Remember when companies announced they had… hold the presses… put up a website? It used to be considered worthy of a press release. All companies were doing it. Nobody wanted to be caught without having a website. It sounds ridiculous now, like issuing a public statement over BusinessWire because your company printed a business card. And that’s the extent of it. Yet we’re only talking about the early ‘90s. At that time, big brands like Toyota made a point of airing their website URLs on their TV spots. You don’t see that any more now do you? The PR lasted for about one year. Then it came to a halt. PR people told their clients not to bother. It was not considered newsworthy. Now even high-profile non-profits like National Public Radio tell you to “follow us on Twitter and Facebook.”
These social media properties are the new norm, the new website, the new business card. Companies dare not be caught without them (yet most still are). “Subscribe to us on YouTube” will be the next cliché. Imagine the bandwidth problems ISPs will face when everybody stops reading print and going to YouTube for catching up on the day’s news, for shopping, for sports, even research. Maybe Wikipedia will convert all their data into a zillion web videos. It’s not that far-fetched. (ISPs will rush to buy into PeerApp.com to deal with the blockading glut.)
So, should vendors keep a blog? Not if it’s mission is to serve as a promotional vehicle. And not if you don’t have buy-in from the top. And not if the blog goes dark from inactivity. A blog is only as successful as the amount of people committed to keeping it alive. A vendor blog should be about service, not selling. Nobody likes to be sold. We want to make choices freely. “Permission marketing” is still a good buzz word; “marketing transparency” is another. Use the vendor blog to service your customers, to teach and educate, and to tell your customers the kind of problems their counterparts are having. Make it useful for Mr. Customer. Publishing a blog is like putting out a new magazine. It’s worth making a fuss over, to issue a press release about it because a blog should be treated like an unbiased magazine yet tailored to your customer base. It should provide a platform for customers to air their views, to have a voice, to complain, to praise. If your customers are using your blog for that, then that’s the best kind of transparency.
An example of a good vendor blog is at eEye.com. (Disclaimer: I am their PR guy.) It’s been live only a few days but what I like is how eEye put their CEO front and center with a video introduction, letting you know (in 2 minutes) what is the mission and aim, and what can be expected. No frills, no fuss, no sales pitch. Transparent.