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Blogs or Flogs? Genre Conventions and Linguistic Practices in Corporate Web Logs

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Blogs or Flogs? Genre Conventions and Linguistic Practices in Corporate Web Logs

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I held this presentation on 31 August 2007 at the Telematica Instituut in Enschede, The Netherlands on invitation from Lilia Efimova.

I held this presentation on 31 August 2007 at the Telematica Instituut in Enschede, The Netherlands on invitation from Lilia Efimova.

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Blogs or Flogs? Genre Conventions and Linguistic Practices in Corporate Web Logs

  1. 1. Blogs or Flogs? Genre Conventions and Linguistic Practices in Corporate Web Logs Cornelius Puschmann University of Düsseldorf [email_address] Telematica Instituut 31 August 2007
  2. 2. Contents of this presentation <ul><li>Research context </li></ul><ul><li>What's a corporate blog anyway? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do companies blog? </li></ul><ul><li>Three strategic approaches: conforming with, flouting or subverting conventions </li></ul><ul><li>Observations </li></ul>
  3. 3. Research context
  4. 4. The project <ul><li>Doctoral thesis project: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The corporate blog as an emerging genre of computer-mediated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>communication </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus </li></ul><ul><li>survey of a new form of domain-specific publishing </li></ul><ul><li>linguistic and extra-linguistic aspects </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul><ul><li>What functions do corporate blogs realize? </li></ul><ul><li>How do corporate blogs play with existing genre conventions? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Data <ul><li>web feeds (RSS/Atom) are used to retrieve, store and analyze language data </li></ul><ul><li>automated part-of-speech annotation </li></ul><ul><li>161 English-language sources (133 corporate blogs, 18 personal, 1 political, 1 technical) </li></ul><ul><li>3 press editorial sections (New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times) </li></ul><ul><li>5 press release sections (Microsoft, GM, Sun, Oracle, McDonald's) </li></ul><ul><li>29,528 blog posts </li></ul><ul><li>7,821,317 words </li></ul>
  6. 6. What's a corporate blog anyway?
  7. 7. An example: GM FastLane
  8. 8. A lot of different terms on the market <ul><li>“enterprise blogging” </li></ul><ul><li>“corporate blogging” </li></ul><ul><li>“business blogging” </li></ul><ul><li>“employee blogging” </li></ul><ul><li>“paid blogging” </li></ul><ul><li>... </li></ul>
  9. 9. My pragmatic definition <ul><li>A blog written and maintained by the employees of a company that is </li></ul><ul><li>used to further organizational goals. </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs can fulfill intra- or extra-organizational functions </li></ul><ul><li>marketing </li></ul><ul><li>public relations </li></ul><ul><li>customer relations management </li></ul><ul><li>recruiting </li></ul><ul><li>knowledge management </li></ul><ul><li>communication </li></ul>
  10. 10. Organizational and functional types of corporate blogs <ul><li>Five different types grouped according to authorship and function: </li></ul>
  11. 11. Organizational and functional types of corporate blogs <ul><li>Five different types grouped according to authorship and function: </li></ul><ul><li>product blog </li></ul>
  12. 12. Organizational and functional types of corporate blogs <ul><li>Five different types grouped according to authorship and function: </li></ul><ul><li>product blog, image blog </li></ul>
  13. 13. Organizational and functional types of corporate blogs <ul><li>Five different types grouped according to authorship and function: </li></ul><ul><li>product blog, image blog , knowledge blog </li></ul>
  14. 14. Organizational and functional types of corporate blogs <ul><li>Five different types grouped according to authorship and function: </li></ul><ul><li>product blog, image blog , knowledge blog , strategy blog </li></ul>
  15. 15. Organizational and functional types of corporate blogs <ul><li>Five different types grouped according to authorship and function: </li></ul><ul><li>product blog, image blog , knowledge blog , strategy blog , multi-purpose blog </li></ul>
  16. 16. Corporate blogging ethics? <ul><li>Robert Scoble's Corporate Weblog Manifesto (2003) </li></ul><ul><li>http://scoble.weblogs.com/2003/02/26.html </li></ul><ul><li>#1 Tell the truth </li></ul><ul><li>#2 Post fast on good news or bad </li></ul><ul><li>#3 Use a human voice </li></ul><ul><li>#5 Have a thick skin </li></ul><ul><li>#7 Talk to the grassroots first </li></ul><ul><li>#8 If you screw up, acknowledge it </li></ul><ul><li>#14 If you don't have the answers, say so </li></ul>code of conduct, “behavior beats bottom line”
  17. 17. Companies that blog
  18. 18. Why do companies blog?
  19. 19. A communicative crisis? <ul><li>The Cluetrain Manifesto (1999) </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.cluetrain.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>#1 Markets are conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>#2 Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. </li></ul><ul><li>#3 Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. </li></ul><ul><li>#4 Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived. </li></ul><ul><li>#5 People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. </li></ul>
  20. 20. A communicative crisis? <ul><li>The Cluetrain Manifesto (1999) </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.cluetrain.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>#1 Markets are conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>#2 Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. </li></ul><ul><li>#3 Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. </li></ul><ul><li>#4 Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived. </li></ul><ul><li>#5 People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. </li></ul>
