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    Business Blog Review: here are all the key posts


    Sony BlogsWell the last time I looked at a Sony blog, it was with mouth open wide in disbelief as the ill conceived and executed ‘All I want for Xmas is a PSP’ fake blog hit the blogosphere and was in turn hit by it.

    Things have moved on and, over the past two months, Sony has launched two new blogs for different parts of their business:

    • one is the Sony Playstation blog aimed fairly and squarely at game players and developers of the Playstation product range;
    • the second is the Sony Electronics blog from that arm of the company which intends to focus on “Electronics-related activities, products and customers in the U.S.”.
    Two very different blogs, aimed at different audiences and done in very different ways but both ostensively Sony corporate blogs.

    Sony blogs: Sony Playstation blogSony Playstation Blog
    The Sony Playstation Blog is run by Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) and is a highly stylised blog built on a WordPress platform which is being written by a host of authors across a range of different departments within the PlayStation division. Development was carried out externally by Josh Hallett together with marketing firm Clark/Nikdel/Powell according to The Ledger.

    Posting is both regular and frequent as you would expect with the number of authors (though that takes a real level of organisation, I can assure you), but that is no more than the readers would expect in this market sector. The content is generally good with a mix of games information, firmware details and a more strategic view in some posts from “the top”. Good use of imagery and linking as well.

    The blogs colour scheme uses a black / dark grey background with the white text and the colours from the Playstation logo featuring on top. Altogether, very slick and supports the overall branding really well – though a slight concern that the colour scheme might prove difficult on mobile devices due to the smaller screen size, something that might be relevant considering the blog’s target audience.

    Even in its structure, the blog has been nicely put together with friendly permalinks, judicious use of categories and emphasis in the sidebar highlighting the comments that the posts are attracting a nice way to both encourage and emphasise them.

    Sony Electronics BlogSony Blogs: Sony Electronics Blog
    The Sony Electronic Blog has a totally different feel to it, not only in look (obviously!) but in the way that it is put together and presented. This would be fine it has a totally different target audience after all but there are aspects which struggle in its current state.

    Like the Playstation blog, this is also built on WordPress and while visually clean, the overall look and feel is relatively standard and uninspiring. It also gives the feeling of not yet being finished with:

    • the URL as part of news.sel.sony.com rather than its own domain;
    • calling it the “SEL External News Blog” in the Title Tag rather than using any specific Sony branding;
    • no link back to the blog homepage on the blog itself;
    • and, indeed no real homepage but instead going directly into the latest posts.
    Reinforcing the lack of posts with a (current brief) Recent posts box at the top of the sidebar is probably not the most sensible move either.

    In this start up period, there is a single writer who is Rick Clancy, the head of Corporate Communications for Sony Electronics. While clearly someone skilled in writing and who has both the ability and the authority to speak openly all good characteristics for a corporate blogger he is currently writing alone and the resulting weekly post is probably not sufficient for the sort of blog that this is trying to be.

    In short there needs to be more content though the quality of what is there looks to be good and certainly has managed to elicit responses and indeed readers leaving detailed comments, appraisals and criticisms. It’s difficult to know whether there is a follow up which is going on off blog to answer the comments but that would probably be sensible – perhaps some additional resource required? In any case, they are certainly throwing up topics which warrant posts focusing on the areas being asked about, thereby allowing Sony to put their side of the story.

    Summary
    I should start by saying that it’s great to see Sony using blogging to communicate with its customers and developers – for a company which is not known for its openness, this is a great move and one that I hope we will see others following.

    However, in looking at the two blogs, you will have no doubt gathered that, as they stand, I consider that the Sony Playstation Blog to be an excellent example of a well constructed blog while the Sony Electronics blog has had a less auspicious launch.

    And yet, which has the greatest potential? Well, this time my vote goes to the Sony Electronics blog and not just because of the relative position it is starting from. Its Playstation neighbour is vibrant but may find it difficult to create a real central personality because of the large number of authors and the nature of the gaming industry.

    Conversely, I get the feeling that the SE Blog has a potentially important role to play in the Electronics side of Sony’s business and presents a huge opportunity. The type of comments coming in show the areas which are most of interest to the readership and are giving Sony the chance to address these concerns for a whole raft of their customer base – what an opportunity and the ideal mouthpiece to achieve it through at their disposal! Let’s hope they grab this opportunity with both hands!

    As it stands: Sony Playstation Blog, a straight A grade. Sony Electronics blog, a C but with signs of real future potential if handled correctly.

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    Over the weekend, I was chatting with a friend who used to work for one of the larger pharmaceutical companies here in the UK and, as you do, I mentioned my professional involvement with corporate blogging. Having given her a brief overview of how the business world is using blogs, she commented that she felt it was unlikely that there would be many blogs from the main pharma companies, and I agreed … in part.

    My own thoughts were that, on the drug side of the business, the legal elements would be too stifling and would never allow the openness and free comment that a blog requires. However, I felt that on the consumer side of the business, product blogs would be the perfect vehicle for some product lines – the example I gave her was from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where I felt the Lucozade line would benefit immensely from a product based blog linked with their other online and offline marketing activities.

    Well, I decided to do a little investigating today, what did I find? Not one but two pharmaceutical companies have in fact recently launched blogs – GSK and Johnson & Johnson – so, of course I had to have a closer look.

