Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

3 steps to International Corporate Blogging

One of the commenters on my previous post on Yoplait’s french corporate blog, Andy Blanco, notes:

You bring up an interesting point with yesterday’s Yoplait example.  Your post spurred me to learn more and I discovered that Yoplait has a franchise system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoplait#Organization).  It looks like General Mills could conceivably blog for the US market, Ultima Foods for Canada, National Foods for Australia, etc.

I think this raises an interesting question.  If you have a global brand, but marketing is controlled by other corporations in different countries, what changes when just one party decides to blog using the brand while customers from all markets can watch?

Well, this got me thinking. As much as we are focused on corporate blogging in English, the fact is we’re seeing a flatter world with more companies from an international diaspora of companies moving into the Forbes’ 2000 list of multinationals. (For e.g. this year the Forbes 2000 was of companies from 60 countries, up 9 countries from last year).

But do we see the same representation in corporate blogging. For e.g. on the New PR Wiki that tracks corporate blogs, the majority seem to come from US Companies. So, if you’re a multinational wondering how to get into corporate blogging. Here are 3 simple steps to get started:

1. Start at the heart: This is a no-brainer. All companies will start blogging in the language of the country they’re originally based in. As I mentioned, I recently mentioned Yoplait started a blog in French.

2. Follow growth markets: Once you’ve established your blog in your primary language, it is but natural to start creating blogs in other emerging markets for your industry or company. Here’s what Herve from Yoplait’s corporate blog emails me when I asked him about plans for a secondary blog in English:

This was one of the first questions raised by a Yoplait employee in the comment area. So far, Yoplait‘s president has not answererd, but I guess he will. There is no clear plan so far, but I guess that if the french version is a success, the english version will quickly floow.

3. Blog Local:

If you’re starting corporate blogs in different languages your best bet is to get employees from those different markets blogging. At LinkedIn, almost 18% of our workforce currently blogs. Kodak earned a name for themselves with their employee focused blog:

A Thousand Words is, as written in a blog user guide a ‘place for stories for from the people of Kodak’. The stories written by employees are about photography, they provide readers with useful tips, engage them in contests. The blog is not focused on Kodak’s products. It is very honest and open, has particular audience and updated regularly.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on blogging policy that companies can follow when you start corporate blogs in different languages.


What do you think would be a good corporate strategy for a multinational on corporate blogging? More to come.

Filed under: Business Blogging

More Corporate Blogging Ideas and examples

Here’s a smattering of thoughts I encountered these past couple of days on corporate blogging. Let’s start off with a controversial question:

1. Should the military blog?

If a corporate blog can be considered a liability by some corporations why won’t it be viewed with extreme skepticism by the military! Exactly. But according to a Wired report, the commanding general at “one of the Army’s leading intellectual hubs” has directed his troops to start blogging. Why?

Hopefully we’ll hear much more from the Army iron majors with the recent decision by Lieutenant General William Caldwell, IV, Commanding General of the US Army Combined Arms Center, as excerpted from a recent CAC memorandum below:

Command and General Staff College faculty and students will begin blogging as part of their curriculum and writing requirements both within the .mil and public environments. In addition CAC subordinate organizations will begin to engage in the blogosphere in an effort to communicate the myriad of activities that CAC is accomplishing and help assist telling the Army’s story to a wide and diverse audience.

Pretty much one of the reasons any corporation would get into corporate blogging. What do you think?

Should the military blog?

2. Jackie asks Josh some questions

My good friend Jackie Huba from Church of the Customer, asks Josh Bernoff (Author of Groundswell, and Analyst at Forrester) questions about his new book “Groundswell” which he co-authored with Charlene Li.

Some of the Q&A that resonated with me.

The number one mistake companies make in planning their social media strategies is:

Concentrating on the technology first. If you decide on the objectives you want to accomplish, you may get where you’re going. If you say “let’s start a blog” or “let’s start a community” you may be calling me 6 months from now saying “I got this off the ground, now how is this supposed to be helping me?” This is actually a lot more common problem than technology problems or authenticity issues, which get all the discussion.

There’s more:

Awhile back, a well-known blogger considered calling his book “Blog or Die.” (Calmer heads prevailed.) Have any companies died from lack of, or improper use of blogging?

Deaths are rare. Much more common are boring, laundered corporate blogs that nobody wants to read. They just reinforce the idea you are that faceless corporation that we always suspected. What ends up dying is the blog, not the company.

Go ahead and read the rest of the article here. If you’re still not satisfied, check out Josh and Charlene’s Groundswell. I should get a copy myself.

