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?