Are Weblogs a Threat or Opportunity?


Kathleen Goodwin, CEO of iMakeNews and chair of this conference is moderating a panel on \\"Are Weblogs a Threat or Opportunity?\\" Panelists are:

  • Rick E. Bruner, President, Executive Summary Consulting, Inc.
  • Michael O'Connor Clarke, Senior Vice President, Weber Shandwick (Canada)
  • Beth Goza, Community Lead, Windows Client Team, Microsoft Corporation
  • Jeff Mooney, Director, Content Product Management and Educational Services, MediaMap
  • Carin Warner, President, Warner Communications

Beth Goza, from Microsoft, says that the only marketing strategy that a company ought to have with regards to blogs is to have not strategy. By this she means that having employees have conversations about your products in their own voice isn't something you can plan and box in. Rick Bruner cautions that blogging doesn't have to be about ranting and big personality. Value can be created by layering in context and analyzing in a utilitarian style. Michael and Kathleen both disagree and say that personality is important. They say blogs need a compelling voice. Dan Bricklin (in the audience) says that expertise is also important. I think there's a continuum there. Some blogs are all expertise and not much personality. Other blogs are all personality and not much expertise. There's a balance there that we're not likely to agree on here.

Beth makes the point that blogs are the "anti-popup." Its pull, not push. You have to attract readership through value. Blogs are good for companies because they require the company (marketing and PR) to write compelling content rather than just shouter (via advertising dollars) than the others. Jeff brings up a related point: how do you measure success? Is it just readers? Is it hits? Is it sales? Carin says "you don't need to measure everything." I agree---you only need to measure those things you care about.

Someone in the audience makes the point that you get an ROI very quickly because the cost is low and it doesn't take much audience reach to justify it.

Kathleen asks how you keep a blog timely. Beth answers that to be a blogger means to be part of a community. That keep its timely. This points out the danger of trying to plan and think about this too much. If you're just trying to game the system, you won't be part of the community and you'll be talking about things and people won't be listen. Dan Bricklin says that blogs are a conversation which is a way to summarize Beth's comments. Carin suggests that corporations should offer a forum for their customers to "blog" about their experiences. I'm not sure how you do this and really make it a blog rather than just a email forum. Maybe something like Slash would work. Are companies ready to have their customers tell them what they think? The real danger is that the people most likely to participate are those with an ax to grind. Some things are unique, however: Kathleen suggests that Symantec has users who are experts in viruses. Could those people be harnessed?

A big battle erupts over the word "pitch." Carin about takes Michael's head off over a comment he makes about people (bloggers) not wanting to be "pitched." The audience comes to Michael's defense saying that in general "pitch" sounds like something you don't want to have happen to you. Users don't want to be educated they want to learn. Blogging is specifically not pitching. If you're passionate about something, write it in a blog and use the pull method that Beth talked about earlier.

Beth is a star. She is honest, open, and really fresh. I enjoyed listening to her and found her comments to be both well though-out and witty. Bill Gates should give her a raise. :-)