3. Yoplait’s got a corporate blog – and it’s in French!

Got an email from the folks behind the Yoplait blog. Apparently, it’s a french marketing consultant. Yoplait has started a corporate blog and it’s all french. hmm… wonder why they don’t have one in English. Maybe it’s not a big market. Why are they blogging? (After the jump)

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Anyways, here’s why, according to the email:

The second best selling brand in dairy products objectives are clear. Using its blog, the company  will benefit from a direct link to millions of customers in a friendly bilateral communication environment. Intended to be a reference on its market, this new communication channel will gather key information about dairy products related issues, and allow Yoplait to express itself freely, independently of traditional media, on general and sensible topics.

I guess it could be said better in French. Anyone who gets French, tell me how the first two posts shaped up. Check it out here.

Filed under: Business Blogging

The 5 Types of Corporate Blogs (with examples)

Given the explosion in the corporate blogging and CEO blogging space, I’ve seen a wide variety of blogs show up this past year. As the idea for such a post was brewing, I was glad to read a recent post on Canada.com’s Gazette, which highlighted the 7 highly effective corporate blogging styles that exist today. So, rather than reinvent the wheel why not start with that post.


(The LinkedIn Corporate Blog on Day 1 – Fond memories)

I, personally, felt that the parody blog does not automatically fit into this model and also that we could collapse Individual blogs to CEO blogs (the more well known form of that blog). So, here goes – the five types of corporate blogs (with examples). Feel free to add your favorite corporate blog in the comments section.

1. Company Blog

This is the most common form of the company blog. IMO, the corporate blog is definitely the next stage in the evolution of the corporate website, which (let’s face it) is pretty much static these days. (Read Jeremiah’s remarkable post on the same theme).

Examples: There are so many examples to choose from. The best place to start would be the ranking of the Top 15 Corporate Blogs (ranked earlier this month) that I published a couple of weeks back. Top 5 include: Google, Adobe, Flickr, Facebook, and Yahoo! Search.

2. CEO Blog

The most famous example would have to be the blog of Jonathan Schwartz, CEO at Sun Microsystems, and I’m amazed how he ever finds time to blog, but I’m really glad he sets such a stellar example. I’ve recommended CEOs to quit full-time blogging but rather work as active contributors to their company blog (examples see above), which would of course depend on their busy schedules.

Examples:
Sun CEO – Jonathan Schwartz’s blog
Boeing VP of Marketing – Randy Tinseth’s blog
Top 10 CEO blogs (2 years ago)

3. Industry Blog

This is an interesting type of corporate blog one that we should beware of, because it places some difficult ethical choices for the company at hand. Just last week, I wrote about Miller Brewing’s pseudo industry blog – Brew blog that purports to be an insider blog, while taking potshots at arch competitor – Anheuser Busch.

This is definitely not an advisable strategy for every company but should be considered an option if you consider yourself or employees in your organization as thought leaders in your respective field/technology and choose to establish a blog to discuss best practices. In that case, however, I’d rather have thought leaders blog on the company’s corporate blog!

Example:
Miller Brewing’s Brew Blog

4. Department or Product Blog

Again, department blog is another common style or kind of blogging, which is very popular and ultimately essential for large organizations (particularly Fortune 500). Cases in point are Microsoft, Sun, or SAP’s developer blogs in any particular space. Google’s extensive array of product blogs across their different product offerings (close to 90 in number) probably is another great example.

Examples:
1. Microsoft Community Blogs
2. SAP IT Blogs or SAP Community Blogs
3. Sun Blogs
4. Google – Product Blogs (see the blog roll on the right sidebar)

5. Customer Service Blog

And, finally, the customer service blog or community blog that I blogged of a few months back. Given the preponderance of community forums and discussion groups as the de facto kind of communication media that companies chose to use as conversation methods with their users (more on this later), I haven’t seen the evolution of this kind of a blog, yet. Instead, I find evangelists of companies choosing to talk to/respond/provide customer service with users who choose to ask on social media sites such as Twitter.

Examples:
1. My response to Steve Rubel
2. My colleague Steve Ganz’s (LinkedIn) response to Erica O’Grady (via Twitter)
3. ComcastCares’ response to Arrington and other Comcast users on Twitter

Filed under: Business Blogging

When should CEOs blog? Ask Jeff Immelt of GE

Back to my pet peeve – CEOs who blog full-time; not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just believe there’s an enormous investment of time that goes into running a well maintained blog could rather be put to better use use in other areas of a CEO running a company successfully.

When should a CEO blog?

