The difference between companies that WANT their employees to blog and companies that ALLOW their employees to blog

Julian, over at Exceler8ion, discusses corporate blogging policies. I’m with Julian. I’d be hard-pressed to find a corporate blogging policy longer than a sentence or 2 that doesn’t totally stink.

I think that if you dig beneath all the wordy lists of “dos” and “don’ts”, what you actually find are companies that want their employees to blog and companies that feel like they have to let their employees blog. Seriously:

Companies that want their employees to blog see an opportunity to connect with customers/partners outside the traditional sales cycle

Companies that want their employees to blog value transparency

Companies that want their employees to blog feel confident that they have hired good people they can trust (you know I had to somehow make this a little bit about staffing, right?)

Companies that want their employees to blog fear inertia more than criticism

Companies that want their employees to blog understand that the market shapes perception and that they lack 100% control over that

On the other hand, some companies feel like they *have to* let their employees blog, much to their discomfort because other companies are doing it, because their employees want to do it. But they fear it because

…they can’t control the message

…they don’t trust their employees to blog responsibly

…they don’t understand how blogging can inform product development or marketing

…they fear criticism…out there…in the open for anyone to see (is self-criticism out of the question?)

My opinion (which all of this is), is simply that if you can’t trust your folks to blog, then don’t have them blog for work. It’s not for everyone…consider your corporate culture. But make an informed decision based on an understanding of the medium and it’s potential value to your organization. When I look at some of these blog policies, I try to think about how my blogging would change if I had to apply them. It’s not necessarily any one policy that concerns me but that, taken together, they seem to represent a fear of allowing employees to blog. As if to say: “we don’t really want you to blog, but if you must, follow these vague rules”. Telling people not to violate agreements they have signed? Duh! You can’t disclose proprietary information? Duh! No obscene material? Wait while I delete a post I’ve been working on.

I guess my position is that if you need to spell it out for people this plainly, you really don’t trust them to blog in the first place and/or you need to raise your hiring bar. Are you trying to scare them off blogging? Giving yourself something to point to if you don’t like what they say? I’m not trying to criticize any one company; I just don’t buy into these extensive blogging policies.

I prefer the “don’t do anything stupid” policy, which assumes (hopefully based on proof) that you hire smart people. Though Julian’s phrasing matches my inner snark dialog a little better ; )



Comments (14)

  1. Jonathan says:

    The problem with blogging policies is that they try to control what is virtually uncontrollable.  Like any tool, blogging can be used for good or evil, to create or to destroy.  One of the most greatest uses of blogging is to give the everyday person, who isn’t a web page guru or designer a place for their voice…instantly!  Blogging scares people because it’s uncontrollable, yet it’s occuring at the speed of light (Shout out to Bill G’s book).  Blogging lets you give a voice to what you think and feel.  It provides another way for news to travel in the public opinion domain.  The reality is that companies that don’t blog are falling further behind and actually live in their own little world of denial.

    Blogging forces companies to provide better services and products, since news to the contrary will appear on a blog, which is linked to other blogs, etc.  Blogging is another type of forum, but where all types of media can be linked to and shared quickly.  The last two companies I’ve worked for didn’t want blogging, since they couldn’t "control it".  Well, that same control-freakish nature caused deals to be lost and partnerships to fall through.  Of course, as you’ve said Heather, you want to be sure that people that are blogging can reasonably write and convey corporate information correctly.  What’s interesting is that this is being done anyway everyday, so what’s different about sharing it in a blog?

    Blogs are another way to connect, whether it be with customers or just other humans.  They aren’t perfect, but neither are layer-upon-layer of middle management and meetings to determine when meetings about decisions to be made should be held.

    One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that slowly the technology and for that matter business world is returning to a cover your butt, fear-based, middle-management blotted entity.  I’m not sure if its due to all the MBAs out there, but it seems like beauracracy is returning and with that the nimble, move fast mentality is being pushed out.  Blogging policies are another example of this and it’s too bad, since you would think we would take the mistakes of the "Internet boom" and refine them, rather than throw them out.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jonathan-I agree with a lot of what you said. Sometimes it seems that blog policies are documentation of the lack of trust that companies have with their employees in general. If that’s the case, companies really need to look at why more trust doesn’t exist and fix it. I can’t believe that publishing blog rules is the answer. If your employees can’t determine for themselves that they should not be breaking agreements that they have already signed, you’ve got bigger fish to fry than just blogging.

