Big Co’s to Big Co’s We have no idea….. Share?

December 18, 2007

in Blogging, brand 2.0, Conversational Blogging, general, Networks, Knowledge and Social Media, PR

I just read about the Blog Council via Jeff Jarvis. Bit late to chime in too and say this is a yesterday’s idea (Alec said that and I read more here, here, and here with great comments.) I conclude organizations must empower customers to craft how the relationship will evolve. See the BBC. 

The Blog Council mimics Industry Advertising Councils that have over the years in different countries helped to frame appropriate advertising. Those organizations served a useful purpose in their time. In a way Andy Sernovitz should be congratulated he lined up this list of companies.

However, the quote below from Sean Driscoll at Microsoft makes me question what they are thinking. IN A PRIVATE NETWORKING ENVIRONMENT etc…. (on home page). I can only say “get real”. Start a wiki, provide content. Share from the beginning. Enable a conversation. Use your own blog to explore the topic. Blog with your peers!  Most of what you need is already out there. On the BC mission page “The key executives responsible for their companies’ official blog presence”….. Is that controlling? Or what? Rules?

I am even more horrified by the impact statement. It says nothing about LISTENING!. Nothing which talks about “growing the conversation” which translates to growing information, knowledge and learning around interests, tags, topics… that we read and view.

When I started this post I just meant to write about Jeff’s comment to a woman to see beyond the blog. My experience in companies is — that is often very hard. To blog one must be loose, not anxious or feeling controlled. If you have to ask…how or what to blog then you shouldn’t be blogging in the first place. No wonder they formed the Blog Council.

Blog Council

Sean O’Driscoll, General Manager, Community Support Services for Microsoft. “The Blog Council brings together precisely the people who need to explore these issues together, in a productive and private networking environment. We can work together to develop model policies that set the standard for corporate blogging excellence.”

BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » It’s not the blog

the woman next to me was troubled, bearing weight on her shoulders from having to fill her blog and manage her blog. To her, the blog was a thing, a beast that needed to be fed, a never-ending sheet of blank paper. I turned to her and said she should see past the blog. It’s not a show with a rundown that, without feeding, turns into dead air. ………. I blog when I find something interesting that I’ve seen and I think, ‘I have to tell my friends about that.’ You’re the friends. So yes, I said, it’s just a conversation. And reading — hearing what others are saying — is every bit as important as writing.

Blog Council: FAQ

9. Who manages the Blog Council? The Blog Council is managed by GasPedal, which is run by Andy Sernovitz, founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. It is not a non-profit organization or a trade association. It is similar to business councils run by Forrester, Gartner, and the Conference Board.

Standing up and doing a “Rageboy” rant would be so Febuary 2000:

all noise – all the time

However, since the arrival of the tangled higher-order logic of the Web, business has become more dependent on narrative than explication — and the narrative is no longer straightforward and predictable. It takes odd turns. It turns you on, then turns on you

What amazes me is not one representative from a large company felt the hairs on the back of their neck…. when asked to get involved. To me this is a very first principles understanding. One, does this action bring me and my organization more quickly in touch with our customers and enable a conversation? Two, can I afford this time not in front of the customers but talking about how we handle them? Three is this action chaordic?

Then get someone to help you “reading” or “listening” to the blogosphere. They better bring a toolkit for listening too.

All this does bother me. It seems large companies are still learning  so little and so slowly. They are worrying about the wrong things or how to behave when companies like the BBC are launching new Beta sites that are more adaptive, more intuitive and in the end will be easier to learn than the structured linear flows of information the council I think has their head round. It’s a great example on enabling the user / customer to craft their own relationship. The more “we” graft ourselves onto your portal, your site, your content or share, insert, connect, you to our lifestreams, the less you have to say, write and do. So make your content available! Listen and watch. I bet conversation rather than blogging will describe what happens.

  • I’m pretty sure I’ve done most of what you’ve suggested for quite awhile. I really don’t see anything wrong with gathering with industry peers in a different venue to discuss both good and bad practices. Should you think no “hairs” were raised, you’d be wrong – I think many of us involved in the council have similar concerns as most of us have been very involved in community for a long time. But, that’s why I for one am invovled in the council as I think it can contribute to raising the bar on corporate practices I don’t support (ghost blogging, anonymous posts, legal/PR editorial oversight, etc, etc, etc). Hardly a week goes by without a bad example…and each bad example tends to reflect on the industry. If I find myself 6, 9, 12 months into the council and it isn’t aligned with the principals of blogging, I’d probably be the first one out, but having met some of the others involved, I suspect we’d all stampede for the door so I don’t think that will happen.
    It’s easy to say “let the conversation happen” and I’m lucky to not work in a regulated industry, but many companies do. At Microsoft we are fortunate, our blog “policy” is two words “be smart.” It’s not burdened by process, reviews, procedures, etc. A policy that simply enables anyone at the company to blog is great and well received, but we’re also not Merrill Lynch or other regulated business where the legal/governance reality is different.