Example 1:

However, I also take every opportunity to recommend that CEOs must blog ever so often (whenever time permits) on their company’s corporate blog. This allows them to have an active voice out there and respond to questions whenever possible. One of my fondest memories of corporate blogging at LinkedIn was when our CEO Dan, responded to user questions on the NYT blog.

Example 2:

Another example of when a CEO could have blogged was Jeff Immelt’s (CEO of GE) reaction when GE missed its first quarter earnings target and he seemed to have been criticized by his illustrious predecessor – Jack Welch. Instead of disappearing from the media, Jeff granted an interview to the WSJ, where he seemed truly contrite and dissappointed with the results! Reminds me of Zuckerberg’s blog post where he apologized for Beacon – Facebook’s controversial ad targeting system. That’s the old-school vs. new school way of doing things.

So Immelt was accessible and he was human. Think of all the other CEOs who have been forced out in the past year or two—Hank McKinnell at Pfizer, Bob Nardelli at Home Depot and more. Those CEOs also were under fire for poor stock price performance, but they didn’t come out and address the criticism being directed against them. They’re gone from those positions. Jeff Immelt is still in his. I say, communications savvy was the key difference. (Source: Harvard Publishing)

It’s moments like these that a corporate blog can be used to let your CEO shine. It’ll be a tough call as to whether you should allow that but as Jeff Immelt’s media savviness proved – it’s definitely worth it!

Filed under: Business Blogging

Corporate Blog Tracker – Miller Brewing’s “Brew Blog”

In addition to obsessively showcasing best practices among corporate blogs, I felt it’d also be nice to present ever so often, corporate blogging examples culled from recent press coverage as well – stories in all probability you may have missed. This week I’ve a thought-provoking piece on corporate blogging ethics, that touches upon a company using a blog to wreak PR damage upon their competitor. Want to know more?

Read on (after the jump)

1. Miller’s Brewing Blog – For all you do, bud, this blog’s for you (WSJ, If WSJ doesn’t work, try this)

Imagine if Apple had an employee to blog about every move of Microsoft and scoop them on latest news about Microsoft Products. Has that happened? No. But a similar scenario has erupted between brewing giant, Anheuscer Busch and rising star Miller Brewing. For the record: “Anheuser, controls nearly 50 percent of the U.S. beer market, and Miller, less than 20%”. Here are the key points of the corporate blog story from WSJ:

1. A former reporter for Advertising Age, currently runs Brew Blog, a free Web site dedicated to breaking news about beer. Especially news about Anheuser-Busch’s beer.

2. The kicker – Mr. Arndorfer, is a full-time employee of Miller Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch’s competitor! Here’s the official word on the Brew Blog from the site itself:

3. Users on Miller’s computer network accounted for the most visits of Brew Blog among corporations, with 1,675. Running second: Anheuser, with 1,540 visits.

4. Competitive intelligence gleaned by the Brew Blog allowed Miller to paint Anheuser-Busch as a “follower” in PR/Marketing speak during one of their most recent product releases.

Questions for you:

* Conflict of interest: Despite a tag line  on the Brew Blog page (stating the owners) is it unethical to lampoon your competitor on the blog, while you paint yourself a rosy picture? Ethical or not, I’m not sure but as long as you fully disclose your affiliations, is it alright?

* Would the Brew Blog’s credibility in our eyes be impacted if they only covered positive stories about themselves vs. negative stories as well?

* What’s disconcerting is that the Brew Blog insists

  • it’s not a corporate blog
  • positions itself as an industry blog that provides “beer industry market analysis
  • targets those who “work in the beer industry, or cover it, or just watch it with interest”
  • while unofficially unraveling their competitor’s product intelligence before their competitor can!

And, in addition, they also run ads alongside keyword searches for “Harry Schuhmacher” and “Beer Business Daily” – a bipartisan news site, with an attempt to drives visitors instead to the Brew Blog. hmm…

Ethical? Feel free to leave comments.

Filed under: Business Blogging

3 Corporate Blogging Ideas

Starting this week, I’ll be publishing a post each week on links I didn’t cover on corporate blogging. (Yes! there’s so much to talk about). If any of these links actually turns into a longer than imagined thought process, I’ll spin it off into a separate post. Alright, let’s get started. This week we have tips and tricks on everything from writing styles to blogging policy.

1. Corporate Blog writing style

Debbie Weil, author of the Corporate Blogging Book quotes Seth Godin’s Tips on Blogging to make her case on why corporate blogging beats traditional press. In Debbie’s own words:

Because good blog writing is more engaging and more persuasive than any press release or home page ridden with corporate-speak.

