Blog Panel: Negative is the New Positive

Yesterday I spoke in Phoenix (left the house at 4am and didn’t get back to Oakland airport till 9pm) at Frost and Sullivan’s Sales and Marketing conference on a panel about Business Blogging.

Awareness of blogs growing, Adoption still slow in Corporate Sales and Marketing
While the crowd in our panel was beyond the “why blog” or “Why do blogs matter” stage, in a previous session there were some pretty strong hesitations about business blogging. This is pretty bad as I the PR industry, Music Industry, and the next President of the United States is already savvy and deploying. One attendee said “Arn’t blog just bitch sessions for geeks”? I promise to be a resource to these Sales and Marketing folks using my blog, so any questions you have, please leave a comment or send me an email.

There were about 50 people in the room, and we asked them to raise their hand for the following questions:

“How many of your companies read and listen to blogs” (very few hands went up)

“How many of your companies are blogging” (even fewer hands went up)

Our Panel:

Moderator, David Geller, President and CEO of WhatCount
I was among fantastic company on the panel yesterday, it was hosted by David Geller, President and CEO of WhatCounts. David is from the Seattle area is is very in tune to what’s been going on in Social Media and knows my colleague Robert Scoble.

Panelist, Angela Vargo, SouthWest Airlines, Sr. Specialist Business Development (Blog Program Manager)
Southwest Airlines is lucky to have Angela Vargo who spearheaded the Southwest Nuts about Southwest group blog all the way to the executives and now has a thriving group blog that even includes customers blogging. At one point, the CEO left a post brainstorming about changing the open seating policy to an assigned seating policy. There were hundreds of comments that rejected the notion and Southwest was able to build better service from listening to this interactive focus group.

Panelist, Ben Edwards, IBM Director of New Media Communications
Ben Edwards (A Podtech customer) is a Social Media early adopter and evangelist at the behemoth known as IBM. IBM was an early case study for having internal, external blogs, podcasts and has already created several islands in SecondLife. I used IBM as a case study for my own internal evangelism at Hitachi. Hitachi and IBM have very similar cultures, so if it’s good enough for IBM, it should be good enough for Hitachi. IBM is known for having thousands of blogs, and just yesterday rolled out a Social Networking platform.

Panelist, Jeremiah Owyang, Director of Corporate Media Strategy

The third panelist was me, you can learn about me on my profile page.

Points of Brilliance:
While there were so many interesting and helpful tips, I wrote down while on stage some of the pearls of wisdom from Ben and Angela, here’s what I gleaned:

  • “Negative is the New positive” was a great quote from Angela. She gave a case study of how public grievances against Southwest are aired on the blog. Southwest listens, acknowledges and attempts to fix he problem in public, showing the world how they care about people.
  • I myself challenged head on a critical attack of my professional and perhaps personal ego a few weeks ago. Lately, when people meet me in person they often ask me about this post. Ryan subscribed, so to me, it was a win.
  • One Southwest blogger shared an experience of a bee nest forming on the tail of a plane. Traditional press picked up on this and even quoted Southwest as “Bees on a plane”
  • Ben gave a great analysis on how Blog are a community tool, he said that “Blogs are about 60% author created and the other 40% is created by the audience in the forms of their blogs and on the comments.
  • Ben has made Marketing more efficient at IBM by shifting the concept of Marketing to Publishing. This new model works.
  • In that note, Blogging reduces marketing costs, as the cost compared to creating brochures, case studies, and customer testimonials is incredibly more expensive than a blog. The audience asked some questions about actual costs, and ROI, we gave them a variety of examples.
  • He also suggests that the blog disclaimer on a blog which usually suggests that “this is a personal opinion, and not that of the company” probably won’t hold up in court. So teaching your corporate bloggers how to best behave in public, on email, in SecondLife, and on their blogs is key. For the thousands of instances of social media deployment at IBM, there’s only been a handful of negative cases. I get the strong sense that IBM trusts it’s employees.
  • Another excellent point by Ben is that traditional media has the megaphones, and often corporations have to cater to their needs to get the word out. The power is shifting to those that participate.
  • Below are some pictures for Frost and Sullivan’s 2007 Sales and Marketing West conference:

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    Frost and Sullivan Team

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    Factiva folks and Ben

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    My view from the stage

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    View of Audience

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    Kelly and I reunite

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    Ben Edwards, IBM

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    David Geller, WhatCounts

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    Angela Vargo, Southwest Airlines

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    Rapid Vendor event (like speed dating)

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    Cactus Juice