Consider the blog by golf equipment company TaylorMade-Adidas golf, which launched about 18 months ago. When bloggers want to mention a particular golf club, the legal department wants a symbol–an ‘R’ in a circle–to appear next to the product name, to indicate that it’s a registered trade name, said Jason Woodmansee, manager, global e-marketing, TaylorMade-Adidas golf.
The problem, said Woodmansee, is that no one writes that way in casual conversation–especially bloggers. Including the symbol would violate one of Woodmansee’s principal rules for corporate bloggers: “Be authentic.”
Authenticity and corporations are like oil and water — companies employ armies of lawyers to guard against the liabilities of “authenticity.”
TaylorMade-Adidas is a great case study in how corporate blogging is so much harder the blogging hype-masters make it sound. Jason Woodmansee should be commended for taking the leap, but if an agency was advising him on the blogging thing, well, shame on them.
Here is Jason’s response (scroll down to the bottom of the comments) to the deluge of customer questions that showed up in the comments on the TaylorMade-Adidas product blog:
To be honest, we expected the Ã¢â‚¬Å“commentsÃ¢â‚¬Â to be comments, not specific questions like these, and it has been hard for us to keep up. Many of the questions asked are probably better suited to our customer service department, or the answers are found elsewhere on our website.
Nonetheless, this process has helped us immensly with what kind of information people are looking for, and we are working hard to come up with ways to help people better understand our clubs and how to select equipment.
Hang in there Ã¢â‚¬â€ this is new for all of us, and we are honestly trying to find a way to make this work.
Again, Jason appears to be doing a great job with the learning curve, but I can’t help wondering whether there was some Steve Rubel-like blog evangelist (if not Steve himself) who advised Jason on corporate blogging and who FAILED to warn him that this would happen.
On the same OMMA panel, David Carter of iUpload provided a refreshing reality check on corporate blogging:
In a departure from the notion that blogs are supposed to be freewheeling, Carter said he advises corporations that they need to exert control over their bloggers’ posts. Blogs, he said, are a vehicle to get a company’s message to the public. “In the corporate world, they’re about ‘The Man,'” Carter said.
Scoble and the other 2500 Microsoft employees who blog do it on their own time, discussing what they choose to discuss. On more than one occassion, Micrposoft PR has infrmed bloggers of upcoming news and has asked them to participate in issues. But Microsoft cannot direct their blogging army to become part of some integrated marketing campaign to take on a cmpetitor.
How ironic that he said this just before the Scoble/Vista fiasco. So we’ve got the Scoble loose canon model at one extreme and at the other, we have the true corporate blog that is completely hamstrung in operating like a “real” blog.
My previous post pondered why blogging didn’t feature prominently in Microsoft’s marketing plan for going mano-a-mano with IBM, to which Mathew Ingram responded:
Blogs are a way of increasing interactivity between people, not between companies. Companies donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read blogs.
This encapsulates so much of why corporate blogging is hard. “Companies” need to behave predictably, unlike people, for the sake of Wall Street and their shareholders. For companies and people to connect through blogging, companies will need to become a lot more human — advocates of corporate social responsibility can tell you how hard that transition is.
Of course, in Microsoft’s case, the Scoble loose canon model is still better than the Steve Ballmer lunkhead model — can you imagine Ballmer blogging? You could only read the blog on a Windows PC using IE, etc.