Are bloggers authoritative sources at big companies?

I just saw this over on the BrandToBeDetermined blog — that Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson are talking about are bloggers an authoritative source at big companies? Turns out the answer, at least here at Microsoft, is "maybe." (They asked our PR department and I got involved in the conversation internally that happened).

  • Executives like Ray Ozzie who blog? Absolutely. Any executive is almost always on the record for the company.
  • Team blogs like the IE team blog or the Xbox team blog? Yes with an asterisk, because what goes on those blogs is usually vetted by other people on the team and they discuss it (which explains why those blogs are generally a bit more reserved than individual blogs. I put an asterisk there because some teams might not require pre-vetting, but up to today team blogs are generally good sources of information on those products).
  • Individual bloggers like me? Depends (the PR team says to always call and verify facts, just to be safe). For me, it depends what I'm writing about and the tone I'm taking in my writing. If it's about the team I'm on (which does On10.net and Channel 9) and I say something you can assume I'm pretty authoritative and the facts I'm giving you are pretty accurate. If I interview, say, the head of the Internet Explorer team or Bill Gates or someone else, you can be pretty sure that's an authoritative piece of content that reflects the company's opinion pretty well. But most of the other writings I do? I'm not vetted. I don't check with others before I write my opinions. So, you should "fact check my a**" as they say around the blogosphere. On the other hand, I am on the record and you can quote me in press and blogs and other stuff (and I often do). If I say something about Microsoft I work very hard to make sure it's accurate (and if it isn't, you see that within minutes as my readers jump on me in my comments which are open and unmoderated).

That said, if you're a journalist writing a story it's best to check in with our PR teams (if you don't know how to get ahold of them, see the "Press" link on the right side of my blog, or drop me a line and I'll get you with them). They will be happy to give you the "official" story as well as they know who the official spokespeople are from each team and can put you in touch with them.

I do expect blogs to be used to get both the official and unofficial story out about things, just as the Security Team is communicating about Internet Explorer fixes on its blog.

This came up a few times in speeches today. Many PR departments are really struggling with this. They don't like the fact that employees at the edge of a company can get quoted in news media. This is a grand experiment that still is playing out in corporate America today.

What do you think?

76 thoughts on “Are bloggers authoritative sources at big companies?

  1. Robert

    I met you at the Chamber meeting in Seattle on Wednesday … I was so inspired that we want to add a blog to our home page. Now I need to sell the owner – Can you point me in the right direction?

    thanks – susan

  2. Robert

    I met you at the Chamber meeting in Seattle on Wednesday … I was so inspired that we want to add a blog to our home page. Now I need to sell the owner – Can you point me in the right direction?

    thanks – susan

  3. Thanks Robert…from Boston, where the sky is blue today! I looked out the window, and it is indeed blue. I asked everyone in the office and they agree. Well, and since we’re all PR people here, the PR deparment also varified it.

  4. Thanks Robert…from Boston, where the sky is blue today! I looked out the window, and it is indeed blue. I asked everyone in the office and they agree. Well, and since we’re all PR people here, the PR deparment also varified it.

  5. Companies and individuals have been facing these problems since the early 90′s. Its easier to publish and gather information now, so the volume of people doing it has grown.

    A reader need to build confidence in the source of information whereever it is from, from newspapers to TV news to corporate web sites and blogs. What we need to define is what the credibility signals are and how people see them.

    I ended up writing far too much about this and have summed it all up in the last comment :-7

  6. Companies and individuals have been facing these problems since the early 90′s. Its easier to publish and gather information now, so the volume of people doing it has grown.

    A reader need to build confidence in the source of information whereever it is from, from newspapers to TV news to corporate web sites and blogs. What we need to define is what the credibility signals are and how people see them.

    I ended up writing far too much about this and have summed it all up in the last comment :-7

  7. In my case, no. I never pretend to be. I’m speaking from both in and out of Warner Bros Records, but never on record as a “voice” from within the company. Its my job to be the technology go-to guy in our world of Burbank, but its also my passion to be involved in technology at all costs.

    My answer (and I blogged this) is that I blog because I blog. I do it at work, at home, on the road, etc. The voice of my blog is the same voice that is in marketing meetings, technical meetings, e-mail in the company and elsewhere.

  8. In my case, no. I never pretend to be. I’m speaking from both in and out of Warner Bros Records, but never on record as a “voice” from within the company. Its my job to be the technology go-to guy in our world of Burbank, but its also my passion to be involved in technology at all costs.

    My answer (and I blogged this) is that I blog because I blog. I do it at work, at home, on the road, etc. The voice of my blog is the same voice that is in marketing meetings, technical meetings, e-mail in the company and elsewhere.

  9. also, given that you and Shel are supposedly experts in this space, I would have expected your authoritative book to have the answers to these questions.

  10. also, given that you and Shel are supposedly experts in this space, I would have expected your authoritative book to have the answers to these questions.

  11. Anything Scoble posts can, possibly unfortunately or fortunatlely, for Microsoft be considered to be “on the record” for Microsoft, regardless if this is his personal blog. By having officially “outed” himself as a Tech Evangilist (wierd, scary title, BTW) for Microsoft, his comments can be taken as speaking for Microsoft.

