Robert Scoble, Microsoft blog evangelist & publisher of one the most widely read business blogs, Scobleizer and Shel Israel, a publicist and PR consultant for over 20 years are writing a book on why–and how– businesses should blog. As you’d expect the book is taking shape with input from the blogging community on a blog entitled Red Couch (couch at Scoble’s home where Israel was sitting when idea for book was dreamed up).
The first chapter is up on the blog for your review. I loved reading it. I eat up books about dramatic changes in the way society does things and how those who do not adapt are left behind – especially so when the premise is based on common sense. I felt the same way back in 1996 when I read about the impact the Internet would have. Here’s some highlights I thought innovative lawyers and legal marketing professionals would really appreciate. (emphasis added)
Every few years, something comes along to change the way everything is. In the middle 1990s, it was the Internet. Previously, email, computer networks, PCs, fax machines and copiers altered our lives. The continuum of change extends all the way back through TVs, phones, trains, the telegraph, electricity, the printing press perhaps to when the wheel was first rolled out.
Each time, society is separated by those who adapted and moved forward and those who ignored it and were left behind. In the beginning, early adopters themselves don’t see the enormous breeches to the status quo that inevitably follow fundamental changes. They don’t come instantly, but slowly, steadily over time. During the span of what is usually several years, doomed company executives continue to believe things are going along just fine. Companies that succumb to blogging will probably never see it as the smoking gun that did them in.
Blogging is one of those ‘somethings.’ It is vital and strategic to the future of business.
[Blogging] is necessary because it gives companies and constituencies direct interaction between each other. It is necessary because the other communications tools—press releases, ads, banners, websites, brochures, PowerPoint presentations are all irreparably broken. People neither believe nor trust the slickness of corporate materials and spokespeople.
People on most business levels and in all kinds of companies blog. They become more credible because they speak in their own words. They demonstrate that their company contains real people doing real jobs and trying their best to satisfy customer needs.
They share only two things—passion and authority. The result is blogging has become the best way for your company to get attention, promote product adoption, get press coverage and build loyal customer bases.
Yes, there are risks to blogging. You let go of the centralized control of message, irate employees can use blogs to cause the same kinds of damage they do elsewhere, people can leave angry comments on your blog for others to see.
But there is far greater danger in not blogging. To not blog today can find you facing the same fate as the village blacksmith of the last century. Ask a leading bike lock manufacturer who ignored posting on how his product could be picked, or a Silicon Valley computer games maker who didn’t pay attention to posted complaints of employee abuse or Dan Rather who stuck to his guns not realizing they were pointed at him.
Marketing began in simpler times, as medieval merchants strived to build their reputations in their immediate communities. There was always a little hyperbole, or blarney, mixed in, but merchants understood that what people said about you was critical to business. But, over time, new technologies began to expand merchant reach beyond the conversations in their immediate communities. It started with Gutenberg helping artisans and theater producers. It became spam, billboards and radio ads -it became pop ups that blocked your view on a Web page. Messages got louder, more frequent and less credible, and conversational aspects were eclipsed. Business perceptions of customers were reduced to ‘sticky eyeballs’ or spreadsheet tallies. Support went from an opportunity to build customer loyalty to an overhead cost to be reduced. Branding definitions descended from concepts trust, to designing larger logos in banner ads.
Blogs have come to prominence just when so much else has failed. Today, they are the best way to make your company more profitable, grow faster, or get your product more rapidly adopted. They are a kinder, gentler, more polite and therefore more effective way to reach people who matter to your company – most likely you won’t find a blog unless you search for it. They chip away at the glossy patinas that so many companies have placed around themselves, in efforts to project illusions of infallibility.
Blogs open little windows into companies where observers can see real people doing real work, trying hard and occasionally failing and trying again until they succeed. These people talk in the language most of us use in general conversations. They seek the advice of their readers and they use it. The readers end up in their corners, supporting people in the company. There is a direct interaction, a mutual respect, running on two-way streets.
Blogging uses the most advanced tools of the Information Age to restore a dynamic so highly valued in the Old World—the simple conversation. Back in the 1980s, co-author Robert Scoble helped manage a Silicon Valley camera store. Back then, 80% of his customers came by word of mouth recommendations. People who would tell Scoble, ‘my friend told me about you.’ But to reach the other 20 percent of their customers, the store advertised on the radio and placed Yellow Page ads, effecting a much higher cost. They had to do this because word-of-mouth simply couldn’t scale.
Blogging is the first technology to change all that. It has scaled word-of-mouth scale from person-to-person chats in lunchrooms, on golf courses, and in family-rooms to global proportions. Word-of-mouth, always more credible than broadcast, is now more efficient through innovations of the last decade— instant messages, email messages, and now blogs.
Blogs are the oxygen for building word-of-mouth-marketing fires. Entire companies and movements are building this way. Quick: name a single advertisement you’ve seen for Google. You haven’t. They don’t do any advertising. Most likely a friend told you about them. Same for Amazon. Jeff Bezos, the guy who started Amazon, is famous for not running advertising and, instead, finding ways to get people to talk about Amazon. Not to mention a browser named Firefox. They got 25 million downloads in a few months. How? Mostly by extremely positive word-of-mouth on blogs amplified by the main-stream media who were following blogs.
Why does blogging work, even as other communications mechanisms fail? Part of it is style. Quite simply, people respond better to lowered voices spoken in credible tones than they do to the aggressive in-your-face marketing-speak that prevails almost everywhere else. People listen better and longer when you just talk to them and listen back. Blogging refuses to become just another marketing channel into which can cram the same old static stuff posted on websites and in press releases. Your marcom manager should only post a blog on what its like to be a marcom manager and your CEO and product manager should speak for themselves on their own postings speaking just for themselves and not for the entire company. Each of you should speak in language that is not polished, refined or inflated.
Look forward to getting my hands on the whole book.