Bottom Up vs. Top Down Corporate Blogging

    March 23, 2005

As business blogging becomes more widespread, two main approaches have emerged. There are bottom up bloggers and top-down bloggers …

… and then there are a scant few companies who are in between. Each approach is vastly different.

Bottom-up blogging can either start organically or with an edict or blessing of the corporation. Famous bottom-up blogging corporations include Microsoft and Sun. Basically, this is blogging at its best. It’s real employees dishing out the straight dope from the bowels of a corporation. It’s unfiltered, fun and, for many, incredibly risky. However, when done right, bottom-up blogging can change a corporation.

The majority of blogging companies, however, fall into the top-down camp. They devise a blogging strategy with input from execs, communicators, marketers, HR, etc. They deliberately determine who will blog for the company on what subjects at what time and in what place. Famous top-down blogging companies include most major media companies, GM and Cisco.

In the middle are the blogging equivalent of hybrid cars – companies that take a top-down approach but yet also already have or plan to encourage bottom-up blogging. The most notable example here is Yahoo! They have a terrific corporate blog that clearly is a strategic communications tool developed with guidance from Voce Communications. At the same time, however, they have a well-known bottom-up blogger in Jeremy Zawodny.

This week I have been on the road quite a bit pitching several big companies on blogging programs. As I think about what I am working on, most of it is top-down blogging. Ideally, I would love to get to a place where I am working on hybrid projects where we coach a select group of individuals to blog as part of a strategy but also figure out how to leverage individuals in the company who are already using the blogosphere to express their voice.

Given that very few companies are blogging, there probably are not that many firms who can be hybrids. Still, I do think hybrid blogging has perhaps the greatest PR potential. However, there’s an art to it. Advisers need to carefully mix organic blogging with stimulated blogging into a powerful communications cocktail without over mixing the drink. Still, I think all of these strategies have a place. What’s your view?

Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.