Personal Blogging Clarified

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Visiting the blog of Amazon.com’s Chief Technology Officer, Werner Vogels, to read his account of a presentation at Amazon by Naked Conversations authors Shel Israel and Robert Scoble (some very interesting commentaries about that – link at Memeorandum), I spotted the clearest employee blog disclaimer I’ve yet seen.

This got me thinking about the still-continuing debate from last weekend about blogger credibility versus authority where making it clear in what capacity the blogger writes on his or her blog – personal opinion or reflecting a company view – is something I don’t think anyone in that debate would disagree with.

So here’s Vogel’s disclaimer:

This is a personal weblog. That means that the opinions voiced here are purely personal and they do not in any way represent the opinions, experiences or directions of my employer Amazon.com. If you take any of the statements on this weblog and use it as an official statement by Amazon.com you are knowingly misleading your audience. For official statements by Amazon.com visit the Amazon.com Virtual Media Room.

If I do write something worth referencing, and you feel strongly about the need to reference my affiliation, you should also mention in your reference that this is my personal weblog: “Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com, mentions on his personal weblog that the Seahawks have a good shot at the Superbowl this year”.

If you can not play by these simple rules, please do not reference this weblog at all.

While precise wording may differ from company to company – and many employee blogs I see do have something like the first two sentences that are in Vogel’s statement – I’d say any employee of any company who blogs in public ought to have such a clear and complete disclaimer as this one. Avoidance of doubt.

Conversely, if that blogger is writing in some official or authoritative capacity, then he or she would reflect that in the appropriate wording.

Assuming a statement such as the above is legally watertight (so a company’s legal counsel would need to be consulted), then it seems very simple to me.

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Neville Hobson is the author of the popular NevilleHobson.com blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: NevilleHobson.com.

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