Is Forrester Stifling or Empowering Its Employees With Its New Blog Policy?

Posted on February 8, 2010 by 7 Comments

Last week Forrester announced a shift in its blogging policies. It was first reported on the Sage Circle blog and then on ZDNet.  Since then, analysts Josh Bernoff, Augie Ray and Cliff Condon the VP in charge of Forrester’s social media efforts, have all chimed in.

The three main tenants of their argument seem to be:

  1. In rolling out a new platform they are actually enabling all of their analysts to be more involved in social media.
  2. They are providing greater Value to Customers by having all of their analysts thoughts in one place.
  3. Control of IP: Analyst firms are a content business and all content from their employees, in their given areas, belongs to Forrester.

This was not an easy decision for Forrester to make. They had to anticipate some fallout from the decision. Any time you take away something from someone there will be an outcry, especially when it’s related to social media.

This decision was surprising  to many of us and logical to others. It triggered a very lively debate at Studio D over the weekend, one that I don’t think is fully settled and while there is some divergence of opinion there are some clear similarities.

Josh Bernoff summed up the most logical argument:

I cowrote Groundswell, and I believe our policy is the right one. Groundswell says that your employees will be blogging — it doesn’t say that content companies should have their content creators blog anywhere they want. If you’re creating content for a content company, that company ought to host your blog.

That last sentence is the most logical and dangerous. As more and more businesses move online, not just for their marketing but as part of their business, aren’t we all becoming content companies? If you extend this line of reasoning to its end you can see a very dangerous path that results in no personal/professional blogs by any employee.

The problem with Forrester’s decision is the heavy-handed nature it is taking in implementing it. All three Forrester bloggers talked about the new blog platform being developed and the new capabilities it would have.  This is the real missed opportunity. Forrester’s goal should be to create such a powerful platform with its new blog and with the Forrester name that employees would jump at the opportunity to leave their personal/professional blogs in order to have access to this great platform.

Our own Jon Silk summed it up best:

The internet tends to have this effect on businesses, making them think it’s reasonable to stifle ideas and creativity just in case someone has a good idea and makes the corporation look bad. In reality, freedom of ideas forces everyone to up their game. Shutting down personal blogs just makes the company look scared that an individual might out-innovate them, when in reality they should push the quality of their reports to match. Information control just dumbs everything down.

The discussion should not be “does a company own your opinions, ideas and any content you create?” The discussion should be “how does a company create such an amazing platform, using both technology and its brand that the employees (and even customers and partners) will be eager to join and leave all else behind?”

What do you think? Was this smart or not on Forrester’s part? Is this a trend of things to come? Is that a good or bad thing?

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7 Comments

uberVU - social comments on February 8, 2010

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by foleymo: Thinkers and Doers: Is Forrester Stifling or Empowering Its Employees With Its New Blog Policy? http://bit.ly/drwwMe

Corporate Social Media Backlash: The Virtual Firewall on February 9, 2010

[...] the WE Studio D Thinkers and Doers blog I also posted about Forrester forcing all of their employees to shut down their personal blogs if they overlapped with their area of focus at Forrester and would only be allowed to blog about [...]

Abe Saeed on February 9, 2010

By saying the content you create is property of the company will change the tone and type of content one will produce. I believe this policy will take some (not all) of the voice out of Forrester’s content, and hurt the company’s credibility.

Those already entrenched in social media will be up in arms over this policy, but I believe it appeals to a lot of companies, and will eventually become a legal issue somewhat resembling non-competition agreements when signing on with a company.

Though you made the very insightful point about how the conversation should be around the implementation of a fantastic technology and leaving everything else behind. The 3rd tenant overshadows everything else and the conversation will revolve around another move by “the man” to take away our freedoms…bad move Forrester.

Web Feet Integrated Marketing » Blog Archive » Reactions To Forrester’s Analyst Blogging Policy on February 9, 2010

[...] Edstrom Social Media Director Tac Anderson writes: The problem with Forrester’s decision is the heavy-handed nature it is taking in [...]

Tac Anderson on February 9, 2010

I agree Abe. I think there approach has limited their ability to reshape the conversation as anything other than defensive. By passing this down as a mandate no one will ever buy the other argument.

Online Marketing Connect — Blog — Corporate Social Media Backlash: The Virtual Firewall on February 9, 2010

[...] the WE Studio D Thinkers and Doers blog I also posted about Forrester forcing all of their employees to shut down their personal blogs if they overlapped with their area of focus at Forrester and would only be allowed to blog about [...]

Sarah Warrick on February 10, 2010

It was refreshing to see in Mashable today that Peter Horrocks, the new director of BBC Global News, is telling employees to embrace social media and that doing so “isn’t discretionary.”

I can see both sides of the Forrester debate but in my view, anytime people are “forced” to do something authenticity starts to get lost. This is Forrester’s first step to try and control content – what will their next move be?

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