I read your recent columns on blogging as a marketing tool and I wondered how something like a blog might be of use for internal communications.--C.C., Naperville, Ill.
As a tool for cost-conscious small businesses, employee communication blogs can be extremely useful, experts say. Employees can generate the content, as opposed to having a third party interview employees and write the stories for a company newsletter. There is no added cost with each new issue, as there is with a print newsletter. And once you have the blogging tool in place and employees know how to use it, content can be updated as frequently, or infrequently, as is desired.
There are other choices for businesses that communicate internally using the Internet, says Teresa Valdez Klein of Blog Business Summit. "There are three options at present: e-mail, some kind of 'workflow management' software, or an internal blog. E-mail communications can quickly degenerate into a maze of attachments, cc's, and bcc's. Even the best workflow management systems can be cumbersome and frustrating.
"Internal blogs are certainly not perfect, but they're incredibly easy to use by comparison," Klein says. "New developments can be posted and categorized for easy cross-referencing. Discussion can take place in the comments section, and documents can be edited communally using Wiki software. What's more, a new team member can quickly get up to speed on any project by simply reading the blog."
However, because blogs are bottom-up in nature, they sometimes require a change in thinking about employee communications, says Jeneane Sessum, a social media consultant based in Atlanta. The traditional top-down communication approach, where the CEO or HR manager pushes policies and procedures out to employees, can be subverted by an internal blog, which is communal by nature.
An employee blog will serve more as a "...centralized talking space for company news and views, customer wins, etc.," Sessum explains. "Blogs put the nexus of control, at least from a communication standpoint, in the hands of employees, thereby empowering them. At the same time, because internal blogs remain within the firewall, they are a good venue for honest communication and collaboration in a relatively safe environment for businesses that are just getting used to the idea of blogging and may view it as sort of renegade."
You can structure your company blog several ways. As the CEO, you or another executive could start a blog and invite communication from and about employees. Or, you can set up separate team blogs that centralize information by division. You can even encourage and train employees in how to set up their own individual blogs. "Internal blogs can serve to 'de-silo' information, even within smaller companies," notes Toby Bloomberg of Bloomberg Marketing.
"The lines of communication between departments can be difficult to maneuver. Blogs can be a means to easily share information that might not be perceived as relevant to one department, but critical to another. An added benefit is that informal team-building occurs naturally. There is ongoing personal communication, so people begin to know and understand folks from areas of the company they might not have had a lot of contact with."
Bloomberg adds a word of caution: "Although it's not a top-down strategy, unless management and the company culture support this type of informal communication it is set to fail before the first word is posted. It's critical that the company provide training and encouragement, especially in the beginning stages."
Blog Business Summit, Klein's firm, is scheduled to host a conference where experts will discuss how internal blogs can help businesses. The conference will be held Oct. 25-27 in Seattle. More information is available at her site blogbusinesssummit.com.
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