This blog post comes to you live from the 2008 Forrester Marketing Forum, held April 8-9, 2008, in Los Angeles. The purpose of the event is to take a snapshot of the state of the art in successful marketing. The theme of the 2008 event is building great brands through effective engagement — or experiences that captivate your audience.
Forrester CEO George Colony opens the day with “confessions of a CEO blogger” based on his experiences writing a blog and running a company composed of analysts who also blog actively. In the tradition of blogging, his talk is transparent, ranging from the ego blow that results from no one reading his blog to the time pressures of managing a company and a blog.
And (thank you, George), he pokes fun at how clumsy the blog platforms can be.
But things get even more interesting when he confesses that he worries that Forrester analysts — who generate revenue through syndicated research — are giving away content for free through their blogs. Blogger superstar and Forrester analyst Jeremiah Oywang joins George onstage to address his worries. Jeremiah says that he thinks of his blog as a restaurant: he gives away a few appetizers for free in order to entice readers to buy Forrester syndicated research.
I’m not sure George fully buys the analogy. And I doubt he’s alone. Forrester publishes paid content just like a newspaper. It’s understandable for the executive of a content publisher to worry. On top of that, what happens when your company bloggers attract their own “cult followings” — people who follow Jeremiah because he’s, well, Jeremiah Owyang, not necessarily because he’s a Forrester analyst?
I think the blogger-as-superstar-brand is good for any company — but especially Forrester, JupiterResearch, Gartner, IDC, and other organizations that rely on ideas as currency. Your employees already are your brand whether you realize it or not, especially in a services business, where brands can be built and destroyed in a single customer interaction by an employee in you firm whom you may not even know. Blogging simply gives employees a platform to be your brand ambassador more publicily — and for your company to enrich its brand from the bottom-up.
As someone who manages many research accounts for Avenue A | Razorfish, I am often asked, “Who is the leading authority on XYZ topic?” I always answer with the name of an analyst and his or her employer. I look to individuals to be the authorities about specific topics rather than make blanket assumptions about an entire company’s research expertise. For instance, Diane Clarkson at JupiterResearch and Henry Harteveldt at Forrester own the travel category. Their employers enjoy brand equity from Diane’s and Henry’s individual brands.
So, don’t worry about your superstar bloggers. Just the opposite: take good care of them and your company brand will benefit from the strength of their personal brands. By the way, my company employs many great people who blog, and we’re figuring out these issues, too. Speaking as a grey-haired corporate muckety-muck, I just know our brand is stronger and more authentic because of the Avenue A | Razorfish employee blogs proliferating in the market, not despite them. I hope more employees join the blogosphere as colleagues like Jeff Lanctot, Joe Mele, and Shiv Singh have already done.