Blogs: No substitute for personal communication and trust in the workplace

    June 23, 2005

PR Week published a pretty good piece about policies and guidelines for employee blogging last week.

The article includes much of the type of counsel and advice on why companies should have polices or guidelines that you’d expect to see now, given previous media reporting on this topic as well as the widely-reported examples of companies who have publicly talked about their employee blogging policies, such as Yahoo and IBM.

The key message is – yes, if you enable your employees to blog, make sure you clearly set out the ground rules so that everyone knows how things stand.

One comment in PR Week’s report that I found especially significant – and one I’ve not really seen anyone else talking about – came from Christopher Hannegan, who runs Edelman’s Employee Engagement practice:

[…] Hannegan says that most employees will exhibit common sense when blogging. “For the most part, employees aren’t stupid,” he says. “They know if they post confidential information, they’ll get in trouble for it.” [He] notes that employees are less likely to blog about frustrations with the company if there is another outlet for their frustrations. So facilitating greater employee-manager communication might help alleviate a staff member’s need to vent on the web.

This is a an excellent point to think about when considering all the elements about enabling employees to blog. It highlights a fact about organizations and relationships in the workplace – if you provide people with an outlet to express themselves in an environment where such outlets don’t exist already or are not trusted, the new outlet you provide (in this case, blogs) will likely be used in unexpected ways that don’t bode well for their nurturing and development, nor for good employer-employee relationships.

And remember one crucial thing. Like any other communication tool used by employees, a blog is no substitute or surrogate for the personal communication and trust that must be built and maintained between employees and their direct managers. It’s a relationship that takes some work and requires the willing and active participation of all parties.

Christopher also says this in the PR Week article:

[…] One of the reasons employee blogs have garnered so much attention as a PR tactic, he says, is that employees bring more credibility to the public than a CEO or top-level executive. “People are more likely to identify with [bloggers] if they talk like a regular person,” he says.

It’s a good point, although I don’t think you can say sweepingly that “employees bring more credibility to the public than a CEO or top-level executive.” If you were to say “employees can bring more credibility to the public than many CEOs or top-level executives,” then I’d be more comfortable.

Links: PR Week

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