Corporate blogging, UGC and everything in moderation

Here’s a few pointers I’ve gained over the last few years, both from blogging personally, but also running the web presence for organisations. I worked as Web Officer for one one that had had some legal problems in the past, due to content posted on a forum they ran – it’s their case and advice they received from legal experts that my legal knowledge comes from and while I believe it to be true it isn’t of course me offering any legal advice myself.

I’ve also advised people about what they’re trying to achieve with their web presence – a blog isn’t right for all situations, in my opinion. But anyway here goes:

  • Is a blog the right thing for your company or organisation? Do you have rapidly changing information, or if not that would it be useful to you company to be seen as an expert in your wider field (and actually are you?)? If not then you might not want to move into blogging, but look to another way to engage your audience on the web – can you offer free example content, embeddable videos of ‘performances’ or some other reason for repeat visits to your site. Nothing says “we’re confused” more than a blog that is left months out of date.
  • It’s all about content, not familiarity, the official Google blog is sickly in its attempts to have each post come from a “team member” who tells you about their life – we want the Google news, just get it out! Write for your audience tho’ – you know if your press releases are aimed at a tabloid or broadsheet market, so really you know about the right level to pitch your blog at. That doesn’t mean that the tone of your PR is already right, but it gives you a grounding in what sort of language you’ll want to use.
  • Post regularly, but not too much. Whether once a day or , once a week (or anywhere in between). That way it’s worth people subscribing – by RSS you must use RSS – as they know there’ll be a stream (or trickle or torrent) of things coming their way. Be aware that in surveys as many people give “too many posts” as “not enough posts” as a reason for stopping reading a blog. Find a comfortable level and stick to it.
  • Give something exclusive. Be that deeper information, the odd snippet of behind the scenes gossip, or just the chance to find out a day or two ahead of other people what you’re up to.
  • Someone needs to be in charge – in most organisations would usually fall to the the Press Officer or Communications Manager. I’d say that whoever it is has not only to understand the vision and the trust of the company, but also the blog world – so a more junior member of staff that cares might be better.
  • There needs to be quick access to someone who actually understands media law – libel particularity, but also defamation. This doesn’t have to be a lawyer in the first instance, a member of stall with an NCTJ or City and Guilds in Journalism qualification would have the required training to quickly know if there was a problem – and when there would be a need to refer upwards and pony up for the legal advice. (C+G is a much shorter course because it doesn’t involve teaching shorthand for instance – it isn’t anywhere near as well respected in the newspaper world, but would be much easier to send someone on – and it’s the basic grasp of the concepts of the UK’s media law you need.) Personally I have a City and Guilds, but then I never really wanted to be a news journalist.
  • Moderate, but quickly. While it’s right for an orgainsation to hold comments by users (ooh UGC!) in moderation before publishing, if they’re not published quickly you will not get that conversation or interaction you’re using the blog for – you may as well have just added an RSS feed of your press releases. One person, or a small team should be responsible for moderating comments, and be available to do that most of the time – nothing’s worse the modern communications industry that someone who works part-time holding the key information and being told “X only works Monday to Thursday – and we don’t know anything about it”. Who does it at evenings/weekends? Certain message boards on the BBC website close out of the moderators office hours – not very modern is it?
  • You’re the publisher, legally, but so is your host – in the UK at least. While most organisations won’t advertise where their site is hosted, if your ISP does get a legal challenge (or even a strongly worded solicitors letter) they will pull the plug. For that reason I’d advise to host your blog on a different server with a different host to your main site – if the worst came to the worst..
    • UK case law has ruled that the company running a forum has “reasonable time” to remove postings that are legally dodgy – “reasonable time” this was thought to be two to three working days, but I’d be aware that this seems a long time in todays internet. This is why pre-moderation is probably best for a company blog. It takes up a deal of time, so be prepared. I wouldn’t often point to a government site for information about the internet but half way down this page are some good points.

Most of all, like anything really, it’s a case of finding someone you trust and asking their advice on the bits you’re not sure about. Of course if you want to ask me…

Architecture and morality

I wanted to write something in order to solidify my thoughts on why blog comments seemingly are more likely to be negative rather than positive, this isn’t going to be interesting or original. Probably it’s something to do with how if there’s something you don’t like it’s more important to “vocalise” it than when you like it. But there’s more to it than that.

No more so than with buildings and design, as they are subjects everyone can have an opinion on. As a sometime professional graphic designer (well, more layout really, but unless you’re a design star that’s prety much all you get to do) I detest showing artwork to clients as they have opinions which they can’t back up with anything but a gut feeling. You end up trying to explain design theory, or just giving up and doing whatever they want – so guess what happens more often. The best you can hope for in these cases is that you end up with all the graphics at the right resolution and things spelt correctly without Comic Sans.

As for commenting myself I try to be as polite as possible, sometimes even not saying things I mean in order not to offend. While not quite “if you can’t say anything good…”, you’ve at least got a chance of getting your point across.

Our survey says…

If you’ve read my rantings on ‘survey culture’ on the BiNS blog, or heard me go on about it as part of the reason for Talk Like A Brummie Day, you might not be surprised to see me link to this article – which is about how a ‘survey’ for Veet (which is Imac – am I right?) was constructed and then ‘backed-up’ by buying a team of experts.

The press release they sent out even dissregareded their paid experts – and this sort of thing goes on ther whole time, and the press swall evey time. So when you see an article saying that ‘something is the top, or bottom, for something’ or ‘something has been voted..’ just read the article down to the bit where it tells you who’s paid for the ‘research’ – and then dismiss it as the shite that it is.

Gerkin’ Fantastic

Not often I recommend people going to that London, but…

may I draw your attention to the exceptionally rare opportunity to ascend to the top of the Gherkin and to stare down on London from the 40th floor. Only 500 Londoners will get the chance, and you need to be ready on the Open House website on Friday morning (17th August) to have any hope of booking your place.

from diamond geezer

the blogging virus

I don’t seem to be able to stop blogging. Not much here, I grant, but there’s the B:INS blog (which has really been running in one form or another for about 4 years), The Kitten Channel (which is mostly pictures of kittens), and a new one which I’m not going to link to until it fills up a bit.

Add in a couple more that I contribute to, a few freelance articles here and there, my Flickr pics, my, the odd Digg – I’ve a horrible feeling that I barely have a thought that I don’t write down (well type).

Is this healthy, I don’t know.