Your employee, your blogger

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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.

7 thoughts on “Your employee, your blogger

  1. Nice post. Ironically, I sent the following email to Charlene, Josh, Pete and Jeremiah today:

    \”…I just took your blog reader survey. Here’s a topic I wish you guys would tackle — a gray issue in my own marketing leadership role. How should employees manage their unofficial versus official company identities and reputations in the marketplace? This is not an online-only challenge, but online has festered it — and especially blogging. I have my own equity in the online advertising and research industry as an oped columnist/blogger for MediaPost. I have my own blog which is personal, but has equity in distinct circles in my industry. I’m passionate about my industry, so I tend to listen, and speak and write about it a lot. My expression vehicles are personal, but they also bleed into the domain of my employer, of which I also am a shareholder. This phenomenon holds liability for my employer, but it also includes great benefits — like association, awareness and a far more willing ear among many market stakeholders . Additionally, I’ve been building and enforcing social-media programs and infrastructure which could present some conflict to deal with. What’s the right strategy for balancing personal brands with your company brand in the marketplace. What’s the right strategy for companies to take with employees who have personal brands? How do you account for the two when embracing social/community strategies for companies? I’m sure this hits home for each of you.\”


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  3. David

    Wow, I\’m blushing! Although I can only speak for myself, Forrester has been great when it comes to understanding how having public discussions with our marketplace can help our company.

    Having George being part of the conversation in the public space demonstrates our willingness to want to be part of the conversation that takes place.

    Sure, I had a brand before I cam to Forrester, but I noticed it radically spiked after becoming an Analyst here, so many new opportunities have opened up by being part of the family, I\’m grateful and enjoying it. The love goes both ways, we\’re both benefiting.

    Thanks again David, very thoughtful.

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  5. Hi David –

    Very pertinent post as companies – particularly service companies – try and sort out how to navigate the boundaries between what is their service and what is, essentially, their marketing.

    I\’ve been having some interesting conversations with people lately about why companies isolate the pre-sales from the post-sales customer experience(i.e. why are marketing and support actually different?) Ideally customers just get to \’test drive\’ the product or service and to me, this is what blogs are in the service business.

    Thanks for highlighting my blog too – appreciate it!

    Cheers –


  6. Exactly! I promote a website which belong to hospital in North Carolina. Last December I told them to blog… I offered their director to open blogs for employees. This idea worked perfect for my client. 3 doctors began to blog on a regular basis and more than 20 other employees began to help them (comments, links, word of mouth).
    With new blogs official website got 9.6% increase in traffic and more new patients found clinic through internet.

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