Josh Bernoff, an analyst at Forrester Research, just sent me his latest report on corporate blogs. He pegged his write-up to a U.S. consumer survey whereby participants scored corporate blogs low on trust:
Corporate blogs rank at the bottom of the trust scale with only 16% of online consumers who read them saying that they trust them. Furthermore, the consumers who say they trust these blogs are the most likely to trust all other sources of information.
Here’s how I responded on Josh’s blog: While the data selected to base the report are great for generating a headline, they’re mostly irrelevant. Blogs are a both a communications channel AND a medium. Their value are not proxied well by prompted survey questions among general consumer populations. Their value is defined by the trust developed among engaged niches over time — such as with very specific customer and industry relationships. Here’s an analogy: Do you trust telephones? No. But you may eventually build trust with the people with whom you talk and do business with via the telephone.
Former Forrester analyst Peter Kim expressed similar sentiment:
First of all, there’s a clear problem in how the question is worded and/or response quality. You can see this in the data – almost a quarter of respondents report they don’t trust or are neutral about email from people they know. The intention of the question is clear – so why would this number not be very close to 100%? When I ran the question before, it asked about advertising in the channels. This version requires respondents to respond with their own interpretation – might be editorial, might be ads, who knows?
So the numbers are what they are. You still have three variables mixed together that should be isolated and potentially produce a strong case for “why.” There’s channel, content type, and creator – examining these more closely will lead you in the right direction. The Edelman Trust Barometer does a great job here. So does Universal McCann’s Tracking survey.
The unfortunate part about the data and headline chosen to ground this analysis is that it preceded and overshadowed some great principles that businesses should consider in their blogging strategies, such as:
- Blog about the customerâ€™s problem.
- Blog to your hordes of fans.
- Blog about issues at the core of a community.
- Blog because youâ€™re a celebrity.
- For B2B companies, get your employees in on the act.
- In media, use blogs to expand the content and audience.
- Blog to have a voice.
Finally, the report noted the importance of developing a succession plan for employee brands/blogs that eventually leave a company. Josh cited me as an example, referring to my departure from Nielsen BuzzMetrics (aka Nielsen Online) last year. On the issue of tension between company and personal brands, itâ€™s a double-edged sword. But thereâ€™s far more benefit than risk because customers simply want relationships with brands PLUS the people behind them. Itâ€™s inevitable that the two will have to co-exist, and there are best practices that company brands and employee brands must adhere to. As for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, my departure simply means there’s one more independent, credible advocate in the marketplace. Is that bad? I don’t think so!