In my opinion, corporate blogs also add value by allowing a back-and-forth between the company and its users. The Social Media Release efforts (contributed to by my good friend Chris Heuer) is one of the many efforts that attempts to evolve the traditional press release. Does your company issue a social media release?

2. Seven Tips to help Corporate Blogging

The blog coding experiments outlines 7 tips to “corporate blog” well in much the same way as Godin identified in the post mentioned above. Here are a couple more resources to shore up your corporate blogging style here and here.

3. Corporate Blogging Policy

If you belong to a large company with tons of your employees blogging on their own (and if any of that content) even remotely touches upon your company, you may want to start thinking about a corporate blogging policy.

This topic possibly deserves a separate post/s in itself, but I thought you’ll find this post with links to other useful posts quite helpful if you want to do a little research on this topic.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Comcast Cares if you’re on Twitter

In times past, I’ve shared my own Comcast horror story, and in more recent times I’ve shared with you what seemed like prompt customer service from Comcast; however through Twitter (an online micro-blogging site that’s used by tech edge case users in the Bay Area). But today, it was nice to see another such blog post from Josh Lovensohn of Webware, earlier today.

Feeling bullish I Twittered my disapproval, and shortly thereafter got a response from Frank Eliason, a customer service manager from Comcast. Eliason offered to get me in touch with someone who would let me bypass the software activation–a time (and registry) saver.


(Source: Webware)

But apparently it’s the same Eliason who’d responded to Arrington’s problems a month ago. I’m not sure if there are others from Comcast who’re on twitter or given that this is not a mainstream customer service tool, I’m wondering if he’s the only one from comcast on twitter. A search result on twitter shows him as the first result, and he tells Josh (Webware) that

Eliason tells me he’s “lost track” of the amount of people he’s helped through Twitter. A casual perusal of his responses to people’s problems range from the most mundane to the technically complex.

Given the huge negative furor Comcast creates each time their CS reps fall asleep and annoy the heck out their customers, I’d recommend creating a corporate blog with someone like Frank Eliason leading the efforts.

Why?
He’s out there and fielding numerous requests on twitter by himself (correct me if I’m wrong and there’s a team out there – it’s just that I can’t see them). That’s definitely the passion and character that goes into somebody like a Lionel Menchaca who runs Dell’s corporate blog and the same with Scoble when he was out there talking about Microsoft.

Until they do that, if you’re a Comcast customer, feel free to follow Frank on Twitter

@comcastcares

Too bad, the id reminds me of Comcast Scares! I don’t know if Comcast Cares but I sure as well, believe Frank does. Thanks, Frank!

Filed under: Business Blogging, Twitter

The Future of Corporate Blogging is the social media portal

I’d just intended for this post to be about SouthWest Airlines stepped up its efforts to incorporate social media into its corporate blog and I thought this is a great time to go over what I think is the future of product-user, 2-way communication of the future.


Click on above image to take you to the blog

Before I continue, let’s step back a bit and understand that corporate blogging per se is NOT the end game in itself. It’s a tool to help users communicate effectively with the various elements of an organization. In a software company like LinkedIn, that means ease-of-chat with our engineers, product managers, etc… and in the airline industry that may mean communication with “Mechanics, Customer Service Agents, Schedule Planners, Executives, Marketing Representatives, Flight Attendants, Pilots, and more.”

I think moving forward every corporate social media portal is gonna have a mix of the following three components with future implementations trending towards multimedia strongly

Core Communication

1. Corporate Blog
2. Twitter

Multimedia

1. Flickr
2. YouTube

Social Networking

1. LinkedIn
2. Facebook

SouthWest Airlines’ social media portal takes off

Here are some salient points culled from their old-school press release:

* Over the last two years, the blog’s function has evolved to also serve as a virtual focus group, assisting the Company through crisis and new product launches.

* The blog’s readership continues to grow steadily month-over-month and has more than doubled year-over-year since its inception in April 2006.

* “From the debate over assigned seating to the timeframe in which we release our flight schedules, the passionate comments and opinions shared on our blog have unquestionably influenced several business decisions” says Linda Rutherford, VP of Corp. Communications at Southwest.

* Nuts About Southwest features more than 30 Employee bloggers that represent a mix of Frontline and behind-the-scenes Employees


My favorite part is that they have even included their CEOs LinkedIn Profile – Gary Kelly, although I wish the URL would have his name in it, instead of http://www.linkedin.com/in/southwestairlines. I’d just recommend their starting a group on LinkedIn as well (if they haven’t already). I even InMail’ed Linda about it.

