Corporate blogs come in a variety of forms and are done for variety of purposes. Sang Lee, Taewon Hwang and Hong-Hee Lee (2006) examine these blogs in terms of their authors and their purposes and these approaches are discussed as follows:
All employees – Even with social media policies factored in, opening authorship to all employees creates channels for revealing the human side of a company because publishing these different views and experiences of being part of that company builds a collective image that can end up being more ‘complete’ and rounded than if only the executives and official spokes people had a voice or if the company only released highly planned statements. It can also turn employees into what Lee Hwang and Lee (2006) call “brand ambassadors” and so provide another credible stream of advertising that reaches its audience without the unappealing layer of ‘advertising speak’ drizzled over it. This strategy comes with risks, however, and these include loss of control and leaking of confidential information. Adobe is a prime example of this strategy working successfully – it has a massive range of blogs in which its staff release promotional material such as tutorials and reviews that encourage their readers to buy into Adobe products. One downside to Adobe’s abundance of blogs is the lack of categorisation – people faced with the very long list of blogs could find themselves overwhelmed by the choice and have trouble finding blogs relevant to their interests.
High ranking executives – Warren Buffet has stated (in Lee, Hwang and Lee, 2006) that “people are voting for the artist, not the painting”, demonstrating the influence a known and approachable figurehead can have on the product they are pushing. Matt Blumberg (CEO of Return Path, an “email deliverability services company”) has his own blog in which he releases frequent and relevant posts, such as “What Does a CEO Do, Anyway?”, “Investment in the Email Ecosystem”, “The Value and Limitations of Benchmarking”. These are written in an informal, easy-to-read style and don’t just provide insight into Blumberg’s business, they help project an image of Blumberg himself as an approachable and credible person. If the artist selling himself has a positive effect on selling his works, then it could be assumed that Blumberg is setting his company up to be successful.
Select individuals – By having a hand-picked group of people contributing to the same blog, a company can give its readers a better sense of some of the individuals involved in it, thus further helping to humanise the company. It can also help by giving a broader perspective and range of experience that would have been so if only one person had been author. A real world example of this is Forrester Blogs – a marketing and strategy group that has several of its members contributing to a single blog. The diversity of authors leads to a diversity of blog content which perhaps makes the blog more intersting to read.
blogs that are ‘lacking of human voice’ – This style has benefits and drawbacks. I think the key benefit is that the impersonal touch might make the information presented in the blog (and a common aim of this sort of blog is to present the reader with information about the company or its products) more trustworthy due to the lack of human influence and bias. Unfortunately, the impersonality can also be counter-productive by not providing any sort of human interest for the readers to engage with.
In addition to their three ‘author’ categories (’employee’, ‘group’ and ‘executive’), Lee, Hwang and Lee identify another two categories defined by their purpose – ‘promotional’ and ‘newsletter':
Newsletter – This type of blog tends to “be filled with well-polished messages” and “cover a variety of topics such as company news and product information” (Lee, Hwang and Lee, 2006). Lorelle VanFossen (a seasoned blogger and author of “Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging”) was approached by an organisation to convert their newsletter into a blog, learnt much through the process of doing so and has published her findings. Something I found interesting about her article series was how it highlighted the difference between newsletters and blogs. I had assumed that newsletters were basically just short updates and news snippets relevant to the newsletters author and that it would be relatively simple to convert such a document to ‘blog-form’. Apparently, that’s not so and creating a successful ‘newsletter blog’ requires careful planning.
Promotional – According to Lee, Hwang and Lee, “the purpose of the promotional blog is to create buzz around products and events” (Lee, Hwang and Lee, 2006). K. H. Padmanabhan has done his own study on promotional blogs and has categorised them “based on their objectives and uses”: The types he identified are
- ‘information blogs’ (which “provide information of interest to the participant” and “feature information updates and relevant stories
- image blogs’ (which “are oriented to positioning a brand or a company.They seek to accent a construct of import to the audience, e.g., product knowledge, technology expertise, market insight, etc. The elements are essentially intangible. They may be employed as part of or extension to mainstream media positioning programs.”),
- ‘experience blogs’ (which “are about reminiscing and sharing one’s experiences. Chronicled in relevant contexts and natural surroundings, experience blogs enrich interactions among the participants. Satisfied customers make a company’s sales force that is credible and unpaid. Experience blogs engender public credibility”),
- ‘relationship blogs’ (which “are about building social connections. Connections are built with customers, among customers, and between different interest groups. Customers connect and help each other. Customers act as company’s resource. Relationship blogs develop trust and cement bond with customers.”)
- ‘dialog blogs’ (which “provide an open forum to congregate and debate. Participants give free and full expression to what they know and what they feel. Customers and other interest groups collaborate with the company decision makers… Dialog blogs are online forums for different views and insights regarding any general or focused subject of interest to its participants.”