Corporate Bloggers Share Insights with New ‘Blog Council’

Corporations have long realized blogs can be an effective vehicle for marketing and customer outreach, but they’re also fraught with legal and PR risks. To manage those perils and share best practices, several major brands have formed a new group dubbed The Blog Council. Initial members include Coca-Cola, Dell, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Wells Fargo and others.

The Blog Council was founded by Andy Sernovitz, CEO of GasPedal and former CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. GasPedal is tasked with managing the Council in a consulting role.

Sernovitz said the idea for the Council grew from a realization that the founding brands were dealing with similar blogging issues.

“Every company has been finding out the same answers to the same questions on their own,” he said. “It’s really about sharing ideas and as one of these member companies has figured out how to balance legal issues or blog policies or technology, they now can share with other people in those exact same situations.”

The Blog Council provides its members with a private discussion board, holds “show-and-tell” presentations once a week where members explain how they’ve handled blogging issues, and is planning an in-person meeting in Orlando next month. The council is not intended as a starting point for corporate bloggers, but instead for larger businesses that already blog and can share experiences.

The creation of best practices guidelines are an early target for the council, though maintaining flexibility is key, according to Sean Cheyney, VP of marketing and business development for Blog Council member AccuQuote, a life insurance provider.

“You never want to dictate and say, ‘Achtung, you can only do this, this and this,’ but play with the framework, with what the blogosphere brings to the table,” said Cheyney. “We’ll have a lot of best practices that come to the table but first and foremost is being open and transparent. We’ve seen what happen when [companies] are not transparent, like the Wal-Marting Across America [site] for example.”

Ironically, the Council’s launch has drawn a large number of negative remarks from the blogosphere, including accusations that the founding members are out of touch and the Council’s own Web site is very unbloglike, featuring a press release and a FAQ in its first two posts. Sernovitz said he’s not surprised by the criticism.

“We’re forming a group to talk about how companies do great blogging, which doesn’t sound like a very controversial mission,” he said. “If that’s going to be controversial, then it proves why we need [the] organization.”

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