The ease of use of weblogs to publish content to a worldwide audience does not create a new problem of corporate communication. The modern tools that power weblogs lower the barrier to entry and engage a wider population with less effort than other media. In the past ten years corporations have had to adapt as e-mail, chat rooms, message boards, and instant messaging entered the communications realm. The rise of weblogs and the transparent communication weblogs provide happened to coincide with the communications restrictions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Millions of people with full-time jobs write e-mails, send instant messages, and post to weblogs every day and each activity has the potential to negatively affect an employer.
Most employers have confidentiality agreements protecting trade secrets. If an employee discloses trade secrets such as sales numbers or future product direction it’s grounds for firing and legal action whether or not the activity took place at a keyboard or a cocktail party.
Many employers also have Internet policies informing employees their words and actions online are logged, outsiders can trace the actions, and remind employees not send chain letters or e-mail racy jokes around work.
Could you imagine a company banning an employee from having an e-mail or instant message account for use at home? Fear of blogging is simply fear of something new but once the paranoia dies down corporations will see that it is time to meet the new medium.
Employers considering a blogging policy are not thinking broadly enough. Employees need to be trained as better, more effective communicators, and any blogging policy is really just an extension of an existing corporate communications policy with the intention of educating everyone similarly to how an executive may receive training to deal with press and the public. Treat your employees as an important yet independent public voice and prepare to reap the rewards.
The world of weblogs we know today is only the beginning. Cameraphones are entering the workplace. File transfers and uploads to Internet sharing is becoming more common. Individuals are being empowered with more tools to create new methods of flexible communication. The wave of change is unavoidable and it is time for employers to positively participate.