Online Exclusive: Corporate Brand Blog: Liberator or Oppressor

When the name of the company is the brand that is marketed, “truth and authenticity” of the entire organization is on the line, everyday. As time consuming as this might be, taking control of corporate brand perception is still senior management’s responsibility.

Therefore, senior management should “live the brand promise.” But the realities of business are that most senior managers don’t have accurate tools and will not take the time to manage perceptions of the corporate brand. Blogs are a strategic tactic that senior management can use to stay connected to the realities of the competitive marketplace. Blogs can provide instant feedback and typically honest information, like taking the pulse of your customers.

Blogs are no longer a sub-culture of the Internet, they have moved into a mainstream information resource. However, blogs are not a universal fit with every company. Unrestricted, honest feedback can liberate the company's brand communication efforts or oppress the entire organization's culture. The idea of launching an informal, open blog can strike terror in the heart of most controlling senior managers. But unlike other trendy business communications, blogs are a way for companies to receive truth, send truth and most importantly, manage public perception in real time.

Launching a corporate brand blog sends a signal that the company is willing to share information and stand behind their actions. This is especially true when the blog allows visitors to post their own comments. If you determine a blog should be a major component of your corporate brand communications, here are three fundamentals to keep at the forefront:

1. Agree to a strategic role for the corporate blog: Develop a business plan for the blog that spells out objectives and responsibilities and insist on CEO signoff. Without this step, huge disappointment will surely follow. Companies should think of their blog as a vehicle to form a responsive dialog with employees, customers and suppliers. An effective blog site has a lead author who takes responsibility of content. Therefore, it's critical for companies to appoint the right person to manage it.

As hard as this is for controlling organizations to accept, corporate blogs should first reflect the writer's personality, not just the self-serving interests of the company. Don't make the mistake of turning the blog into a “selling tool” to push products. If it's not honest, authentic and engaging to visitors, it won't be read by anyone you want to reach out to.

2. Develop an internal and external marketing plan: Developing a marketing strategy for how the company will tell the world about its blog is an equally critical business decision. Issues such as where it will appear on the corporate Web site and e-mail signatures? What type of information interests visitors, what information is the company comfortable sharing with internal and external visitors? How will the company handle bad news postings when they inevitably happen? Should the blog be advertised like other products or through RSS news aggregators?

3. Track and measure what executive management values: Today, most companies say, “If we can't instantly measure return, it won't stay funded.” When companies link blogs to specific business goals, it helps management rationalize exposure and risk that blogs can represent. Blog-specific measurements such as traffic levels are basic essentials. To track ROI, companies must also track incoming links as a quantifiable data of the blog's effectiveness. For example, monitoring the volume of transactions that originate from blog postings and tracking the decline of complaints in various service inquiries are a good metric executive management understands.

Turn to Branding Experts

When corporate blogging starts to strike terror into the hearts of senior management, it is time to call upon the experts. Once blog burned, many savvy companies are turning to branding consultants to facilitate in the creation and proactive monitoring of a corporate blog. The basic rational for this is that companies are too emotionally involved in their brands to be objective about harsh blog postings. Therefore, companies can become overly defensive in answering these postings with a truthful response.

Like other vehicles in business communications, blogs need to be managed. Left unmanaged, blogs can cause instant damage to corporate and product reputations. Blogs can also be used constructively to communicate with consumers that do not consume traditional forms of marketing messages.

As the world of blogs evolves, so will application and readership content. At some point, many argue that blog sites due to their speed and breadth of communication could replace many forms of traditional advertising, PR and marketing executions. But, one thing that cannot and will not change is the level of “truth and authenticity” needed to strengthen and maintain a corporate brand. Keep in mind, your brand is all that you are and in everything you do. Blogs are just another new vehicle for expedited feedback.

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