If you’re visibly associated with a corporate blog should you also write a personal blog? If you do how far can you push your own opinions, especially when they might differ from the official stance at your company? Could your personal blog come back to hurt the company you work for? Might co-workers find your blog and begin to think less of you? Could any of these things ultimately hurt your career?
These are some of the questions Kristine is wondering about at the moment and which led her to start a thread at Small Business Forum to get some feedback.
Here’s the dilemma. I know (and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough) that I would talk about everything. It’s very unlikely that any subject would be off limits, and I would be honest.
Several of my work friends are very computer literate, read blogs already, and would certainly find the blog. Not to mention customers for our companies, who read the blogs I write for work under my own name, who could also easily find a personal blog if I wrote as myself.
my options, as I see them, are three. 1)Don’t have a personal blog at all, 2)write the personal blog under some sort of penname, or 3) say the heck with it and write it as myself and take the consequences as they come.
The issue isn’t one that really has an answer and definitely not one answer that would apply to all people and companies. In the end this is one of those decisions you have to make for yourself and Kristine will need to evaluate and weigh the pros and cons and decide what’s best for her.
Can you do something to prevent employers from discovering your blog? If you put something online you have to accept that anyone might find it. Writing under a pen name will work only so far, though it can help to hide things to some extent. Another option is adding a noindex meta robots tag or using a robots.txt file to let search engines know not to index your personal blog. You can also make sure not to tell anyone with a connection to your company abut your blog. By making your blog harder to find it becomes less likely someone will find it. Of course if you make it so hard to find why have a blog in the first place?
You could also make it difficult to tell that the same person writing your blog is the same person writing your company blog. The more common your name the easier it is to do, but if you stay away from revealing things that could identify you at both it might not be so hard.
Potential Benefits Of A Personal Blog
It’s probably easier to see the downside here, but writing a personal blog could actually benefit both you and your company. Off the top of my head:
- Your blog becomes popular directing more traffic and customers to your company
- Your opinions lead to more transparency and trust in both you and your company
- Your blog gives you an outlet for writing about topics you can’t on your company blog, which allows you to grow as a writer
- Your co-workers and employers like your blog leading to a better career path in your current company
- Your blog leads to greater personal branding leading to a better career path
All of the above are realistic. Sharing your opinions doesn’t have to be bad. It comes down to what opinions you share and how you share those opinions. A few quick searches led me to examples of personal blog success stories.
The first post above is from a number of years ago when Yahoo employee Jeremy Zawodny first started blogging outside the company. If you read the comments you can see that the consensus is his blog only strengthened people’s views of Yahoo. The second post above shares some stories of how a personal blog led to a positive career path.
Clearly a personal blog can be good for both you and your current company
Potential Consequences Of A Personal Blog
Of course there is a potential downside. Again off the top of my head:
- Your opinions could offend your employers or co-workers
- Your blog could reflect negatively on your company where company opinion conflicts with personal opinion
- If your blog is seen as the more honest of the two it could lead to people seeing your company blog as being less transparent
- Your personal blog might be seen as company spin if you agree with the company line too often
Any of the above could lead to conflict at work. You might be able to resolve the conflict, but you might not. There’s little way to know in advance who might be upset with something you say and how that person will react.
More To Consider
Who owns your personal brand? I think we’d all agree we each own our personal brand. Unless you have a written contract not to write under your own name your company can’t prevent you from having a personal blog. You do need to consider, though, how what you write affects people’s views of your company. If your blogging voice is a visible part of your company’s marketing you do have a responsibility to your company as long as you work there.
Only you can decide how far that responsibility goes and how much loyalty you need to show your employer at the cost of your loyalty and responsibility to yourself. But realize if you have become a company voice your actions do at times represent your company.
While most people will understand that your personal blog is you and your company blog is you at your company, some won’t be able to distinguish between the two. You could add a statement along the lines
The thoughts and opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone and in no way represent the thoughts and opinions of company X
You might also add more detailed information on your bio page or dedicate an entire page of your blog to explaining things. You could try a combination with a dedicated page, a detailed section on your bio, and a statement like the one above on every post. Making it clear your blog is your opinion and not your company’s opinion will help, but again there will always be people who will identify both as one and the same.
You should also consider that a personal blog is not the only way employers, co-workers, and prospective customers are going to find you. Chances are you post at forums, leave comments on other blogs, and maintain profiles at one or more social sites. Your opinion is likely out there whether you blog or not. If you’ve handled yourself well expressing yourself through other channels you can probably handle expressing yourself on your blog.
In the end you have to make this decision for yourself by weighing the pros an cons and deciding if you can live with the potential consequences. Those consequences will probably have more to do with individual posts than with your blog as a whole and more often than not you won’t even realize which posts might be the one that offends.
I think most bloggers can successfully navigate writing a personal blog that freely expresses opinion without having it reflect poorly on their company. There might be some topics you would need to shy away from, specifically topics where your company is in the middle of the debate. But for the most part as long as you respectfully point out where your opinion differs from your employers, express why your opinion differs, and offer the company line as a balance you should be ok most of the time.
The people you work with might not know everything about you, but chances are they know quite a bit. They likely already know how you think about many issues. Sure there’s a potential for misunderstanding and conflict, but do you want to work at a company that won’t let you express yourself? Do you want to work at a company where you’re only allowed to hold the opinion of the company? How valuable is an employee who agrees with everything your company says or does?
Many of you will know Kristine as a regular reader and commenter here. What do you think she should do? What do you think about the larger issue of expressing your honest opinions on a personal blog where those opinions might differ from the company line? Would you worry about the consequences? Would you try to hide your blog from employers and co-workers? Would you write what you want and let the the chips fall where they may?