    From GSK has come AlliConnect which is focused on the Alli Weight Loss product line which apparently is “the only FDA approved weight loss product available over the counter” – in the US, I presume. From a blog perspective, clean look (if a touch bland) with clear branding and has all the main components in place, as I guess you would hope since they have been working with Debbie Weil on this, who is also named as one of the authors. Wide subject matter from a small team with a lot of potential for development and some innovative uses of this product blog, and so one that will be interesting to follow from a professional perspective.

    The other from Johnson & Johnson is called JNJ BTW and has a little bit further to go, to be honest. It is written by one of the media relations team which rather sets the tone, and it seems to have a much less well defined remit in terms of what it is looking to achieve. With very little corporate branding, there are certain elements of the set-up which need to be dealt with (non friendly URLs, ‘Uncategorised” category, RSS all but hidden) and I don’t get the same feel of focus which concerns me when considering the impact it will make. I believe that they would have been better placed if they had focused on a single product area (and they have enough to choose from) rather than a wide ranging corporate blog which seems to be what they are attempting here.

    All in all, GSK have certainly the better starting position here and it does make me wonder whether engaging a blog consultant would have avoided a lot of the early pain that I foresee for the J&J blog – though, I admit that I might be biased here, given that it is what I do for a living. It’s good to see large corporates embracing blogs, of course, but I think that the public already has certain standards they expect and so therefore the planning and delivery of blogs is going to need more and more attention if they are to make the right impact from the start.

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    Avis Blog: We try Harder - Blog ReviewI mentioned Avis’ new blog in the News items recently and so I was particularly interested to see that e-Consultancy have published an interview today with Xavier Vallee who is Avis’ UK Head of Marketing and presumably the person responsible for the Avis blog.

    I was glad to read that Avis has been adopting the methodology I recommend in the Green Cross Code of Blogging. They have taken the time to examine and listen to the conversations which have been taking place about Avis around the internet / blogosphere before starting their own blog and have clearly thought through their own goals for creating a blog.

    Equally, judging from the interview, Avis have defined what they want to achieve from the blog and presumably the criteria which they intend to use. The aims are quite wide covering “branding, PR, customer service and product development” so keeping track of responses will be important though they appear to be working with Market Sentinel here which is good.

    Critically, they also seem to be doing the right things internally. The queries are streamed to relevant departments to be answered properly and presumably this is then followed up offline where appropriate, as well as on the blog itself. The blog also seems to have the backing at board level which will no doubt help those running it to maintain its impetus and development.

    Avis Blog Review

    The Avis blog has a very clean look, lots of white space (in a good way) and is in line with Avis’ corporate branding from what I can see. The “We Try Harder” domain name and imagery comes from corporate Avis, though it is more apparent on the global site rather than the UK one. It is running on WordPress which gives it excellent functionality and future proofing.

    The “We Try Harder” name is good though the .com version, although owned by Avis, is used for different corporate purposes – it may be appropriate to make sure that there is a link through to the blog area on that page in case of people typing the name directly into their browser and getting the .com rather than the .co.uk

    Writing – the content seems to have consistency and yet is varied enough to hold interest. It does reflect the multiple aims of the blog, covering corporate fundraising activities together with advice and tips when hiring a car as well as comments on motoring in general. I think that, in particular, the posts looking at overseas destinations has the making of a good mini series.

    Navigation and Linking – the main navigation is a little confusing with some links going back to the main site and others linking to static pages on the blog itself. While it might be work in progress, it’s a little disappointing to see the blog homepage and “go to avis.co.uk” links below the main navigation rather than built into it or placed in the sidebar. This may be in the process of being changed though as there is currently duplication of some of the links and one is pointing to the wrong page.

    The sidebar has a relatively standard set-up and could be used more effectively, perhaps by using the prime “real estate” to highlight particular points of interest either within the blog or in terms of what Avis is doing in general. Showing different elements in the sidebar on the single post pages might be positive as well, though they should retain the “Topics” (ie. categories) for the sake of consistency.

    Conversely, is there a link to it from the main Avis UK site? I couldn’t find one. If there isn’t, then that’s a big opportunity missed from a basic marketing perspective.

    Permalinks – currently the permalinks use the default format which is a real pity (though simple to change) – therefore the page and post IDs are currently being used rather than using a customised and “friendly” permalink which would display, for example, the post names. Friendly URLs will be better both for readers and Search Engines alike.

    RSS subscriptionRSS is getting much better known but still a bit of a mystery to many, so therefore with such a prominent placement of the RSS logo and subscription link, I would have included a link to some sort of explanation as to what RSS can offer to encourage users to subscribe. Since the RSS feed is through Feedburner, I would have also incorporated an option to sign up via email using one of the services that Feedburner integrates with. That way, all bases are covered and you are giving your readers the choice.

    Title Tags and Meta Tags – while it may not be seeking out Search Engine rankings as a primary goal, there would be no harm in changing the Title Tags’ format and wording in particular to make them more useful and relevant. I think that I would also include the word “Avis” at the end to help the individual posts.

    Summary – overall, a positive feel to the blog which I have no doubt will develop over time. The branding is consistent without being in your face and the writing so far has variety without veering towards selling which is the portent of doom for any blog. The writers seem to work well together and the writing styles don’t obviously clash.

    I would certainly look at working at the blog based marketing activities which could help enhance the visitor rates and also use the sidebar areas to better effect. However, these will come with time and in the meantime the challenge will remain keeping the posts consistent and interesting.

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