Blogging’s Biggest Risk? – Being Blogless in the Blogosphere

June 30, 2006

The phenomenon of blogging is getting more and more attention within business circles. Yet there is still a great deal of resistance out there to blogging. Take-up of corporate blogs remains low and take-up is lower still within the legal profession. Is blogging good for business?

Prior to considering this issue, let us ask what actually a weblog (a blog) actually is. A useful definition is given by the weblog hosting firm TypePad, who describe weblogs as ‘a way of publishing to the web one idea at a time.. By simplifying the process of publishing, letting authors create posts easily, and making it simple to link to related ideas on the web, blogs make it easy to update a website while still making sure your words retain a clear, personal voice.’

A weblog differs from a website in that it is much easier to put material online with a weblog and the nature of the medium allows the posting of anything between a few words or a long essay. When new material is added online, you do not have to rearrange the rest of the content – it happens automatically. This contrasts with a conventional Web site. In addition, you can invite comments from Web users so that they can engage with what you have written online.

Of course there are dangers which a business faces with blogging. Struan Robertson, editor of, recently identified some risks of blogging. Some of them include:

  • risk of defamation

  • unhappy bloggers generating negative PR

  • copyright and trade mark infringement

  • a joke provoking a sexual or racial harassment claim.

These concerns do have merit but they can be addressed and these dangers can be reduced by following some simple steps.

In fact, it is my belief that there is a bigger risk with blogging and that is for businesses not to do it. Here is why.

1 Ease of publication  According to the blog search engine provider, Technorati, the so called ‘blogosphere’ has risen 60-fold in the past three years. On average a new blog is created every second of the day with 27.2 million blogs being tracked and 13.7 million bloggers still posting three months after their blogs were created. There is a massive online community being created which can have a permanent written record. Anyone anywhere can publish what they want and billions of people can access it. This is the way people (particularly younger ones) are interacting and they are expecting to be engaged in a similar way. By not blogging, you are effectively ignoring a significant section of your potential clients.

2 Search engine optimisation  This is crucial for enabling people to link up and find out about people and organisations. As Thomas Friedman writes in his book, The World Is Flat:

Never before in the history of the planet have so many people – on their own – had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many people….Search engines flatten the world by eliminating all the valleys and peaks, all the walls and rocks, that people used to hide inside of, atop, behind, or under in order to mask their reputations or parts of their past.

Increasingly we are acquiring a ‘google profile.  What type of profile do you and your organisation have? Due to ease of publication, chances are that someone is going to write about you and your firm. Do you wish third-party contributions to determine your profile or do you want to influence it?

3  The capacity of one person to attack a brand  In contrast to the past, where companies might be attacked by other firms or by media organs, now it is the little man who is capable of drastically affecting a brand. One example is Buzz Machine from Jeff Jarvis which detailed one man’s negative experience with the computer firm Dell. The question is how are law firms going to respond when they receive online criticism. In light of the fact that you cannot sue everyone, law firms need to consider how they will engage with people who express their disagreement with them online.  

 4 Public disillusionment with traditional forms of marketing & PR efforts of organisations. In a significant piece for the Observer, James Naughton writes about the decision to embrace blogging and why it is so difficult for organisations to embrace blogging:

But the decision to adopt that tool requires a sea change in corporate attitudes….markets were originally conversations, but the arrival of mass production and of mass markets created by mass media changed that, and the gap between the people who ran businesses and those who bought their products began to widen, bringing in its train a pathological distrust that made consumers increasingly resistant to broadcast messages. ‘We speak, you listen’ became the mantra of the classic mass-production enterprise. …The internet, by enabling conversations between consumers on a global scale – and potentially between consumers and businesses – will turn the clock back, and make markets more like conversations again.

5 Fundamental shift in relationship between organisations and individuals with individuals rising to the fore  Where blogging is really going to change the nature of business is in its capacity to empower individuals. The crux of the matter is that conversations are going to change business because, as David Weinberger (a blogger and fellow at Harvard University‘s Berkman Centre) points out, institutions are closed, assume a hierarchy and have trouble admitting fallibility, whereas conversations are open-ended, assume equality and eagerly concede fallibility. An organisation which has a blog will be in a better position to cope with this new terrain.

6 Capacity to learn other interactive media tools. One of the main benefits of blogging is that it puts you on the road for learning about other interactive media tools such as podcasting and videocasting. This enables you to experiment with different forms of communication with the online world, including potential clients and recruits. For example, the management consulting firm Bain & Co used a 20-minute podcast featuring Bain executives to attract students at the Indian Institute of Management and, pleased with the results, Bain plans to expand its use of podcasts to more universities and other countries next year. According to the Wall Street Journal “That will put the firm on the leading edge of what may be an emerging trend in recruiting, as employers tap a popular new technology to reach young job seekers.”

Justin Patten is a technology lawyer at Human Law – he offers seminars, workshops and consultancy on how to set up a weblog: