We have a deadline to get half the book completed by Tuesday, so we are going in a sideways order. This is Chapter 12. Next we will post our new Chapter 2. After which, we'll be in the editing process for at least a week. In any case, we welcome your comments.
“Good marketing is partly a matter of following the rules.
Great marketing often happens by breaking the rules.”
-- Philip Kotler
Mark Jen lasted just two weeks as a Google employee. His blogging pushed Google’s corporate culture too hard and they sacked him for it. His co-workers told us they didn’t like what he was saying about Google. In your first two weeks at a new job, you should be more positive. Jen lost co-worker respect and internal support. There was no one sitting in power at Google who was willing to defend him. When he made the additional mistake of sharing financial information just before a quarterly financial report and just before co-workers were about to become vested, he got the axe.
In the blogging world this is called getting “Dooced.” Web designer Heather B. Armstrong coined the phrase in 2002, after she was fired for blogging on Dooce.com, her blog, about work and colleagues at Yahoo. There have been other highly public examples of employees getting fired -- a Delta flight attendant was dismissed for posting a provocative picture of herself in her uniform. A Microsoft contractor was terminated after posting a picture of the company loading dock piled high in Macintosh computer equipment. A Friendster developer got it after sharing technical product details. At least 40 companies have disciplined or fired people for something they did on their blogs.
It seems to some that working in the public eye can be dangerous. “We need rules and guidelines,” others decry. But rules and guidelines may limit effective communication without actually preventing bad behavior. “I can drive 55 mph on an icy road,” someone might tell you, “because it says here that the speed limit is 55.”
Let’s look at some danger zones. The Delta flight attendant, Ellen Simonetti, appears to have been fired for putting an image out there that the PR team was trying to change. We say “appears” because, in all these cases, we only know the fired employee’s side of the story. We do know Delta was particularly sensitive to the issue because they had previously been attacked for sexism in advertising. We assume Simonetti was extending an image the company wanted to ditch—that airlines hired only sexy flight attendants and that passengers wanted that. By posing in a company uniform, Simonetti pushed Delta’s corporate culture in a direction it wasn’t ready to go and she got fired.
To avoid Jen’s or Simonetti’s blog-based mistakes, you need to know your corporate culture and what it is and isn’t willing to accept. Here are some of the danger zones we’ve heard about from bosses, PR execs and legal professionals at Boeing, General Motors, Target, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems plus our own experiences.
Areas likely to get bloggers Dooced:
1) Not matching up with the PR image. Companies spend a lot of time and money to present a unified brand image.
2) Leaking financial or other confidential information.
3) Disrupting the workplace by pissing off your co-workers and bosses.
4) Breaking news in advance and generating unexpected work for the PR team.
5) Exposing dirty laundry, which can hurt people’s careers (See #3 again)
6) Legal liabilities. Bosses generally don’t like getting sued and any public communication increases a corporate risk.
7) Damaging a company’s relationships with partners, competitors, or other entities that affect its standing. Make a governmental agency mad at you for something written on a blog, for instance, and see how long you last at a big company that’s under regulatory control.
Stretching Corporate Membrane
These all make obvious sense. Good bloggers have to be good employees, if companies are going to not only tolerate, but encourage blogging. But on the part of company decision-makers, they need to keep in mind that the sentiment of the blogosphere is decidedly opposed to the broadcast marketing and corpspeak that dominates other communication channels. Employee cheerleading only works credibly when their employers rates their dissent and criticism.
On his Scobleizer blog, Scoble has been at times, among the voices most critical of Microsoft and many people have been surprised that Microsoft did not respond by firing or at least disciplining him. Instead, Microsoft continued to encourage his blogging. Perhaps, one day Scoble will go to far, or perhaps one day Microsoft management may change its attitude. But the benefits seem clear to them. The freedom Scoble and the other Microsoft bloggers enjoy makes a statement about corporate tolerance and culture, that is good for Microsoft.
Like many prolific bloggers, much of Scoble’s work seems to gets done at 4 a.m. when we assume his PR team and bosses are asleep. How does he know how what he can and cannot get away with? We often think of corporate rules as “lines in the sand,” something that employees know not to cross unless they want to get fired.
But our experience tells us there is no straight line of dos and don’ts. It’s more like a membrane, something you can push and stretch, something more flexible at some companies than at others. The membrane might be very flexible at your company, but pulled taut like a snare drum’s membrane on ours. At four in the morning, a blogging employee needs to understand the membrane of his corporate culture.
