Below is a project milestone document, our extended Table of Contents. This, the most vital component of our publisher's package tells what we intend to put in the book itself. The chapters will come alive down the line, after we have determined what case studies to actually use--we plan to use lots of them.
What we now ask is for your review of the TOC and please--do not be gentle. We want to write a book that stands out in the increasing pack of books being written about blogging.
While receiving your comments, Robert will continue tweaking the competitive analysis that he posted yesterday and I will circle back to the previously published Overview, to incorporate many of the fine comments we received way back in mid-December.
One other note--please don't tell Robert that I changed the subtitle for our book. I want to surprise him and that company he works for.
Title: "Blog or Die --If blogging can improve Microsoft’s image, think of what can it do for yours?"
Note: Most chapters will contain one or more case studies illustrating these chapter summaries. Specific cases will be selected later on. The authors have compiled a list of nearly 50 so far. We anticipate many more from Red Couch blogsite readers.
1. Scoble’s First Microsoft Dollar
In 2002, Robert Scoble attended a Microsoft “Most-Valued Partners” event at Microsoft’s headquarters, representing his employer at that time. In keynote remarks, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer challenged participants for ideas; "Give me a good one and I‘ll give you a buck. I’ll even sign it.” Scoble suggested Microsoft speak in “a more human voice,” and thus, Ballmer awarded Scoble his first Microsoft dollar.
Six months later, Scoble would join Microsoft as one of the company's 300 technology evangelists. Placed in the mid-level of the 57,000-person organization, seven tiers beneath the company’s chairman, neither Scoble nor Microsoft had any idea of how each were about to transform the other. A year later, Scoble would be the best-known voice of the new “more human” Microsoft. By day, he’d walk around the Redmond campus, armed with a camcorder, interviewing company technologists on myriad software projects, posting the video interviews on the new Channel 9 developer’s blog. At night, Scoble would prolifically blog on any technology-related subject. At times, he championed his employer. At others, he’d be among Redmond’s harshest critics. Sometimes, he advised readers to visit competitors’ sites or even to download or buy competing products. He had no idea how his superiors would respond, but they did nothing to stop it, so he just kept on, posting as many as 40 times a day. He knew that Microsoft’s PR agency and in-house marketing technicians wanted to muzzle—or at least filter him—but they never received the authority to do so.
The result was twofold: (1) the unfettered Scoble emerged to become one of the best-known and most highly regarded members of Microsoft’s organization. (2) Microsoft, a company whose public image was among the worst of any company, started to see public hostility diminish. Just the fact that Microsoft’s senior powers allowed Scoble to continue helped moved theneedle toward favorability. As of today, there are over 1,300 Microsoft blogging employees, each giving outsiders insight into the internal workings of this huge, controversial company.
But, “Blog or Die” is not just about Scoble and Microsoft. Rather, it is an attempt to share what the author has learned along the way; to take his experiences and demonstrate how they apply to businesses of all sizes, in all places. Likewise, Blog or Die will not champion Microsoft, nor will it examine the company's historic virtues and vices.
Rather, the book champions blogging in nearly all business environments, suggesting that if the rapidly emerging technology helped an entity as controversial as Microsoft, become better understood and even more trusted, then it is highly likely to help almost any other company.
2. Blog or Die
This chapter lays out the book’s central premise. Blogging is following the same patterns of adoption as has nearly all disruptive technologies since the industrial revolution. Used and championed by a handful of technically sophisticated champions, the word spread to ever increasing hordes of users through grassroots word of mouth. But blogging has grown faster than anything that preceded it. By January 2005, less than five years after its inception, 10 percent of all Americans read blogs, an increase of up 60 percent in less than a year, according to Pew Research. The full number of blogs is probably about 10 million, up from 100,000 two years ago.
The number of people blogging to improve a business is certainly much smaller today. Like every technology revolution, however, businesses large and small are the latest adopters. But bloggers are being found in all levels of business from Fortune 50 boardrooms to local merchants and home office consultants. The chapter looks at bloggers in: General Motors; at Coca Cola; in professional sports ownership; at an ailing Silicon Valley company fighting for its identity and at a New England sign maker, and more.
Businesses today are facing a series of decisions that will impact the fiber of their business on multiple levels. Incumbents who ignore blogging will have the same result as companies that ignored the Internet—they will be replaced by new, wiser challengers. There are cases of a bicycle accessories maker who nearly perished by ignoring the Blogosphere, and a large Silicon Valley employer who ignored the charges posted by an indignant spouse of an employee. Not only must companies adopt blogging, but also they must adhere to a new set of rules that prevent them from using blogging as just anther channel to communicate the same messages in the same language and at the same time as in other channels.
