When I first started my advertising agency in the late 80’s I had an opportunity to develop a number of corporate publications for emerging technology companies, among others. Some were true custom magazines, others were traditional newsletters. My team and I worked hard to forge a strategic approach to this extremely tactical vehicle. Whereas our clients were bent on utilizing the vehicle as a mouthpiece that would have been self-aggrandizing, boasty and blatantly promotional, we fought hard to encourage them to let it be a voice of objectivity that provided additional value while reinforcing our clients brand or core message. Many of our clients bought into the concept. We worked hard to find information that would be of interest to our clients’ customers while at the same time related to our clients’ products and/or services. These were in affect, analog blogs. Or, as I refer to them today, anablogs. That is, they were not marketing vehicles in the traditional sense that products were discussed, new products were promoted or case studies of customers’ using our clients products. Rather, they discussed issues related to technologies our clients were involved in.
I remember an article I wrote on HDTV in 1989. The title was “HDTV: Consortium or Confusion”. At the time the major television equipment manufacturers were battling over a number of standards that would ultimately pave the way so that the world could ultimately realize the promise of HDTV. A consortium of manufacturers was attempted. And then failed. Funny. And as a side note, look at consumer electronics today. We still have divergent standards and products on the market are far from mature. The article I wrote discussed non of the clients’ products. Our client, a major distributor of electrical components including Intel, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Siemens, Fujitsu and others.
I watched the custom publishing market rise and then fall. American Express split off a business unit dedicated to developing corporate publications for itself and other companies. Others followed suit.
Today, we have weblogs. And while considered primarily a personal, non-promotional and egalitarian “tool”, you can be assured that corporate America has its eyes focused closely on what has become a pop-culture trend that crosses a number of demo-graphical boundaries. Talking to a close friend who worked with me when I was running an office of a nationally ranked web-development/interactive advertising business, asked me well isn’t this really a website? Hesitating to get into the whole “what is a weblog?” conversation, I replied, “it’s what all websites wanted to be.” I meant that they’d be updated on a regular basis, contain content that was of interest to a select or targeted audience, and were easy to update and change.
So when I followed Docs link courtesy of David Weinberger, I read with interest the article with, that had as Doc put, “a title so blah you’d think Microsoft’s product namers had coined it”, Adapting Blog Technologies to Corporate e-Newsletters . Key to note in the title here is “Blog Technologies”. And if I quickly run through the subheads of Todd Brehe’s article, you’ll find that the benefits he espouses are those benefits we used to tout to our customers in the 90’s trying to convince them to allocate budget and resources to internet initiatives:
- Blogs Are The “Real Voice”
- Blogs Are Simple
- Blogs Empower The Individual
- Blogs Empower The Enterprise
In my conversation with my associate, I eventually had to sum it up in the simplest format possible while trying to explain blogs and blog technologies. I said, “Content Management Made Simple.” I went on to discuss RSS, XML-RPC and the weblog options available.
Point is, Weblogs may have succeeded where corporate marketing websites have failed. That is to communicate a voice that is focused, clear and representative of the organization, to establish a relationship with customers that goes beyond the traditional buyer-seller transaction, to consistently update and provide content that is interesting and provides incentives to customers to return on a regular basis and provides added value through a feedback system that is open and unedited where ideas, concepts and opinions are discussed openly and freely.
I welcome and encourage corporate and consumer marketing companies to embrace weblog technologies and concepts.