a plea for authenticity
Harkening back to an age when there was no time for salesmanship, Britt Blaser says the tone of a corporate blog should be the tone of a campfire talk. I like that.
“Blogs are so constant and frequent and informal,” he says, “that we’re being forced at last to drop the stridency and expert tone and false eloquence that orators, and their progeny, corporate communicators, have felt obliged to use.”
There’s an idealism to this plea – that something about the format “forces” you to do anything. But it’s a good idealism. (As opposed to the idealism of say, Paul Wolfowitz, for instance. …)
The format doesn’t force you to do anything, and I think we’ve all seen how blogs can become nothing but memos and brochures, to quote Dave Weinberger in his link to Britt.
Corporate web sites have had the same problem since the beginning, by the way, and most still do, and Flash doesn’t help.
It takes a savvy, humble organization to not leap on the broadbandwagon of the latest tech trend and pay some carpet-bagging consultant way too much money to give them a web presence that’s snazzy but completely inauthentic. And I bet you some of the most human, accessible features on big .com or .org sites get built due to the ignorant neglect of the top brass, not due to real buy-in.
But Britt is right. If you’re going to get a blog, you have to try to get real. And, in the words of Hannibal Lecter, “Don’t lie, or I’ll know.”
Of course, the truth is you need to aim corp-blogs and org-blogs toward authenticity and hope for the best. And it’s probably a good idea to talk openly as you plan about what you won’t talk about openly as you blog.
It’s surprising that there aren’t more blogs at large organizations, especially advocacy groups and non-profits. My theory is that blogs are by their nature anti-institutional. They uplift single voices and a sense of goadsmanship toward institutions. As I said when I didn’t like “Rent” as much as I hoped to, you can’t bring downtown to Midtown.
Even the most gadfly institutions face constraints of tone and substance when they try to enter the sphere and talk in the out-of-school way that’s the current blog currency.
On the Patriot Act Blog we set up, I’m trying to mitigate this problem a bit by having multiple voices. Our Senior Legislative Counsel Lisa Graves provides the most substantive updates about the progress of Patriot legislation, while Writer Gabe Rottman draws connections between recent news and Patriot-related issues and our designated “Blogger” on the project, Ruby Sinreich, watches blogs the most closely for who’s blogging on Patriot and on us.
Institutional considerations are unavoidable, but I think Britt’s main point is that an authentic voice is the key thing. If brochures and official websites are the podium speeches of institutions, org-blogs are the measured confidences the President offers over cocktails or in the car to the airport the next morning, or over Britt’s campfire.
You also gotta love Dave for pointing out that of course a Blaser would use a campfire as a metaphor.
Thanks for your thoughtful riff, Jed. “Broadbandwagon” – very cool!
Thanks, Britt! It’d be even cooler if fewer people jumped on it and more people thought through how to integrate blogs, the Internet, and tech in general in ways that fit their programs, not their hunger for wave-catching.
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