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and the likelihood that they would occur…
I am starting a series of posts looking at the risks and benefits of corporate blogging. I am especially interested putting this into the context of Forrester Research’s latest report by Charlene Li, The ROI of Blogging, which has as one of its recommendations to incorporate a risk calculation in the ROI for blogs. But what are the biggest risks for corporate blogs? Charlene asks us to list the worst-case scenarios, then decide how likely each would be.
I am using the tags UNLIKELY, POSSIBLE and LIKELY for each risk and have designated a percentage that I feel is somewhat realistic. These numbers might be different for particular organization’s blog, but it gives the basic idea.
Top 10 Risks for Corporate Blogs
1. Negative Comments. Companies are often very sensitive to criticism, especially if it appears in a format that is sanctioned by them. Negative comments can be offset somewhat with a consistent and clear comment and moderation policy. Also, most readers tend to trust a site more that includes both positive and negative information. If comments are overwhelmingly negative, the company might want to use the blog to address the complaints. LIKELY (90%)
2. Loss of Control Over the Message. In most companies, the process for vetting public statements and marketing or public relations messages is controlled. A blog is a bit of a maverick, and managers see this as a risk. Of course, people may already be talking out there in the either and some companies would benefit from having an opportunity to get out their side of the story. LIKELY (75%)
3. Neglect. Starting a blog and letting it languish is a risk of blogging. The time needed to maintain a blog isn’t insignificant. LIKELY (75%)
4. Misunderstanding the Culture of the Blogosphere. Bloggers have created a culture of sorts, which if violated can lead to a backlash. This can be avoided by understanding the culture, and engaging with it before a corporate blog is launched. LIKELY (30%)
5. Unprepared or Loose-Cannon Employees. Employees that are set free to represent the company without intimate knowledge and training in the corporate culture and requirements can be a downside risk. Extensive training and guidelines for corporate bloggers is essential. Also, care needs to be taken if such an employee must be terminated, as a wrongful termination claim is also a possibility. POSSIBLE (5%)
6. Fueling a Firememe of Criticism. One of the worst nightmares of a corporate executive would be to start a blog and then have it become the genesis for a bigger reaction in the blogosphere. The Dell blog, Direct2Dell, initially weathered this kind of widespread criticism but lived on to become an influential voice for the company. POSSIBLE (10%)
7. Legal Liabilities. Aside from lawsuits, there is the law itself. Corporations must make sure a blog complies with all applicable local, national and foreign requirements for doing business. Its author must also consider things like consumer protection laws, truth in advertising provisions, and intellectual property laws (such as plagiarism). UNLIKELY (0.05%)
8. Losing the Farm. Many managers fear that the blog might be a window by which corporate privacy and trade secrets are violated, jeopardizing the protected status of such information. Hand-in-hand with this are requirements by the Securities Exchange Commission about “forward-looking statements. UNLIKELY (0.05%)
9. Negative Impact on Stock Price. What if the content or reaction to a blog posting causes an impact in stock prices? This is also a concern as it applies to securities law for publicly traded companies. UNLIKELY (0.05%)
10. Tort Lawsuits. Claims of defamation, making statements your competitors might consider trade libel and other liabilities that might arise from the content of a blog are also concerns. The fear is that the corporation might be an easy target since it has deep pockets. Also, the blog must follow all company document retention policies in case it is named in the discovery phase of a lawsuit. UNLIKELY (0.05%)
In Charlene’s model, she asks us to assign a cost to each of these scenarios and then multiply that by the likelihood of it happening to get a total possible downside cost. I am going to take on this model in a future post, as I think assigning a range of risk is more accurate. In the meanwhile, if you would like to read more about the risks of blogging you can access the following resources, from which this post was inspired:
- Alysa N. Zeltzer and John E. Villafranco, Do’s and Don’t of Corporate Blogging, Law.com
- Jacqueline Klosek, an attorney specializing in intellectual property and privacy law, The legal risks of blogging, Network World
If you think I have missed anything glaring, let me know in the comments – I know you will 😉
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