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Corporate Blogs Take On an Edge

Companies take a new marketing tack: letting their bloggers discuss a range of topics.

By Heather Havenstein
July 30, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - NetQoS Inc. is a vendor of network performance management software. But youd be hard-pressed to figure that out from some of the online posts written by Brian Boyko, the Austin-based companys designated corporate blogger.

In April, for example, a Boyko post about the Interplanetary Internet project  which is designed to extend the Net into outer space  prompted Internet luminary Vinton Cerf to post a comment on, the NetQoS blog.

And over the course of several months this year, the blog gained national attention after Boyko posted multiple entries about the case of a Connecticut school teacher whom a jury convicted on charges of risking injury to a minor for allegedly exposing students to pornographic images that appeared on a classroom computer.

Brian Boyko
Brian Boyko
Boyko said he wrote about that case because the incident called the schools IT network management procĀ­esses into question. The verdict was later overturned after the defense presented evidence that the PC was infested with spyware. A lot of people believe from our coverage it was very clear that one side had a lot better case than the other, he said. That pressure helped with her conviction being overturned.

Companies such as NetQoS, which launched its blog nine months ago, are eschewing Corporate Blogging 1.0 tactics that often result in blogs being used merely to post static marketing materials as an extension of companies Web sites. Now, a growing number of businesses are opening up their blogs to provide an outlet for the same kind of uncensored commentary and interaction that have made personal blogs such a popular medium on the Web.

At such companies, executives or full-time in-house bloggers like Boyko are writing posts. Although the goal is still to raise the profile of a company, the new-style blogs often tackle unconventional topics that may not have an obvious effect on businesses bottom lines.

For example, Pitney Bowes Inc. in June launched its first blog, featuring posts written by Mike Critelli, its executive chairman. Critelli has tackled topics such as public funding for research on Alzheimers disease.

Blogs like Critellis require companies to turn conventional marketing wisdom on its head by investing time, effort and money without the promise of a tangible return on investment, according to executives at organizations that are undertaking such efforts.

They also noted that to be successful, blogs should be anchored by a genuine voice and offer readers content that is free of marketingspeak.

SmugMug Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based company that operates an online photo-sharing site, began its corporate blog about two years ago as a blah, blah, blah blog [that said], Our company is great and heres why, noted co-founder and President Chris MacAskill. But the first blog didnt generate much readership, he said.

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