I’ve been discussing corporate blogging, authenticity and trust with Neville Hobson, one of the UK’s leading “social media” commentators. I do hope you will click through to Neville’s blog and follow it in more detail, but first, here’s a brief summary of the issues at stake.
The issue is: should corporate officers blog and if they do is it right that someone else writes their material? I say that corporates should either avoid blogging, or if they do it it’s best to get a professional on the case.
Here’s the detail. I believe that all corporate utterance is collegiate, not personal. We should not expect that a corporate voice is speaking personally. To that extent, one should steer corporate people away from the appearance of purely personal speech (ie, in blogs) because it’s a falsity. But if there is corporate blogging, then one has to accept that it has a corporate mindset and spin (unless it stays bland and covers nothing much). Corporate blogging isn’t personal and PRs might as well get involved, and probably should.
I think Neville’s point is only a little different. He believes (and I rather agree) that a blog is a personal thing in a special way (it is – as it were - a hand-written note) which is different to a speech (which might – as it were – be a typewritten thing produced by a committee). Thus Neville insists that it is wrong for a CEO to have a blog but delegate it. But Neville thinks that a CEO, say, can speak with a personal voice and that his utterance is personal not corporate at that point. And I think Neville believes that the corporate and the personal can be aligned.
The difference between us may be that I think that corporations (and institutions) should steer clear of pretending that they are people and have personalities that are free of corporate ties. They have qualities, and even aspirations, but these are group things. I resist their becoming too chummy, and so I resist their blogging and tweeting as if they are something they are not; I want to keep the corporate voice authentic. Corporates should be too formal to be capable of the mateyness involved in the ’social media’ world – except as part of transparent marketing.
The David Brain “I was muzzled” experience will be faced by any CEO as soon as the subject matter gets sensitive – political issues; product recalls; we’re sorry about this or that mess etc. The Brendan May “I watch my words because I fear for my future” remark is also one that will strike a chord with many bloggers.
Moreover, these two men are leading PR professionals. I admire them for making transparent the constraints under which they work (they’re sending us a message) as a result of working for corporate bodies. Their way is the way to build trust because it is authentic, honest and transparent.
Moreover, one of the things I’ve learnt from my experience is that the last thing any corporation needs is a loose cannon.