When will corporate blogging be recognised as a desirable skill?

Matthew Oliphant from BusinessLogs talks about companies who specify blogging as a core skill when hiring, in particularly The Robot Co-Op who have posted job vacancies on their blog.

I don’t think this is really that surprising a development. Blogs are a great window onto someone’s life and thought processes and it’s inevitable that they’ll increasingly be used as a tool for both people looking for jobs and companies seeking new employees. Blogs are, after all, just logical extensions of the traditional website jobs page and the online portfolio/CV.

Oliphant also points to Heather Leigh who asks, What is it going to take for (corporate) blogging to become a job skill? Heather outlines a number of key skills which she thinks contribute towards success as a blogger:

– An ability to gauge relevance
– Strong written communications skills
– An ability to filter for appropriateness
– Original opinions or an ability to contribute original thoughts to existing discussions
– Diplomacy skills

I agree with all of these points, but I think there are other barriers that need to be overcome before corporates accept blogging as a desirable skill, and they have little to do with what it takes to be a good blogger.

Getting buy-in
Good blogging, the sort of blogging that gives your company a good reputation, takes time. Anyone who is experienced in writing original posts understands this, but new bloggers may not and managers who haven’t ever blogged almost certainly will not. The blogger and manager need to be committed to the blog – the blogger in order to actually blog, the manager in order to provide the support required to blog.

The Invisible Work Problem
Much of our modern work ethic is based around the visibility of our tasks. We have open plan offices, public calendars, meetings, milestones, expectations. There is a need to be seen to be Doing Stuff. That’s why slacking off at work is easy if you’re pretending to actually work, but work that makes you look like you’re not working can create difficulties if managers and colleagues immediately assume the worst.

Blogging takes a lot of reading and thinking. These are non-visible activities, but they are essential to a good blog. If you can’t spent two hours just reading without raising suspicions, then your blog is going to suffer. Much of this is down to trust – you need your manager and your colleagues to trust that you’re getting on with stuff even if you look like you’re not. Surfing the net and reading RSS feeds are seen by many as skiving activities, but they are meat and drink to the blogger.

Clarifying the lines
What can and can’t you blog? This question needs to be answered very, very clearly in the blogger’s head. Mostly, one would hope that employees understand what they can and can’t talk about publicly, but that doesn’t stop people being fired for blogging. (Ostensibly, at least – we usually only get half the story when bloggers are fired, and that half is possibly the least rational of the two.) Clarity on this issue is essential – it’s not about trying to neuter the blog with a list of dos and don’ts, but of attempting to ensure that PR snafus never arise.

How important is the blog to the company? Where does it sit within the blogger’s other responsibilities? Should they be blogging regularly or only when they have a light work load? How much of their time should they spend blogging?

Again, this comes back to issues of management buy-in, trust and time. Tacking a blog on to someone’s existing responsibilities without considering the impact of the additional work is only going to make life difficult for the blogger and will result in a poor blog. Expectations need to be set and managed. Again, clarity is important.

There are other issues to the acceptance of blogging as a core skill in business, but management and blogger alike must take into account these sorts of practical considerations in order for the bloggers to have the opportunity to blog well. It goes without saying that there is still a lot of suspicion about blogging in the business world, so attending to the practical and proving that you’ve thought these things through can go a long way towards helping overcome those barriers of unfamiliarity.

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