Friday, May 05, 2006

Organizational Communication Imperatives and Corporate Blogging, by Krystle Randall

Context for this post

When I first learned that we would be learning about blogging in our Organizational Communication class I thought I misunderstood. Before this class I thought blogs were just an on-line journal that internet junkies would add to each night before bed. After our class discussions, readings, and contributions by Mr. John Cass of Backbone Media, I have a whole new understanding of and appreciation for blogging.

As I reflect back on our corporate blogging interviews as well as our own experiences blogging, it’s only natural to apply the organizational communication imperatives. The first one I would like to discuss is organizational identification. This is when an employee highly identifies themselves with a company’s values, rituals, and ultimate mission. A highly identified individual will truly feel as though they are an important and influential part of the organization. Having organizationally identified employees can be good for a company. If an employee writes a post they need to believe in what they are writing. This is especially true for commenting because the employees need to be able to respond to constructive as well as destructive criticism. If they are not identified with the organizations values, this may reflect in their posts and comments which would only be detrimental to the company’s credibility.

When employees are identified with an organization they often take on automatic responsibility. This is when an employee will take responsibility for anything and everything that they have the expertise to. If they do not know how to do something, they will instead, automatically direct the information or task to someone who knows how.

This is also beneficial for corporate blogs. If an employee is surfing the blogosphere and finds some negative sentiments posted about their company and/or their products, what are they going to do? Some employees will just read in the information, maybe pass the link on to some colleagues. However, an employee that practices automatic responsibility will comment on the post, say they are from the company, and provide the appropriate facts to defend their argument. That employee took the initiative to stand up and defend their company name because they had the facts. Automatic responsibility is also great for a corporate blog that is maintained by multiple people. One person may normally write the posts and another may research, however, if other aspects of one person’s job become too overwhelming, other employees may take over the blog to ensure consistency as well as credibility. If nobody maintained the blog and responded to comments it could hurt the company image all around.

Both organizational identification and automatic responsibility are a result of a corporate culture. I would also say that a company’s culture can be reflected through their blog. Redding’s ideal SCOPE model can be used to analyze company blogging as well as blogging policies. Supportiveness is evident in the amount of help or input that is put into the blog, researching for blogging topics, as well as responding to comments. Even starting up a blog for a corporation needs a lot of support because it is seen as risky. Credibility is displayed when a company posts and responds to both constructive and destructive comments. A company can give the impression of being more credible more easily through a blog than other marketing tools because blogs are not only a dialogue between consumers and producers but they are also extremely human in tone. Blogs reflect a company’s openness as well. If a company chooses to allow comments, and posts positive and negative information they are seen as more open. Some company’s even post their blogging policies as well. Some companies choose to monitor comments and some do not. Participatory decision making is seen in blogs by
identifying who does the posting, who is allowed to post, and who is not allowed to post. Blogging can actually facilitate participatory decision making because it can connect many employees in one forum. An emphasis on high performance goals is seen in blogging through automatic responsibility as well as maintenance of the blog.

The overall corporate culture of the company can be shaped and changed by the introduction of corporate blogging. A blog can connect employees and build the morale of the internal culture. If employees feel as though they can learn more about each other and collaborate on ideas in a more convenient way, they will do it and blogging does just that. Some companies even use blogs as a kind of internal newsletter. They may post pictures and small comments on the company picnic or holiday party. This can lighten the mood of the corporate culture and bring employees together. External audiences, or consumers, can also gain a new perspective of a company. For example, some companies which may normally be seen as high-tech or inhumane can gain human appeal by using certain language or humor. This can make consumers who would normally be intimidated by the brand gain a whole new outlook on the company, just from their blog.

The future of blogs is unknown however, I have a prediction. I have already started to see that many companies have begun jumping on the corporate blogging bandwagon. If companies do not realize why blogging is important, they most likely will not benefit. Blogging is not just some additional marketing tactic that everyone should do. If this happens we will definitely see more synthetic transparency taking place. Companies will want to seem like they are transparent and credible by blogging, but really they just began blogging because everyone else is doing it. In conclusion, I have learned that, under the right conditions and for the right reasons, blogging can benefit a corporation both culturally as well as financially.

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