At large companies, the membrane’s texture even varies from team to team. One might not allow any blogging, while another might be actually comfortable with a blogger constructively criticizing the CEO. Understanding how tightly—or loosely— stretched your corporate membrane is may be your best blogging guideline. We think that writing a universal blog guideline that works for every company and every team is not possible. You need to understand the flexibility in your own company membrane and you need to blog smart accordingly.
Here are a few questions you might ask yourself in determining what you can or cannot do in a blog where you work:
1) Is the company averse to letting employees put their face in front of the brand? Target, the #2 retailer in the U.S., for instance, has a strict culture. Even its CEO doesn’t often talk to the press. Their culture will make it hard for them to blog, employees told us. They’ll watch the blogosphere, but will be slow to have employee bloggers.
2) Do you have a “one-voice culture?” Apple Computer tells its employees that only the PR team and its CEO and CFO are allowed to communicate with the external world. While there are a handful of Apple employees blogging, they play it very safe making for blogs that are just not remarkable. While Sun’s 1300 bloggers reveal an open culture which is helping perceptions of the company, Apple’s blogger paucity is not.
3) Does your culture understand that “markets are conversations?” If your boss hasn’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto, would it be well-received if you presented him with one?
4) What will your boss tolerate? Show him or her some blogs and get an opinion. It’s better you know before you start.
5) How legally cautious is your company? Talk with your lawyers. Find out what scares them.
The Safety Knob
Every blogger her hand on a “safety knob.” Turn it one way and you’ll have a safe, boring blog. Turn it in the other direction and you might have something remarkable. Write about conflict, death, destruction, greed, corruption, lust or lascivious living and you will probably generate high traffic. They’re the building blocks of novelists and Hollywood script writers. If you apply them to a corporate blog, they morph into internal conflict, dirty laundry, cross-company conflict, chaos, mess and employee or customer behavior. You can discuss product defects or the people who cause them. However, along with traffic, your postings could be salacious, make people mad, earn you a pink slip or all of the above.
The trick is to find the highest “safe” setting on your safety knob. If you don’t play a little close to the edge, your blog could end up boring. It won’t get you fired, but it won’t get you much else either.
The stories you tell will decide your personal brand identity and they become embedded in the corporate brand. Your company may not be willing to have these stories told, if you ask them, but if you are a good story-teller in a company with a flexible membrane, you might be able to not only get away with it; you can actually help your company in the process.
Why discuss these matters at all? Communications traditionalists have usually cloaked these sorts of stories to present a unified voice of a company that thinks and acts in monolithic precision. This is the kind of “one-voice,” policy got Microsoft likened to the Borg. A great many people just don’t trust one-voice messages. Blogging is part of a pro-active many-voice strategy.
Blogging has also become necessary as a defensive strategy. If your competition blogs first, they get to set the tone of the conversation. If you don’t join the conversation, then they get to tell their side of controversial issues. If you don’t join the conversation, your position may never get heard.
Our point is this: sometimes it makes sense for a good blogger to stretch the rules, to see if your corporate membrane can handle it, and in so doing, help your company become more transparent. For example, shortly after settlement of a lawsuit whose animus became legendary, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer broke bread with Sun Microsystems Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy. For years McNealy was a sharp thorn in Microsoft’s side and now these two were “making nice.” That opened the door for a lot of people at both Microsoft and Sun to blog about how to heal old wounds and make new relationships some which continued to develop changing both corporate cultures and helping both companies.
Sometimes, when the bosses aren’t doing it, a good blogger can do it—if that blogger understands the texture of the membrane. If you want to be a top-level blogger, you need to get over your fear of breaking rules. At the end of the day, you need to tell an interesting story. You need to be artful in the way you conduct tours of your sausage factory. Do it one way and it’s fun. Do it another, and an EDD unemployment form may be in your future.
Let’s examine how to safely turn your knob.
Do Nothing Stupid
Of course, you don’t need to blog to get yourself fired. An NEC executive did it by posting racist remarks in a public newsgroup. Scoble’s wife, Maryam saw an employee get fired for inappropriately hitting on women. Perhaps, our simplest advice to you, if you are considering a blog is: “Do nothing stupid.” Practice the same rules on your blog as you do on the rest of your job. Do nothing to embarrass or hurt your company. Blog smart.
