New in Plaintext

By Peter Piazza

Nancy Flynn, in her new book Blog Rules: A Business Guide to Managing Policy, Public Relations, and Legal Issues, doesn’t waste time in getting to the statistics.

The first sentence of the book begins, “With a new blog created every second,” and on page six a dozen more numbers that expose the magnitude of the “blogosphere” are provided from sources such as the BBC and USA Today.

Flynn’s heavy reliance on startling statistics is meant to back up the BusinessWeek quote, featured prominently before the first sentence of Chapter 1, that blogs are no longer “a business elective. They’re a prerequisite.”

Not all readers—or writers—will agree with that assessment (this one doesn’t), but Flynn tosses skepticism aside and embraces BusinessWeek’s warning, assuming that companies will decide to blog; thus her approach is to provide details on the perils of blogging (such as the potential for lawsuits) while giving advice on how to carefully plan a blog to avoid those perils.

The founder of the ePolicy Institute, Flynn has used her book to inject some order into corporate blogging, with the help of rules and recommendations. Some of the rules (there are 36 of them) are new ways of looking at the comments blogged about your company’s products or services.

Blog Rule #13, for example, advises that companies treat postings “as business records that must be retained, archived, and readily available to courts or regulators” in the event of an investigation. Other rules (such as, be honest, because “the blogo-sphere hates a phony”) seem more trite.

Flynn emphasizes the importance of preparation and planning, recommending careful consideration, rather than a hasty decision, to begin blogging. Chapter 3, entitled “Start With a Clear Objective: Why Blog?” provides ways to define the mission of a blog and tips on creating a strategic management plan to fit the blog’s objective.

In another section, the book provides a self-assessment questionnaire to “help avert blog-related disasters.” The first question asks whether your company has “established a blog management team to oversee the development and implementation of your blog rules, policies, and procedures,” highlighting Flynn’s emphasis on being well prepared.

The three sample blog policies that have been included will prove useful for companies that decide to start blogging. But companies that undertake this venture should understand that it is a full-time task, Flynn notes, and it requires the addition of staff. She points out that corporate bloggers make as much as $70,000 a year.

A glossary of blog, legal, and technology terms will be helpful for newcomers to the blogosphere.

Readers may disagree with the initial proposition that companies must blog or die—Flynn herself notes that only four percent of U.S. companies are publicly blogging—but if blogging is something that your company is considering, this book should be studied carefully long before the first word is posted. The book, published by AMACOM, is available for $19.95. Order it through the publisher’s Web site.



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