Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 02/Apr/2006: "Corporate Bloggers - Authority vs Credibility"

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Corporate Bloggers - Authority vs Credibility

Earlier this year I wrote that I wasn't going to blog much about Intel here. That's not going to change, but at least to an extent this post will touch on it. A few days Josh Bancroft (another Intel Blogger I know of) blogged about the Forbes article and Intel being angry. He closed the entry with the usual disclaimer about not representing the company, this being a personal blog etc. I probably should do the same thing here ;-)

But then I'm not going to, at least not yet. Over at Neville Hobson is an interesting conversation about credibility and authority (continued here) and personal blogging. Are bloggers writing about their employers on their personal blog authorative? Or are they just credible, and if yes, what does that mean? Do we need disclaimers and what should they say?

While some bloggers believe to be authorative when they write about their company I tend to disagree. I certainly wouldn't claim to be an authorative voice for Intel, even if I was permitted to do so (I'm not, just to be clear). I'm an employee, a small cog in a big machine. I might have some information, but I quite likely don't have all the information. I think that disqualifies me from being an authorative voice on a lot of topics. I believe the same applies to the vast majority of bloggers. An authorative voice of a company is frequently defined by the function, typically corporate communications. If you were to ask me for the authorative voice of Intel I would send you to Intel PR. They would provide the agreed corporate opinion and have the relevant information.

So are bloggers credible when they blog about their company? To a large extent I think yes, at least the way I understand credible. Under credible in this context I understand that the blogger creates (or helps to create) an image or view of the company which readers largely believe but don't necessarily take as the absolute truth. Credibility is built over time and through actions, a blogger who regularly writes about his company in a human voice and does this accurately can build this credibility. PR statements might be credible, they might not be. They can easily smell of corporate spin, which can reduce credibility. Nevertheless an authorative voice will usually also be credible, at least as far as facts are concerned.

So what does this mean for disclaimers and blogging policies? Are they really necessary? Common sense should make it obvious when someone is an authorative voice talking for a company and when someone is merely a credible source. But then the blogosphere and the legal system don't work like that, so we probably still need blogging policies, disclaimers and the like. Bloggers all too quickly link to blog entries as authorative voices, even when they are at best credible voices (even that might be debatable in some cases). Lawyers seem to prefer written disclaimers than common sense to make sure everything is legally watertight. And I should probably update this thing and get it reviewed by a proper lawyer.

I don't think I'm divulging any corporate secrets when I say that Intel is looking at blogging and in particular blogging policies at the moment. The internal blogging policies are quite clear, the external policies including potential disclaimers still need a bit of work. I hope this entry will help in formulating them.

If I can I might even blog about it here, as a credible but not necessarily authorative voice.

Do I really need to mention now that this is personal blog with my personal opinion and that I'm not writing on behalf of Intel, am not authorised to do so, etc etc? Well, I guess I just have.

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