If your blog is written by your PR department…


is it really a blog? Over at Novell, Kevan Barney (PR Manager) and Bruce Lowry (Spokesperson) are blogging on “Novell Open PR”.


This begs the question: “what makes a blog a blog rather than a website?”


It’s an interesting initiative, but I wonder whether we will see these folks toss off the PR-speak and adopt a blogging voice that doesn’t scream “I’m a paid corporate spokesperson!”. Is a web page defined as a blog because of the technology and format (RSS, comment enablement) or rather because of the transparency in the dialog. And can PR guys get that transparent?


Well, I don’t hate the idea. I think it will be viewed with praise by those who already love their brand and skepticism by the rest of us. I’ll just be watching to see if Kevan and Bruce can break out of the messaging mode they have so far exhibited. Show us a little personality!


 “As a policy, Novell doesn’t comment on rumor and speculation, and we won’t be talking about this.”…aww, come on PR guys…where’s the fun in that?

Comments (13)

  1. I see what you mean.

    A recruiter represents her company just like PR does but maybe not as much.

    If she expresses individual ideas, the public might assume that she is a loose cannon but her real job is recruiting.

    Whereas it is the actual job of a PR to be a "hack", part of the conveyor belt that delivers the utterances of the management of the firm.

    David Parmet who used to do PR for Indeed has had a blog for a long time. I get the impression that he is a bit of a maverick though.

  2. Tim says:

    Yes, without discussions over who has better pizza, NY or Chicago, I’m not sure it can be considered a blog. Okay, yes it’s a blog, but is it interesting to keep people coming back? I guess that’s the question.

  3. Wine-Oh says:

    I dont think thats a blog. Its a clever way of presenting company happenings in a easier to read format. Who reads press releases anyway? It takes out all the filler and just focuses on where Novel is in the news or what the company happenings are. Its a clever way to dress up boring content.  Like Tim brings up about keeping it interesting so people come back time and time again? Personally it doesnt make me want to bookmark the site.  

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Tim-Chicago

    Wine-Oh- I agree…hopefully they will figure it out and evolve

  5. Marcus says:

    To me, it’s a blog because the two-way faucet of communication has been opened. However, if a.) people don’t respond because the content stinks or b.) the company doesn’t respond to comments it gets in the blog, then the point is moot.

    Don’t kid yourself. There are plenty of "personal" weblogs where the authors censor themselves, too. Corporations aren’t the only ones guilty of holding up veils.

    I think it’s a blog. Just a very boring one, like 99% of them. 🙂

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Marcus-good points

  7. Heath Row says:

    I’m initially confused by the blog-web site difference, as a blog is a kind of web site — and can also be a part of a web site. But I’m _also_ wondering whether there’s not room for newsblogs or PRblogs in the blogging world. Even though the form started off with personal blogs, I think we’ll see many different modes emerge — and the notion of blog/not a blog become less interesting…

  8. MSDNArchive says:

    Good points, all.  It’s something we "corporate bloggers" have to weigh: going too far, or not going far enough.  

    As the folks we work with (or for) get more comfortable with the format, we’ll be able to say more and more in a "human voice."  I think we haven’t gone far enough in being approachable, candid, open, human.  

    I think Heather’s blog is a good example of how to do it right.  

    John Porcaro

    http://www.gamerscoreblog.com (the, uh, xbox PR blog)

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    John-that is a HUGE compliment coming from you! Thank you! I think you are right that it’s a matter of degrees…how transparent the blogger is willing to be. I think that mixing on the "official PR word" with personal commentary (like you do), makes it totally approachable and comfortable for the reader.

  10. I found Novell’s Chief Marketing Officer’s blog via your article and I wondered how many CxOs actually have time to write posts and respond to comments (which I think is a key component of blogging).

    http://www.novell.com/company/blogs/cmo/?p=4

    It seems there are a couple of "angry" comments from [what appear to be] disgruntled Novell employees. I’m very curious to see how he will handle this.

    I suppose a good tip for all future CxOs planning to blog is: Turn comment moderation ON before starting! 🙂

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ian-I think it would be viewed poorly if they decided not to publish negative comments. If you decide to blog about work, you kind of have to go there. I think you can set parameters on topics (for example, not getting more personal than you want to), but if you are blogging about work and people post negative comments, the best (and really only positive) thing you can do is respond with some diplomacy. There’s no company out there that won’t draw some criticism on blogs…that’s just the way it is. As the blogger you have to engage and try to learn something from it. So for a CxO, anyone really who is accustomed to controlling the outgoing mesage, there’s definitely a risk involved with blogging. What you get in return is a deeper understanding of how people perceive your company and an opportunity to evangelize what is going well. But if you blog and you get feedback, you have to listen and you have to respond and you have to act. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    Anyway, this brings up a good point that perhaps is a blog post in and of itself. When I’ve spoken to groups about blogging, I explain that blogging is not right for every company. Though there are some other bloggers out there, some of them even "A-list", that will try to sell the point that blogging is good for everyone, it’s not. There is something inherently democratic in the medium. But corporate culture and market perception really play a big part in whether corporate blogging will be viewed positively. My opinion on that has evolved a bit over time as I’ve come to understand it’s risks/shortcomings. Plus I am always skeptical when people make sweeping statements or tout the next "big thing".

    Well, just my opinion on the matter. Good to see you here Ian…I hope all is going well.