Mario Sundar

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

Does IBM own their employees’ blogs too?

Gia Lyons (former IBM’er) has decided to donate her personal blog to IBM who apparently have laid claim to it! The reasoning to “takeover the blog” seems to be driven by the fact that Gia was “the number two blogger at IBM, trailing only behind her colleague Luis Suarez“; in essence the traffic the blog was generating.

But given that it was her personal blog I wonder how that would translate successfuly if someone else took it over. So, in a very Zen moment, Gia’s “decided to feel that”:

  • the blog is IBM’s
  • the content – even my personal stories – is IBM’s
  • the voice is mine

Aww, man. So, I turned to IBM’s social computing guidelines but couldn’t find any information on ownership of employee blogs. But I did come away with the feeling that blogging is encouraged there.

IBM encourages blogging

* Whether or not an IBMer chooses to create or participate in a blog, wiki, online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own decision.

* it becomes increasingly important for IBM and IBMers to share with the world the exciting things we’re learning and doing, and to learn from others.

So, why this disparity in the company’s brand behavior? Stay tuned for more. Plus, my thoughts on the topic.

Who do YOU think owns an employee’s personal blog?

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Filed under: Business Blogging, Employee Engagement

9 Responses

  1. It depends on if the blog was largely focused on traffic based on IBM. If the sole focus of the blog was on IBM, then I would say they could lay a somewhat speculative claim on it. If not, then no. If the company paid for anything as well, that claim is probably made somewhat stronger.

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  2. Adam says:

    Hi Mario, from what I can tell (I haven’t heard from Gia personally yet, though hope to shortly), this was likely the case of a well-meaning, though clearly misguided, individual at IBM…

    I helped guide the process by which the community created the Social Computing Guidelines. The concept of blog ownership isn’t explicitly defined, but I think the common knowledge is that blogs created on IBM hosted environments stay with the company if the person leaves. But if the blog is on their own environment, that’s their’s and stays with the person.

    What’s not clear to me is whether this referred to Gia’s internal or external blog. Her internal blog still sits live (though inactive) with all the content within IBM’s firewall. And will stay that way – attributed to her. Her external blog, which was only live for a few months before she left, is hers and stays that way.

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  3. I’m not clear on all the details of this particular situation, but I’d ask the following questions to determine who owns an employee’s personal blog.

    – What is the blog topic?
    – Does the employee work on the blog during company time?
    – Is the blog hosted by the company, and is it part of the company website?
    – How much of the company’s business is driven by the blog?
    – Is the blog associated with the blogger’s personal identity, or with the company’s branding?
    – What is the company planning to do with the blog, if the employee leaves? (Will someone else take over writing it?)
    – How much involvement does the company have in the blog’s content? (Direction, goals, topics)

    Despite the questions above, in general, I’m of the opinion that if the blog is funded by the company, it is like any other business contract writing. The finished product’s writing credit goes to the blogger, but it belongs to the company. If the company chooses to add to the blog after the employee leaves, they need to indicate that all new posts are by a different writer. If the blog is a side project, produced independently, that’s a different matter. It might be a good idea for companies with bloggers to set up guidelines for this situation prior to beginning the blog, so everyone involved is well-informed.

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  4. Mario Sundar says:

    @Damon,

    Well, corporate bloggers of Fortune 500 companies from Scoble to Mia definitely have some interest from folks following those brands. But from what I saw on Mia’s blog, it seemed like a personal blog to me.

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  5. Mario Sundar says:

    @Adam,

    It’ll definitely be helpful once someone clarifies (probably Gia should) whether it refers to her internal or external blog.

    I agree with the “common knowledge is that blogs created on IBM hosted environments stay with the company if the person leaves.”. Makes sense to me.

    However, blogs that they have built outside leveraging their personal brand should remain theirs. Gia’s blog to me seems like her personal blog.

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  6. Mario Sundar says:

    @Leanne,

    You may have seen that IBM has one of the most comprehensive social computing guidelines (Adam who helped craft it, commented right before you did).

    Will clarify with Gia and Adam before I publish another post. Thanks for your comments. You’re asking the right questions.

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  7. […] Tags: adamclyde, businessblogs, companyblog, gialyons, ibm, ibminternalblog trackback My recent post on IBM’s attempted “take over” of one of their former employees’ (Gia […]

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  8. […] we may have a resolution on the controversial subject. For those of you following with interest the recent thread I started on the ownership of employee blog once they leave the company, there’s some news […]

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  9. […] we may have a resolution on the controversial subject. For those of you following with interest the recent thread I started on the ownership of employee blog once they leave the company, there’s some news […]

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