PR policy for Microsoft blogger

Robert Scoble is undoubtedly the most high-profile and best-known Microsoft employee blogger – if not the best-known business-technology blogger, period – certainly in business and technology blogging circles and in the media.

Robert’s blog Scobleizer and his link blog Scoble present reliable and trusted sources of rich information about what’s going on at Microsoft as well as an incredible amount of valuable news, information and links on what’s happening in the wider biz/tech world. His blogs are a must-include in the blogroll and RSS webfeeds of any serious business blogger.

Robert is one of about 1,000 Microsoft employees who publicly blog (the actual number’s hard to pin down accurately) and it’s a reflection of the company’s relationships with employees and its open style and culture that so many employees do publicly blog with considerable freedom. There’s a clear business benefit in enabling its people to reach out via their blogs and connect with customers, developers, partners, media, etc – all the multiple audiences that make up the infrastructure of the new participatory communication environment.

There’s also risk for any company (and for the employee, for that matter: the recent Friendster employee firing case is a relevant example) where an employee publicly blogs, gets extremely well known and increasingly quoted in other blogs and in the media on what he says, all without clear guidelines on what can or cannot be discussed. Informality and common sense are great, but in the case of Robert and Microsoft, clearly such a high profile means some formality now has to enter the stage.

So it comes as little surprise to me to learn that Robert has now been brought into the official public relations framework at Microsoft regarding speaking with the media.

In a post on his blog last night, Robert says, “I need to put out a press policy. Yeah, I’m in trouble with the press. I haven’t been answering them back and have been forwarding them off to our public relations agency, Waggener Edstrom. I feel bad about that, and need to make it clearer. I will not grant any more interviews unless Waggener Edstrom is contacted first and asks me to grant an interview.” Robert has included a press FAQ on his blog.

In answer to a question about why he can write a blog but can’t grant interviews, he says:

I am writing in the public and everyone has equal access to the information I post in the public. If I grant interviews, that means I’m treating one person or corporation better than another. Not good.”

And, re writing on his blog and whether this an official Microsoft position:

“My writings here are not vetted by Microsoft, and are not official. Often they aren’t even correct (although I do try to be as correct as possible and will correct mistakes when I learn that I made one).”

Employee public blogging is a tricky tightrope to walk, one that will increasingly be so for organizations as they embrace blogging as part of their strategic communication channels, or as employees simply become bloggers and momentum grows.

Far better to make things as clear as possible at the outset with clear policies. This is not about command and control (heaven forbid!) – it’s all about building solid foundations in the new participatory communication environment.

Having said that, I do hope that Robert’s inimitable personal style continues and doesn’t get pushed into some restrictive corporate box. Time will soon tell.

Scobleizer | Hugh calls me a “trogger” – my new policy on press interviews

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