Monday, February 28, 2005

Sound advice from a business journalist about corporate blogging

One of the most perceptive observers of the foibles of business leaders today is Lucy Kellaway, who writes the weekly "Business Life" column in the Financial Times of London.

Today's column, "Why executives should steer clear of the blogosphere," (FT subscription may be required to see the column) is one of the best demonstrations of how corporate communicators fail the executives they serve.

The problem is that creeping commercialism, and the desire to monetize every new technology-based media channel, can ruin the free thought concept behind blogging and other new media technologies.

Lucy gives a couple of examples of corporate executives' blogs. She describes one as "a tarted up press release." And that's exactly what it is. Companies are deathly afraid of having a conversation with employees and (heaven forbid!) customers that is honest and useful to them.

She does like the blog at General Motors being attributed to car-building legend Bob Lutz. And my fellow PR Blogger, Shel Holtz, featured the Lutz blog in his podcast conversation with Michael Wiley, director of new media communications for General Motors.

It's like the old joke about the guy who was able to navigate his plane out of the clouds for a safe landing, because when he shouted out to the guy on the ground, "Where am I?" the fellow told him he was in a plane about 200 feet off the ground.

The pilot later told the air traffic controller, "I knew that since he was telling me something absolutely true but completely useless, I must be near (FILL IN THE NAME OF YOUR COMPANY HERE) customer service."

A few years ago, a financial services firm I worked for thought it would be great to engage employees in an email dialogue with the Chairman. They made a big deal about setting up an email address for him and soliciting questions. The only credibility problem was that everyone knew that there were corporate communications people reading the inbox, not the chairman, and that only the questions likely to make him look good would be answered in public.

The advice from here is to let blogs be blogs, don't try to co-opt them into another vehicle for selling the party line.

Just like the endless streams of corporate intranet postings and internal newsletters, or (even worse) the broadcast voice mails from the isn't going to work that way!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Why do major media only make SOME corrections?

The New York Times is supposedly fastidious about making corrections, and yet in two instances recently, where I submitted corrections, or at least alerted them to errors, the errors have gone uncorrected for months.

Case in point: A photo essay in the Metro section on October 3, 2004, about the delivery of a new Torah scroll to Congregation Khal Chasidey Skwere in Brooklyn, shows a photo of a bearded man using a magnifier to look at an etrog, an Israeli-grown citrus fruit that plays a central role in the Jewish festival of Sukkot. The etrog must be considered perfect to be used in the festival, and the man is examining it for the required features, mainly the pitot or stems, that must be intact on either end. The Times' caption says in part, "Yitzchak Mayer Youngeworth, bottom left, examined a fruit for its adherence to dietary laws last Sunday at a stand in Borough Park."

Pardon me, but the Times of all papers ought to know that etrogim are not eaten, so "dietary" laws have nothing to do with this examination.

Two emails and a voice mail left with the Times' corrections desk have never been answered.

You can't find the photo essay on the Times website. I have a copy if you want to see it.

Second case: A December 2004 article about "an odd series" of money transfers out of the World Jewish Congress, describes a bookkeeper for the WJC as having done the transfers because of advanced dementia, but nowhere does the article offer the bookkeeper or his family any opportunity to rebut this terrible allegation, and the article gives no indication that any effort was made to get such a reaction.

Again, a call to the corrections desk has gone unanswered.

It would seem that only the news the Times thinks is fit to correct gets corrected.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Other Blog Technology

We're trying all the blog technologies. Our first blog is at Our website is at