higher compensation • Give bonuses • Give recognition or prizes
OUTSOURCING YOUR BLOGGING You can hire someone else to blog for you, instead of adding it to the workload of your employees.
ADVANTAGES Fresh eye on the company Your busy employees don’t have to do the blogging Hire a writer or journalist, so you get expertise you don’t have in-house Demonstrates openness to the public DISADVANTAGES Blogger won’t know your company inside and out May not understand the corporate culture May get side-tracked by interesting but off-topic issues May require more supervision OUTSOURCING
“CREATIVE MARKETING” BLOGS • Fictional “story line” • Fictional blogger • Fictional product • Fictional comments
TYPES OF FAKE BLOGS • Character blogs, in which the blogger is a figure – like a cartoon – that doesn’t exist.
WHY ARE THESE CRITICIZED? Historically speaking, information should be free (apparently this only applies to finances) – free to consume, free of commercial messages
Information should be true. In a medium where people are hidden, information should be true, accurate and NOT misleading.
Blogs began as diaries. You're supposed to tell the truth to your diary – never mind the many literary examples of people who don't use diaries as a day-to-day record.
Blogs as diaries meant that bloggers were supposed to be revealing themselves, in nitty-gritty detail. (This is perhaps why blogs haven't had a great reputation in the past.) Blogs that aren’t revealing are sometimes assumed to be hiding something.
All this means that a blog that isn't a heartfelt memoir – a blog that perhaps plays tricks or games, or that contains (gasp) a commercial message are suspect, and should be roundly condemned.
And, to be honest, some of these fake blogs actually are untruthful, are manufactured responses by people that don't exist. Blogs that pose as being something they aren't, and don't explain that – those are the real fakes.
WHERE YOU CAN GO WRONG • Fake blogs that try to trick the public • Character blogs in which the “character” isn’t obviously a character, and so can be misread as real • No disclosure
RAGING COW BLOG • Dr Pepper tried to get teens to blog about their milk drink Raging Cow and this backfired, because none of those who blogged disclosed their relationship with Dr Pepper. There was no impropriety, but only the possibility of it, but that didn’t matter. (There was also a blog written by the Raging Cow, as she traveled across the country. Might have been cool, but got tarred with the same brush as the other effort.) Boycotted.
Mazda M3 Blog • October 2004 blog purported to be the blog of a fan who had taped commercials from television and put them online (the hope, presumably was that they would be distributed virally). As it turned out, the station from which the commercials were taped doesn’t run advertising, and the ads had such high production values the suspicion was that no one but Mazda could be responsible for them. Mazda guilty? Never proved, but people believed there was a con attempt.
Moosetopia • Created by Denali to promote ice cream Moose Tracks to promote an ice cream brand. Full disclosure, posts with photos, jokes (mostly lame). Not clear who the audience is, but no one's outraged.
Lincoln Fry Blog • Blog created by a person (McDonald's) who claims to have found a French fry with the profile of Abraham Lincoln. Fake blog, complete with misspellings, bad photography, a first test post, and so on. Generally regarded by blogosphere as a completely lame attempt.
Delicious Destinations Blog • Written by fictitious character T. Alexander, used by GourmetStation in their marketing and newsletters to talk about food and food issues. Written in first person, launched in March. Good disclosure, some controversy just because the writer wasn’t real.
Lance Armstrong Bike Blog • The Austin-American Statesman solved the problem of covering the Tour de France when we all knew Lance Armstrong is doing to win it again by creating a blog – for Lance Armstrong's bike. Funny and frivolous, solved their problem, and let them talk about some behind-the-scenes stuff that people might not know much about already. No one was deceived, there was still value in reading it, and it was fun.
DISCLOSE • Put up an explanation of whatever is fake • Make your character obviously unreal (like a moose) • Put a disclaimer at the top of each page • Or, do all three!