The majority of business-related reporting on blogs has focused on marketing efforts, using blogs as a more human way to interact with their customers. I'd like to discuss using blogs as internal communication tools and give you some practical scenarios in which this would be appropriate.
The blogs most of us are familiar with involve celebrity gossip, self-obsessed internet junkies, or alternative news sources. Let's take a step back from what is written and focus on how blogs handle what's written.
When a new blog post is created, it is displayed on the front page with other recent posts. Readers can then comment on that post. Those comments can be threaded to help visually clarify when comments are being commented upon rather than the original message. This is much like the interaction that happens when an e-mail is sent and others send replies. The difference is that all those emails are now in one place, replies are organized, and are easily searchable.
The front page of a blog displays recent posts. If you want to see the discussion on that post, click the title and you'll be brought to a page containing only that entry and any replies made to it. You can also choose to view posts only from a particular category or sub-category.
Blogs are great for project-related communications because they facilitate and organize discussions in an easier-to-follow format than email does. Categories that posts are assigned to can be tailored to create a hierarchical structure that correlates with different areas of a project, teams, or anything else that suits your organizational fancy. All content is archived in a central location which makes it handy for managers and team members to stay in the loop and can help make project post-mortems more productive.
Blogs are an excellent way for teams to brainstorm and share ideas effectively. It's easy to maintain discussions on multiple topics because of the way content on blogs is organized. It's much easier to get a clear picture of what's going on without having to wade through a sea of emails. Mind you, no one is suggesting you abandon email, but rather divide the labor where it makes sense.
My business partner and I use a blog to communicate our ideas and plans on nearly 10 projects. We live just over 1,000 miles from one another and have found our blog to be a very effective tool. It's improved our communication and productivity and we feel like our actions are being documented in a more useful way than clogging up our inboxes.
Each category in our blog equates to a project and we have sub-categories under each to separate things like technical and marketing issues. Posts can be assigned multiple categories, of course. On our main page, we've also added an area that displays the most recently commented upon posts to help us see which need attention. Since it's all web based, you can easily cross-reference another discussion by linking to it. If that sounds scary, there are WYSIWYG blog editors (Wordpress includes one) available that make creating complexly formatted posts effortless. You can also attach or link to files easily.
Most blogging software support multiple authors and roles. Roles allow you to grant or deny users access to particular functions of the software. Using roles, you could make sure people can't alter the site configuration or add new users by limiting their . You can also control whether a particular user must have his post reviewed prior to publishing and being viewed on the site.
While all the hype surrounding blogs might be hard to break through, it's definitely worth a shot. They are flexible, easy to implement tools that can easily be customized to suit a myriad of applications. They are advantageous for certain types of communications, but overkill for others. The trick is finding the best implemetation to realize the benefits.
If you'd like to discuss how blogs might help your organization, please contact the author.