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Blogging at IBM, a snowball rolling down hill

September 1, 2005

This time last year, we put up the developerWorks blog as the first external IBM blog site. It was a small snowball barely dropped from the top of Mount IBM.  It turns out be an end around being able to blog at IBM who now want to establish a company wide policy that will smother and restrict effective blogging communications.  Fortunately, IBM Corporate Comm’s is clueless and so behind the times and we were able to put this site up under their noses without much effort.  Since we did it without asking, it now can’t be taken down as too many people look to this site for blogs.  Many people are trying to get on to it so for now, we control the outbound blog content unlike comm’s department in Armonk which moves at the speed of smell.

Armonk communications is a bubble that can’t see past New York, led by a hot head who ran Ed Koch’s liberal political campaign.  Their lack of vision is the bane of much of the sterile communications that you read about when IBM is discussed.  While they see it as a well oiled machine, the rest of the comm’s team who actually does all the work, know that they are a ball and chain that has to be worked around to get anything done.  The developerWorks blog site is a prime example of how to work around people such as those in Armonk.

It’s funny, almost like the tail wagging the dog, as we are doing what we want, whenever we want, while the rest of every word written from IBM goes under the microscope at the home office, effectively removing any creativity or actual information that might be helpful.  If you don’t believe it, read a press release.  It is quite enjoyable to usurp the Stalin like control that they try to impose on everyone else, and act like a regular company who understands how to deal with the media.

I decided to list my blog there as I was the first official blogger for IBM analyst relations and have set many of the policies up until now, including starting and running blogging for IBM A/R.  When the corporate communications machine finds a way to destroy the effectiveness through obsessive guidelines overseen by people who have never written or likely read a blog, any control I currently have will diminish.  They are so paranoid from the monopoly trial that they manage to put effective PR into the stone ages. Fortunately, they are so obsessed with the media right now, the most effective communications program is on the analyst side as they don’t understand what it is.  Anytime they try to interfere, they treat A/R like pr and look silly.

At that point, my blog may or may not be on the corporate site depending on the rules and guidelines. Since I don’t care what they say (and best of all am not in NY, which the powers that be can’t see beyond) and have learned to be more creative about communicating through social media than they have, I’ll make that decision as needed on my terms.  I’ll likely then be on new social media platforms that are industry wide so it won’t be tough to stay ahead of them while keeping current with the rest of the world.  Since they move so slowly for fear of actually stepping out into the real world, I won’t have to worry about it for a while.

With prodding from the outside (thanks to the analyst community) and many unconnected but interesting bloggers, we got the fever. Now there is the internal blog with thousands of bloggers going at it (another IBM communication killer since the audience is IBM’ers), a mainframe blog, gamers and worst of all attention on this from the top.

What I see is momentum for blogging that started as grass-roots inertia (bottom up, not the usual top down) which I believe is best (ask RIM or Palm). Sure, we were a bit later than some companies, but it won’t be that long for us to catch up. Fortunately, I started my blog and put up the developerWorks site like we did and that is how it will be done.  All we need is a few rock stars to start writing.

Now the blog plan is prominent in the outreach plans for new products and announcements.  Normal companies do this and since I came from the outside where I honed my skills staying ahead of companies like IBM, it is important to connect on terms with the audience that are mutually agreeable and most effective.  I knew that I’d already won and would get the message of the company I represented if there were IBM communicaitons people in the room.  Sure, they were the 800 lb. gorrilla in the room, but as soon as I got time with the media or analysts, they were far more likely to work with me as A) I wasnt’ trying to write their story and B) I actually was working in the 20th or 21st century.  I’ll bet those same comm’s folks were hell with tabulation machines and IBM 360’s.

So it’s more like cells dividing, people from all over the world in IBM are jumping on this as they should. Many of the execs who are the busiest people in the world are blogging Buell Duncan and IWB.

I’ve watched trends for a while at IBM, lots of hype at first, then some catch on or fizzle out, but this one has legs…the snowball is now big, and for now the only blog site at IBM until the wonks in IBM corporate communications figure out how to sterilize this also.  The fact that I can write this clearly shows that they have no clue about social media at this point, nor do they move faster than cold honey.

If you’re reading this, you likely had something to do with IBM blogging brought to you by developerWorks. Thanks.  We offer more information on a timely basis that is more meaningful than you’d ever find from the wonks in Armonk.

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