Saturday, November 05, 2005

High-risk Corporate Blogging: getting a message out that your customers may not want to hear

What do you (and your competitors) do when you're in an industry that dominated by a few, very large and powerful customers?

What do you do when all the power belongs to those purchasers? When they have banded together in "consortiums" whose actions really feel a lot more like collusion?

When innovation is not valued and instead each new innovation is treated like something to be commoditized?

And what do you do when you know that you (and your competitors) are too cowed by the power of these big players to tell them that their plans for the future suck...and that they'll eventually lose if they don't modernize and accept investing more in their business, their infrastructure, their marketing and in their customer service?

You start to dream about blogs being the great tool of the revolution of the squeezed vendors, that's what!

First you dream about writing an anonymous blog that really tells it like it is. Until you realize that there are very few anonymous blogs that can really stay anonymous...especially if inquiring (and annoyed) minds really want to know.

Then you dream of secretly sponsoring someone to blog about it. Let that blogger, someone who has no vested interest in staying best friends with the powerful players in your industry, get all the attention and take all the heat. Until you realize that unless that blogger has connections to your industry, people would inevitably wonder where they had suddenly gotten expertise in the industry (see Amy Gahran's investigation of Panasonic's blogger as a case in point.) And if they do have connections in your industry (or any standing in the blogging community) they are not going to be willing to take on some kind of "secret" sponsorship. (That pesky blogging=transparency ethic.)

So finally, you stop dreaming, and you wonder...what if I and my competitors worked together to sponsor a blogger? Formed our own consortium of truth? Give the blogger editorial control. Give yourself plausible deniability and strength in numbers. Sure, you might still go down, but you'd all go down together. But what if it worked the other way and the powerful, but blinded companies who run the industry woke up and caught the Clue?

Impossible dream? Or innovative new blog about to be launched by an unprecedented cooperation between competitive companies?

Too soon to tell. But it's a fascinating idea, don't you think?

Testing comments, because someone reported a problem with them to me.
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