Features - Internal Blogs: So, Are They Different From External Blogs?By Dennis Hamilton, Published on March 13, 2005
Dennis Hamilton has worked for almost 31 years at KZF Design, an architectural, engineering, interior design and planning firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally hired as KZF's first and (so far) only librarian, he now also manages records management and telecommunications, plus helps the IT Department. Dennis began KLINKS, his internal blog, August 2004.
There is an enormous amount of information about Internet blogs, but not nearly as much about internal blogs…those provided just for organizations, behind the firewalls. One reason is that there aren’t nearly as many internal blogs as Internet ones. And, being inaccessible to the general public, not as much is known about the nature of internal blogs. But, since they do exist, a pertinent question is: What, if anything, are their differences from Internet blogs?
A main difference is the audience for which they are being written. An Internet blog is out there, available to the world’s perusing, while an internal blog has a “closed” audience from an organization that has its own culture, its own set of rules of conduct, its own politics. To be successful, the author (or authors) of the internal blog must be sensitive to these perimeters. There are going to be certain topics that are taboo, such as not criticizing employees or their professions. During the first week of my internal blog, I linked to, what I thought, an interesting newspaper article about why some people of the general public have negative feelings towards architects. Since I work for an architectural/engineering firm, I felt the professionals would want to know about this type of negative publicity regarding their profession. Within ten minutes from my posting, an architect was standing in front of my desk, demanding the removal of the blog article. He said that his profession didn’t need any more negativism and (I believe this was the main reason for his concern) this gave the engineers in our firm more ammunition to belittle the architects. Apparently, this architect felt my article was too offensive for our closed community.
And, if you value your job, your organization certainly must never be criticized. There have recently been some well-publicized firings of bloggers who have said things in their organizational-sponsored Internet blogs to which management took offense. The same would hold true for an internal blog. Unless you are married to the President of your organization, you are not about to make any offensive remarks and expect to get by with them.
Another difference with writing to an internal group of people is that all personnel might not have the enthusiasm you have as the blog’s author. For an Internet blog, if someone doesn’t like your blog, they don’t need to read it. This could be said the same for an internal blog, but other factors come into play. Some employees might see your blog as a device that doesn’t support the ever-present “bottom line.” One of the topics I try to write about on my internal blog is major new projects that our company has been awarded. My belief is that our employees need to know this type of positive news…the more major projects, the more work for all of us. A few months ago, I called one of our project managers to obtain correct information about one of his new projects. He yelled, “I’m not going to give it to you because I never read your "bleeping" stuff and that kind of "bleep" is a waste of time. My people in my department are spending too much "bleeping" time reading this "bleep" when they should be working!!!” Wow! I was angry, hurt, and confused.
My lovely, expertly written, cutting edge communication was being criticized. What could I do? I laughed at him, said “whatever” and hung up…vowing to myself never to feature one of his projects again! But, I also realize that this project manager, a member of our company’s Executive Board, might have a major bad influence for my blog’s future. So, besides his crude approach, his perception of my blog could possibly be crucial to its success, whether I like it or not.
Discussing further about the bottom line brings up another difference: you need to consider whether you can justify the benefits versus the costs of maintaining your blog. For a small firm like mine, the initial software expenses had to come from someone’s budget. Then, there are the ongoing labor costs…every month I receive a detailed description of how much time I have spent on the blog and what this has cost the firm. And, since the software had to be placed on an internal web server, this required some expertise that wasn’t available within our office, thus we had to hire a consultant to help us set up the blog. These were all extra expenses that our company had to absorb. This, in turn, caused our Vice-President to be upset with the unexpected added expense. Before I had written one post to my blog, negative feelings about it were already in place.
Confidentiality can also be a concern in many organizations. How easy would it be for a disgruntled employee to copy something off of your internal blog and forward it onto someone outside your organization? This should weigh heavily on what topics you post to your employees.
Differences exist between internal and Internet blogs, but they certainly aren’t insurmountable. As an author of articles in an internal blog, you must know your audience and write accordingly, while also keeping an eye on your budget constraints: two basic principles of any good communication.
(As an added note, while writing this article I had difficulty deciding what to call this type of blog. An “Internal” blog didn’t seem catchy enough…after all, the law librarians have their blawgs. So, I thought of iblogs or ilogs, but a search of the Internet revealed these terms have already been claimed. What about iogs, inogs, intogs, or intlogs? Sigh. For now, “internal” is the word to use…I apparently won’t go down in Internet history as the one who initially named internal blogs as intogs. I’ll just need to search for my fame somewhere else.)
[Editor's note: I suggest enterprise blogs or enterpriselogs]