Corporate Weblogs: Learning to Roll

Back on May 3, Seth Godin wrote in his weblog A Penny For…

“Most blogs are boring, self-absorbed, trivial and not worth remembering, never mind talking to people about. Company blogs are worse, because everyone wants to play it safe. Safe is risky! Safe is invisible! If you want to play it safe, please don’t bother wasting time on a blog. It won’t work.”

Agreed. Blogs are definitely not for the risk-averse.

When you blog, you expose yourself or your organization in a way that opens you to more examination, questioning, re/mis-interpretation, and criticism than you’d otherwise encounter. That can be useful and educational – also unsettling and humiliating. It becomes harder to hide the inevitable errors and gaffes that plague us all. To make it all work, you must admit that you’re human (or that your organization is composed of humans) and roll with it

Most organizations aren’t accustomed to “rolling with” much at all. They’re too busy trying to spin and shield to be able to roll well. If your organization currently lacks the willingness to develop this level of flexibility and communicativeness (acquiring the necessary scrapes, bruises, and aches along the way) it’s probably not a good candidate to run a successful weblog. At least not yet.

But the good thing about a weblog, wiki, bliki, or similar format is this: baby steps. You don’t have to do it all at once. You can start small, with mostly safer stuff, and gradually branch out with the understanding that growth and increased interaction are never entirely safe or comfortable processes.

Of course, learning to roll with the turmoil of putting yourself or your organization “out there” with a weblog is easier if you’re not facing a great deal of inner conflict or inertia. In the case of a company, some departments (especially IT, PR, or legal) can function as quicksand when it comes to trying new strategies – especially less-formal approaches to technology or communication. Cutting Though wrote an excellent piece on that theme recently.

This kind of inertia, while occasionally a safeguard against rash decisions, more often accumulates over time into a total suffocation of creativity, spontenaiety, and experimentation. Today, that trend spells eventual death for most organizations.

If you (or your organization) doesn’t wish to blog, that may indeed be the right choice for you at this time. However, don’t just take that decision at face value. I encourage you to explore in greater depth the questions: “Why not? What do you fear?” Those answers can tell you a great deal about how open and flexible you truly are not or are willing to become, and why. That’s very useful information.

(UPDATE JUNE 30: I recommend another good article on this theme…)