Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is It "Unpure" for Corporate Blogs To Be Collaborative?

Are blogs sacrosanct documents that are written and seen by only one person, posted and then left on the Intenet as untouchable history?

Some blogging purists think so. One we know was disturbed when we decided to go back to a post of a day earlier and change some language that was, in our view, both dogmatic and inaccurate. “Blogs should not be changed,” he said.

Imagine this gentleman’s reaction to a recent survey by a Brit writer who claims to have done a “postal survey” of 750 blogging business executives in the U.S., UK, Australia and South Africa. He reports that 83 percent of the bloggers had their work written or drafted by someone else, although they approved the text before it was published.

Is this study legitimate? The Davis web site gives no way to verify his claims and you can check it out to see it if raises your suspicions. We’re skeptical about the large number of busy execs who allegedly would take the time to answer a mailing. And isn’t is strange that it was a “postal” survey and not emailed?

Whether or not it is credible, the survey addresses a real issue in corporate blogging: the lack of a universal definition of blogging integrity.

Some argue that all blogs should be classic “web logs,” or personal diaries – even of business people – and they should be authentic and strictly authored by one person, reflecting that person’s view on the day it was posted. Anything else – including reviews and revisions by others before posting or any changes after posting – amounts to misleading and probably dishonest activity, they say.

But consider the many speeches by business executives and government officials that include personal reflections, including memorable State of the Union addresses by U.S. presidents with misty-eyed references to meetings with regular folks or service personnel who moved the commander-in-chief to stirring oratory. Does anyone really believe such words never passed under the nose of speech writers and aides?

Are personal speeches written (at least in part) by someone else dishonest or misleading?

Of course not.

In our direct speech-writing experiences, we always spent considerable time with the executive to understand his or her theme, points and tone. Then there was back and forth collaboration until the executive was comfortable with the talk. When the speech is given –- or “posted” – the executive in fact becomes the author. The speech is hers.

As corporate blogging takes hold, the issues of ghost-written and previously-reviewed blogs probably will undergo great discussion. If an employee blogger agrees to let someone else in the company review his blog, is that “censorship” or giving the blogger the benefit of another pair of eyes?

In our view, if the primary blogger is comfortable with getting assistance in presenting a blog that accurately reflects her thoughts and views – and also keeps her out of trouble – the blogging world will accept that blog as authentic.

If such posts are effective and widely-read but the purists still attack them as not “real” blogs, and if that happens to any great degree, the web world simply will come up with another name for something good that works.

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