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Is Content Going to the Blogs?

  |  October 29, 2002   |  Comments

Could blogging be a communications strategy for your business? And what on earth is a 'wiki'?

I am the essence of uncool. I drive a 2000 Mitsubishi with dents as big as Shaq's shoe and a booster seat in the back that weighs more than my five year old. The parties I attend usually break up around 9 p.m. (when the babysitter gets very expensive). I don't blog.

Now, I know some will contend my column often leans to the self-indulgence of a big, fat blog, but I'll ignore those sentiments for the moment. The reason I don't blog is because I find most blog writing a waste of precious time. Frankly, most bloggers have very little to say. Consider the Doonesbury character who simply must have a blog but can't conjure up the content. Instead, he copies op-ed columns from The New York Times and peppers them with innovative punctuation.

I've carried the torch for decent content ever since the folks at ClickZ gave me the amazing opportunity to write a column. I can't stop now. Honestly, did you really think I would cheer on those rambling bloggers who bore us with everything from their political tirades to the dreary lives of their Abyssinian cats? Of course not. If I wanted to read about cats, I'd pick up a copy of Cat Fancy (something I've never done).

However (and this is a big however), I don't think we should toss aside the possibilities of the medium. Blogs have an immediacy and ease of use that may justify using them on a business' site. For example, a simple note on a blog may get the word out on an important, but not necessarily press-release-worthy, news item. Having a blog on a site does compel the organization to refresh the information more frequently.

Macromedia is a good example of how blogging can be used in business. The software company employs a blog to keep customers updated on what's happening with its products.

Another interesting technique is to post both good and bad news on the blog. By not avoiding the bad, the organization can also post its quick remedying of the situation. When done honestly and expertly, such an immediate response may help build confidence in the company.

Blogs may also rescue marketing communications staffers from waiting for overworked techies to manipulate HTML code before posting a simple message. When the message has to be up quickly, nothing beats the blog's ease of use.

And there are valid reasons for using blogs for internal communications. Read the online edition of Blogroots by Paul Bausch, Matthew Haughey, and Meg Hourihan for some thought-provoking ideas on bringing blogs into the workplace. The authors point out that information posted on blogs can be more easily retrieved than the two-week-old email. They also suggest that with a group blog, you can ease bandwidth crunches because large files can be uploaded once to a central location, then announced as available for viewing to interested parties. Additionally, blogs may be useful for establishing rules of the road for corporate culture. And there is the somewhat obvious but worthwhile observation that coworkers who aren't comfortable speaking publicly may find a new way to express themselves through blogging.

We need to be a little more mindful of how we use this interesting new medium. With email succumbing to the denizens of Spam City, we do need quick and easy ways to establish one-to-one relationships with key audiences. I'm hopeful that the narcissistic musings of a few will eventually wane, and we can arrive at better ways to use the blog.

In the meantime, I'm told the latest killer app is no longer the blog, but the wiki ("wikiwiki" is Hawaiian for "quick" and is often abbreviated to "wiki"). Wikis are collaboratively edited discussion boards. Editing other peoples' work is perfectly acceptable on the wiki, as is adding a new train of thought. It's an intriguing idea, although the wiki I visited displayed the hallmark of Web users who have little to say: a picture of someone's cat.

Yeow. My advice? Unless you can commit to posting interesting, meaningful content, don't let your site go to the blogs (or the cats).

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Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon is the executive director of marketing and public relations for Memorial Health Services, a five-hospital health system in Southern California. In this capacity, she manages promotional activities for both traditional and new media. Susan is also a marketing communications instructor at the University of California, Irvine; California State University, Fullerton; and the University of California, Los Angeles.

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