I woke up this morning to a lot of fawning messages from people in the blogosphere about the new Blog Council, founded by a dozen big companies that generally just don’t have a clue about modern customer relations and marketing: AccuQuote, Cisco Systems, The Coca-Cola Company, Dell, Gemstar-TV Guide, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, and Wells Fargo.
Let’s read their press release (press release about a blogging group?) to get a sense of what they’re doing:
“The Blog Council exists as a forum for executives to meet one another in a private, vendor-free environment and share tactics, offer advice based on past experience, and develop standards-based best practices as a model for other corporate blogs.”
My translation: “we’re all clueless, but don’t want anyone to realize just how unplugged our organizations have become from the world of “marketing 2.0″, so we created a club so our ignorance can be shielded from public eyes.”
Alright, that’s probably a bit harsh, I admit, but having helped organize the terrific Blogworld Expo last month in Las Vegas, why weren’t these companies there? We had over a thousand of the smartest trend-setting bloggers and new media people in the world all neatly in one place. That’s how you learn, guys, from talking with the best in the business — and everyone else — not by hiring an expensive consultant to have discussions behind closed doors.
The Council is headed by Andy Sernovitz, formerly of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, an organization that also seems not to have realized that the power is with the people, the grassroots, and that “word of mouth marketing” is so darn ambiguous that it can describe just about anything anyone does, including buying coffee for a colleague or giving the boss a ride from the auto shop (I’ve written about this ambiguity before. See: Bogus word of mouth marketing projections).
Also worthy of note is that the blogcouncil site is ostensibly a blog (it lists “comments” and “trackbacks”) but there is in fact no way to leave a comment that I can find, and the trackbacks count is clearly broken since I know of a number of blogs that are already pointing to their entries. Is this modern corporate “safe” blogging? And listing the author of each entry as “blog council” rather than individual contributors? These are worst practices, not best practices.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I want to believe. I really do want to support the new Blog Council and do want to believe that large corporations like Coca-Cola should be involved in the blogosphere. I just think that the very structure of modern corporations, with their managing to quarterly results, CYA tactics and massive aversion to risk, is the very antithesis of blogging and any word of mouth anything. They’re all conditioned (thanks to business school, and yes, I have an MBA so I know of what I speak) to control the message, which makes it darn hard to have anything interesting to say to the online community.
Indeed, as has been demonstrated time and again, it’s Madison Avenue, specifically the small, nimble, edgy marketing and PR agencies that are really the only hope that large corporations have of getting involved in modern social media and the blogosphere in any meaningful — and interesting — manner. These agencies might stumble occasionally (as I have written about many times) but they’re trying new things and they can afford to take risks in a way that larger corporations, publicly traded entities, simply cannot.
So what do you think? Is the Blog Council going to a milestone in the adoption of blogging and new media by major corporations, or is it a sleeper organization that’s going to come and go, leaving behind a few press releases and a Web site that gradually fades away?