Rebecca Ford suggests a corporate blog need not be a slog
A: Blogging gives companies the opportunity to provide context and detail around news and activities, canvas stakeholder opinion, manage reputation, support the investment case, attract talent and promote initiatives and events. It also allows companies to position themselves as thought leaders and respond quickly and authoritatively to topical issues. Yet corporate blogs remain an under-used resource. At The Group, we’ve been monitoring social media use in the FTSE 100 since November 2009.During this time we’ve seen Twitter, Facebook and YouTube become mainstream communication channels for FTSE 100 companies: 56 percent have at least one active Twitter account, 38 percent have a Facebook page and 44 percent share video content on YouTube. But blogging lags far behind with only 12 percent producing a corporate blog. Some of the companies that do blog illustrate the value it offers. SABMiller’s dedicated sustainability blog is updated regularly and attracts healthy commentary and debate. Last year the company used it to respond to a report by ActionAid on the company’s tax affairs in Africa, and help set the record straight. Reckitt Benckiser’s My RB Opportunity is another good example, this time of a company using its blog to attract the best talent. Further afield, US tech giants Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle have well-known and sometimes celebrated blogs. IR blogsIR blogs are an even rarer beast, yet offer great potential for companies to develop credible, transparent and compelling shareholder communications. An IR blog can be very effective in improving how companies communicate with shareholders. It can help investors and analysts better understand a firm and its financial triggers while serving as a means to gather investor feedback. It can also save IR and executive teams time by providing a space to where they can answer repeatedly asked questions. Dell’s IR blog – Dell Shares – remains the standout example of IR blogging. Established in 2007, Dell Shares is a lively mix of executive interviews, summaries of conference participation and answers to FAQs. After a shaky start it has proved a considerable success and opened the door for other good IR blogs such as Deutsche EuroShop’s popular IR Mall and Axion’s IR blog. In the UK, Autonomy Corporation had a long-standing Questions Board on its corporate website where the company answered questions posed by investors on subjects including tax, finance and technology. This blog was taken down following Autonomy’s sale to Hewlett-Packard in August (click here for a screengrab of how it looked).Other UK examples include Balfour Beatty, which recently became the first current FTSE 100 company to publish a dedicated IR blog. Blogging takes commitment and only works when allied to clear business and communication goals. But providing up-to-date, deep and contextual information while capturing important feedback offers potentially powerful benefits to any company willing to make the effort.