Here are some general rules for how to adhere to the advice, refine them to address your personal experience.
1. Read your terms of employment, the ones HR made you sign on your start date. At big companies there are a ton of rules to help employees deal with working in the public eye. In many U.S. states, there are “at will” employee clauses, which mean an employer can show you the door because he doesn’t like the fragrance of your breath or your taste in clothes. Whatever you say in public—on a blog or at a social gathering, you risk making someone mad enough to ask your boss to fire you.
If you are in a public company, it is vital that you understand financial disclosure regulations.
2. Avoid litigious issues. If your company is public, be very careful about making statements on financials, or other forward-looking issues that can impact stock. Know full-well company policy on intellectual property, and the restrictions on discussing details of unannounced products. This latter issue may vary greatly between companies even in the same marketplace. Does your legal department require you to put a disclaimer on your blogsite?
3. Talk to your boss. Know what he or she wants to see you do in public. More important, if you step into a bucket, what will be done to back you up.
4. Know who owns what. Some other things you’ll need to know: Who owns you blog’s content and the ideas shared on it? What happens if a customer leaves a comment containing a new product idea and then your company ends up building something similar? For that matter, is it okay to blog on company time and equipment?
5. Blog policies. As we write this, companies have begun scrambling to write blog policies. Has yours started or implemented one? If not, is one anticipated? If so, you might consider implementing it.
This may sound like an awful lot of work, but for better or worse, it has become increasing necessary and the trend is not likely to reverse itself. Mark Jen told us that part of his problem was that there were no Google guidelines for him to review. He was only out of work for a couple of weeks, before Plaxo, a social networking company hired him. His first assignment—write a company blogging policy.
If this should happen to you, it might be a good idea to read a few other company policies as a starting point. Here are a few to review:
Most of the blogs we discuss in Naked Conversations are by people in business who blog. However, in increasing numbers, true “company” blogs have been forming, in which multiple employees share a common space on a company-hosted site. Bloggers do it as part of their jobs on company time. Such group blogs will make it easier for customers to find you and this collaboration is likely to generate more traffic than a blogger might muster on your own. They also clarify certain guideline issues. For example, if you are posting to a company space, then your company owns the content. If a comment gets posted that inspires you, it probably would be unwise to go across the street and form a startup, based on it without permission.
Group blogs require different guidelines than standalone bogs. While they will test the membrane less they also discourage the personal journal aspects of blogging. Company blogs are usually bad places to post pet pictures, unless maybe, you work for a pet-food company. Multiple bloggers need to comply with a uniform style on a company blog. While our personal preferences may remain with the edginess of personal blogs, we think many companies will be more comfortable with corporate blogs, where there is some conformity. Our caution is for companies to not cleanse and refine what employees postm, but to let them remain interesting, provocative, transparent and human.
The Educated Employee
On the other side of this equation is the employer who has a quandary regarding blogging. On one hand, allowing employees to blog is a form of empowerment. It boosts morale and demonstrates that management trusts them. Out of more than 10 million bloggers, only 40 have been fired so far. But some employees will persist in posting content worthy of getting themselves terminated. But doocing one, is a public action and it can backfire. Whether it’s justified or not, the blogosphere tends to hold their own as martyrs when they get sacked. The former employee gets to tell his or her side of the story, while the employer needs to remain silent for legal reasons. Friendster, another social networking company, fired an employee and suffered customer boycotts. The company’s only public recourse was to awkwardly state the boycott was “small and ineffectual,” which we considered an unwise way to describe angry customers.
The best course for employers is to give employees guidelines under which they will have the freedom and incentive to become world class bloggers. Make clear that you trust your employees to blog smart. Define the taboos in your company membrane. Then step back and let them say what they want. Yes, from time-to-time, some will be critical of company products or policies—and they’ll do it right out there in the open where your customers, competitors and the media can see it. And all of those people will see the openness and tolerance of your company culture.
Negative postings, employers and managers told us were their biggest fear of blogging. If you maintain a policy that tolerates unflattering posting and comments, you seem to gain more than you lose. The general perception is that you are an enlightened employer, one who wants to hear constituencies opinions, and is willing to adjust course accordingly. The blogosphere champions these companies and so will your customers. The PR benefits are significant and long-lasting. Prospects see the kind of company they’d like to do business with. Recruits see the kind of company they’d like to join, and employees feel they are being heard with greater strength than the company suggestion box communicates.
