Can You Be A Corporate Blogger Without Losing Yourself?
One of the topics I discussed with my new BlogHer friends last weekend was the struggles that come with trying to maintain your own voice when you agree to blog for a corporation. Unless you’re an all out corporate drone, there will inevitably come a time when you and your organization have a difference of opinion on some issues. Should corporate bloggers be allowed to express views that don’t align with corporate thought or, as a corporate blogger, are you to follow company rhetoric at all costs?
I think there’s definitely a sweet spot in there where bloggers need to learn how to support the company they’re working for while still staying true to themselves. I’d like to think we do a pretty good job of it over here. I think people understand that I’m serious about search engine optimization ethics because I’m serious about it and not because Bruce Clay has its own Code of Ethics. I also think they know that if Bruce said something on a panel that I didn’t agree with that I would ever so carefully debate the issue here on the blog . ;) There’s a line that I think corporate bloggers have to walk.
Really, it’s an issue of authenticity. Are you going to speak up for issues you believe in and gain your readers’ trust or are you going to regurgitate corporate doctrine? I know that people don’t come here for straight search engine optimization advice. If you wanted SEO advice, you’d be reading our search engine optimization methodology, which has more information than you could possible handle in one sitting. You’re on the blog for real, genuine thought, so that’s what we strive to give.
I’ve been blogging for Bruce Clay, Inc. for almost two and a half years (zomg!) and over that time a couple of truths have become clear. I’ve learned that the only way I can be successful blogging for a company is if (a) I believe in the company I work for and (b) the company believes in me. Luckily, both of these factors are met with my current gig. I get to write about important SEO issues that both I and the company I’m working for believe in.
But not everyone I spoke to at BlogHer was in that situation.
I think a lot of the reasoning behind why corporations are afraid to let bloggers speak out on topics they may not agree with is because they’re afraid of portraying a fragmented voice. And while I get that, I think it’s a completely outdated way to look at things. I think we’re beyond the days of the “organizational stance” or “organization perspective”. Sure, as a company, you may strive for a certain way of doing things, but you’re blind if you can’t admit that there’s room for dissent. [Robert Scoble’s entire Microsoft tenure was based on precisely the idea that you can be a dissenting individual and a corporate voice at the same time.–Susan] Organizations are made up of people and people are different. We see things in a different way, we respond to things differently, and we want different things. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s beneficial for companies to show that they’re open to a diversity of views and opinions. I don’t for a second think it makes the company weaker.
Obviously there’s a line to be drawn. If you’re Bruce Clay, Inc., you don’t want a blogger advocating black hat search engine optimization because that violates the core of what you do. But I don’t see the harm in talking about different tactics. Maybe I want to write a post about using Twitter for your social media campaign, something Bruce may not be totally sold on just yet. I know that I have the freedom to do that. And if my post is strong, I know Bruce is open-minded enough that I may sway him, or at least open up the door for him to come and chat with me about it.
There’s no reason why you should have to leave your own personal voice and agenda at the door when you sign on to be a blogger for a large corporation. I don’t think you can leave those things behind otherwise, what are you giving people?
It’s tricky, this whole corporate blogging thing because at the end of the day it comes a balancing act of figuring out how to please your audience, your boss and yourself all at the same.
For me, it’s really important that I’m able to represent Bruce Clay, Inc. while still holding on to who I am. I’m not going to argue something or not argue it because it may contradict some of what we believe. I think there’s room for discussion in the search engine optimization industry. And while Bruce may respect that, I know that in some companies there are legal departments breathing down bloggers’ necks monitoring what they write, pushing industry jargon down their throats to help sell a product. If that’s the type of company you’re working for, quit. Just get out. You’re not going to be given the freedom to blog authentically. And without that, what’s the point?
[It’s a good lesson for corporations as well. If you aren’t hiring people who believe the same things you believe, who want the same things you want–or who are, at least, looking in the same direction–what sort of hiring are you doing? Success comes from having people you trust to do the things that are going to make you successful. Hiring a blogger and not letting her be a real person is the fastest way to create an inauthentic experience for customers.–Susan] Amen.