    Reading your post I suspect we’d agree on most of this and I’m more than happy to discuss more. Listening is a good example, our bloggers do that daily…but what if there are a million conversations a week about your brands – how do you listen to all of them. We definately think this is goodness, but I’d sure like to sit in a room with 20 other large companies and hear how they are doing this or thinking about doing it.


  • Stuart, I have nothing to add to your fine words here, but just want to say how it warms the cockles of me wicked old heart to see RB’s ram sticking his tongue out at the whole sorry business. baaaaaah!

  • Sean,
    Thank you, I appreciate your comment and the position. I’ve always liked the Microsoft policy “be smart”. I like your listening question. The simple answer is you cannot listen to a million conversations at once…. however your community can. Example Skype Forum SuperUsers just helping other visitors; no relation to Skype. Just an example that the conversation is owned by the community that the company input can become and should become less and less overtime. I really liked the BBC example today linked to above. I also think companies can learn something from SFGate and should consider the “Sugar” sites. These sites are beginning to bring in their readers in new ways. I think many organizations may be more specialized and yet many of these ideas can be adapted.

    While I agree “let the conversation happen” is too easy to say and almost flippant, the conversation is happening already; too many are not listening effectively to it.

    I really believe that the “we” that belong and live within an organization care about how we are perceived. Drop the walls, live closer to the edge and there is likely to be change for the good.

  • Chris,
    Was coincidence to see your reference to Ester’s Release 1.0’s and how long ago it was that the inevitable was stated as inevitable. A model broken and now shared. We’re closing on something new; a tipping point where humanity’s noise won’t play mono or stereo anymore. I just had to borrow the ram for one post! I’m still holding back, there’s a rage within that would like to see more original thinking. It’s the same quiet rage I feel when I see writings on the “Future of Management”. Baaaaaah! Progress is never fast enough and yet is fast becoming outdated. I’m going to keep thinking the Blog Council is outdated.

  • I agree with your listening model. In fact, most of what I learned about community I learned from connecting with MS enthusiasts. The last 5 years, I’ve been responsible for “leading” (turns out guiding is maybe a better word) what is called the Microsoft MVP award program ( This program was started in 1992 as a recognition program to acknowledge top contributors to compuserve forums. It continued through the 90s (mostly around usenet) and today includes over 4000 “superusers” who participate in forums, newsgroups, usergroups, bloggers, authors, speakers, etc (even youtube now, check out this guy with 77,000+ views on how to do gantt charts in Excel: – how can we not love this guy! … We created this program to do just what you highlight, listen to the listeners and create systematic ways for them to participate in feedback and product design. They are of course very independent of us and it’s this independence that makes them valuable to the communities they participate in.

    Thanks for the comment back, I’d simply encourage you to consider this isn’t the blind leading the blind coucil…I think we are a pretty experienced group on the whole and part of why I jumped at such an opportunity is to connect with some pretty smart folks. Why private is a good question…and much of it shouldn’t be I agree. If I were to throw out my little rant, try attending a conference as a learning/networking opportunity with a major brand name on your badge – guess what happens – you meet A LOT of vendors, agencies and technology providers (bee to honey). I don’t really mind this (might sound like it) as there are a bunch of smart people in those firms, but it limits who you do meet – so a private venue to just connect with other “brands” is a welcomed thing for me. ok, I could attend without my company name on the badge – but that’s not very transparent:) – and makes me hard to find.


  • Sean,
    I aways wanted to know how to do a Gant chart. It’s a great example. I was also the unpaid Skype blogger and evangelist for the first two years of Skype’s life. They did not see me as you see your Gant man. Anyways that’s another story.

    I believe there are real merits in looking to learn across different categories and synthesize from what others are doing. Only time will tell if your partners in the Blog Council are the right one’s to help you do that or if it actively produces new insights or rapid deployment of new techniques.

    I also understand why many conferences are not as useful as the should be, re content and exposure. I’d suggest smaller gatherings, where the speakers don’t pay to pitch their companies and or interests are not tied directly to blogging or community building. I know MS also has the resources to create their own little gatherings. There is no reason MS couldn’t have created a meeting-workshop-discussion; except it takes time to organize and blog council makes that easy. After the initial sharing who will focus the “stretch”?

    Where I am always most interested is where boundaries can be pushed. What’s happening at the fringe or edge. I believe the people that “know” or can perhaps share insights into that are not in a blog council, do not go or will not meet you at a typical conference. I think you have to look elsewhere for these “remarkable” people, and you have to use a process that helps to break mental models and create new narratives.

    The benefit of “thinking outside” or at the “edge” of current community behavior and actions is you will create narratives that you can test out in the community. Stories that by their own retelling may help you evolve in new directions.

    Sean, my guess is you already know this stuff too, and have used different approaches and tools. While writing to you I am really sharing more broadly my beliefs in finding and exploring new directions. In the end… if we can ask our community better questions then I believe we are probably serving them best.

    Maybe a model for the blog council will come out. Only time will tell.

  • all excellent advice I’d also give…well recommended. Thanks for having the convo with me.


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