Improve on the advice I gave to a grad student

Can you help me help a grad student with her research on blogging and social media?

I received the following email:

Hello Mr. Thornley,

My name is Leah and I am a graduate student at xxx University in
yyy and I am writing a research paper about blogging. … My
research is exploring the use of blogging as a useful social facilitator
between the media(community) and organizations. …

I would love to know how you view the use of blogs in terms of importance in
the communication between businesses and corporations and the media. Has it
greatly helped? Some corporations have had some embarrassing mishaps with
the use of blogs (ex. wal-mart), how can this be prevented? Why should
corporations still consider the use of blogs despite their fears? If a
corporation is considering the development of a blog, what things should be
taken into consideration?

If you could provide some insight into any of these questions that would be
wonderful. …

Leah H.

I saw this post as I was trying to catch up on the 113 unopened emails in my inbox. I didn’t have as much time to answer it as I would like. But I offered some brief comments:

Leah, you ask some very good, but large questions. Proper answers would require a long post to respond to properly. I’m afraid that I have only a few minutes, so some brief points:

    1. “…blogging as a useful social facilitator between the media(community) and organizations.” I would not put “media(community)” together. Media has been the traditional intermediary PR practitioners have used to convey messages from the source to interested audiences. Social media allows us to step outside of this paradigm and connect directly with those communities of interest. Traditional media relations will have an ongoing use for reaching mass audiences. But social media allow us to communicate directly with communities built around particular interests.
    2. We are still in the early days of the introduction of social media into corporate communications. There have been examples of poorly conceived and badly executed programs. That is inevitable in any process of innovation and discovery. It should not discourage anyone from persevering, because…
    3. The adoption of social media is proceeding at a fantastic pace. Last year it was blogging and podcasting. This year, it is Facebook and video blogs. Next year, it will be something else. But they are all adding incrementally to my ability to find and relate to people with whom I feel a bond. This is a primary urge of social animals. Corporations that ignore this will pay a high price. They will lose the opportunity to build a bond between themselves and communities that share an interest in them and their products. This will hand a tremendous competitive opportunity to nimble competitors who understand that we like to do business with companies, products and services with which we identify.
    4. Corporations should not consider blogging. People who have a desire to say something and connect with people who care about similar things should blog. Many of these people will be inside corporations. The best corporate blogging strategy is to find these people and encourage and cooperate with them. Ultimately, this approach will allow outsiders to see the real human warmth and personality that resides in the people who work in that corporation.

    Ok. That’s the advice I offered between doing the dishes after dinner and putting the kids to bed. I know it’s thin stuff and can be improved upon.

    Can you please help Leah? Add your own answers to her questions as comments on this post or trackback to a post on your own blog.

    UPDATE: Tris Hussey has offered some great insight and advice on the One by One Media blog.