What's the secret to becoming the No. 1 best-read corporate blogger on the Web? According to Robert Scoble, whose blog gets an astounding 3.5 million visitors per month, you must first work in a camera store and treat customers right.
Scoble was the keynote speaker at the conference "Blogging Goes Mainstream: Is Your Company Ready?" presented today in New York by the Business Development Institute. The May 3 event attracted 150+ attendees who were corporate PR professionals, corporate marketers, PR professionals, bloggers (at least 50) and the media.
|If you would like to listen to the event online, the webcast will be archived for 120 days, thanks to the Business Development Insitute and PR Newsire. You may click here to listen at any time http://www.videonewswire.com/event.asp?id=28562. |
"Blogging is newest technology to help people communicate better, like the telephone," said Steve Etzler, a BDI founder. "Blogs allow big companies like Microsoft and Chrysler provide an interactive platform with a human face on it, humanizing the company. The communications process being turned on its head. Good riddance to the old spin-doctor press release, and hello to the honest bloggers out there telling the truth."
Scoble is a "technology evangelist" for Microsoft and his Scobleizer blog has singlehandedly changed the face of MSFT from Darth Vader to his cheery, blond, bespectacled face. Though a company employee, his blog is so powerful that he can criticize the company CEO, Steve Ballmer in public, and get away with it. I spoke on a panel with Bob and told him in front of the crowd that he is so well-known, that not even Bill Gates can risk firing him.
How did reach such ethereal heights among the 1,500 bloggers who work for Microsoft? It began when he worked in a camera store in Silicon Valley and said nice things about his main competitor. Scoble also memorized the products and prices of his own store and his competitor. He was an expert on cameras and would tell customers his price and his competitor's prices. "The fact that I was an authority on the marketplace got more people to come back to my store. They trusted me," he said. "Being an authority means you tell the whole story.
"I went to a winery in Sonoma Valley, and asked where else I should go. The owner of the store created a whole map for me; I came back that night and bought a case of wine from him. He was somebody who was excited about his product and treated me like a human being, as opposed to someone to be marketed to."
Those are the principles he applies to his blog. He posts from 5 to 20 times a day, and his target audience is computer geeks. "I write in a blink style, right from the head and it comes out," he said.
After a stint with the Userland Software blogging company, he got hired by Microsoft. Before he started out he wrote his "Corporate Weblog Manifesto." "I wrote it as a note to myself, to remember my principles," he said.
He started out quietly, writing safe posts on topics the company wanted publicized. Then he took some risks, and even criticized some Microsoft products. "I did some things that I apologized for later," he said. Luckily, MSFT has a culture that tolerates dissent and he kept his job. He also never made stupid mistakes to get himself fired, like disclosing company financial information (like Mark Jen, ex-Google) or putting up racy pictures (like ex-Delta flight attendant Ellen Simonetti) or describing the drunks at the office holiday party (like Heather Armstrong of dooce.com).
"I was building a relationship network that will keep me employed. It's a way of starting a new conversation and take the company in a new direction. There's a lot of benefits from getting into this new blog world."
"Corporate culture is viewed by many as a line you cannot step over. But actually it's a membrane that you can push," he said. "You can push it and it'll snap back. If you have a relationship network that's holding you in place, you won't get pushed back and you will change the corporate culture."
And he succeeded. He changed the corporate culture at Microsoft, changed its public image and made himself the top corporate blogger in the country.