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Corporate Blogging: Too Legally Dicey To Allow?

This article at CNET, “Corporate employee blogs: Lawsuits waiting to happen? [1]“, caught my eye. Large corporations definitely feel nervous about allowing all their employees to have a public voice, but I think it’s now something that must be allowed, and good common-sense management can be used to help avoid some of the risk of lawsuits such as the one mentioned in the article involving Cisco.

Some companies’ legal departments think that blogging is just too risky to allow, and that it’s not worth the time and administrative headache to try to manage. The problem that I see with this is that it causes a company to be stuck in a Business 1.0 world of the past, disallowing the grass-roots-level public relations that employees can provide — blogging allows a big corporation to have a human face and can help explain and communicate what the company is up to.

More importantly, attempting to disallow employee blogging at all would push employees to do the very thing that Cisco is having to deal with: anonymous blogging. Employees who don’t understand nor agree with the corporate blogging policy will end up blogging anyway, under aliases.

Sun Microsystems’ 4,000+ employee blog [2] is probably the gold standard for corporate-blessed blogging, but many other companies have effectively leveraged blogging and there are particularly well-known bloggers out there who are associated with major companies. Just a small sampling includes:

Matt Cutts [3], Google

Don Dodge [4], Microsoft

Mike Moran [5], IBM

Jeremy Zawodny [6], Yahoo!

Robert Scoble [7], formerly Microsoft employee

Naturally, corporations need to have some basic policy provided to employees on what’s allowable blogging. Publicly-traded companies must worry a bit about employees disclosing information which could affect stock purchasing, as well as the usual limits on disclosing proprietary info. Simple, clear policies around this can proactively keep major problems from occurring.

But, trying to stamp out blogging entirely is not an effective way of managing risk and leveraging the media available in this Business 2.0 world. You would still have risk anyway, and being overly heavy-handed would just push employees into trying to secretly interact with the world since they see other companies’ employees doing so. Instead of trying to force employees to shut up, equip them with a very simple policy that will help keep them and the company out of trouble.

And, accept the risks! No worthwhile business endeavor is without risks, legal or otherwise, and the idea that you can shut out all risk while still being competitive is illogical.

посольство новой зеландии в белоруссии [8]