  21. 21. A communicative crisis? <ul><li>The Cluetrain Manifesto (1999) </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.cluetrain.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>#1 Markets are conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>#2 Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. </li></ul><ul><li>#3 Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. </li></ul><ul><li>#4 Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived. </li></ul><ul><li>#5 People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. </li></ul>
  22. 22. A communicative crisis? <ul><li>The Cluetrain Manifesto (1999) </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.cluetrain.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>#1 Markets are conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>#2 Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. </li></ul><ul><li>#3 Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. </li></ul><ul><li>#4 Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived. </li></ul><ul><li>#5 People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Communicating vs. Publishing spontaneous planned discursive monologic qualified constative publishing (written) interpersonal communication (spoken) transient persistent contextual non-contextual
  24. 24. What's so special about blogs? <ul><li>blogs are the first truly personal publishing platform </li></ul><ul><li>blogs combine the qualities of publishing (one-to-many, asynchronous, no feedback) and interpersonal communication (one-one, synchronous, feedback) </li></ul><ul><li>they have “hard” technically conditioned conventions... </li></ul><ul><ul><li>segmentation of texts into posts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>title, date and author with each post </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>reverse chronological order of items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>permalinks ... </li></ul></ul><ul><li>... and “soft” communicative conventions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>first-person voice (“I think it is a good thing that X” vs. “It is a good thing that X”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>meta-language (“I just wanted to blog about this”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interactional queues are usually literal (“What do you think?” means “Leave a comment!”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>author and publisher are usually identical (“I” means “I, writer”, “I, publisher” and “I, blog owner”) ... </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Implications for corporate blogging <ul><li>people can communicate, companies can't </li></ul><ul><li>the “corporate voice” is an invention </li></ul><ul><li>press releases, advertisements etc either have no discernible referents or “simulate” conversations (“here at Company X, we are trying to make your life better”) </li></ul><ul><li>this worked fine in mass media (no feedback), but fails in feedback media such as blogs Since companies can't communicate, how can they blog? </li></ul>
  26. 26. Three strategic approaches: conforming , flouting or subverting conventions
  27. 27. Strategy #1: Conforming author is discernible
  28. 28. The trouble with conforming <ul><li>“Spokesperson syndrome”: any time an employee expresses a (personal) opinion it can be interpreted as the official standpoint of the company </li></ul><ul><li>no more clear, carefully targeted messages </li></ul><ul><li>individuals take the spotlight, companies get the limelight </li></ul><ul><li>personal communicative goals can take priority over those of the company </li></ul><ul><li>Useful if... </li></ul><ul><li>a neutral, third-party view is needed to ease an image problem (Scoble) </li></ul><ul><li>behavior beats bottom line </li></ul>
  29. 29. Strategy #2: Flouting instead, use of the “ corporate we”
  30. 30. The trouble with flouting <ul><li>risk of being accused of “not getting it” </li></ul><ul><li>risk of being ignored </li></ul><ul><li>what function does this realize? </li></ul>
  31. 31. Strategy #3: Subverting there's an author... but he's fictional
  32. 32. The trouble with subverting <ul><li>if you get caught you're in deep trouble (Wal-Mart flog incident) </li></ul><ul><li>subverting is the strategy for pursuing covert goals </li></ul><ul><li>problem A: you are cheating, problem B: that you are cheating suggests that you have a hidden agenda </li></ul><ul><li>can you build real trust with fictional characters? </li></ul>
  33. 33. E) Observations
  34. 34. Observations <ul><li>blogs are profoundly personal platforms of communication </li></ul><ul><li>this means that organizations must individualize corporate relations if they want to utilize blogs </li></ul><ul><li>this is associated with a number of risks </li></ul><ul><li>traditional, control-based approaches to marketing and PR are least effective in the context of blogs, unless one resorts to flouting or subverting </li></ul><ul><li>new approaches are </li></ul><ul><ul><li>hard to predict in their precise effect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hard to replicate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>highly dependent on the individual bloggers expertise, sensitivity etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>only effective in the long term </li></ul></ul>
  35. 35. Thanks for listening!
  36. 36. Blogs or Flogs? Exploring and Exploiting Genre Conventions and Linguistic Practices in Corporate Web Logs Cornelius Puschmann University of Düsseldorf [email_address] Telematica Instituut 31 August 2007

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