Business Week: Blogs are good for business

Business Week has published a detailed commentary in this week’s edition on the benefits of business blogs for organizations and how company executives are finding blogs useful for promoting their businesses as well as their points of view.

The article has clearly captured other business bloggers’ attention as I’ve already seen it highighted on at least half a dozen blogs.

Business Week’s article extensively quotes Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of Sun Microsystems as a firm believer that a blog is a must-have tool for every executive. “It will be no more mandatory that they have blogs than they have a phone and email account,” Schwartz says in the article. “If they don’t, they’re going to look foolish.”

Business Week turns the spotlight on some of the key benefits of business blogs that have been discussion topics for many weeks on communication-related blogs around the world:

  • Blogging helps business executives network, boost sales, and even lobby, at a fraction of the cost of traditional media, and reach a wider audience. “There’s no fundamental difference between giving a keynote speech in Shanghai in front of 30,000 people and doing a blog read by several million people,” Schwartz says. A wider audience isn’t the only potential advantage a blog offers over a speech, though: a writer can tailor his message to a particular audience on a moment’s notice.
  • Blogs enable business executives to tell their side of the story without interference from the media or analysts. “There’s a free market of ideas out there,” says Schwartz. “And I’d rather be driving the dialogue than be run over by it.” While skeptics fear that corporate execs’ blogs would simply post press releases, Schwartz believes that won’t be the case: if writers want their blogs to be read, they need to make them personal and insightful, he says. (Business Weeks adds a caveat: a reader can expect a somewhat one-sided, corporate slant on a business blog. I’d say that view could apply to any form of formal organizational communication.)
  • Blogs give readers the chance to respond. This is one of the most powerful arguments on why blogs are good for business through facilitating direct two-way communication. The article quotes a number of examples where enabling blog visitors to instantly comment on an article has directly resulted in a business benefit. Business Week quotes Tim Draper, the founder of venture-capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in Menlo Park, California, who has been using his blog to discover new business ideas worth funding. “It has become a terrific source of leads,” he says. After reading a slew of mini-pitches, Draper contacted three people whose ideas he especially liked to discuss the proposals further. (Does this imply the leads wouldn’t have emerged without the blog? The article doesn’t say, but what’s clear is that the leads did emerge because of the blog.)
  • Executive blogs will stimulate open communication throughout the organization. This is a classic element in effective communication leadership, where the pointer for the way forward comes from the very top. Once an organization’s leaders start blogging, that sets the route for the way forward which becomes clearer for others in the organization to do the same. Business Week says Microsoft’s employees, including engineers and programmers, already pen more than 700 blogs. I’ve commented on this, too, as have many other blogs. Microsoft is a very good example of using corporate blogs as a new means of engaging with particular audiences. (Interestingly, Business Week quotes a Microsoft spokesman as saying that Bill Gates is considering starting a blog. That’s totally the opposite to an opinion I expressed in a recent post about Microsoft blogs!) Sun expects to start supporting staff blogs within a month, according to Schwartz. Employees won’t be censored, they’ll only be warned against releasing confidential information. “There’s no better ambassador for Sun Microsystems than an employee,” Schwartz says.

In sum, Business Week’s article is a welcome helper in bringing the benefits of business blogs to the attention of a wide, senior-executive mainstream business audience.

Full story: BW Online / August 9, 2004 / Blogging for Business