In your guidelines, make clear your desire to keep your employees well-informed. Have your PR department, R&D team, sales and marketing and other executives feed information to your bloggers. Treat them as insiders and influencers. Fill them in on confidential background information, that let’s them see the companies intended direction and they will be able to help steer you there without inappropriate leaks. Instead, your bloggers will be able to remain true to strategy and vision, without spilling the beans. In stead of trying to speak in a single contrived voice, your company will sing with many voices and they will all sing in harmony.
That of course is a best-case scenario. Not all employees will always be wise and judicious in their criticism of bosses and places of work. Not all bosses will exude magnanimous objectivity when an employee several ranks below on the org chart mouths off. Some employee bloggers have been downright bone-headed. For example an employee at Whitestone’s the prestigious British retailer was shocked …shocked… when he was sacked for likening his boss to the pointy-headed manager in the Dilbert comic strip.
Will this backfire? From time-to-time, yes. Occasional gaffes are a reality of business with or without blogs. But so far, the numbers indicate low risk factors and lower actual incidence of businesses damaged by employee bloggers. Out of several million people in business blogging tens of millions of posts daily, we found less than 50 incidents where employers felt compelled to take action, some of it quite mild. Technorati CEO Sifry asked a blogger not to post something and the employee complied. This seems milder than shutting down something that is usually beneficial.
You’ll recall Intel CEO Ortellini had his request to keep his blog private, violated by one of his 86,000 employees who leaked a few of his posting to the San Jose Mercury. He did not follow up with a witch hunt, or so we understand. Instead, he asked employees not to do it again in a tone that was described to us as “assertive but calm.” Six months later, breeches have not reoccurred. Bloggers generally don’t want to spoil it for other bloggers and they also want to break the trust of enlightened employers.
Another wise course for employers is to set up an intranet page, or better yet, an internal blog. Use it to post blog policy. Then let bloggers loose to post tips to each other on smart blogging. With the right guidance, your company bloggers can transform themselves into a new form of interdepartmental, interactive power. Your employees become the preachers as Church of the Evangelist describes them and your customers become the congregation inspired to evangelize your company gospel.
But for the most part, these will be stretches of the membrane where both sides learn that in some places flexibility is limited. The strongest business cultures tolerate test stretches to their corporate membrane. Scoble has generally been recognized as a poster child for this sort of risk-taking. He has publicly taken on his CEO, saying that Ballmer’s action on a social issue made Scoble want to leave the company. Strong words coming from someone six levels down on the org chart. Another time, he declared a Microsoft department to be lame from a bloggers perspective. “Anyone who develops a web page today that is not RSS-enabled should be fired,” he shouted in another posting, leading of course to the head of that department demanding Scoble be fired.
Scoble, blogs with zeal. It may appear that he gets carried away, but that is rarely the case. He believes in strategic risk. When he strolls out on the plank, he has informed his wife, his boss and the Microsoft’s PR agency what he’s intending to do. He doesn’t really know if what he will do will get him fired or not—but he assesses the risk before he takes it. By contrast, Mark Jen told us he had no idea he had placed himself at risk with his blog, and said he would not have written it, had he known.
The Corporate Weblog Manifesto
Scoble published his Corporate Weblog Manifesto on Scobleizer in 2003, for two reasons. First, he used it to remind himself of his principles. Second, he published it to get reader feedback because he noticed an increasing number of people identifying themselves as company employees were blogging. He has updated it for the first time for Naked Conversations.
1) Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If your competitor has a product that's better than yours, link to it. You might as well. We’ll find it anyway.
2) Post fast on good news or bad. If someone says something bad about your product, link to it—-before the second or third site does — and answer its claims as best you can. Same if something good comes out about you. It's all about building long-term trust. The trick to building trust is to show up. If you don't answer what people say, if you don’t show up, then you build distrust.
3) Use a human voice. Don't get corporate lawyers and PR professionals to modify your speech. We can tell, believe me. Plus, you'll be too slow. If you're the last one to post, the joke is on you. Don’t worry about having a messy blog from time-to-time. If we don’t see an occasional typo, we’ll start to wonder if you’re really human.
4) Make sure you support the latest software/web/human standards. If you don't know what they are, find out. If you don't know what RSS feeds are, find out. If you don't know what tagging is, find out. If you don't know how Google, Technorati, Feedster or Flickr works, find out.