3. Word-of-Mouth Engines
We are all today besieged during our waking hours by all sorts of message intruders attempting to influence our choices in the movies we attend, the cars we buy, where we eat, how we vote and so on. In our own defense, we have built personal filters, trying to immunize ourselves to persistent, often obnoxious intrusions. Marketing noise, along with issues of governance, knowingly selling unsafe products, and using off-shored support programs have made most people mistrust corporations and large organizations.
By contrast, we trust whom we know. We turn to friends whom we perceive to have authority and passion in specific areas—computers, cooking, travel or new cars. When our friends don’t have the answers, they refer us to other trusted colleagues, extending our personal networks out a few iterations.
The business problem is that after three-or-four iterations, word-of-mouth reach have dissolves. Businesses wanting to reach millions need longer-range tools. For that companies turn to one-directional broadcast models—press releases, web sites, ads, press conferences, etc. to get their messages out.
While this worked for a very long while, recent market factors have broken both the efficiency and credibility of company-broadcast messages. For a decade, the costs of reaching people rose exponentially. To reach the people you wanted to get to—customers, partners or investors, broadcast messages reached people who did a company no good and resented the relentless barrage of unwanted messages.
Into this environment blogging was born. It did something unprecedented—it made word-of-mouth engines scalable to worldwide levels and it did it at astonishing low cost. Communications is two-way. Conversations replace broadcasting. Companies have the opportunity to efficiently listen to may customers. Companies become better understood, more accessible, smarter from user input. Blogging also has a natural filtration system that catches and banishes—or holds to public scorn and ridicule—deceit, traditional “corp talk” and pushy selling efforts. The chapter will examine the role blogging played in Foxfire, the new Internet browser likely to eclipse Internet Explorer, before spending its first marketing dollar, and when it actually placed its first ad—in the New York Times, the insertions was paid for by customers, rather than the software publisher.
4. Too Many Influencers: Not Enough Influence
When Shel Israel joined Regis McKenna, Inc., back in 1981, he learned the most powerful PR was word-of-mouth and the most effective PR was practiced without “dial and smile” pitching. The idea was to establish yourself as a reliable source of insight and information, rather than just a company/product shill. This way, industry influencers, including editors and reporters would seek you out on matters that interested them. Israel became adept at it.
By maintaining about 30 solid and ongoing relationships and looking out for information that was valuable to these influencers he became a "reliable source" and when his clients fit into a particular editor's story, getting them coverage was as easy as cutting butter with a warm knife.
Times change. By1997, after the Web turned everything upside down, there were hundreds of so-called “influencers,” in some segments, thousands, making the concept of close personal relationships inane. By the time, Israel cashed out of PR in 2001, he says he, “no longer knew which influencers mattered. “Even if my agency got ink, it no longer seemed to move the needle for my clients."
Israel became immersed in blogging, realizing that everyone had become an influencer. PR, based on relationships and credibility as Israel had practiced it might carry on for a few years, but as he had practiced it, Israel concluded that the PR would need to change to survive.
5. Invisible and Direct Influencers
PR professionals live by “impressions,” the largest number of people who might read an article in a particular paper or online publication. For example, a “hit” in the Sunday New York Times, theoretically could be worth over a million impressions. The compare that number and scoff at the idea that some faceless blogger with an average of say, 200 site visitors-a-day may have greater influence for a client. They downright get hysterical with laughter if you’d suggest they talk to the bloggers before you approach the New York Times. Why bother?
Most people don’t consider blogs to be ink. Let’s look closer. What if 100 of that blogger’s subscribers were national business editors? What if the remaining 100 were divided between a client’s largest customers, wealthiest investors and most powerful partners? What if that person’s blog links to a small circle that represents the most important players in a client’s infrastructure?
Such people exist. Blog or Die will identify a few and discuss why this new category of players is even more influential than they are invisible.
Then there’s another category—players who are recognized as authorities on a subject, but have grown tired of being, abused, misquoted, quoted out of context or offensively characterized by the press. These elite players may still talk to the press from time-to-time, but they blog with greater frequency and passion to audiences who know and respect their views. In fact, these heavy hitters have begun to disintermediate the press by using blogs to go directly to editorial audiences. Ignore them at your peril.
6. RSS—Letting Customers Decide
RSS is the miracle ingredient of the Blogosphere, but to explain it,we need to back up a bit.
Long before some company with more arrogance than brains reduced customers down to “stick eyeballs,” there was the concept that the customers was usually right. Bloggers start back at that point and assume their collective audiences are smarter than they are.Smart businesses use blogs to own relationships even at the cost of an occasional sale.
Blogging recalibrates the equation on who gets to choose. If a prospect wants a little companyinformation—such as when a new product will ship, he or she must submit personal data. In return, customers may get their information eventually, but all too often, they get much more in the form of direct email, unwanted newsletters and their contact information being sold.