  3. APerson says:

    Microsoft recently fired a person for posting pics of mac g5 computers!

    here is the offending post:

    even though the said person was nice enough to just grin and bear it and move on with life, it does bring into question microsofts blogging policy.

  4. Tim says:

    I agree with my company’s policy (which is akin to yours): "Please don’t do anything stupid."

    It’s worked so far.

    But then again, I’m still a Freshman.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    APerson-I don’t know the person involved (who was a contractor, right?) or the situation. So I can’t really comment on why the person’s contract was ended or whether they were "nice enough" to "grin and bear it". Or if there was more involved with the story.

    Tim-at least they say "please" ; )

  6. APerson: Maybe it’s just me, but I’d hardly consider two and a half years ago to be "recently". 😉

    Heather: I was a contractor (3rd party, in fact…a temp employee contracted to Xerox, who ran the on-campus print shop for Microsoft). I did, however, do my best to fess up to making a rather dumb blunder (hindsight is always 20/20), and "grin and bear it," as APerson said.

    If you’re at all curious, my wrapup of the event a few days afterwards (and a few days into the publicity it garnered) is here:

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Michael- well, we have all made dumb blunders (you are right about the hindsight!). I just don’t want to profess to know anything about the situation. I think that when someone’s work is terminated and that person has a blog, people assume that it’s simply about the blog (meaning the company doesn’t want them to have it) and it’s always possible that it’s not or that the blog is just part of it (which it sound like from your post). And then the blogger turns into a kinf of folk hero that people rally around.  But again, I don’t want to pretend that I know anything about that situation or make judgement about how it was handled (on either side) other than what I have read on your blog because I know nothing. I have to say that your self-criticism is realy admirable. We should all face tough circumstances (even based on a "dumb blunder") so gracefully. : )

  8. tod says:

    Michael & Heather:  In the past, I’ve worked as both a vendor and a contractor for Microsoft before becoming a full time employee.  The relationship from Microsoft –> Vendor company A or Contract agency A –> employee can be a very complicated one.  In SOME circumstances (emphasized because not all situations are the same) I’ve worked in, the Microsoft FTE who directly managed the work of a contract employee could not give direct feedback or reprimands to that contractor.  Due to contractual requirements and legaleze the Microsoft mangaer was forced to go through the contractor’s vendor/contract agency management. Additionally, the Microsoft manager had little control over whether or not individuals were hired/fired by the vendor/contract agency because of the contract.

    A lengthy comment, but in short I’m trying to say that situations such as Michael’s aren’t always directly controlled by Microsoft employees or Microsoft policies. Often it is controlled by the vendor or contract agencies policies, which might be much more stringent.

    Heather: With regard to the topic as a whole, if Microsoft did not have such an open policy I would probably blog as I do now, but withhold my employer’s name simply to be cautious.  All of the content would still be the same, but I would refer to my employer with some sort of goofy nickname like Dilbert’s infamous "pointy-haired boss."

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    tod-that is a good point. People working onsite through a vendor are actually managed by the vendor company.

    If we had extensive blogging policies or didn’t have the freedom to blog that we have, I probably wouldn’t be blogging at all. Can’t say that I would have a personal blog outside of work. I know it sounds strange for a Microsoft employee, but outside of work, I really don’t spend much time online. I’m just glad you don’t have to go the Dilbert route.

  10. LexBlog Blog says:

    Dennis Kenendy picked up on a great discussion by Julian at EXCELER8ion and Heather Hamilton, publisher of the Marketing at Microsoft Blog. Julian concludes a suggested one sentence corporate blogging policy When blogging: better to be a smart ass than..

  11. Suja says:

    I still dont have a clarity about the difference between a A- employee and a V- employee… both are for contract… The only difference is that A- has to take a compulasory 100 days break inbetween projects.The rates differ between these.. Am I right ??

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, neither are actually "employees", at least not of Microosft. They are both employees of third party companies, so yes, both on contract. An "a-" is a temporary employee. A "v-" is a vendor and has been hired for a specific project.

    Rates differ by agency, job, etc. So one doesn't necessarily pay more than the other. There are a number of factors on the pay. If you are considering either, just understand what the scope, term and pay rate are for the work and you should have the main info you need.