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Issues-Focused Blogging: Hot Tips from the Hot Seat

Chances are good that a lot of bad things are being said about your company right this second on the web. Don’t believe me? Search for your company on Twitter. Fair warning—it may be ugly. Angry rants are one thing, but what about when people spread reputation-crushing lies and misinformation about your company? How can you share your company’s side of the story in an authentic way? Here’s a hint: traditional tactics and campaigns will do little to counteract viral venom spewed at your company on the web.

The Amazon Post

One antidote that companies embroiled in controversy are turning to is issues-focused blogs. These blogs are designed to shed light on the company’s position and shape public conversation on key issues. To get the CEC Insider scoop on how to create and manage an issues-focused blog, I turned to one of the leaders in this space, Justin Higgs. Justin is the New Media Advisor at Chevron and primary editor of its blog The Amazon Post, a forum for communicating through an ongoing multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against the energy company in Ecuador. He started The Amazon Post to “set the record straight” and counter “false news and misleading information” released to the press by the plaintiffs. Today, The Amazon Post is a growing, robust interactive hub of Chevron’s point of view in the case.

An issues-focused blog may make sense for your company. Whether your company faces a tremendous lawsuit or wants to foster dialogue with the public on key issues, here’s some key advice I took away from my conversation with Justin to help you get started.

Tips for Issues-Focused Blogging

 

1. Be Transparent
Clearly state who is behind your blog and what its purpose is. Never write a company blog under false pretenses or attempt to pass off content as information written by a third party.

2. Focus on Facts
As Justin reminds, be “short on hyperbole, long on facts.” Save the funny, punchy stories for a different blog. If you’re trying to counter misinformation and inform influential stakeholders, you’re better off writing in-depth, factual articles that make your case. Basically, don’t leave this kind of blogging for your intern. Source posts from senior leaders around the organization who have a stake in the debate.

3. Package and Promote
Issues-focused blogs like The Amazon Post are a treasure trove for time-squeezed journalists looking for the company perspective/juicy quote when a major story breaks. Keep your blog in their line of sight by allowing readers to subscribe via email, RSS feeds, Twitter, etc.

4. Allow Commenting
You can’t shape public debate or influence public opinion if the conversation is one-sided. It’s critical to allow comments on blogs where countering misinformation is your primary objective.

5. Devote Bandwidth and Budget
As with any blog or social media endeavor, consider whether you have the budget and bandwidth to essentially become a content creator. If you’re not sure, ask yourself, what’s at stake? What will happen to our company if we don’t set the record straight? With $27 billion and the company’s reputation on the line, it was a no-brainer decision for Chevron.

Remember, not all (and in fact not most!) issue-focused blogs are born of lawsuits. Here are a few other examples of issue-focused blogs:

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Comments from the Network (3)

  1. Tek Jansen
    on April 16, 2010
    Respond

    Amazing choice since The Amazon Post is replete with outright lies and seeks to do nothing more than bury the truth of the case against Chevron. This is the perfect example of how to be completely dishonest as a corporation. Examine any number of truly independent reporting on this case (60 Minutes, The New York Times, Reuters, AP, Vanity Fair to name merely a few) and you will find it in complete opposition to the “facts” presented on the Amazon Post. Well done – choose the low road. Sheesh.

  2. Kayleigh O’Keefe
    on April 19, 2010
    Respond

    Hi Tek,

    I’m happy you commented on this post—I wrote it knowing full well it would generate controversy as all content and commentary on this debate tends to do. That said, I don’t wish to comment on the lawsuit itself. I believe there are (at least!) two sides to every story and Chevron has a right to defend itself against blogs that share the plaintiff’s views on the case such as ChevronToxico.

    The crux of this post was to share tips for creating and maintaining an issues-focused blog. While I understand that you are opposed to my example of The Amazon Post, I hope that communicators who read this post learn about the benefits and risks of one potential tool to share their company’s views in public discussion.

    PS- Any relation to this Tek Jansen?

  3. CEC Insider » The Government in Your Business? Two Tactics to Shape Public Debate
    on August 3, 2010
    Respond

    [...] a stakeholder makes a derisive claim against your company.  We’ve seen quite a few companies develop issues-focused blogs that not only shape debate, but also bring controversial conversations onto the company’s [...]

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