5) Have a thick skin. Even if you have Bill Gates’ favorite product, people will say bad things about it. That's part of the process. Don't try to write a corporate weblog unless you can answer all questions -- good and bad -- professionally, quickly and nicely.
6) Seek out as many grassroots news resources as possible. In the technology world, that’s Slashdot. In politics, it might be Wonkette or Instapundit.
7) Talk to the grassroots first. Why? Because the mainstream press cruises weblogs looking for stories and looking for people to quote. If a mainstream reporter can't find anyone who knows about a story, that reporter’s organization cannot publish something trustworthy. People trust stories that have quotes from multiple sources. They don't trust press releases.
8) If you screw up, acknowledge it. Fast. And give us a plan for how you'll unscrew it. Then deliver.
9) Under-promise. Over-deliver. If you expect to ship on March 1, say you won't ship until March 15. Folks will start to trust you if you behave this way. Look at Disneyland. When you're standing in line, you trust their signs. Why? Because the line usually goes faster than its says it will (their signs are engineered to say that a line will take about 15 percent longer than it really will).
10) Know your gatekeepers. Know the mavens, salesmen and connectors of your marketplace. If you don't realize that Sue Mosher reaches more Outlook users than nearly everyone else, you shouldn't be on the Outlook PR team. If you don't know all of her phone numbers and IM addresses, you should be fired. If you can't connect to the gatekeepers during a crisis, you shouldn't try to keep a corporate weblog (And, they better know how to get hold of you since they often know when you're under attack before you do -- for instance, why hasn't anyone from the Hotmail team called me yet to tell me what's going on with Hotmail and why it's unreachable as I write this?).
11) Never change your weblog’s URL. I've done it once and I lost much of my readership and it took several months to build up the same reader patterns and trust.
12) If your life is in turmoil and/or you're unhappy, don't write. When I was going through my divorce, it affected my writing in subtle ways. Lately I've been feeling a lot better, and I notice my writing and readership quality has been going up too.
13) If you don't have the answers, say so. Not having the answers is human. But, get them and exceed expectations. If you say you'll know by tomorrow afternoon, make sure you know in the morning.
14) Never lie. You'll get caught and you'll lose credibility that you won’t get back.
15) Never hide information. Just like the space shuttle engineers, your information will get out and then you'll lose credibility.
16) If you have information that might get you in a lawsuit, see a lawyer before posting, but do it fast. Speed is key. If it takes you two weeks to answer what's going on in the marketplace because you're scared of what your legal hit will be, then you're screwed anyway. Your competitors will figure it out and outmaneuver you.
17) Link to your competitors and say nice things about them. Remember, you're part of an industry and if the entire industry gets bigger, you'll probably win more than your fair share of business and you'll get bigger too. Be better than your competitors -- people remember. I remember sending lots of customers over to the camera shop that competed with mine and many of those folks came back, saying, "I'd rather buy it from you, can you get me that?" Do you remember how Bill Gates got DOS? He sent IBM to get it from DRI Research. They weren't all that helpful, so IBM said, "hey, why don't you get us an OS?"
18) Be nice to everyone. When a big fish comes your way (like IBM, or Bill Gates) you do whatever you have to do to keep him happy. Personally, I believe in being nice to EVERYONE, not just the big fish. You never know when the janitor will go to school, get an MBA, and start a company. I've seen it happen. You never know who'll get promoted. I've learned this lesson the hard way.
19) Be the authority on your product/company. You should know more about your product than anyone, if you're writing a weblog about it. If there's someone who knows more, you damned well better link to them (and you should send some goodies to them to thank them for being such great advocates).
21) Know who is talking about you. Using services like Technorati, Feedster, or Pubsub it’s easy to see who is talking about you.
22) Be transparent. Show you have nothing to hide. Blogging is a great way to build strong relationships with other people, and nothing builds trust and confidence like someone who demonstrates they aren’t hiding anything.
23) Build relationships offline too. Online relationships are loosely coupled. Put strain on them and they disappear. But, if people get to know you face-to-face then they’ll stick by your side more often than not. It’s why we spend so much time at blogger meetups and conferences.
