A recent survey of American readers about the state of current and future media revealed that 60% of respondents believe information on blogs is not credible. A December 2008 study by Forrester echoes this finding by revealing only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs say they trust them.
Tell that to Cisco, which has 12 corporate blogs. Or Delta, Intuit, IBM, Google, Marriott, Microsoft or Facebook (yes, Facebook has its own blog), for that matter. Here’s what Forrester’s Josh Bernoff, the report author, had to say… on Forrester’s blog:
“Make no mistake. This is not a plea to give up blogging.
It is a plea to be thoughtful in how and why you blog.”
Well said, Josh! Imagine the investment to maintain all these corporate blogs: IT costs; personnel to write posts and track comments; the salaries of CMOs, Communications executives, product managers and social media strategists who spend countless hours coming up with what to say and when. Companies literally cannot afford to let their efforts go to waste.
Generally speaking, blogs are intended to be written more casually than typical marketing or public relations materials, and are also designed to engage readers in conversation. Compared to traditional journalism, one could argue that bloggers do not need to be as diligent at fact-finding and validating their claims. Or should they? Certainly, this is how major news providers all around the world have earned the trust of consumers of information. Why shouldn’t a company be held to the same standards?
You will certainly lose credibility as a provider of information – even if that news only serves to satisfy your own agenda – if your blog postings offer nothing more than your latest advertisement. I’ve seen many company blogs that pitch their latest product or a discount on your next purchase. Not very effective for attracting return visitors who are more than ever demanding transparency into how a company runs and desire to feel more connected with the brand.
So how does a company earn the trust of readers? Here are a few tips:
- Identify and link to sources whenever practical. Your readers are entitled to know where your information came from, especially if you are using it to develop your own credibility. Proper linking and attribution is recommended to avoid being perceived as a plagiarizer.
- Never publish information you know to be inaccurate just to fuel the rumor mill. This doesn’t buy you anything since it will ultimately dissuade the reader from returning to your blog.
- If you do publish questionable information, make it clear it’s not validated or confirmed. To earn further trust and loyalty, when it is confirmed to be questionable or inaccurate, admit it in a follow up post or an update and provide the correct information.
- While it may be tempting, do not twist what another person, company or organization has said just to satisfy your own agenda. Blog entries, headlines, quotations, photos and all other content should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
- Mahatma Gandhi said, “There are limits to self-indulgence, none to restraint.” Refrain from rushing to post a blog entry if the facts are still in question. Corporations stand to lose significant credibility if their facts aren’t straight. Even if you post a retraction later, readers may not come back to see it and will forever remember your misstep.
Ultimately, visitors to your corporate blog will decide for themselves if your information is reliable or not, and whether it matters. But do yourself a favor; earn your public’s trust by writing and posting responsible, high-quality material.