The Power Struggles of Internal Blogging in the world of ‘Enterprise 2.0’

I read an interesting post about Internal Blogging on Library Clips, talking about some of the benefits of internal blogging. In the beginning, blogs were something that existed on the public Internet, but soon people started experimenting with blog use inside of the organisation. The post referred to above covers many appropriate scenarios and benefits to internal blogging, and the one element that I want to expand on is group blogging.

As the name would suggest, a group blog does not have a solitary author, but rather a group of people that are able to author a single blog. This means that you benefit from the authoring power of the masses, but the content is still viewed over a single ‘channel’ – i.e. as an information consumer I only need to subscribe to the one blog.  The typical communnication mechanism that this would replace would be something like a weekly internal email newsletter, usually authored by one or two people. A group blog is a better tool for this type of internal communication, as employees become much more engaged in the process because they are now a part of it, rather than just consumers.

However, the issue with ’empowering the masses’ is that it can lead to a loss of control. For example, if Joe Blogs (being the blogmeister that he is) decides to blog about his night out on the town, the chances are that most people don’t care, and he is just adding to the problem of information overload…. the internal group blog is just not appropriate for his musings of a personal nature… that’s what his personal blog is for. So how do you strike a good balance between empowerment and control?

A good example of how this has been achieved is an internal group blog that is used at Microsoft UK.  If you’ve ever had to deal with the Microsoft organisation, you’ll know that it can be very complex, with individuals and small groups extremely focused on their particular areas. This is a good thing in terms of business performance, because people have clear goals and can channel all their energy into a focused area. However it also means that people may not always be aware of what others are doing in other business groups, meaning that an opportunity for shared learning is lost. A group blog provides an easy way to keep up with what others are doing in the organisation.  At Microsoft, a weekly email newsletter (owned and authored by 3 comms people) has been replaced by a group blog, enabling any of the 2000+ staff to become authors of this blog. It’s a great way for people to share what has been going on in their part of the business, but how does Microsoft stop this from becoming a complete free-for-all with no control?

The answer is quite simple; they have added a short approval process for blog postings, shifting the responsibilities of the 3 comms people from being content authors, to ‘executive editors’. Now, instead of having to write a newsletter from scratch, they can review all blog postings, rejecting anything that they deem to be innapropriate. I think that this strikes a really good balance between empowerment and control. Microsoft benefits from the experience of the trained comms people, yet still manages to engage and empower employees by allowing everyone (potentially) to have their voice heard and share their views and successes.

 In the world of ‘Enterprise 2.0’, striking the balance between empowerment and control is a delicate, yet vital, principle. It doesn’t only apply to blogs, but also wikis and anything else that is ‘end-user generated content’.

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