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5 May 2009
Do corporates use disclosure fears to avoid blogging about their business?
In Outlook 2009, our take on the latest developments in online corporate communications, we looked at the state of the corporate blogosphere and identified strategies employed by successful corporate blogs. So we've got a good idea why some businesses blog and who does it well – but what stops the companies that aren't blogging?
Jonathan's Blog, written by Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz, is one of the most widely read and referenced corporate blogs around. Schwartz has won many admirers with his informative updates and engaging style.
As someone who keeps an eye on his blog, I've noticed that Schwartz has been unusually quiet for the last month or so. I wondered if he'd had enough, though it seemed odd that such a committed blogger would give up without any explanation.
What I didn't realise is that Sun is in the process of being bought by Oracle. As this article points out, this puts Schwartz in a difficult position. The thousands of people who read his blog expect him to keep updating but lawyers for both companies are worried about disclosure issues if he does. As ever, it looks like the lawyers have won.
This is not an isolated issue. A widely blogged about article from the Wall Street Journal last week discusses how businesses that communicate via corporate blogs and social media can be in breach of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations on corporate communications. However, sanitising social media output risks hurting credibility with online audiences.
It's an interesting dilemma and I wonder how much it colours corporate thinking when it comes to deciding whether to blog or not. According to Intel vice president of investor relations, Kevin Sellers, the company avoids blogs and Twitter for investor issues because it fears violating SEC disclosure rules. It's not the only reason – Sellers says Intel is also fearful of inviting public criticism in a company-hosted forum – but it does raise some questions.
Is this really a good enough excuse for a company such as Intel to refuse to engage with its audience through a blog?
Of course, corporate bloggers need to respect regulatory rules, especially during sensitive periods such as a merger or takeover. But should disclosure fears stop companies blogging altogether – or could they be a convenient excuse to avoid engaging fully with the public?
Posted by Martina Stansbie at 19 May 2009
18 May and Jonathan's blog breaks its two-month silence ... with the upfront comment: 'And before you ask, SEC regulations and securities laws limit what I can discuss about the Oracle transaction, so don't expect any insights on the topic.'
Any statements made in these blog posts are the views of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of The Group.