"The choice is simple. Be paralyzed with fear over the concept of open communications channels. or put a blog policy in place and start using these new media in a strategic way". These are the words of IBM Corporate Affairs Director Brian Doyle in Nancy Flynn's Blog Rules: A Business Guide to Managing Policy, Public Relations, and Legal Issues (2006, AMACOM, 226 pages, ISBN 0814473555 ). A specialist in e-policy development, Flynn sets out to describe the ecosystem that blogs exist in, and to lay out common sense rules for companies to follow if they want to enter the blogosphere. For the most part she succeeds, but occasionally the book falls down with an over-conservative approach, acknowledgement of a recent Forbes article without painting the whole picture of that article, and in one case, what I see as a questionable legal interpretation.
Disclaimer: I was interviewed for this book and am cited in both the acknowledgements and end notes.
Flynn starts out with a discussion of why blog rules are needed. Much like what Richard Schwartz and I wrote in "Managing the Business Risk of Blogs" in Compliance Solutions Advisor Magazine (see [...] ), Flynn points out that blogging is here, is real, and presents a new kind of risk for business, while presenting opportunity as well. As such, a reference manual for managing this risk is needed. In Chapter 2, the author goes into more detail on the risks and opportunities faced by business contemplating blogs. Chapter 3 covers the strategic decision of whether to blog or not. Chapter 4 provides a self-assessment checklist.
In Part 2 of the book, Flynn covers legal risks and regulatory rules. Perhaps the most important discussion in this part centers on the topic of blogs as business records. This part also covers potential legal headaches, issues of protecting confidential information, as well as best practices for public companies/regulated firms. In part 3. she covers blog rules, policy and the importance of communication. Part 4 deals with content management issues, discussions on how to handle comments, and comment spam. Part 5 covers employee rights and termination issues. Part 6 covers public relations issues, including positioning of the CEO as an opinion leader. Part 7 goes on to discuss the importance of reputation management in the blogosphere. Part 8 presents cases studies from and interview with IBM and Edelman Worldwide.
What I Liked About the Book
Of all of the 4 books I have by Flynn, this is by far the best. She has conducted extensive research, and presents the information in an easy to read, easily digestible format. She lays out what she see as the risks and how best to address them.
What I Did Not Like About the Book
At times, the author takes an ultra-conservative view towards the risk management, advocating that all postings be reviewed by legal experts and that all comments be screened before posting. Doing this puts no trust in the employees and destroys the open discussion nature that blogs are intended to be. The author also has taken a very interesting interpretation on the safe-harbor act of the DMCA, quoting two lawyers. I disagree with what is written there, but do have an email and phone call into one of the lawyers for clarification/further discussion. Finally, she makes use of the Forbes magazines "Attack of the Blogs" article, choosing only to address one part of the article, without discussing the bigger context of much of the article.
Who Should Read This Book?
Anyone in any company that is considering starting blogs. internally or externally. Despite the drawbacks I have pointed out, it is a very easy to use reference to get started in addressing the business opportunities and risks of blogging.
Birdie on a Short Par 4