Given that they recently started, I wonder how long they would take to beat Delta in Marketing Nirvana’s Corporate Blog rankings, which I restarted recently.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Top 15 Corporate Blogs (Ranked – May 2008)

Quick Update: 5 of the individuals behind the Top 15 Corporate Blogs will be speaking at Blog World Expo 2008 (Sept 21). Details here. Now, back to the post…

… the series is back. Frequent readers of the blog will realize that some of the big hits on my blog related to either my listing of the Top 10 CEO Blogs or the Top 10 Corporate Blogs.

Interestingly, while I waded more deeply into the realm of the corporate blogosphere and as they have been sprouting everywhere (from Dell to Facebook and the one I helped launch at LinkedIn), I’ve not had the time to pursue ranking that series but enough is enough.

So starting this week, I’ll be publishing the Top 10 15 Corporate Blog rankings on a regular basis. Yay!


Image Source: Blog Biz

I’m also mulling the idea of a series of interviews with the face of these corporate blogs to learn more about how corporate blogs happen, benefits, goals, etc… Stay tuned for that as well. But, I digress…

Methodology. I’m using Technorati authority to help navigate the corporate blogosphere terrain. This term made most sense to rank corporate blogs for 2 reasons.

1. Popularity

“It is the # of blogs linking to a website in the last 6 months. The higher the number, the more authority the blog has”.

Not only does that give a clear indication of the popularity, it also provides context for this rank in the past 6 months. You’ll be surprised at the number of dead blogs in the list, since the last ranking.

2. It’s the number of blogs vs. number of links that’s being measured

It is important to note that we measure the number of blogs, rather than the number of links. So, if a blog links to your blog many times, it still only count as +1 toward your authority. Of course, new links mean the +1 will last another 180 days

Enough said, let’s get started. Given below are the most popular corporate blogs on the planet as of May 2008. Come back next month for a revised set.

15 Most Popular Corporate Blogs (Technorati ranked) – May 2008

#15. Boeing – Authority: 67

#14. Monster – Authority: 73

#13. Kodak – Authority: 105

#12. Delta – Authority: 252

#11. Yahoo! – Authority: 297

#10. General Motors – Authority: 364

#9. Ask – Authority: 364

#8. LinkedIn – Authority: 591

#7. Digg – Authority: 641

#6. Dell – Authority: 799

#5. Yahoo! Search – Authority: 1130

#4. Facebook – Authority: 1478

#3. Flickr – Authority: 1744

#2. Adobe – Authority: 1797

#1. Google – Authority: 8492

Source: New PR Wiki, provides the listing of corporate blogs, which I then rank.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

When and where should CEOs blog?

John Baldoni, a leadership consultant/coach/speaker describes the various communication problems that beset leaders and CEOs (via the Harvard Review Blog), which got me thinking of (yes, you guessed right) CEO blogging. (Read more posts from me on this topic).

While John’s post talks about four kinds of behaviors that cause communication problems and three ways to avoid them within the company, I evolve these principles to their rightful conclusion – how to communicate effectively both within the company and externally to the public.

Four types of behaviors that cause communication problems

1. “There is no listening and very little learning.”

Whether CEOs blog or not (is debatable) but CEOs should monitor brands (e.g. through google alerts, tweetscan, friendfeed, etc…) – here’s how-to?

2. “Not all managers feel that way and they do not share information with certain people on their team.”

3. “Say you discover information that will help solve a critical bottleneck in the company. You may wish to share it, but your boss refuses to allow you to do so.”

4. “Managers within the organization understand communication deficiencies but do not do take action to make it better.”

Three tactics to avoid communication problems

1. “One, acknowledge that problems occur. Take responsibility for things you can change.”

External Blog: Want to find out how to acknowledge problems and take responsibility on a corporate blog. See how Mark Zuckerberg (CEO, Facebook) acknowledged “messing this one up”

2. “Be available to your team and individuals to exchange ideas.”

Internal Blog or LinkedIn News: A good way to make that happen internally would be through an internal blog within the firewall of your company. Maybe share thoughts via LinkedIn News (which allows you to share your thoughts privately only to your colleagues within the company. (Yes, I work at LinkedIn)

3. “Initiate dialogue with individuals in different functions about issues that affect you and your team. Share information with them and ask for information in return. Keep talking.”

External Blog: I definitely won’t recommend CEOs blogging, but I think it’s a good idea for a CEO to communicate effectively (maybe contribute a monthly series on the company’s blog) and most importantly take that blog post seriously and make it a point to respond to user feedback on that post.

Does your CEO blog? Would you like him/her to? Leave a comment.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

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