Some words of wisdom on the power of employee blogs from Allen Bauer (One of the people behind the next version of Delphi):
Danny and I were having a discussion yesterday regarding the benefits that a company can gain by allowing its average-joe employees to maintain a blog hosted from their site or simply allowed to comment on what they do for they're "day job." I made the comment that blogs have the intangible effect of putting a collective "face" and "personality" on to an otherwise amorphous, cold and faceless corporation. It helps cement in the customer's minds that there are real people with real lives behind the products and services produced by the company. They have likes and dislikes, opinions, faults and emotions. Take, for instance, the fact that Microsoft has well over 400 active bloggers. Do you find that appears to make them more approachable and candid as a company? Does blogging help or hurt their public image? Do you find it satisfying that when you post a comment to a blog and the blog owner responds, even if it is a simple "thanks for your comments" response?
But what happens when the company's sole business or service is its employees knowledge? Take Magen. the company I work for as an example. Magen is a small company (about 25 employees overall). It's based around providing services of .Net mentoring on projects, teaching labs and various Microsoft related material. The main functionality of an employee of Magen is to *know*. What happens if I write an article on some technology as a Magen employee? wouldn't it be considered “information leakage“ since we are getting paid to distribute information for customers only? The answer, as always is “depends“. Some fine lines need to be drawn. Usually it will be what defines “sensitive“ or withheld information that Magen has access to (then all NDAa apply and so on). but there are also cases where a technology is also features somewhere or is general public knowledge. In the end of the day, if I provide an article that talks about regular expressions for example, or if I speak about it in a user group, Magen only benefits from this because :
- The company gets a “face“ and credibility for knowledge of its employees
- the amount of information expressed cannot harm any of the company's business. In fact it just may give them more business from people who will want to dig deeper into the knowledge pool and would pay for that.
Reputation is everything and this is good reputation.
- The company gets in touch with the community, allowing it to react to changes faster if needed, get feedback faster and basically have a dialog with potential customers very early on.
All these things are implied and are not what this blog is about. It started before I started working there and now it is simply adding to the benefits. So, the thing to note is that employee blogging as I see it is a very positive thing. But, as always, there's a lot of FUD around and many companies don't even know what blogs are. Let's hope this changes in the near future.