24) Disclose all conflicts and biases. Is someone paying you? Tell your readers, even if you don’t think it affects your writing. Being transparent with your readers about your conflicts and/or your biases will help you remain credible. Own stock in a company you write about? Disclose that! Got a free product to try out? Tell us! Get taken to dinner by a company or a person because of your blog? Write about it.
25) Don’t blog on demand. Is your marketing department demanding you write about something? Push back. Your blog is your own. Tell them to get their own blog if they think they have something people need to know. Always make sure it’s you saying something, not someone else. You are responsible for the content that goes on your blog.
26) Keep confidences. If someone says, “this is not for your blog” before telling you something don’t write about it. Word gets around if you aren’t trustworthy. On the other hand, set the ground rules up front for any conversation. It’s not fair for people to give you a demo and afterward say, “you’re not going to put this on your blog, are you?”
26) Be clear when you’re speaking for your company. If you’re writing a personal blog, there are times when the company might want you to write something on it. If that happens, be very clear about when roles change. Also, when you’re writing about company stuff, but it’s your own opinion, it’s a good idea to say “this is my opinion” or some other similar qualifier to make sure your readers understand the information isn’t vetted or approved.
27) Be careful with legal issues. Commenting on legal issues is very risky. Things like discrimination, ongoing lawsuits, employee actions, patents, are potentially career threatening issues. Be equally careful with culturally sensitive issues and politics. We’re not saying don’t write about them, just be very careful. Remember that blogs are read worldwide by people who might not see things the way you see them.
29) Demonstrate passion. Post frequently.
30) Respond to your readers. Read your comments, and check your referrer log frequently and link back to those who are talking to you. Link to others, they will return the gesture.
(32) Realize that you don’t have free speech. If you are identified as a member of a corporation, what you write reflects on the entire corporation. Your writing probably will be judged under different legal standards for corporate speech. Especially if you’re a company executive of. You must be extra careful to be accurate in product claims.
(33) Talk to your managers about blogging before you start. Have a conversation with your manager about blogging before you start and find out what kinds of blogging he or she will defend.
(34) It is always risky to attack the boss. Do it sparingly. We’re not saying don’t do it (we have, and have lived to see the next day, so we know it can be done and sometimes to great effect) but do it with your eyes open and expect backlash.
(35) If you want to change the world want to change something about the world, ask yourself “how will I best get the change I want?” Realize that it’s easier to change your company from inside than outside.
Playing with Dynamite
OK, you can follow all the rules and guidelines that exist and you might still find yourself in trouble. It’s really easy to damage relationships with partners, customers, bosses, and even things you might not think about. So, what do you do if you are in trouble?
First of all, removing your post won’t help. Here’s why: when you publish on the Internet your words are redistributed through syndication networks. Remove your original content and your words are still out there somewhere. If a reader notices that you removed content, or changed it, he or she might link to you and said “so and so just removed this post, here it is again, wonder why they removed this?”
So, instead of removing it, we recommend putting up a correction. Say you’re sorry (you might strikethrough the original content) but that you found out you were incorrect. If you posted something really damaging (like the source code to your company’s product) then delete that, but leave a note up saying something like “some content here was removed because we discovered it was in error for us to post this.” It probably is too late to save your career in such an instance, but at least you might be able to avoid a lawsuit.
Whenever you’re accused of doing something wrong, don’t fight back. At least not at first. Listen, listen, listen. Try to get into the other person’s shoes. Try to understand why they are angry with you before reacting. Always learn something from the interchange, even if you get fired. Don’t go dark, either. Over-communicate with everyone around you during a crisis. Say you’re sorry if it turns out you were wrong. Mean it. If you are right, be respectful, though, and as humble as absolutely possible. Give the other person a way to win, even if he or she is wrong.
Remember, it’s always best to live to see another day.
Employee blogging is a lot like mining for gold. Gold miners often use dynamite to blast ore into manageable chunks (Gold is often hidden inside granite, which is the rock that Yosemite’s famous Half Dome is made of). Mishandle dynamite, though, and you can easily blow off your arm, instead.
Working in public as a corporate employee is a lot like that. Like the gold miner who carefully plies his trade, you can do a lot of great things -- make your company more approachable, build relationships and partnerships, scale out evangelism or PR efforts, or even just arrange a dinner for fellow geeks – but if you mishandle your responsibilities you can find yourself dooced or worse (yes, there are worse things than getting fired, for exampled sued).
So, blog, and blog often, but be careful out there!