I've just been reading the drafts of the four interviews that Shel Israel posted in the past few days on The Red Couch, the blog that's the focal point for developing the book on blogs that Shel and Robert Scoble are writing.
Those interviews are with Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun Microsystems; Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors; Steve Rubel, the Micro Persuasion PR über-blogger; and Ernest Svenson, aka Ernie the Attorney.
If you're a business blogger, you'll very likely be familiar with much of the thought expressed here. By no means is that any dismissal of what these four bloggers have to say. Far from it.
Put yourself in the mind of the kind of business person that the book is squarely aimed at (see the table of contents for a better idea). The kind of person who might pick up a copy of the 2 May issue of Business Week, for instance.
Then read those interviews (links to each below). Here, I want to highlight from those interviews what to me are insightful views into why every company should blog, all other things being equal (like openness, transparency and a willingness to connect with other people in different ways):
Blogging’s advantage, from his perspective, is in the transparency and authenticity that nothing else can provide. With more than 1000 company bloggers, people can see inside Sun in ways that are infinitely more valuable than Federal governance regulations. "Executives are missing a point. There is no perfect truth despite transparency." He argued that SEC requirements for quarterly reporting is far from as revealing as 1000 Sun bloggers talking about "the guts of the company," on a daily basis in a public forum.
Sun’s blogging explosion was embraced without ambivalence by the corporate communications people. "Most PR teams would cringe, but ours didn’t. We have a transparent culture and competitors like HP do not. Our PR team is thinking about how to use technology and culture as a corporate weapon and blogging does both. [...] a key function of the communications team is to be an information gatherer, analyzer and counselor on participating in these communities. A bad way to do PR is to blast press releases every Thursday. We help feed the right information into the right channels. What could be better for a PR organization than blogs?"
Q: What is your strategic goal in blogging?
A: Our only goal was to engage the public regarding our products and services. The blog has become an important unfiltered (emphasis on unfiltered) voice for the company, our customers and auto enthusiasts.
Q: In general, how would you describe blogging's impact on traditional GM corporate communications?
A: We're learning on the run, but now we have an unfiltered voice, a direct-line of communication. It has become indispensable.
Q: What advice do you have to executives at other companies who are considering a blog?
A: Be honest. Stay connected. Go into it with an open mind and expect criticism. And, most important, have good advisers who understand the Blogosphere.
While Rubel remains the sole CooperKatz blogger, the entire agency has been touched by the communications medium. It is pervading the services offered. The firm produces new products to service existing clients and to offer to an increasing number of new prospects, according to Rubel. For example, they've developed a crisis management 'lockbox,' along the lines of, "In case of emergency, break this glass." The agency works with its clients to anticipate whatever crisis could possibly occur. They then plan and design a "failsafe" blog to be used if the emergency actually occurs. They know who will be the speakers, the issues that would be addressed and some of the toughest questions the client might face. If a client ever has to use the lockbox blog, they will be prepared to address their issue directly with the audiences who care most about it.
Why is he so eager to help other agencies? He says that his nature is to be a connector and nearly all great bloggers are great connectors. "This best PR people have always been connectors. They've often had to be like Plasticman stretching between clients and press. Blogging is the best connection tool ever invented," he said.
His passion for blogging is not as a lawyer but as an individual and he feels blogging has helped evolve him. His circle of friends has expanded to include global blog-based friendships. Above all it has taught Svenson to listen closer and more respectfully to people with opposing views. When he first started blogging, he tried to argue with dissenting comments. Now, he’s learned to listen to difficult people and find out where they’re coming. Yes, that helps him in his profession. More important, it helps him in life.
If I had to pick one phrase from all of the above that would be my new elevator pitch lead-in if I'm in that elevator with the CEO of, say, Unilever, it would be this:
Blogging is the best connection tool ever invented.