Even companies who respect privacy make it difficult for people to easily get what they want. People need to call often to navigate through labryntine voice mail to speak with representatives who use a different language, or repeatedly visit web sites or watch for announcements.
RSS enables changes all that by establishing home delivery. The information you want gets shipped to a special section of your inbox. It doesn’t interfere with your regular email and it's there for you when you want to read it. Thus, a customer can build an ongoing, active relationship with a company without having to give the company any personal information or the company even knowing he or she has been there. The customer chooses when and how to make his or her presence known.
The dynamic may screw up company marketing matrixes, but it does wonders for building long term customer loyalty.
7. Getting Started & Noticed
Blogging is easy, requiring no programming or arcane special knowledge. But there are a few basics on how it works. This chapter walks you through everything you need to know to get started. It also provides useful tips on finding the right voice; frequency and length of posts; why marcom filtering and refining will fail; and understanding the tools of blogging. The Chapter also will list tips on things to do to get other bloggers to link to your blog and readers to aggregate to it.
8. How Blogging Can Get You Fired
You don’t need to be a great author. With few exceptions, proofing and grammar gaffes are found on almost every blogsite. But, anyone who depends on a public market; wants an efficient way to collaborate or wants to share ideas or knowledge with an affinity group should blog. To succeed you need to have only two attributes: passion and authority. We will examine case of Fortune 50 boardroom executives as well as local merchants who blog and discuss what they are gaining from it.
9. The Transparent Company
Blog or Die advocates a new level of corporate openness, while conceding almost every company needs to keep some matters private. Still, there are dangers in openness for some businesses. If yours has something to hide, such as environmental noncompliance policies or marketing drugs with harmful side effects or you like to rig the energy commodities market, it would probably be unwise to allow employee blogging. If you are a control freak, like at least one prominent. Silicon Valley computer executive, you may resent the sound of any voice but your own. If your employees are unhappy for good reason, it may be unwise to allow blogging.
Companies can stop the blogging, but can they stop the truth from getting out? The authors look at how blogging may reward companies that do the right thing while weeding out those who don’t.
10. Ah, There is an ROI!
The “R” question is the most frequently asked by business managers who also want to know why they should allow or encourage employees to blog. Like most marketing programs, it is difficult to measure the return on programs and tactics that raise awareness, loyalty and goodwill? What, for example, is the ROI on a press release? How about buying a table at a charity fund raiser? Why bother with a website or a trade show booth? What’s the ROI on employee T-shirts?
11. Behind the Firewall
Six Apart estimates that half of all blogs are private. Many are simply password protected for affinity groups. But others are installed firewalls for collaborative planning. Companies like Disney, Google and Microsoft, use them inside their corporations to change how teams work together and share information. Getting information out of email systems and into corporate intranets is an early forming trend. Together, with blogging’s cousin, the wiki, this chapter will discuss the implications of the fast-forming trend of the private blog.
12. Breaking Taboos
In addition to quiet launches, the authors examine other traditional taboos and why they have are old hat. We explain why:
- Bloggers should pre-announce products.
- You should “good-mouth” your competitors and send traffic their way
- More is better and so is shorter
- Mid-level employees should be encouraged to blog about their unfinished work without management filtering
13. How Blogging Can Get You Fired
Free speech should not be a green light for poor judgment or ethical breeches. This chapter looks at a few people who tested that argument and ended up collecting unemployment checks. Successful bloggers almost universally adhere to certain standards and ethics. Scoble’s Corporate Manifesto originally written in 2003 will be updated and expanded. We will also examine Allan Jenkins Code of Ethics. It will explain how the Blogosphere filters false, misleading and self-serving commentary and gives examples of the system’s long memory for violations.
14. Who Should Blog. Who shouldn't.
Anyone who depends on a public market; wants an efficient way to collaborate or wants to share ideas or knowledge with an affinity group should blog. To succeed, you need to have only two attributes: passion and authority.
15. Bridging Chasms
Geoff Moore’s classic “Crossing the Chasm” showed how every start up crosses an abyss before becoming established. While blogging cannot eliminate the chasm, it can build a bridge that makes it easier to transition into a branded entity. It looks at a series of companies that have gone from zero to many customers before spending their first dollar on traditional marketing.
16. Winners and Sinners
This chapter will cover multiple cases of business bloggers who have helped their companies and will look at a few of the most bone-headed plays not covered in previous chapters
17. The Business World in 2014
Blogging will transform corporate communication just about, as much as corporate communications will transform blogging. What will the world look like ten years hence? The authors hazard a few guesses, and profile companies likely to perish if they continue to ignore blogging.