  12. Anything Scoble posts can, possibly unfortunately or fortunatlely, for Microsoft be considered to be “on the record” for Microsoft, regardless if this is his personal blog. By having officially “outed” himself as a Tech Evangilist (wierd, scary title, BTW) for Microsoft, his comments can be taken as speaking for Microsoft.

  13. >Isn’t part of the problem that readers sometime take opinion as fact?

    Yup, and also that sometimes I’m not clear in my writing. Even in the past week I thought I was writing something clearly funny (it was to me, but then I have a demented mind) but my readers took it seriously.

    That’s a failure on my part to communicate what I was thinking properly with you.

    Translation: that’s like a software bug. Those are the kinds of errors that are harder to correct.

    Saying the sky is blue when it’s actually gray is pretty easy to verify.

    Making a mistake in tone or voice or only giving some of the story (quoting someone out of context) is far more damaging and harder to correct.

    That’s why journalists are taught to get multiple sources so that they have a more complete look at the picture. It’s also why the PR folks like journalists to call them as well as get information off of blogs. That way you’ll get a more complete picture. You might end up not using them, or their information, but you’ll have done your homework and if your story is questioned at least you’ll have a confirmation from someone in an official position to back it up.

  14. >Isn’t part of the problem that readers sometime take opinion as fact?

    Yup, and also that sometimes I’m not clear in my writing. Even in the past week I thought I was writing something clearly funny (it was to me, but then I have a demented mind) but my readers took it seriously.

    That’s a failure on my part to communicate what I was thinking properly with you.

    Translation: that’s like a software bug. Those are the kinds of errors that are harder to correct.

    Saying the sky is blue when it’s actually gray is pretty easy to verify.

    Making a mistake in tone or voice or only giving some of the story (quoting someone out of context) is far more damaging and harder to correct.

    That’s why journalists are taught to get multiple sources so that they have a more complete look at the picture. It’s also why the PR folks like journalists to call them as well as get information off of blogs. That way you’ll get a more complete picture. You might end up not using them, or their information, but you’ll have done your homework and if your story is questioned at least you’ll have a confirmation from someone in an official position to back it up.

  15. >You are not on the record as “Microsoft.”

    In a perfect world, that would be the case, yes. I would be quoted as “Robert Scoble, who works as a technical evangelist at Microsoft, says…”

    But, it’s not a perfect world. Heck, we have “journalists” making up headlines about us, and I’ve been quoted as representing all kinds of things.

    The way I look at it is I’m always on the record and I have absolutely no control how my words will be used for or against me. It’s part of the risk of living a public life.

  16. >You are not on the record as “Microsoft.”

    In a perfect world, that would be the case, yes. I would be quoted as “Robert Scoble, who works as a technical evangelist at Microsoft, says…”

    But, it’s not a perfect world. Heck, we have “journalists” making up headlines about us, and I’ve been quoted as representing all kinds of things.

    The way I look at it is I’m always on the record and I have absolutely no control how my words will be used for or against me. It’s part of the risk of living a public life.

  17. Tina: I was forced to say that by our PR department. :-)

    But, I’ve found incorrect facts in the New York Times, so it’s good to have SOME skepticism about everything you read.

    One thing with blogs is you can watch what everyone else says too.

    If I say the “sky is blue over Redmond today” you can see whether or not everyone else agrees with that. I’ve made errors here before and I’ve found that within a few hours that my readers jump in and correct me.

    I do do my best to check facts out before publishing them. For one, I don’t like to be jumped on, and for two, I care about my reputation and credibility (if I didn’t, I doubt I’d last very long at a public company in a highly visible public role).

    When I said that I was specifically talking about journalists. When journalists are writing about Microsoft it’s a really good idea to check in with the PR team and verify facts as well as giving them the opportunity to get you even more sources or a more complete picture.

  18. Tina: I was forced to say that by our PR department. :-)

    But, I’ve found incorrect facts in the New York Times, so it’s good to have SOME skepticism about everything you read.

    One thing with blogs is you can watch what everyone else says too.

    If I say the “sky is blue over Redmond today” you can see whether or not everyone else agrees with that. I’ve made errors here before and I’ve found that within a few hours that my readers jump in and correct me.

    I do do my best to check facts out before publishing them. For one, I don’t like to be jumped on, and for two, I care about my reputation and credibility (if I didn’t, I doubt I’d last very long at a public company in a highly visible public role).

    When I said that I was specifically talking about journalists. When journalists are writing about Microsoft it’s a really good idea to check in with the PR team and verify facts as well as giving them the opportunity to get you even more sources or a more complete picture.

  19. Robert: I am taken aback by your statement that I should fact check anything you post. I can take your posts with a grain of salt and I am mature enough (well…some would disagree) to form my own opinions about your opinions but I don’t want to double check any of the facts you mention. Ok, bloggers aren’t journalits but I expect professionalism from an A-List blogger like you (this is not an accusation!). This includes that YOU check your facts for the readers. And that doesn’t just apply to stuff relating to Microsoft.

  20. Robert: I am taken aback by your statement that I should fact check anything you post. I can take your posts with a grain of salt and I am mature enough (well…some would disagree) to form my own opinions about your opinions but I don’t want to double check any of the facts you mention. Ok, bloggers aren’t journalits but I expect professionalism from an A-List blogger like you (this is not an accusation!). This includes that YOU check your facts for the readers. And that doesn’t just apply to stuff relating to Microsoft.

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