Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Marriott, or not

I've been watching the new blog on Marriott.com written by Bill Marriott, their 70+ year old CEO. Oh dear, where to start....

It's blatently just not a blog. There is very little attempt to engage with their visitors, and the engagement that there is consists of token replies to the odd comment. You'll need to really hunt to find any, trust me....

Much is made of the "audio version" of his blog -whereas in fact, the blog actually is a transcript of what appears to be a scripted audio show (see Alistair Cooke's Letters from America for a better example of this medium). There is absolutely nothing wrong in publishing regular audio updates from senior management (albeit that they're really heavily scripted) and it's a really useful channel for engagement. It's also a really good idea to provide transcripts of these for people who don't want to, or aren't able to, hear the audio. So far so good - we have the nice basics of a good podcast here.

The problem for me comes when this transcript is then turned into a blog, by the addition of comments and the attempt to add an element of chronology. The comments are then so heavily editted (and I really do mean heavily - see if you can spot anything critical) that they are meaningless. Virtually all the comments are from people saying:
1) how fantastic Bill is for writing a blog (seriously, if you think he's writing any of it, then you deserve to believe it!)
2) how fantastic Marriott staff were in helping them when they stayed there
3) re-affirming whatever apple-pie subject Bill was whittering on about

Anyhoo, up to this point, I'd been thinking we just had another large corporate who's PR/ad agency thought they should climb aboard the social web gravy train, and who's marketing department had let them.

And then, I started to see all the praise for the blog not only in the US media, but also (to their eternal shame) in a number of social media commentary blogs. Dear Lord people! What on earth has possessed you NOT to critique this! Have you been caught up in the homespun nostalgia and general schmaltzy quality of his posts (typically the The Importance of Working Hard and Doing Chores), or you afraid to criticise because it's been written by a very endearing pensioner (worth, at my best guess, in excess of $1.2billion)? More worringly thought, have you just completely lost any idea of what a blog should be?

If this is the future of corporate blogging, then we're all doomed!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hiya Bryan. How right you are ... I find the Microsoft blogs a pretty fascinating place - e.g. the blog from the team behind Windows Home Server (http://blogs.technet.com/homeserver) - perfectly balanced between insight into the product development and a bit marketing waffle here and there, that you kind of learn to accept / put up with because the content is genuinely interesting.

My take on it is simple - without guidelines, staff won't / cannot be trusted to know what to write about and how to go about it.

How else do you get the right mix of (genuinely) interesting content, product placement (let’s not kid ourselves, ROI still plays a factor in the bottom line decision of corporates to go with blogging) and intelligent non-lawsuit provoking discussion!?

Guidelines for a blog in itself is tricky (i.e. how authentic is a blog if it's a product of rigid rules!?) - but clearly what a) the success of MS and other corporate blogs and b) the failure of some of our (direct) competitor web site blogs where they have ended up talking about clarity of the directions to the loo, show us is that guidelines are definitely required!

Keep up the blogging :)

Jason (View).