Magazine article New Zealand Management

Online and Opinionated: Why Corporate Heavyweights Are Tuning in to Blogging Where's the Gravitas in a Public Rant? Why Would a CEO Want to Share Their Every Thought on Wider Corporate Issues? Forget Gravitas and Feel the Emotion. Blogs Are a Compelling Business Tool. More Importantly, the Interactive Nature of the Blog Sets Up a Multipath Conversation between Top Corporate Brass and Real Live Customers

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Online and Opinionated: Why Corporate Heavyweights Are Tuning in to Blogging Where's the Gravitas in a Public Rant? Why Would a CEO Want to Share Their Every Thought on Wider Corporate Issues? Forget Gravitas and Feel the Emotion. Blogs Are a Compelling Business Tool. More Importantly, the Interactive Nature of the Blog Sets Up a Multipath Conversation between Top Corporate Brass and Real Live Customers

Article excerpt

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Corporate blogging, or clogging as some people playfully call it, is big news in the United States and the United Kingdom. Born in the IT community, blogging--or frequent online posting of news and views intended for public consumption--has filtered down to citizen journalists and personal bloggers. In the past three or four years corporate America has started catching up.

Take Sun Microsystems CEO and president Jonathan Schwartz, for example. As one of the early adopters (http://blogs. sun.com/jonathan/) Schwartz is so taken with the notion of transparent company comment that he urges his staff to set up their own blogs. Hundreds of them have taken up the opportunity, openly commenting on whatever they do, or don't, like about the company.

Think that corporate blogging is just for tech-nerds? How about Bob Lutz, who as vice-chairman of General Motors has been blogging since the start of 2005 (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com). He's now one of the most well known corporate bloggers in the US, comfortably chatting away about diesel power, battery technology and concept cars.

Even corporate stalwarts such as Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels started blogging earlier this year. His genteel blog (http:// www.blogs.marriott.com/) attracts respectful comments from customers who are, by and large, thrilled with the Marriott service and who address him as 'Mr Marriott'.

Over on this side of the planet, there's far less corporate take-up. Notable exceptions tend to be in the IT space. Those outside the technology sphere are both tech-savvy and comfortable pioneering their opinions in web space.

Rod Drury, CEO of online business accounting software company Xero, sees his blog (http://www.drury.net.nz/) as a "living CV". It's a high-tech elevator speech, rapidly communicating his prowess in relevant areas to customers and the wider world. It enables him to subtly push his background, skills and knowledge without encroaching on meeting time.

Jim Donovan, CEO of New Zealand-based IT services business Fronde (formerly Synergy IT), is another more recent arrival into the Kiwi blogging space (http://jimdonovan.net.nz/). Then there's Harcourts International managing director Mike Green who launched his own blog (http://mikesrant.wordpress.com/) in August this year, claiming it's not a corporate blog at all, but his personal thoughts on things real estate and beyond.

There's much talk that, behind the scenes, many local communications managers are weighing up the pros and cons of getting their top brass online and opinionated.

Thom James, online PR director at Bullet PR, says there is "some" enthusiasm for corporate blogging in the New Zealand marketplace. This keenness is, however, tempered by cautiousness and trepidation. "It is quite a big step," notes James, "and companies are a bit cautious about revealing too much."

Those who have dipped a toe in the water have often changed tack. Ed Saul, senior partner at New Zealand insurance company Pinnacle Life, says his company earlier this year first started using a blog as a promotional tool. He has since cottoned on to the blog's more powerful role as a vehicle for communication and dialogue.

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Saul's efforts are already paying off. When he learnt that a company in the UK was offering cheaper life insurance for vegetarians he weighed into the debate on his blog. His comments were picked up by local mainstream media who ran the story, giving him additional exposure and kudos. It's not the only time he's been able to pull off such a stunt.

Saul's ability to bounce his views into a broader audience is the result of many hours spent scanning international news for relevant topics on which he can comment on his blog.

His regular posts on his blog are short--he reckons one to four paragraphs is the optimum length--but he insists they are highly pertinent to his industry. …

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