Web logging or blogs as they are known, are taking the corporate world by storm, particularly in the area of the IT and technological industries!
They are part of the internet revolution, which is continuing to close the gap of communication. In a world where the public prefers to search for information rather than remain passive and let information come to them, blogs are proving to be a very popular tool indeed.
One company that has utilised web logging and has the largest numbers of bloggers is none other than the Big Blue itself, IBM. IBM has been blogging internally for more than three years and for over a year now has been producing web logs externally. IBM has more than 5,000 internal blogs and around 100 external blogs.
I spoke with IBM PR Manager Philippe Borremans (left), a highly influential figure in the world of web logging, to find out more about how and why they use web logs as a communication tool.
IBM devised the ‘IBM Blogging Initiative’ to encourage IBM staff to get involved in the web logging community and join in with the conversations of the wider industry. They could get involved by creating their own external blogs, commenting on blogs that other people had written in the industry or by finding interesting and relevant blogs and passing them along.
Philippe said the Blogging Initiative was because “IBM believes that every IBM’er can demonstrate thought leadership in his/her own field, because we can all learn from market conversations through blogs and simply because new internet technologies are the DNA of the company.”
There are many uses for blogging at IBM. Internally, blogs are used either as an online diary or as a tool for the management of knowledge. For example a research team at IBM will post blogs on their current progress on a certain project.
Externally there are sites such as Developer Works and Game Tomorrow. Both of these external blogs discuss specialised topics relating to the I.T. industry. Many other external IBM blogs cover topics such as the mainframe, linux and the healthcare sector, each one with IBMers contributing to the blogosphere and sharing their knowledge globally.
Philippe added: “Internally it brings people with the same interests, views and specialities together. It forms community across a global workforce. It allows for our people to engage in conversations with peers from across the globe. It’s a great way to innovate.
“External blogs show that we (IBMers) know what we’re talking about. It shows thought leadership and also gives us almost immediate feedback on the information we post. It’s all about the conversations and the people that blog, not the company.”
Blogging has often been seen through sceptics’ eyes rather as the internet was at first, in that it is not a trusted platform to keep personal information on. Blogging has also been seen as an issue by many PR people because it means anyone who has a PC and access to the internet can write and publish anything they want about a company and it can then be read by millions of people only seconds later.
Philippe said: “This freaks most PR people out because their ‘message control’ is lost.
“However, our PR people have survived the initial panic and are also blogging now too. At IBM, clear guidelines are set up and recognised by employees so that any loss of control is avoided. Companies need to educate their personnel on the topic and agree on some simple but clear rules as to what is allowed and what isn’t.
“IBM’s corporate blogging guidelines were created bottom up and not by a bunch of lawyers and it’s these guidelines that are often referred to in the corporate world as a leading example.”
These guidelines involve the procedures to protecting confidential IBM information and outline the correct blogging etiquette that make IBM’s blogs significant in the world of business. It is increasingly the question on many PR students’ lips as to whether blogging as a PR tool will ever replace the traditional press release. It seems in IBM’s case that it is unlikely.
Philippe responded: “Press releases, if written well, are the bread and butter of both PR people and reporters. On the other hand, more and more press releases will have to be written with internet pick up in mind.”