September 11, 2009

Why corporate blogging is like selling uncut cocaine

Or, why your company should tell its own story before letting others cut it up

cokeDavid SparkMy company, Spark Media Solutions, is based on the premise that every business has the capability of being its own media network. Given the endless tools for cheap to free production and distribution of content, there’s absolutely no reason a business must rely on others to tell their story. Yet for some demented reason, it’s still unbelievably difficult trying to convince corporations to do just that. Tell your own story. Businesses ingrained with the culture of “corporate communications” feel far more comfortable going through the traditional channels of PR firms, journalists, and bloggers.

Why would you allow the fate and success of your company to be based only on hoping that someone publishes your story correctly? Why not tell your story yourself? All of the people that companies traditionally rely on to tell their story (e.g., PR pros, journalists, bloggers) are not on the payroll. They have no choice but to hear your company’s story through a chain of communications. The net result is your story is published and distributed second-, third-, or fourth-hand.

You can’t avoid it, traditional corporate communications is cutting up your story

When you go through the “traditional” routes of corporate communications, you dilute your story with every single layer, often delivering a watered-down product. Here’s a standard corporate communications process:

  • Company pursues PR firm to represent company.
  • Company discusses communications strategy with PR firm.
  • Company educates PR firm on their products, services, and customers.
  • While initial press release content may be approved by company, PR firm represents company and pitches journalists and bloggers on company’s products and services.
  • Journalist/Blogger may take that information directly and write a piece on the company or just make a mere mention of the company.
  • OR journalist/blogger requests an interview directly from a company or customer spokesperson and writes a piece. Original unedited interview is not published.

Why do corporations willingly give their audience cut information? For a cocaine dealer it makes perfect sense. The content (cocaine) is the product they’re selling. If they can dilute it, then they can make more and therefore sell more product. But for a company the information they communicate is the tool they use to sell their products and services. Of course they want that information out in as many places as possible, but when you play this telephone game with your company’s information, you’re putting your fate in other people’s hands.

Give your audience the good stuff, uncut

The reason I hear the phrase “We have no time to blog” is because companies think everything else they do is providing more value to the company than blogging could. They don’t realize how much more value blogging could provide than what they’re currently doing. And it doesn’t necessarily require more time. For example, content written in a private email can often be edited to make a valuable blog post. Since you’re writing it anyway, the effort is already being extended. All you have to do is shift the point of publication (email to blog) and distribution (SMTP to web/blog/RSS).

Paul Levy, CEO of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has made a name for himself and his hospital with his blog “Running a Hospital,” where he talks about improving the operations at the BIDMC, reducing errors, keeping people healthy, and the overall state of health care in the United States.

A video from Paul Levy’s Running a Hospital blog.

I’m often told by C-level employees that they have no time to blog. Yet Levy seems to find the time. When I asked Levy about balancing his CEO duties with blogging, he didn’t think there shouldn’t be a distinction between the two. “If one of your jobs as CEO of an organization is to represent that organization before the public with traditional venues being newspapers, speeches, lectures, and the like, then use of social media is a logical extension of that corporate responsibility of the CEO. The outreach potential is excellent plus you can express your point of view not being filtered by reporters, or editors, or whatever,” Levy said. Read my full article and listen to my audio interview with Levy on how his public blogging presence has brought enormous benefits to the hospital.

Make your company blog the centerpiece of your efforts

This article is not designed as a call to fire your PR firm. Rather I want companies to see the enormous value of having their own channel, such as a blog, for telling your own story. It should be the first and foremost place where you should place your company’s communications efforts and dollars. Press releases don’t tell stories — blogs do. The second avenue for storytelling should be the corporate communications channel of PR firms, journalists, and bloggers. Of course you’ll want to distribute your story to as many people as possible. The point of having that blog first is so that everyone knows where the REAL story is, the uncut one.

“Corporate blogging” is not an evil phrase, as many have stereotyped it to be. Unfortunately, research firms such as Forrester are still promoting that stereotype. Read my article “Social media research is chock full of leading questions.”David Spark, a partner in, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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5 thoughts on “Why corporate blogging is like selling uncut cocaine

  1. I think you are right David. We tend to race ahead of clients, picking up on the next social media technique without putting down our roots or realising a lot of clients can benefit from a technology and practice that is 6 or 7 years old. Blogging still has a huge amount to offer companies.

  2. At, we provide turn key blogging services for business and corporate clients. We do writing around keyword research and mix in pillar posts, much deeper writing. Many times the client will provide these deep articles. We optimize the sites for maximum SEO and indexing. And we promote them. We have real success stories. We constantly hear, "we don't have time for blogging". We Blog For You,