Today I want to talk about a Harvard Business Review case study called “A Blogger in Their Midst” This was put together by Halley Suitt and released in September 2003. I have seen a couple mentions of the case in the blog world, but no in-depth discussion of it.
The case study is about a fictional company that make gloves for the medical community. At an industry conference, the company is upstaged by “Glove Girl”, an employee who is blogging about the company and has been invited to the same conference. She has talked about everything from the medical practices of customers to conditions at the company’s overseas plants. The reader sees the story swing from the company wanting to fire Glove Girl to her receiving in a job offer from a customer. This is a story that is yet to take place at many companies.
The case contains commentary by four people – David Weinberger of Cluetrain Manifesto fame; Law Professor Pamela Samuelson of UC-Berkley; Ray Ozzie of Groove Networks; Erin Motameni, VP of human resources at EMC.
To no surprise, the tech contingent is sympathetic to blogging and offers words of caution. Weinberger says that Glove Girl is just talking about what she and the customers are interested in and that is why the company so worried. Ozzie and Weinberger both stress the importance of making clear who the blogger is speaking for. At Groove, they have developed a weblog policy around four ideas:
- The blog needs to clearly state that the blog is the personal views of the blogger
- Confidential information cannot be disclosed inadvertently or intentionally
- The company, employees, partners, or customers may be disparaged
- No postings can violate securities law or other regulations
Samuelson warns of the liability the employee and the employer by proxy could have by the information posted. Motameni is the only one who has real problems with Glove Girl. Motameni thinks Glove Girl has overstepped her bounds as an employee and claims management is failing by not reeling her in. She think marketing and senior leadership should be talking to customers, not a renegade employee.
If you are trying to get people in your company familiar with blogging, I think this is a great primer to examine the issue from many different angles.