Recently I was asked by one of my former clients, “How effective is the use of blogs for internal corporate communications?”
He was trying to determine how blogs work best as part of a company’s internal communications program. His idea or need is to convey company news to the entire organization in a timely way but in contrast with a static newsletter, invited participation and comment, but doesn’t know whether blogs or wikis are the way to go.
I’ve worked for companies that have had both and have used the successfully. The problem is two fold.
First of all, there have to be clear-cut corporate policies in-place for use of the blog as well as how information posted inside is still company intellectual property and therefore not to be shared. I believe that if you host a corporate blog, it MUST be on an intranet server and not visible to the public. While opinions and positions are vastly important to the creative process and flush out the ideas that come from playing “devil’s advocate,” there is often the temptation to take the information that has been posted and disseminate it to outside posts, publications or reporters. Moreover, since the information posted within a blog can often be damning to a company’s reputation, trade relations or business, it has to somehow be kept invisible to the public at-large.
The second issue is with Wiki. While some might pose this as a solution, Wiki’s aren’t the end-all be-all. Wiki’s can be an extremely useful tool, especially when documenting processes, sharing development procedures or delivering code for designers. However, Wiki’s also have a separate markup language that if you want to have dynamic involvement from the personnel, requires a well developed GUI or full tutorial. They’re best suited for manual-like implementation, lexicons or internal FAQ’s for process management.
Another option not mentioned or asked about, is forums. However, forums can often be difficult to monitor as discussions can go on and on based on different “folders” that contain threads. On the plus side, forums and the code behind it provide an advanced ability to selectively replace specific speech or profanity – or even make it so the text cannot be copied, further securing the information. You can also select keywords to “FLAG” posts for a moderator to review. You never know if you have a rogue employee.
I think the best solution is when you have a combination of all platforms. If you look at a Web site like www.woot.com, they have created a model for posting new items, customer interaction and documenting threads that combines the best of Blogs and Forums. Rather than posting each thread in a different folder, they created a unique thread per post, thus falling off of the page over time by the replacement of new items. By creating individual posts in a forum that is linked from the originating page, it provides a cleaner look and ability to better interact with corporate officials, opinion leaders and the average employee that may have stumbled across the day’s post.
If your client is looking at utilizing web 2.0, be sure they know how they want to implement the newest trends. But more importantly, make sure they know all of the impacts, good or bad, to opening the dialogue.